Six of the best free-kicks in Champions League history

Free-kicks, modern art

From Ronaldinho to Zidane, Maldini to Messi, the UEFA Champions League has seen some of the best players in footballing history all battle it out with each other over the years.

We've been treated to so many memorable moments in this wonderful competition - United's last minute victory against Bayern in 99, Liverpool's comeback against Milan in Istanbul, Barcelona's emphatic 6-1 win over PSG two years ago, to name a few.

Then there's the goals, the magnificent goals, the things that make this game so special. Free-kicks, especially, for there is no better feeling than watching a player wrap his foot around the ball, firing it straight into the top corner from outside the area, is there?

After Messi's magical long range free-kick somehow found the back on the net against Liverpool on Wednesday night, it got us thinking of all the fantastic goals that have been scored directly from set pieces over the years.

So, we created a mini list, all for you. Here's six of the best free-kicks in UCL history (or at least since 2002), let us know your thoughts and which one tops your list.

Sit back, relax, maybe put some Westlife on, and enjoy.

6. Thierry Henry vs Roma - 2002

Thierry Henry is one of the greatest players to have ever walked the planet, and arguably the best to ever feature in the English top flight during Arsenal's glory days. Those days are firmly over for the Gunners, it would seem, but the memories the club has will live on forever.

The squad they took to Roma in 2002 - which contained the likes of Henry, Pires, Ljungberg, Campbell, Vieira, Cole and, erm, Stuart Taylor, will bring a tear to the eye of any Arsenal fan who is over the age of 20.

Henry bagged a hat-trick at the Stadio Olimpico on that fateful night 17 years ago, with his third of the evening, this beautiful free-kick, undoubtedly the pick of the lot.

[54 seconds in]

5. Cristiano Ronaldo vs Arsenal - 2009

We all know what CR7 is capable of, constant world class goals when they matter the most. Ronaldo is the king of the Champions League, scoring 126 goals in 162 appearances (mental). Whether it be representing United, Real Madrid or Juventus, the level of consistency Ronaldo has shown throughout his career is quite simply just frightening.

Ronnie made a name for himself as a dead ball specialist in the mid-to-late noughties, trademarking that dip-come-swerve shot which made him so lethal on Fifa. This free-kick against Arsenal is the pick of them, though, for a number of reasons. The angle, the distance, the fact that it was against a fellow Premier League club. Phenomenal stuff.

4. David Beckham vs Real Madrid - 2003

David Beckham, Becks, Golden Balls, whatever you want to call him. Bloody great player, even nicer bloke and my god, he could do a bit of damage from a set piece.

Beckham scored a bag full of wonderful free-kicks during his time playing for United and Madrid, notably this beauty against Real Madrid at Old Trafford, which helped the Red Devils overcome Los Blancos 4-3 haven fallen behind earlier in the match. You don't beat prime Iker Casillas with any old shot, it has to be special - it's safe to say that this one was.

Skip to 6:45, unless you fancy watching the extended highlights.. we wouldn't blame you.

3. Lionel Messi vs Liverpool - 2019

Words fail me when I try and talk about Messi, there aren't enough words in my vocabulary to truly put his talent to justice. He's not human, he's an alien, he must be. Nobody is that good at football, consistently. Nobody.

The little Argentinian continues to amaze us, even at the age of 31 when most pro's start to slow down, he just keeps moving forward, nutmegging defenders and dinking goalkeepers all while remaining so unbelievably humble. Messi is his own entity, he's the best there has ever been and the best there ever will be, and we're all extremely lucky to witness his class every week.

Barcelona's creator was in emphatic form yet again this week, making Fabinho look like a little girl in Barcelona's 3-0 win over Liverpool in the quarter-finals of the Champions League. His first was a simple tap-in, his second was one of the best free-kicks I have ever seen.

The distance from goal was ridiculous, the goalkeeper he beat is one of the best in the world right now, the importance of the goal needs no further explanation, everything about it just made it sensational.

Honestly had no idea Goat's were any good at free-kicks, how utterly naive of me.

2. Shunsuke Nakamura vs Manchester United - 2006

Hands up if you remember Shunsuke Nakamura. Apologies if you were born after 1997, because this will be lost on you. For those that can remember the Japanese genius, though, enjoy reminiscing this one. The former Celtic midfielder was one of the best in the business when it comes to set pieces; my word he could hit them.

On a memorable European night at Parkhead, Nakamura produced this beauty against Manchester United, which actually proved to be the match winner as the game ended 1-0 to the Bhoys. Look at that kit, too, the Carling sponsor, nostalgia to the highest degree. Still somehow playing in the J-League aged 40, presumably still curling them in from 30 yards out. We miss you, Shunsuke.

1. Juninho vs Bayern Munich - 2003

And here it is, our winner. Disagree if you like, but you're wrong. Juninho will go down in history as one of, if not the best free-kick taker of all time and this ludicrous strike against Bayern Munich 18 years ago proves exactly why. How can anyone hit the ball so hard, yet so accurately? It's a mystery that'll sadly never be solved.

What makes this goal so special is that it was scored past one of the best goalkeepers of all-time, Oliver Khan. The German shot stopper actually came off third-best in this situation, headbutting the post as he attempted to save it. Looked like it really hurt, too.


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