The Portugese superstar has won just about every accolade in the football world – Handed the Ballon D’Or near the start of the year, Ronaldo was recognised officially as the best footballer on the planet. Given his excellent form though, this hardly defied the odds or betting tipsters. He was recently also named as the world’s richest player and he even showed his softer side by footing the bill for a complex brain operation for a young Real Madrid fan. Yet strangely, Ronaldo’s trademark free-kicks don’t seem to be getting the appreciation they deserve. The wildly popular Fifa 14 console game does not even rate Ronaldo as one of this year’s top 20 free-kick takers! Their list is topped by Borussia Monchengladbach’s Juan Arango, closely followed by the likes of Andrea Pirlo and Didier Drogba.
Surely though, Ronaldo is not only one of today’s best free-kick takers, but one of the best ever? After all, his incredible free-kick against Portsmouth at Old Trafford while playing for Manchester United took the art to a whole new level. Nobody had really ever seen a player hit a free-kick with such power, precision and accuracy over such a short distance. Ronaldo’s unique execution meant that it was a free-kick which altered the way everybody attempts to take free-kicks.
Of course, it was hardly an isolated example of Ronaldo’s exceptional dead-ball ability. He proved that he can do it on the very biggest of occasions in a Champions League semi-final with a free-kick against Arsenal from an outrageous distance and angle. In another example of Ronaldo’s range of free-kick taking, he memorably curled in a superb effort from a tight angle out wide during a Champions League game for Real Madrid against Cypriot minnows Apoel. It is no wonder that Ronaldo’s free-kicks bring about an air of expectation among fans and trepidation for goalkeepers in equal measure.
Of course, there are plenty of other top-class free-kick takers in world football. Ronaldo’s Real Madrid team-mate Gareth Bale has also mastered the art of getting the ball up and over the wall at pace. In fact, with Bale’s sweet left-foot and Ronaldo’s stylish right-foot, Real Madrid have probably the globe’s outstanding free-kick combination. If Ronaldo ranks as one of today’s top free-kick takers, how does he compare to some of the all-time great dead-ball specialists? Of course, Ronaldo’s former team-mate David Beckham made free-kick taking an art, curling the ball with pace and accuracy, quite often at crucial moments. No England fan is likely to forget Beckham’s dramatic injury-time free-kick against Greece at Old Trafford, which sealed the Three Lions’ spot at the 2002 World Cup. Another top quality free-kick taker of the era was Brazil’s Roberto Carlos, another former Real Madrid star. The left-back’s free-kicks were all about power and few have hit a dead ball at such speed. His free-kick against France in La Tournoi in 1997 was one of the most memorable strikes of the past two decades. Striking the ball powerfully with the outside of his left foot, Roberto Carlos bent the ball at pace around the outside of the wall, leaving the goalkeeper unsighted and helpless.
However, Ronaldo is in a different league to his predecessors. He manages to combine the precision of Beckham, the power of Roberto Carlos and a whole lot more in one unique style. The fact that so many continue attempting to copy his technique is further evidence that Ronaldo truly is the best free-kick taker of all time.