On Sunday afternoon I sat down with two fellow West Ham United fans at my local.
There are many ways to ensure a memorable goal in the world of football, but not many stand close to the class of a masterfully executed free kick.
Yes there are the Zidane volleys, Ronaldo bicycle kicks and the cheeky chips and lobs mastered by the likes of Lionel Messi, but nothing quite compares to the grace of a well crafted free kick.
A free kick can be hammered high or low, finessed into the top corner or sent waving left to right off the knuckle.
From the whistle of the foul to the silence of the crowd as the designated maestro takes up their position, there just simply is nothing like the roar from the crowd after a free kick rattles the back of the net.
Everybody has their favourite dead-ball specialist and endless debates continue about who is the best of all time. But for now, I’ve decided to shy away from such a touching debate of who is best, and have rather opted to create a list of the top ten free kick goals in recent memory.
10. Ronaldinho vs England – World Cup, 2002
It is rare when a free kick is scored from such distance that trades pace and vigour for curved finesse. In this instance, Ronaldinho was able to wrong-foot the English stopper, who was more likely expecting a delivery, in order to execute a free kick of the finest touch.
9. John Arne Riise vs Manchester United – English Premier League, 2001
The rocket deployed by John Arne Riise’s famous left foot was hit so accurately and with such force that it rattled its way into the top corner by way of the crossbar leaving the keeper and company lost for words. Not only was this goal included for the magnificent goal that it is, but also for the fact that it was scored in one of the biggest grudge matches on the English calendar.
8. Marcus Rashford vs Chelsea – Carabao Cup, 2019
After regaining his best form in 2019, Marcus Rashford channeled his inner Ronaldo in the first half of his team’s clash with South London side Chelsea. Rashford lined up and delivered his greatest ever goal with a perfectly placed knuckle ball into the top left corner from 35 metres out. This video is worth every angle…
7. Roberto Carlos vs France – Le Tournoi, 1997
Perhaps the most memorable free-kick conversion in the history of modern football. Roberto Carlos laced an absolute pearler from 35 yards out, which consisted of a run-up from the halfway line. The magic of the Brazilian’s left foot managed to swing outward and straight back in with astonishing pace. My reason for why this goal is not higher up my list is due to the element of luck involved, which Carlos admits himself to this day played a big part in this historic goal. Additionally, it was rather meaningless in the context of the fixture: a friendly international tournament.
6. Dimitri Payet vs Crystal Palace – English Premier League, 2016
Widely known for the stunning dip he partners with a curved finesse when on the dead ball, Dimitri Payet is one of today’s top marksman from set pieces. This goal was hard to choose from considering Payet’s impressive portfolio of free kicks, but when watching time and time again, it becomes obvious as to why this goal is ranked so highly.
5. Lionel Messi vs Liverpool – UEFA Champions League, 2019
Messi is one of the most consistent free-kick specialists in today’s era based on his conversion rate. This free kick absolutely shut down the internet during Barcelona’s Champions League bout against eventual tournament-winners Liverpool. It was utter precision and completely unstoppable.
4. David Beckham vs Greece – World Cup Qualifiers, 2001
Although this moment arrived at a point where a star-studded English side was on the brink of missing out on the World Cup in Korea and Japan, the story behind this goal is solidified in English folklore. On the back of a red card against Argentina that inevitably lead to England being eliminated in the previous tournament, the odds were stacked against England’s golden boy. Down 2-1 to Greece and only in need of a draw, David Beckham produced this absolute gem, which in turn sent his side to the FIFA World Cup the following year.
3. Lionel Messi vs Atlético Madrid – La Liga, 2008
Lionel Messi’s first ever free-kick goal came against league rivals Atletico Madrid. While both teams were gearing up for the set piece, Messi stunningly used his magic left foot from the left side of the box, and managed to dip the ball, swerving right, into the top right corner off of the cross bar, sealing the win.
2. Cristiano Ronaldo vs Arsenal – UEFA Champions League, 2009
From 40 yards out in the Champions League semi-final against bitter rivals Arsenal, Ronaldo managed to bury one of the greatest goals of all time with his signature knuckle ball free kick, which in this instance, was backed with unfathomable pace. Not even the commentators believed he would even consider such an audacious attempt.
1. Cristiano Ronaldo vs Portsmouth – English Premier League, 2008
This has to be considered the best free kick of all time and also one of the greatest goals ever. This period of time is where the beast of Cristiano Ronaldo was truly born. In a stellar 2008 season, Ronaldo lined up a free kick that would change free kicks forever. Ronaldo approached the ball front on and managed to lift the ball from the top of his foot in a way that allowed it to dip directly over the wall and rattle the top right corner of the net. It was a goal like no other before it.