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Revealed! The 20 best free-kick takers in European football

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5. James Rodriguez (Real Madrid/Bayern Munich)

Goals: 6 • Attempts: 36 • Success rate: 16.67%

Frankly, it’s amazing that Ronaldo, Bale et al have even let James take 36 free-kicks, bless him. The golden boy of the 2014 World Cup has an impressive hit rate with that gifted left foot, but he endured a tough time with the Spanish giants. However, the Colombian is now enjoying a new lease of life with Bayern Munich – and dinked in a fine effort against Bayer Leverkusen at the start of 2018.

4. Marco Alonso (Chelsea)

Goals: 4 • Attempts: 22 • Success rate: 18.18%

The Chelsea left-back has been a strong performer in Antonio Conte’s side, and his free-kicks have won the Blues six points this season alone (and he notched another in the FA Cup against Newcastle too). He netted a fine effort against Spurs at Wembley back in August, and the winner against Southampton in December – although keeper Fraser Forster was perhaps culpable on that occasion. His best effort was the previous season, against Bournemouth. 

3. Philippe Coutinho (Barcelona)

Goals: 5 • Attempts: 26 • Success rate: 19.23%

If his shooting success rate from open play was half as good as his aim from free-kicks, Philippe Coutinho would score 800 goals a season. Approximately. The Brazilian loves having a go from distance, and netted a memorable array of free-kicks for Liverpool before his drawn-out move to Barcelona.

2. Paulo Dybala (Juventus)

Goals: 8 • Attempts: 38 • Success rate: 21.05%

The 24-year-old Juventus forward has been linked with a move to Manchester United, and with an incredible success rate slightly better than one in five, might jump right to the top of their free-kick queue. His left-footed technique is more about power than placement – as demonstrated by this effort in a charity match where he scores against a 20-man wall.

1. Juan Mata (Man United)

Goals: 5 • Attempts: 22 • Success rate: 22.73%

Surprising, right? He might not spring to mind when you think of deadly free-kick takers, but it’s Manchester United’s Spanish midfielder who has the best conversion rate in Europe over the last five years. He generally takes the little deft efforts from the edge of the box, like the above beauty against Leicester.

After the game, Mata revealed the secret behind his success to MUTV in an exclusive interview. "You have to practise, especially set-pieces and finishing,” he said, insightfully. He might not be able to tell you exactly how he takes them, but he definitely can take 'em.

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