Top 10 footballers with the most free-kick goals in the history of the game

Top 10 footballers with the most free-kick goals in the history of the game

Babu Tendu
updated at June 14, 2023 at 11:31 AM

Of set pieces in the football game, a free kick just outside the box is a footballing concept that requires dead accurate precision to produce goals. Most free-kick goals are normally very outstanding shots that light up stadiums. Only the very elite can produce such stunning shots.

With certain individuals getting ready to take such a kick on the pitch, one can be almost guaranteed that a stunning goal will most certainly be produced. One can decide to curl, finesse or rocket the ball to the back of the net.

Footballers with the most free-kick goals
Photo: (modified by author)
Source: UGC

Who scored the most free-kick goals, Messi or Ronaldo?

Many football fans reckon that Messi and Ronaldo's main debate about the number of free kicks. However, this post will reveal that the two are not even close to the top rankings of free-kick goals.

10. Cristiano Ronaldo (57)

Ronaldo, a free-kick expert, prefers to score from a distance rather than close to the goal. Although Ronaldo's ability to score from the edge of the box has appeared to decline recently, he still poses a threat in dead-ball situations. He has the most free-kick goals in the UCL.

Ronaldo primarily employs the knuckleball technique when taking set pieces with very little side spin to allow the airflow around the ball to direct its trajectory. His technique is very challenging for goalkeepers to stop because they combine speed, lack of spin, and unpredictable trajectory.

9. Lionel Messi (58)

The six-time Ballon d'Or winner recently added taking free kicks to his repertoire of skills. In contrast, Messi has made exactly 50 beauties for Barcelona and eight more for Argentina in club football. Nearly half of these strikes have occurred in just the last five seasons alone.

Messi's free-kick goals have a unique "sprained-ankle" technique when taking free kicks. This enables him to give the ball enough spin and curl to evade the wall and outmuscle the goalkeeper. He has the record for the most free-kick goals in a season.

8. Rogerio Ceni (61)

One of the best goalkeepers in the league at scoring is set-piece expert Rogerio Ceni. His 131 tally is nearly twice as many as Jose Luis Chilavert, the next most prolific goalkeeper in terms of goals scored (67). Many strikers and midfielders would be pleased with that total.

Players with the most free kick goals
Rogerio Ceni of Sao Paulo scores their first goal during the match between Sao Paulo and Bahia for the Brazilian Series A 2014 on October 18, 2014, in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Photo by Alexandre Schneider.
Source: Getty Images

Only one of the Brazilian's career goals came from open play; the majority came from penalties and free kicks. Most goalkeepers were confused by the speed and swerve used by Ceni when taking free kicks. He is among the players with the most free-kick goals.

7. Zico (62)

Zico perfected the art of scoring from set plays because he could bend the ball wherever he wanted, so neither distance nor difficulty could serve as a defence for unwary goalkeepers. He is one of the players with the most free-kick goals in history.

Who scored the most free kick goals: Messi or Ronaldo
5/7/1982 World Cup 1982, Spain, Brazil v Italy, An annoyed Zico stands frustrated in the penalty box. Photo by Mark Leech.
Source: Getty Images

To create incredible spin and unpredictability on the ball, Zico perfected his technique by stooping back as he struck the ball with his instep. This caused the ball to rise and quickly fall as it flew towards the goal.

Zico must be remembered as the originator of the modern free-kick taker because later players frequently credited him. These players would become elite dead-ball specialists, inspiring them to use and absorb his technique.

6. Diego Maradona (62)

The legendary but troubled Maradona is regarded as one of the greatest players in history and is known as the "Godfather of Free-Kick Specialists." Players could not get the ball off of him when he had it at his feet because he was compact and strong.

Most free kick goals in history
Argentina player Diego Maradona is in action during a 1986 FIFA World Cup qualifying match against Peru at the National Stadium on June 23, 1985, in Lima, Peru. Photo by David Cannon.
Source: Getty Images

Everything Maradona did on the soccer field, including his set-pieces, radiated intelligence and originality. Regardless of the distance from the goal, his quick ball-bending skills allowed him to score 62 goals in his career from set pieces.

5. David Beckham (65)

Beckham made up for his lack of speed on the field and his ability to score free kicks. Throughout his illustrious career, he has scored several noteworthy screamers. Former England and Manchester United legend was not a prolific scorer but excelled at dead-ball situations.

The 47-year-free old's kicks had pace, curl, and accuracy. Beckham's foot almost made a right angle with the ball's trajectory at the point of contact. Because of this, the "dead ball" had enough fizz and spun to curl around the wall and re-enter the goal. He has the most free-kick goals in the Premier League.

4. Ronaldinho (68)

Many top-tier defenders looked foolish and trailed in his wake due to his brilliance and deception with the ball. The Barcelona legend and winner of the 2002 FIFA World Cup scored a lot of memorable free kicks throughout his relatively brief but eventful career. He has one of the most free-kick goals in the Champions League.

Most free kick goals in the Premier League
Ronaldinho of AC Milan celebrates his goal during the Serie A match between AC Milan and ACF Fiorentina at Stadio Giuseppe Meazza on May 1, 2010, in Milan, Italy. Photo by Valerio Pennicino.
Source: Getty Images

They were all present in Ronaldinho's free kicks: power, fizz, curl, and technique. In a World Cup match, the Brazilian once scored a memorable pile-driver of a free-kick past an enthralled David Seaman. Ronaldinho missed a waiting wall after spotting Seaman off his line, surprising the English goalkeeper.

3. Victor Legrotaglie (66)

Legrotaglie, an Argentine who spent his entire career playing for Gimnasia y Esgrima in his native country, was courted by some of the best teams in the world but stayed true to his team. The 85-year-old had a long and eventful career, most of it in gymnastics and fencing.

2. Pele (70)

It is reasonable to assume that Pele has scored the occasional free-kick, given his impressive goal total of 765 in his career. We could be excused for thinking that the great Brazilian was a little greedy in front of the goal with a final score of 70.

Most free kick goals in a season
Football, Brazilian legend Pele is one of the stars of the victorious Brazil team of the 1970 World Cup Finals in Mexico. Photo by Popperfoto.
Source: Getty Images

Pele was a genius with both feet and a ruthless competitor with the ability to support his desire for the net. Pele frequently put his laces through the ball during his free kicks and relied on speed and power to score many of his goals.

1. Juninho Pernambucano (77)

While many of the top players on our list were adept at using spin to bend a ball and produce a curve on a shot, Juninho developed a technique known as "Knuckle balling," where he would hit a ball as hard as he could while attempting to produce zero spins.

Most free kick goals in the UCL
Juninho (Lyon) during the 2007-2008 UEFA Champions League match between Olympique Lyonnais and Glasgow Rangers. Photo by Eddy LEMAISTRE.
Source: Getty Images

On a properly executed shot, the outcome of the ball not spinning would be that it wobbled in the air, moved unpredictably, and caught keeper after keeper out because they couldn't predict the ball's flight.

The best soccer players in the world have attempted to imitate Juninho's technique over the years, but none have even come close due to how difficult it is to execute.

Juninho Pernambucano has the most free-kick goals with a tally of 77. Active players on the top ten list, such as Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, have the chance to catch up with him if they up their game on the spot.

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