Ranked

The best free-kick takers in Premier League history - ranked

Jamie Spencer
Apr 12, 2021, 3:00 PM GMT+1
Cristiano Ronaldo lines up a free-kick for Manchester United
Cristiano Ronaldo lines up a free-kick for Manchester United | Alex Livesey/Getty Images
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There is no other way to say it, free-kicks are an art form.

From distance, to be able to manipulate the ball over, around or even under a defensive wall and still evade a goalkeeper takes incredible skill and repetition to mould into a weapon the pitch.

Here's a look at the 25 best free-kick takers in Premier League history - ranked.

25. Willian

Willian attempts a free-kick for Chelsea
Willian attempts a free-kick for Chelsea | GLYN KIRK/Getty Images

Willian has earned a fine reputation as a free-kick specialist over the last few years and often scores from set-pieces.

Back in 2015/16, five of the Brazilian’s first six goals of the season across Premier League and Champions League games were all from direct free-kicks.

24. Steven Gerrard

Steven Gerrard free-kick
Steven Gerrard free-kick | PAUL ELLIS/Getty Images

That Steven Gerrard isn’t overly remembered for his free-kicks tells you just how good the Liverpool legend was in every aspect of his game.

Gerrard’s dead ball efforts were usually rasping strikes that relied on spectacular power, often threatening to break the net.

23. Didier Drogba

Didier Drogba of Chelsea
Didier Drogba of Chelsea | GLYN KIRK/Getty Images

Rather than wrap his foot around the ball to add curl and bend, Didier Drogba often kicked straight through it with a side-foot at set-pieces, almost like it was as simple as just passing into the net as he pleased.

The Ivorian once scored a sublime effort in a comfortable Chelsea win at the Emirates Stadium, while a free-kick also settled the 2010 FA Cup final.

22. Frank Lampard

Chelsea's Frank Lampard
Chelsea's Frank Lampard | CARL COURT/Getty Images

Frank Lampard could strike a ball as well as anyone in Premier League history, so it is only natural that the Chelsea legend was free-kick expert.

Like Gerrard, other parts of his game are generally more celebrated when looking back on his career, but he was lethal if presented with an opportunity to take one, often from some distance.

21. Wayne Rooney

Wayne Rooney was always a threat from free-kicks
Wayne Rooney was always a threat from free-kicks | PAUL ELLIS/Getty Images

Wayne Rooney gets more credit for other parts of his game, but the former Everton and Manchester United star was also deadly when stood over a free-kick near the edge of the penalty area.

Rooney actually scored the goal that made him United's all-time top scorer with a free-kick against Stoke in 2017.

20. Leighton Baines

Leighton Baines free-kick effort
Leighton Baines free-kick effort | Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

Long serving Everton left-back Leighton Baines is one of only a handful of Premier League players to have scored two direct free-kicks in the same game, doing so against West Ham in 2013.

His set-pieces made him a valuable asset for the Toffees for well over a decade.

19. Juan Mata

Juan Mata left-footed free-kick
Juan Mata left-footed free-kick | OLI SCARFF/Getty Images

Spanish maestro Juan Mata has scored a number of free-kicks for Chelsea and Manchester United over the last nine years.

When Mata successfully converted his eighth Premier League free-kick in October 2018, no other player had scored more since his debut in 2011.

18. Trent Alexander-Arnold

Trent Alexander-Arnold has become Liverpool's free-kick master
Trent Alexander-Arnold has become Liverpool's free-kick master | Sebastian Frej/MB Media/Getty Images

Liverpool favourite Trent Alexander-Arnold has become a master of free-kicks and crossing since his first-team emergence in 2018.

The right-back scored two free-kicks for Liverpool in the closing stages of the 2019/20 Premier League season and was even likened to former England captain David Beckham by Reds legend Jamie Carragher.

17. Luis Suarez

Luis Suarez shoots from a free-kick
Luis Suarez shoots from a free-kick | CARL COURT/Getty Images

Luis Suarez scored several free-kicks during his time at Liverpool, all of which came in his final two years at Anfield. He bent an unstoppable effort into the net against Norwich in the 2013/14 campaign, his fourth goal of that game alone.

Probably due to competition from Lionel Messi, Suarez surprisingly only scored one free-kick in six years at Barcelona.

16. Philippe Coutinho

Philippe Coutinho scored free-kicks for Liverpool
Philippe Coutinho scored free-kicks for Liverpool | AFP Contributor/Getty Images

Philippe Coutinho earned himself a reputation as a free-kick master in the Premier League, converting five in the league along while at Liverpool.

The Brazilian once converted a free-kick against Brighton by cleverly slotting it under a jumping wall. But that wasn't even the first time he'd done, having scored a similar goal during a loan at Espanyol early in his career.

15. Christian Eriksen

Christian Eriksen scored eight free-kicks in the Premier League
Christian Eriksen scored eight free-kicks in the Premier League | Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

Christian Eriksen scored eight goals direct from a free-kick during his time in the Premier League with Tottenham.

It was telling that when the Denmark international left England to join Inter in 2020, Spurs suddenly lacked the same level of threat without him.

14. Jamie Redknapp

Jamie Redknapp of Tottenham Hotspur
Jamie Redknapp of Tottenham Hotspur | Craig Prentis/Getty Images

Former Liverpool and Tottenham midfielder Jamie Redknapp is something of an overlooked free-kick master.

Although often injured during his career and now better known as a pundit and television personality, he netted nine times from dead balls in the Premier League.

13. Ian Harte

Ian Harte free-kick for Leeds
Ian Harte free-kick for Leeds | Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

Although perhaps his most famous free-kick was the rocket he scored against Deportivo La Coruna in the Champions League, ex-Leeds left-back Ian Harte was a set-piece master in the Premier League.

