Free kick taking is an art that takes time and dedication to master. Power, control, confidence, and deception are all traits that the world’s best free kick finishers possess. While some of the most called-upon free kick specialists make it look easy, it takes years of hard work and purposeful training to master the free kick.
Selecting the top free kick takers in the world is subjective, to say the least, but we’ve compiled our list of three of the world’s elite free kick finishers, so youth players across the region can watch and learn from the best when it comes to free kick taking.
Lionel Messi – FC Barcelona
It should come as no surprise that Lionel Messi headlines this list of elite free kick takers. His command of the ball is exceptional, making his free kick a nightmare for any goalkeeper. In his career, Messi has netted 42 free kick goals, 36 for Barcelona, and 6 for Argentina, earning himself a reputation as one of the deadliest ball strikers of his generation.
Young players looking to master free kicks can turn to Messi as an exemplary free kick taker. His ability to control the ball’s spin, power, and accuracy with pinpoint precision allows him to score at will. This leads him to toy with opposing goalkeepers, scoring near-post, far-post, and everywhere in between. He’s even been known to go under the wall at times. In the video below, pay attention to the keeper and how he seems to have no idea where Messi is aiming until it is too late.
To take free kicks like Messi, young players must learn to command the ball with incredible control. Practice striking kicks with different levels of power and curve. Try curling the ball around various obstacles and aiming both near and far post, rather than strictly focusing on one particular shot.
Cristiano Ronaldo – Juventus FC
Another all-time great free kick taker is Cristiano Ronaldo, with 53 career free kick goals in total, 13 for Manchester United, 32 for Real Madrid, and 8 for Portugal. While Messi uses his superior command to place the ball where the goalie cannot get to it, Ronaldo has a different yet equally effective approach.
Combining power and curve, Ronaldo has earned respect from goalkeepers around the globe for having a shot that can be impossible to judge. Through his incredible shot power, Ronaldo minimizes the time a keeper has to react to his shot. This combined with the movement he gets on his shot makes his free kick one of the hardest to save. In the video below, watch how quickly the keeper realizes he’s beaten, and imagine how early he would have had to react to save the shot.
To score free kick goals like Ronaldo on a consistent basis, players should work on striking and bending the ball with power and accuracy, which can be extremely effective at youth levels and beyond.
Kieran Trippier – Tottenham Hotspur F.C.
Arguably the best free kick taker in the 2018 World Cup, Kieran Trippier of England showed he belongs in the conversation for top free kick takers in the world. The right back for Tottenham Hotspur F.C. made history with this beautiful strike against Croatia in the World Cup semi-finals in Moscow.
This goal was the first free kick goal for England in the World Cup since Beckham finished one against Ecuador in the 2006 Round of 16 in Germany. This simple finish shows that with enough power and bend, you can fool any goalkeeper. Watch as the Croatian keeper seems to get a quick read on the shot, but due to the pace and placement of the shot, he has seemingly no chance at making the save.
For youth players, Kieran Trippier is a prime example of how mastering the combination of power and placement can be very effective. His shot may not be as deceptive as Messi’s or as difficult to save as Ronaldo’s, but his ability to paint the corners of the goal frame with a powerful, bending shot makes keepers second guess and get a late jump, resulting in frequent free kick goals.
As a developing soccer player, you can learn a lot from the world’s top free kick takers. Take a high number of repetitions to practice commanding the ball like Messi and learning how to place the ball anywhere on the goal frame with precision. Learn and apply proper shooting mechanics to achieve the power and curl Ronaldo uses to beat the keeper, and work continually to develop the consistency that elite free kick takers like Trippier, Ronaldo, and Messi possess.
At Total Soccer, we provide elite private soccer training in Bucks County and throughout the Philadelphia area, where we can teach you the skills necessary to become a deadly free kick taker. Sign up for a private soccer lesson in Montgomery County or at a Total Soccer location near you to begin making meaningful strides in your game.