When football fans list the greatest free kick takers of all time, two players are always near the top: David Beckham and Roberto Carlos.
The former Real Madrid team-mates were known for hitting a sweet dead ball. And while their styles differed – Becks could bend it like no other, while Carlos went for sheer power – they both boasted impressive records for club and country.
One man who might not make many fans' lists is former Leeds, Sunderland and Republic of Ireland man Ian Harte. Yet those who saw Harte hit one in the flesh will testify that few were better than the defender from dead ball situations. Harte himself believes his record stands up against the very best.
"Many team-mates tried to take free-kicks off me!" Harte tells the Players Lounge section of FourFourTwo – order the latest issue here. "Mostly I’d say, 'No chance' – the ball was mine. Coming through, I’d watch Roberto Carlos and think, 'What a left-back! How good is he at free-kicks?' Beckham was unbelievable too.
"People never check but I’d like to see the stats of how many they took compared to me. I reckon my numbers are near the top. I mean, David Beckham might have had 200 more free-kicks than me and scored 20 – I might have only had 70 and scored 15. I don’t know.
Harte doesn't stop at free-kicks, either. The Irishman believes his all-round goalscoring record deserves greater recognition too. "Likewise, John Terry is the highest-scoring defender in the Premier League," he tells FFT. "But he’s got about 210 games on me and I’m only 10 goals behind him!"
Harte's sublime ability from dead balls even earned him a late career gig at Reading. "It was deadline day and Gylfi Sigurdsson had just left Reading," recalls Harte. "Brian McDermott was the manager and said, 'I need someone who can take a good free-kick.' So sure enough, they got me in for £70,000 and I loved it. Great club, nice part of the world and I got in the Championship team of the season both years. We even got promoted!"
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Ed McCambridge is a staff writer at FourFourTwo, working for the magazine and website. Ed has been living in Berlin since 2015 and worked as a Bundesliga reporter before joining FFT. Formerly a season ticket holder at AFC Wimbledon, he's now most commonly spotted at local side Union Berlin.
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