In the 67th minutes of Barça’s 3-2 win in Valencia, Leo Messi placed the ball 23 metres away from Jasper Cillessen’s goal. He took a few steps, never moving his gaze away from the Valencia posts. Deep breath, short run-up and the rest is history. Yet another perfect example from the Argentinian of the art of taking free kicks.
It was the latest in a masterclass that began back on 4 November 2008. At the Camp Nou, in a league fixture against Atlético Madrid, he converted his first direct free kick in a Barça shirt. He’s gone on to do the same thing a total of 50 times.
❗ Click on each little ball to see how, where and when he scored each of his 50 free kicks.
Champions League: 5
Copa del Rey: 3
European Super Cup: 2
Spanish Super Cup: 1
Athletic Club: 6
Atlético Madrid: 3
Celta Vigo: 3
Real Madrid: 2
Sunday’s free kick was the first that Messi had scored against Valencia, a new victim on his list.
Fifty goals from free kicks is not just a record in La Liga. It is also more than any single player has scored in the Premier League, Bundesliga, Serie A or Ligue 1.
Counting from the 2011/12 season onwards, for which full stats are available, the nearest anyone has come to Messi’s 36 league goals from free kicks are his current team-mate Miralem Pjanić with 16 and Cristiano Ronaldo with 14.
Meanwhile across all competitions and only in the last five years, the leaderboard looks like this:
Leo Messi: 27
James Ward-Prowse: 10
Paulo Dybala: 9
Angel Di María: 9
No wonder rival goalkeepers and defences alike start quivering in their boots the moment they see Messi lining up a free kick on the edge of the area. There is nobody in the game who is more lethal at turning such opportunities into goals!