Revealed: The 14 players better at free-kicks than Lionel Messi

When Lionel Messi curled home two postage-stamp free-kicks in the Derbi Barceloni at the weekend, the Argentine’s prowess over a dead ball was in the spotlight once more. They were his 16th and 17th goals directly from such situations over the last five league seasons, which is close to double that of any other player in Europe’s top five domestic divisions.

Most would probably argue that he is the most clinical player from free-kicks, but that would actually be some way from the truth.

In fact, of the 18 players across said leagues to have scored five or more goals direct from free-kicks since the 2014/15 campaign, Messi doesn’t come close to boasting the best conversion rate.

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The Barcelona star’s figure of 9.5 per cent is actually all the way down in 15th of said players, ahead of Hakan Calhanoglu (8.3 per cent), Dimitri Payet (7.5) and Christian Eriksen (5.7). All three players are renowned for their ability from set pieces but in truth are relatively wasteful in general.

It should be said that in the case of Messi, his conversion has risen substantially over the past two seasons, from a meagre 5.4 per cent in 2016/17 up to 12.5 per cent last season and 15.8 per cent so far this.

However, even the latter figure – having scored two free-kicks from two attempts on Saturday – is only enough to rank fifth.

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It’s not the best in LaLiga, with that crown taken by Levante’s Enis Bardhi. The 23-year-old has scored six goals from direct free-kicks since the start of last season from just 27 attempts. That’s an outstanding conversion rate of 22.2 per cent, which makes the Macedonian the most deadly finisher from such situations in Europe’s top five leagues.

Messi isn’t even the best at Barcelona in terms of conversion rate, though it seems unlikely that Philippe Coutinho will be able to convince his teammate to step aside any time soon. The Brazilian has had just one free-kick attempt for the blaugrana, but scored five times from dead ball situations for Liverpool and boasts a strike rate of 20 per cent.

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Antoine Griezmann is third, with five goals from 27 attempts since 2014/15, while not only is Messi beaten by a fellow club mate but also countryman too.

Paulo Dybala’s figures are even more impressive when considering he is third, behind Miralem Pjanic (10) and his compatriot in terms of goals scored from free-kicks, with nine over the past five seasons. Said strikes have come from 51 attempts, resulting in an excellent 17.6 per cent conversion rate.

Lionel Messi might be the best around at many things, but free-kicks isn’t one of them. Not in his league, country or even team…


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