Many will argue that Ronaldo isn’t the free kick god that others proclaim him to be. Though it’s safe to say that his name will inevitably come up in any conversation that has the faintest mention of set-pieces. And if we’re being honest, we’ve all stood behind the ball in the wide-legged, CR7 pose at least once. But today we’re drifting away from the traditional English league’s spot-kick talisman, the Beckhams, Zolas, Henrys. Let’s take a look at some of the most surprising free kick takers in te Premier League, past and present.
Surpising Premier League free kick takers
Real Madrid youth academy graduate Juan Mata is as versatile in midfield as it comes. What he may lack in pace he makes up for with vision, control and technique. No longer a regular starter at United, only making the first-team sheet 4 times this season, it’s looking like a summer transfer may be likely for ol’ Juan.
When it comes to Premier League free kick takers, Mata is one of the best. 8 scored in his career so far, his prowess from the spot has also come in handy at European and international level. His equaliser against Juventus in 2018 was the impetus for a late Champions League comeback, the winner coming from another curling set-piece by Young which somehow broke through the defence and wound up in the back of the net.
Winner of Danish player of the year a record-setting five times, Cristian Eriksen knows a thing or two about set-pieces. 2013 was the year of big spends for Tottenham as they brought Eriksen over from Ajax, along with Roma’s Erik Lamela and Chiriches from FCSB for a combined £110 million.
Three Eredivisie titles in a row were the precursor for a move to the Premier League, which has since seen him score 51 goals in 226 appearances, with 8 coming from free kicks. We may even see him back in the English top tier soon, as speculation around a possible trade with Jorginho of Chelsea has been making headlines recently.
Arguably there are no better free kick takers in the Premier League, or arguably the world, than James Ward-Prowse at the moment. Southampton’s spot-kick aficionado has scored 5 goals this season, 4 of them being from free kicks, taking his total up to 10 overall. To put that in perspective, no other player this season has scored more than one.
A lifelong Saints lad, both youth and senior career, Ward-Prowse is quickly becoming the staple for all set-pieces in the Premier League. He has the best conversion rate since 2003, with Pep Guardiola even singing his praises; “The best free kick taker I have seen in my life.”
Morten Gamst Pedersen
A few questions were asked in 2004 when Graham Souness dropped £1.5 million on an unheard-of Norweigan midfielder. But 349 games and 47 goals later, a legend of yester-year was born. Morten Gamst Pedersen, Blackburn’s number 12 for 9 years from ‘04 – 2013, is best remembered for his knack of 30 yarders, volleys and freekicks.
The ex-Tromsø winger scored 10 free kicks in the Premier League, plus a whole host of goal of the month contenders. He also famously committed one of the lousiest dives in English football, sprawling out in the penalty box against Arsenal with Bacary Sagna no less than 6 foot behind. VAR would have probably had a different angle though.
A surprise entry on our list of Premier League free kick takers, Ian Harte was Ireland’s Roberto Carlos. There’s just something about a long-range screamer that’s better when it’s scored by a defender. Ian Harte was Leeds’ go-to left back from 1996 – 2004, and more importantly, their free kick specialist.
A curling left foot, in boots that were allegedly two sizes too small as they improved his accuracy, he scored 85 career goals, which for a defender is a top achievement. If any proof is needed, his 2002 free kick against Man Utd when Leeds were 4 – 1 down is testament to his outrageous outside the box abilities.
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