Does anything tingle the anticipation buttons in football more than when the whistle is blown for a free-kick about twenty to twenty-five yards from goal. As the goalie frantically holds up fingers and waves his gloved hands – building his wall – while one player in particular from the opposition casually strolls to the ball, gives it a little spin and places it down – possibly whispering something behind his hand to a team-mate.
Of course, many is the time that such a build up leads to a sigh inducing let down as the ball crashes into said wall or blazes harmlessly into the crowd. But then again, there have been a number of stars who simply mastered the art of bending and dipping outrageous dead-ball shots that make all those duds utterly worth it.
Here are six such superstars whose free-kick magic have lit up La Liga.
These days the big Dutch Koeman can be found in the manager’s seat at Premier League Southampton but back in the day Ronald was no clown as he marshalled the back of Barcelona’s early 90s Dream Team, earning a reputation as free-kick taker par excellence. Generally opting for the power over grace (although a cheeky curler for Holland against England showed his versatility) Koeman’s crowning glory as a free-kick expert for Barca came one humid night at Wembley in 1992 as his low drive beat the Sampdoria wall to win the Catalonians their first European Cup.
You didn’t think we’d do a free-kick list without mention of golden balls himself did you?
Becks was a free-kick specialist long before he joined the whites of Real Madrid with his exploits for Man Utd and England already the stuff of tabloid writer’s fantasy. And, during his time at the Bernabeu Beckham further nurtured his legacy as one of the games foremost free-kick artists of his generation.
I mean, they even named a film after his exploits!
It might be a bit cliched to include a Brazilian in the list but, let’s be honest, he couldn’t have curl them in when the mood grabbed him. The best player in the world before Lionel Messi came along to ensure he wasn’t even the best player in his own team any more, there were few better sights in the game than watching the smiling Ronaldhino perform moments of extraordinary skills and, as a free-kick merchant during the mid-naughties, there really were few better anywhere in the world, let alone in Spain, as he helped spearhead the new golden age of Barcelona football.
Whilst he doesn’t seem to bag them with the frequency he once appeared to do so, there can be no doubt that when Ronaldo gets it right, his free kicks can be nigh on unstoppable. Real’s record breaking goal machine can seemingly do the lot from stunning long-range power to deft dinks from the edge of the box. Yes, Gareth Bale and James Rodriguez can certainly deliver when it comes to wonder goals from free-kicks, unfortunately for them, when Ronaldo’s around, they rarely get the chance.
OK, so his career in Spain was fairly short-lived, but the great Romanian star was simply devastating from twenty-five yards out and an absolute master at the art of free-kick taking. Yes, his best moments were generally saved for when he wore he yellow of his native country, but that’s not to say he didn’t have his moments in the white of Real Madrid, as the hapless keeper from Tenerife will attest from the 1992 season.
The truth is, following his physics defying strike for Brazil v France, the Real Madrid left-back had a fairly woeful record of hitting the net from free-kicks thereafter. However, that didn’t stop him from trying as hard as he could at almost every perceivable opportunity during the glorious Galacticos era at the Bernabeu. And, every once in a while…