On June 15, 2021, Lionel Messi’s 33rd minute free-kick against Chile in a 1-1 draw at the Copa America 2021 took the Argentine ahead of Cristiano Ronaldo in the list for most free-kick goals by an active footballer. That goal was Messi’s 57th free-kick goal for club and country.

A couple of weeks later, Messi produced a Man of the Match performance by scoring once and assisting twice in his team’s 3-0 win over Ecuador in the quarter-final of Copa America 2021. 

One year later in September 2022, Lionel Messi scored another mesmerizing free-kick in their 3-0 win over Jamaica in an international friendly at the Red Bull Arena in New Jersey ahead of the 2022 FIFA World Cup. He netted another brilliant free-kick for Paris Saint-Germain in their 2-1 victory against OGC Nice in the Ligue 1 2022-23 in October.

With two back-to-back free-kicks to his name, he took his tally to 60 free-kick goals. After moving to MLS side Inter Miami in 2023, Messi hit the ground running for his new team by scoring two free-kicks in his first few games for the club. He now has 65 free-kick goals in total with the bulk of them coming for Barcelona and Argentina.

Messi’s figure of 65 free-kick goals puts him above Diego Maradona’s total of 62 goals from direct free-kicks. That number, however, is considerably lower than former Lyon and Brazil midfielder, Juninho Pernambucano, who has scored the most free-kick goals in football history.

During his two-decade-long career, Juninho scored 77 free-kicks for club and country. Second on the list is Brazilian legend Pele, who netted 70 goals from direct free-kicks.

Modern-day greats Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo (63) are in the top-10 list of footballers with the most goals via free-kick. Former Brazil and Sao Paulo goalkeeper, Rogerio Ceni is 10th on the list for most free-kick goals (59) in football history.

Most free-kick goals in football history

Player Nationality Goals
Juninho Pernambucano Brazil 77
Pele Brazil 70
Victor Legrotaglie Argentina 66
Ronaldinho Brazil 66
David Beckham England 65
Lionel Messi Argentina 65
Cristiano Ronaldo Portugal 63
Diego Maradona Argentina 62
Zico Brazil 62
Ronald Koeman Netherlands 60
Marcelinho Carioca Brazil 59
Rodrigo Ceni Brazil 59

As far as active footballers are concerned, no one comes close to the likes of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. Their immediate competition is the new Inter Milan signing, Hakan Calhanoglu, who has scored 27 goals via direct-free kicks. Barcelona’s Miralem Pjanic (26) and Inter’s Aleksander Kolarov (22) complete the top-five list.

Featured photo: FRANCK FIFE / AFP