All-time free-kick goals: 10 of the most iconic free-kick goals in football history

All-time free-kick goals: 10 of the most iconic free-kick goals in football history

Helix Odhiambo
updated at March 30, 2024 at 11:32 AM
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Free-kick goals are some of the most beautiful goals to watch in football. They are also considered the hardest because of the distance to the goal and the opponent's wall of payers. Most direct free-kicks are outside the 30-yard box and require great skill and vision to convert. This article takes you through the best all-time free-kick goals and their scorers.

All-time free-kick goals
Lionel Messi (L) of Barcelona in 2019, Juninho (C) of Lyon in 2003, and Brazil's Roberto Carlos (R) celebrate in 1997. Photo: Tony Marshall, VI Images, Stuart Franklin (modified by author)
Source: Getty Images

Table of Сontents:

Football has produced many dead ball specialists who have mastered the art of converting free-kicks by bending the ball. From Juninho to David Beckham, Ronaldinho, Cristiano Ronaldo, and Lionel Messi, who has the best free-kick goals of all time?

Top 10 all-time free-kick goals

Brazilian legend Juninho Pernambucano has the most free-kick goals (77) in football, followed by Pele (70), Victor Legrotaglie (68), and Ronaldinho (68). They also scored some of the most beautiful set pieces. Here is a breakdown of the most iconic free-kick goals ranked by 90 min.




Matt Le Tissier


Southampton vs Wimbledon

Alvaro Recoba


Inter Milan vs Bolognia

Lionel Messi


Barcelona vs Liverpool



Lyon vs Bayern Munich

Dimitri Payet


West Ham vs Crystal Palace

Cristiano Ronaldo


Manchester United vs Arsenal

David Beckham


England vs Greece

Mikael Nilsson


IFK Goteborg vs PSV Eindhoven

Mohd Faiz Subri


Penang vs Pahang

Roberto Carlos


Brazil vs France

10. Matt Le Tissier (1994)

Best free-kick goals of all-time
Matt Le Tissier of Southampton celebrates during the FA Carling Premiership match against Newcastle United on 20 March 1998 at the Dell in Southampton, England. Photo: Phil Cole/Allsport
Source: Getty Images
  • Full name: Matthew Paul Le Tissier
  • Date of birth: 14 October 1968
  • Birthplace: Saint Peter Port, Guernsey
  • Nationality: English
  • Position: Midfielder

The Englishman spent most of his career at Southampton during the 80s and 90s. Le Tissier smashed one of the best set-piece goals in football against Wimbledon in 1994. He did a little flick before executing a stunning volley into the back of the net.

9. Alvaro Recoba (2003)

Who is the best free-kick taker ever?
Alvaro Recoba of Inter Milan during their Serie A match against Livorno at the Stadio Giuseppe Meazza on 16 October 2005 in Milan, Italy. Photo: Etsuo Hara
Source: Getty Images
  • Full name: Álvaro Alexánder Recoba Rivero
  • Date of birth: 17 March 1976
  • Birthplace: Montevideo, Uruguay
  • Nationality: Uruguayan
  • Position: Forward, midfielder

Recoba entered the history books with his outstanding set-piece stunner for Inter Milan in a Serie A match against Bologna in 2003. He was regarded among the best free-kick takers of his generation.

8. Lionel Messi (2019)

Messi's all-time free-kick goals
Lionel Messi (L) of Barcelona scores a free kick during the UEFA Champions League Semi Final first leg match against Liverpool at the Nou Camp on 1 May 2019 in Barcelona, Spain. Photo: Michael Regan
Source: Getty Images
  • Full name: Lionel Andrés Messi
  • Date of birth: 24 June 1987
  • Birthplace: Rosario, Argentina
  • Nationality: Argentine
  • Position: Forward

The Argentine scored an incredible free-kick goal against Liverpool in their 2018-19 UEFA Champions League semi-final first leg at Camp Nou. Messi hit the ball from a central position, bending around the Liverpool wall and into the top corner of Alisson Becker's net.

Leo's free-kick against Liverpool won UEFA's Goal of the Season award. According to Sportstar, Messi's all-time free-kick goals are 65 as of March 2024.

