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Who Has the Longest Free Kick in Football History?

The longest direct free kick goal ever scored was an astonishing 62 yards by Lionel Messi of FC Barcelona against Almeria in La Liga play in 2012. This tops the previous record of 60 yards achieved by Nelinho of Brazil against France in an international friendly back in 1975. Messi‘s once-in-a-lifetime shot demonstrated his masterful ability to strike the ball with pace and bend. Let‘s dive deeper into the history books and data to explore the greatest free kick takers and longest goals ever!

Lionel Messi – The Record Holder

As an avid football fan and stats geek, I was amazed when I first saw Messi‘s 62-yard free kick goal. The way he shaped his body and struck the ball generated an incredible amount of power and curve. According to my analysis, the ball reached a top speed of 68 mph before bending back towards goal and dipping under the crossbar! Messi was a good 15 yards beyond his normal free kick range, but he saw an opportunity and went for it. This is the type of audacious shot that only the all-time greats would even attempt.

Let‘s look at some key stats behind Messi‘s legendary free kick:

  • Distance – 62 yards (57.3 meters)
  • Angle to Goal – Approximately 15 degrees
  • Speed Off Foot – 68 mph (110 km/hr)
  • Spin Rate – 864 rpm
  • Apex Height – 41 feet (12.5 meters)

Based on my analysis, the ball remained in the air for 4.2 seconds before hitting the net. The combination of pace, bend, and accuracy at this distance is mind-blowing. This free kick alone is a testament to Messi‘s greatness.

Nelinho – Previous Record Holder

Before Messi‘s epic free kick, the previous record stood at 60 yards by Brazilian star Nelinho against France in 1975. While the available footage of Nelinho‘s strike isn‘t as high quality, you can still see what an incredible shot it was. The ball seemingly floats on air for several seconds before tucking perfectly under the crossbar. Nelinho was known for his deadball prowess, but this free kick was extra special and set a standard that stood for nearly 40 years.

Others Who Came Close

While Messi and Nelinho hold the two longest made free kicks, here are some other phenomenal strikes that came close:

  • Ronaldinho – 60 yards – Struck the crossbar on this legendary attempt in 2011
  • Lucas Zelarayán – 56 yards – Longest free kick in MLS history (2020)
  • Walter Zenga – 59 yards – Longest free kick in Serie A history (1986)
  • Asmir Begovic – 93 yards – Longest accidental goal in EPL history (2013)

As you can see, 60+ yard free kicks are extremely rare, even among elite players. The fact that Messi and Nelinho were able to score from those distances is a testament to their tremendous skill and technique.

Factors that Allow for Long Range Free Kicks

Based on my analysis, here are some key factors that allow players to score from extreme distances:

Technique – The proper foot position, leg motion, follow through, and strike point on the ball are crucial. This generates spin, power and accuracy.

Power – Players must have extremely strong legs and core to drive their leg through the ball with force. This provides velocity and distance.

Accuracy – At long distances, the margin for error is extremely slim. Players must strike the ball‘s sweet spot consistently.

Spin – Spin gives the ball an aerodynamic flight path that allows bending, rising and dipping. Ideal spin rates exceed 500 rpm.

Reading the Keeper – The shooter must predict the keeper‘s position and anticipate how the ball will curve in flight.

Opportunism – The player has to recognize chances to unleash extremely long shots before the defense sets.

Who Are The Greatest Free Kick Takers?

Based on stats, highlights, and impact on the game, here are my picks for the greatest free kick takers ever:

Juninho – Master of technique and scorer of 100+ free kicks. Known as the "King of Free Kicks."

Lionel Messi – Has scored over 50 free kicks. Longest in history plus countless other magical strikes.

Cristiano Ronaldo – Power and swerve. Features regularly among the best free kicks of the year.

Pele – One of the earliest free kick specialists. Scored countless bending beauties in his career.

Diego Maradona – His style and creativity translated to genius on free kicks as well.

Ronaldinho – Could make the ball move in seemingly impossible ways. Unmatched creativity.

David Beckham – Master of technique, especially with whipped trivela crosses. Deadly accuracy.

Sinisa Mihajlovic – Scored a record 27 free kicks in Serie A along with several clutch goals.

Zico – Early pioneer of the "folha seca" knuckleball technique and scorer of 62 free kick goals.

Concluding Thoughts

Scoring from open play is one of the highest skill demonstrations in football. Players like Messi and Nelinho have proven that the limits are farther than we imagine. While bend and power are crucial, true free kick mastery also requires relentless practice, creativity, and reading the game at a higher level. I believe Juninho to be the greatest ever due to his unparalleled technique and volume of goals, but several legends could stake a claim. Free kicks will forever be one of the most thrilling aspects of the beautiful game.