Harte was also an accomplished penalty taker. That combined with his free-kick ability helped the Irishman score 28 Premier League goals in his career.

12. Nolberto Solano

Nolberto Solano free-kick for Newcastle
Nolberto Solano free-kick for Newcastle | David Ashdown/Getty Images

‘Nobby’ Solano arrived at Newcastle in 1998 a virtual unknown outside South America, yet it wasn’t long before he became a Premier League cult hero. His ability from free-kicks was a large part of that.

One of his earliest goals in England was an in-perfect bending set-piece against Manchester United that clipped the inside of the post as it beat Peter Schmeichel.

11. Morten Gamst Pedersen

Morten Gamst Pedersen of Blackburn
Morten Gamst Pedersen of Blackburn | GLYN KIRK/Getty Images

Upon moving to England from his native Norway, Morten Gamst Pedersen quickly earned a reputation as a goalscoring winger and free-kick expert. The former Blackburn star is among a select group of just eight players to have scored 10 or more Premier League free-kicks.

They didn’t need to central either, with strikes against Wigan and Manchester United both from wide areas.

10. Gylfi Sigurdsson

Gylfi Sigurdsson strikes a free-kick
Gylfi Sigurdsson strikes a free-kick | Michael Steele/Getty Images

Gylfi Sigurdsson perfected the art of free-kicks early in his career and had already scored plenty for Reading and Hoffenheim by the time he arrived in the Premier League with Swansea, simply carrying on.

His very last goal for the Swans was a free-kick against Manchester United in 2017.

9. Sebastian Larsson

Sebastian Larsson of Sunderland
Sebastian Larsson of Sunderland | GLYN KIRK/Getty Images

When Sebastian Larsson scored a free-kick for Sunderland against former club Arsenal in 2011 it prompted Arsene Wenger to declare the Swede ‘maybe the best in the league as a free-kick taker’ at that time.

He has scored free-kicks wherever he has been throughout his career and managed 11 in the Premier League alone.

8. Kevin De Bruyne

Kevin De Bruyne scores vs Bournemouth
Kevin De Bruyne scores vs Bournemouth | OLI SCARFF/Getty Images

Although capable of what you would consider a ‘traditional’ free-kick that goes up and over the wall, Kevin De Bruyne has brought a level of ingenuity to his set-pieces at Manchester City.

That is because the Belgian has fooled more than one opponent by sliding a free-kick along the ground, underneath a jumping wall. That he does both makes it impossible for defenders to know what is coming. Should they jump or not?

7. Dimitri Payet

Dimitri Payet of West Ham
Dimitri Payet of West Ham | GLYN KIRK/Getty Images

His time in English football was ultimately only short, but Dimitri Payet’s free-kicks were special to behold when he briefly lit up the Premier League with West Ham.

The Frenchman was able to put incredible height and dip on the ball as he struck it, which meant he could put it anywhere in the goal from any angle.

6. Thierry Henry

Thierry Henry vs Wigan in 2005
Thierry Henry vs Wigan in 2005 | Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images

There was an effortless brilliance attached to Thierry Henry’s free-kick taking ability. One particular effort against Wigan in 2005 stands out in that respect as the Arsenal icon, who had a reputation for a cheeky quick free-kick, was asked to wait to take it by referee Graham Poll.

When the official gave permission, Henry stroked the ball in from 30 yards and mouthed ‘Is that enough?’ in Poll’s direction.

5. Laurent Robert

Laurent Robert strikes a free-kick
Laurent Robert strikes a free-kick | Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

Laurent Robert scored exactly half of his Premier League goals for from free-kicks, 11 in total.

The Frenchman was at St James’ Park during a golden period for Newcastle in the early 2000s and would strike his set-pieces with such venom it was seemingly impossible that he still had the poise and control over the ball to send it on target and not into the stands.

4. James Ward-Prowse

James Ward-Prowse scored two free-kicks in one game for Southampton
James Ward-Prowse scored two free-kicks in one game for Southampton | MICHAEL STEELE/Getty Images

At the time he scored two free-kicks in the same game for Southampton against Aston Villa in November 2020, James Ward-Prowse had scored 12.5% of his attempts in the Premier League.

That figure was the highest among all Premier League players since 2003/04 to have had 50 or more attempts on goal from direct free-kicks.

3. Gianfranco Zola

Chelsea's Gianfranco Zola
Chelsea's Gianfranco Zola | Alex Livesey/Getty Images

Gianfranco Zola once confessed that he learned the art of free-kicks by watching former Napoli teammate Diego Maradona in training and mimicking the legend’s technique.

Clearly it worked, as only five players in Serie A history scored more free-kicks, while he jointly holds the Premier League record alongside Henry for most free-kicks scored by a foreign player.

2. Cristiano Ronaldo

Cristiano Ronaldo strikes a free-kick
Cristiano Ronaldo strikes a free-kick | Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

Cristiano Ronaldo perfected a new way of taking free-kicks in the mid-2000s, being the first to really bring the dipping knuckleball style to the Premier League.

His effort against Portsmouth in 2008 is perhaps the single best free-kick English football has ever seen, with the ball up and down over the wall yet still straight as an arrow into the top corner.

1. David Beckham

David Beckham stands over a free-kick
David Beckham stands over a free-kick | Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

No one has scored more goals from direct free-kicks in Premier League history than David Beckham’s 18, who is one of the most celebrated set-piece specialists of all-time.

Beckham, whose unique technique added extra curl to the ball to take it away from goalkeepers, famously practiced free-kicks after training by hanging a tire in the top corner of the goal.

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