The Premier League's Greatest Ever Free-Kick Specialists

There could be a new FK King in the Premier League record books soon...
07:55, 15 Mar 2023

James Ward-Prowse is the reigning Premier League free-kick specialist, having scored 16 goals in his time in the Premier League. But where does the Southampton captain rank among the finest set-piece specialists the Premier League has ever had to offer? 

There have always been players who create careers out of striking a dead ball. Every country pretty much has a heroic figure that was once called upon on the grandest stage to score a free-kick, whether it's the modern gods of Messi, Ronaldo and Ronaldinho, or the ones your older relatives remember. Zico, Ronald Koeman and Michel Platini all took centre stage for their heroics back in the day, while your Shunsuke Nakamura's and Juninho's were basically creating impossible goals like they were on the training field. 

Regardless, the Premier League has had plenty of fine free-kick takers, and the top five are as follows...

5: Cristiano Ronaldo (12 Goals)

Not a man you might expect to see on this list. Cristiano Ronaldo's early years at Manchester United were more associated with rip-roaring counter-attacks and more skill moves than the most insane FIFA Ultimate Team player. But Ronaldo could strike them, and he's actually netted 58 of them in his illustrious career. He even managed to score two more upon his return to the Premier League in 2021 to bring him up to become the third-highest scorer of free-kicks in Premier League history, however, his reputation for smashing one into the wall more often than not precedes him nowadays. Despite this, he might hold the tag of having the greatest Premier League free-kick, with his effort against Portsmouth back in 2008...

4: Gianfranco Zola (12 Goals)

Chelsea's Italian maestro was a special player. As a 'fox in the box' striker, you'd be forgiven for thinking that managers would prefer Zola to be hanging around the six-yard box or penalty spot, waiting for rebounds or looking for headers to score, but Zola was different. He commanded the respect of a defending team, and despite many teams' best efforts of putting defenders on the goal line alongside goalkeepers, he's still found a way to loop one over the top of everyone and into the net. 

Troy Deeney told the story of when Zola managed Watford and used to bet the players £50 that they couldn't beat him in a free-kick contest from 30 yards out. Apparently, there wasn't a single Watford player to take money from the Italian in 18 months of trying. 

3: Thierry Henry (12 Goals)

Thierry Henry. A man so cool he could freeze fire. It might surprise you to learn that the Frenchman only managed to score 12 league free-kicks in his eight years of English football (nine if you include the loan). Regardless of the stats, Arsene Wenger could count on Henry to do almost anything in a red shirt. The man oozed talent, class and charisma every time he entered the pitch. The free kick he might be known best for is one towards his latter years at Arsenal. The Gunners travelled to what was formerly known as the JJB Stadium to face Wigan. Henry had gathered a reputation of sneaking free kicks round the wall when the goalkeeper was still setting it up, with Chelsea and Aston Villa on the receiving end in the weeks before, but Graham Poll wasn't having it. Henry took a quick one but Poll brought it back, only for the striker to find the net once again from 30 yards. A simple celebration of looking the referee up and down, asking him 'Is that enough?' was good enough to cement it as one of the Premier League's iconic moments.

2: James Ward-Prowse (17 Goals)

The heir to the throne of the man in first place. James Ward-Prowse is THAT guy. He steps up to the plate with an aura of invincibility. A sense of dread deafens the crowd while he eyes up the target and goalkeepers tremble with fear, and for good reason. There isn't a James Ward-Prowse style of free-kick because he scores so many different ones. Under the wall, knuckleball, up-and-down or swinging one inside the post, he can do it all. 

His finest work came against Wolves in the 2021/22 season. 35 yards away from the net of Jose Sa, slightly left of centre, Ward-Prowse opted for a knuckleball that dipped, swerved and swung inside the far post. Truly sublime football. You'll never tire of watching it. It's only a matter of time until he becomes the greatest scorer of free-kicks the Premier League has ever seen. 

1: David Beckham (18 Goals)

David Beckham won't go down as the greatest England player of all-time. There may never have been a time where David Beckham is considered to be the best player in the world. But ask a non-football fan to name a footballer, and Becks' name will be in the first five names to come out of their mouths. Beckham was England's first superstar. A Peckham-boy with a laidback nature, good looks and popstar lifestyle probably shouldn't have become the world's most famous footballer, but he did, all thanks to his right foot. 

As part of the Class of '92, Beckham was part of the Manchester United side to win the treble, with Becks playing a key part in winning all three competitions over the course of the season. When you think of his free-kicks, his work for England, Man Utd and Real Madrid all spring to mind. We'll try not to talk about the free-kick vs Greece because it wasn't in the Premier League but England fans will probably never get a moment of elation quite like that ever again. His final goal in a Man Utd shirt came at Goodison Park, where Becks' hit a curler into the far corner. It was quite a fitting end for Beckham's time in England and he remains the greatest free-kick taker the Premier League has ever seen. For now, at least...

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