The 15 best free-kicks of all time: where does Messi rank?

Lionel Messi Liverpool Barcelona free-kick

That peculiar alien from another planet has done it again. But where does his latest effort slot in among the all-time greats? Greg Lea has a go at counting down the finest ever dead-ball strikes

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15. Garrincha, Brazil vs Bulgaria

Looking at the respective positions of the wall, the goalkeeper and the free-kick itself, it would appear that the only way a right-footer could put the ball where Garrincha sticks it is by curling it with the instep. But no. The Brazil international instead strikes across it with the outside of his boot, bending the ball into the top corner to give the Seleção a commanding 2-0 lead in this 1966 World Cup group stage clash. Stunning.

14. Lionel Messi, Barcelona vs Liverpool

Yes, 'only' No.14 – we're sorry. But just wait to see what we've got in store for you later: the bar is high. 

Nonetheless, this was remarkable. Barcelona already led 2-0 in a Champions League semi-final first leg they hadn't dominated against Liverpool, but this sickening sucker-punch killed off the Reds at Anfield – and fittingly, marked Messi's 600th goal for the Blaugrana. Watch the replay: there was only a slender pocket that the Argentine wizard could have put the ball, but struck this so sweetly – right around the wall, too – that Alisson effectively got nowhere near it. Ridiculous. 

13. Hakan Calhanoglu, Hamburg vs Borussia Dortmund

Turkish midfielder Calhanoglu has developed a reputation as a free-kick specialist in recent years – and this is the most astonishing he’s hit so far. Despite the fact that 45 yards separate ball from net, the then-Hamburg man acquaints the two with this ferocious strike which arrows towards goal before dramatically swerving left at the last minute.

The only thing this 2014 free-kick loses marks for is Dortmund’s utter apathy at trying to defend it. Although having said that, there wouldn’t have been much they could do anyway.

12. Lasse Schone, Ajax vs Feyenoord

“Keep it tight first 20, boys. Don’t give anything silly away.”

Probably the instructions of Feyenoord boss Giovanni van Bronckhorst ahead of this Klassieker against Ajax, but the Dutchman’s players were unable to comply. Still, it's not ever player you'd worry about over a free-kick when it's 40 yards out. Nevertheless, just 53 seconds in, Schone put Ajax ahead at the Amsterdam Arena,= after letting rip with an astonishing piledriver that kissed the bar on its way in. 

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11. Teofilo Cubillas, Peru vs Scotland

Cubillas barely looks interested as Peru prepare to take this set-piece against Scotland in 1978, with three of his team-mates gathered around the edge of the opposition box.

But that was probably all part of an act which sees Juan Munante step over the ball and Cubillas delicately prod around the wall with the outside of his foot. It’s a fine piece of skill and arguably the best free-kick in World Cup history (sorry Becks).

10. Paul Gascoigne, Tottenham vs Arsenal

Picture the scene. You’re playing an FA Cup semi-final at Wembley against your club’s biggest rivals. Just four minutes have elapsed and the game is still goalless when you’re awarded a free-kick 40 yards out. May as well have a dig, right?

That’s exactly what Paul Gascoigne did in 1991. Slamming his laces right through the centre of the ball, the Tottenham midfielder produced a missile which looked destined for the top corner as soon as he’d hit it. The free-kick seemed to pick up pace the further it travelled, leaving David Seaman without a hope of keeping it out despite managing to get a glove on the ball.

9. Cristiano Ronaldo, Manchester United vs Portsmouth

Ronaldo was unstoppable in the 2007/08 campaign, much like this free-kick in a 2-0 defeat of Portsmouth that sent Manchester United to the top of the table in late January. Struck with venom, the ball flies over the wall and, at the last moment, dips decisively to leave David James stranded.

“That without doubt must be the best [I’ve seen in the Premier League],” Alex Ferguson said afterwards. “From that distance, he’s going to hit them. No keeper in the world would save that.”

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8. Alvaro Recoba, Inter Milan vs Bologna

Perhaps the most entertaining thing about this swerving free-kick from 2003 is the wall’s futile attempt to stop it. The four Bologna defenders jump as expected, before realising that Recoba has tried something completely different and turn around just in time to see the ball clip the far post on its way over the line. The Uruguayan magician won’t have hit many sweeter than this.