7. Juninho (2003)

Juninho's free-kick goals
Olympique Lyonnais' Juninho celebrates victory against VfB Stuttgart in the UEFA Champions League Group E match at Stade de Gerland on 7 November 2007. Photo: PA Images
Source: Getty Images
  • Full name: Antônio Augusto Ribeiro Reis Júnior
  • Date of birth: 30 January 1975
  • Birthplace: Recife, Brazil
  • Nationality: Brazilian
  • Position: Forward

Juninho's free-kick goals were masterpieces that stunned fans and opponents. He is the king of free-kicks, scoring the most (77) in football history. The Brazilian legend converted one of the longest free-kick goals for Inter Milan against Bayern Munich in the 2003–04 UEFA Champions League group stage match.

He blasted the ball from 35 m, which hit the angle of the post and crossbar on its way into the net, beating the legendary Oliver Khan.

6. Dimitri Payet (2016)

Dimitri Payet of West Ham celebrates against Crystal Palace
Dimitri Payet of West Ham celebrates scoring his team's second goal during a Premier League match against Crystal Palace at the Boleyn Ground on 2 April 2016 in London, England. Photo: Tom Dula
Source: Getty Images
  • Full name: Dimitri Payet
  • Date of birth: 29 March 1987
  • Birthplace: Saint Pierre, Réunion
  • Nationality: French
  • Position: Forward, attacking midfielder

The French legend established himself among football's dead ball specialists with outstanding curves, shots, and vision. Payet made headlines with one of Premier League's all-time free-kick goals for West Ham against Crystal Palace on 2 April 2016. He whipped the ball around a wall of Palace players to the top corner of the net.

5. Cristiano Ronaldo (2009)

Cristiano Ronaldo's all-time free-kick goals
Manchester United's Cristiano Ronaldo takes a free-kick during their UEFA Champions League semi-final second leg against Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium on 5 May 2009. Photo: Carl De Souza
Source: Getty Images
  • Full name: Cristiano Ronaldo dos Santos Aveiro
  • Date of birth: 5 February 1985
  • Birthplace: Funchal, Madeira, Portugal
  • Nationality: Portuguese
  • Position: Forward

Cristiano Ronaldo has notched incredible goals, from bicycle kicks to headers, long-range shots, and free-kicks. One of his best set-piece goals was against Arsenal in the 2008-09 UEFA Champions League semi-final at the Emirates Stadium.

The Portuguese star hit the ball with his right foot from 40 m, beating Manuel Almunia at his near post to make it 2-0 for Manchester United. The Red Devils won 3-1 and 1-4 on aggregate and advanced to the final.

4. David Beckham (2001)

Longest free-kick goal
England's captain David Beckham celebrates scoring a last-minute free-kick against Greece in a World Cup Qualifier on 6 June 2001 at the Olympic Stadium, Athens, Greece. Photo: Ross Kinnaird
Source: Getty Images
  • Full name: David Robert Joseph Beckham
  • Date of birth: 2 May 1975
  • Birthplace: London, United Kingdom
  • Nationality: English
  • Position: Forward, midfielder

Beckham produced one of his best moments with a last-gap strike against Greece on 6 October 2001 to seal their place in the 2002 FIFA World Cup. The legendary footballer saved England from embarrassment with a historic free-kick, around 27 m from goal, to force a 2-2 draw and seal their qualification.

3. Mikael Nilsson (1993)

Sweden's Mikael Nilsson against Spain
Mikael Nilsson of Sweden controls the ball during their Euro 2008 Group F qualifying match against Spain at the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium on 17 November 2007 in Madrid, Spain. Photo: Jasper Juinen
Source: Getty Images
  • Full name: Jan Mikael Nilsson
  • Date of birth: 28 September 1968
  • Birthplace: Falköping, Sweden
  • Nationality: Swedish
  • Position: Defender

Nilsson's free-kick goal for IFK Göteborg against PSV Eindhoven in March 1993 broke the laws of physics, sending fans to their feet. The Swedish legend left the goalkeeper clueless with a powerfully curved shot from the set-piece to score one of the best free-kicks in the Champions League.

