Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi are amongst the best free-kick specialists in the world. However, the two players have shown a different trajectory when it comes to their freekick conversion rate.
In the early days of his career, Cristiano Ronaldo made a name for himself for scoring spectacular goals from dead-ball situations.
Few remember that his first goal in Manchester United colours came from a freekick on November 1, 2003, against Portsmouth in the Premier League. With time his 'knuckleball' technique drew appreciation from all sections, especially after that outrageous strike against Arsenal in the Champions League.
Meanwhile, Messi was not a prolific scorer from free-kicks when he started his career. In fact, when he became Barcelona's all-time leading goalscorer on 20 March 2012, he had just five free-kick goals.
But in the same calendar year, he scored seven, and then went on to average near six free-kick goals per campaign for the next seven years. His best yield came in 2018 when he scored 10 in a single calendar year.
It is striking that when Messi came to establish himself as one of the best in the world when it comes to free-kicks, Ronaldo's prowess was on the wane.
The Portuguese scored just nine in his final four seasons at Real Madrid, once in three at Juventus, and another one after his second coming at United. This is also due to the reason that since 2014-15 Ronaldo (150) had taken significantly fewer free-kicks than Messi (316).
This disparity in free-kick attempts can be because there were other players like Gareth Bale, Miralem Pjanic, and Paulo Dybala who would share the duties with him. Moreover, Ronaldo would sometimes prefer to take up position inside the box for an indirect attempt at goal.
Lionel Messi & Cristiano Ronaldo's freekick record
Messi is currently three ahead of his arch-rival in terms of free-kicks scored with the Argentine netting 61 times to Ronaldo's 51. La Pulga (9.1%) also has a better conversation rate than Ronaldo (6.2%).
Let us now take a look at the breakdown of the goals.
Lionel Messi & Cristiano Ronaldo's free-kick records compared
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