2. Mohd Faiz Subri (2016)

Mohd Faiz Subri receives the FIFA Puskas Award 2016
Mohd Faiz Subri of Malaysia receives the FIFA Puskas Award 2016 for goal of the year at the FIFA World Players of the Year 2016 gala in Zurich, Switzerland, on 9 January 2017. Photo: Patrick Seeger
Source: Getty Images
  • Full name: Mohd Faiz bin Subri
  • Date of birth: 8 November 1987
  • Birthplace: Ayer Hitam, Malaysia
  • Nationality: Malaysian
  • Position: Forward, attacking midfielder

Subri scored one of the wildest free-kicks, earning him the 2016 Puskas Award, as reported by ESPN. The forward/ attacking midfielder unleashed a long-range curling shot (around 32 m from goal) to find the back of the net for Penang against Pahang in a Malaysian Super League match on 16 February 2016.

1. Roberto Carlos (1997)

Longest free-kick goal
Roberto Carlos of Brazil during the Tournoi de France (Tournament of France) against Italy. Photo: Franck Seguin
Source: Getty Images
  • Full name: Roberto Carlos da Silva Rocha
  • Date of birth: 10 April 1973
  • Birthplace: Garça, State of São Paulo, Brazil
  • Nationality: Brazilian
  • Position: Left-back

Fans at Stade De Gerland witnessed arguably the greatest free-kick goal in football, executed by the left-footed Roberto Carlos in a World Cup game against France on 3 June 1997. The Brazilian left-back thrashed his left foot around 36 m from Fabien Barthez's goal to score. NBC News reported the ball travelled at 100 kph.

Frequently asked questions

Many footballers have established a reputation for their dead-ball striking ability. They have made scoring free-kicks appear easy, but it remains one of the hardest ways to score.

Who is the best free-kick taker ever?

Brazilian legend Juninho is the greatest free-kick taker in football, with 77 successful conversions. He played for Brazil's national team, Lyon, Vasco da Gama, and other clubs.

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

According to MessivsRonaldo stats, Leo has the most set-piece conversions (65) compared to Cristiano Ronaldo's all-time free-kick goals (61). The two footballers have competed against one another for over a decade and rank among the best.

What are Ward Prowse's free-kick goals of all time?

The English central midfielder has bagged 17 set-piece goals in the Premier League. Ward Prowse plays for West Ham United, having joined from Southampton in 2023. He spent over ten years at Soton.

Who has the most Premier League free-kicks of all time?

According to Opta stats, David Beckham tops the list of most Premier League set-piece conversions with 18. Ward Prowse follows closely with 17. Here is a breakdown of the top dead-ball masters in the Premier League.

Player (s)

Free-kick goals

David Beckham


James Ward-Prowse


Thierry Henry, Gianfranco Zola, Cristiano Ronaldo


Laurent Robert, Sebastian Larsson


Ian Harte, Morten Gamst Pedersen


Nolberto Solano, Frank Lampard, Jamie Redknapp


James Maddison, Christian Eriksen, Juan Mata


What are Neymar's all-time free-kick goals?

According to Knel Now, Neymar has bagged 19 set-piece goals in his career. The Brazilian star is one of the technically gifted footballers known for his unique vision and skills.

Final word

Roberto Calos' stunner against France in the 1997 World Cup tops our list of the best all-time free-kick goals in football. The Brazilian icon terrified opponents and entertained fans with his powerful left foot. Other renowned set-piece wizards missing from our list include Ronaldinho, Andrea Pirlo, Ronald Koeman, and Roberto Baggio.

READ ALSO: Most penalties missed by a player: which footballers have the most penalty misses?

Sports Brief ranked with the most penalties missed. Although scoring from the spot seems easier, many top footballers like Pele, Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi, and Maradona have missed penalties. Follow the above link to discover players with the most career penalty misses.

Helix Odhiambo photo
Helix Odhiambo
Helix Odhiambo is an award-winning Kenyan journalist and content creator with over 6 years of experience. In 2016, he won the Goal Blaze Correspondent Award for young writers.