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The seven best Premier League free-kick takers: Ronaldo, Beckham, Ward-Prowse…

These seven players truly mastered the art of free-kick taking, and left opposition goalkeepers quaking in their boots as they stood over the ball.

Curl, pace and accuracy - all are needed for the perfect free-kick. Demanding a high level of skill and concentration, very few players can say they have perfected the technique.

But throughout the Premier League's existence, a handful of players have left us admiring their ability to turn a set-piece into a goalscoring opportunity.

A recent prodigy of the art is Southampton's James Ward-Prowse, who has managed to net 10 free-kicks, including four last season.

The 26-year-old enjoyed a successful 2020/21 with the Saints, and was rewarded with a call up to England's provisional Euro 2020 squad, although he didn't make the final cut.

However, his pinpoint accuracy attracted the attention of both Aston Villa and Tottenham Hotspur, who were reported to be vying for his services in the transfer window.

The speculation was brought to an end on Thursday when Ward-Prowse put pen to paper on a new deal at Southampton. To celebrate five more years of Ward-Prowse at St Mary's, Planet Sport picks out their seven best Premier League free-kick takers.

James Ward-Prowse

First up on the list is the Saints man himself. With a remarkable four free-kick goals last year, it's impossible to leave him off the list.
Ward-Prowse is only eight goals off the record of most free-kick goals in the Premier League, and at 26, he has plenty of years left in the tank to top that.

Speaking of his superb free-kicks, Ward-Prowse points towards David Beckham as his inspiration: "He is a boyhood hero of mine. He is someone I have modelled my attributes on - especially his free-kick taking and his set-piece delivery."

While the Saints midfielder clearly has high aspirations, former team-mate Theo Walcott has suggested that Ward-Prowse is actually a better free-kick taker than his childhood hero.

The Southampton loanee winger said: "After every training session I see James taking free-kicks. I just sit there and remember watching Beckham all those years ago.

"I always thought I should have got involved with free-kicks but he was just too good. Now I see James and think - you're better."

Now committed to Southampton for five more years, we certainly wouldn't bet against him increasing his free-kick tally this season.

Cristiano Ronaldo

Cristiano Ronaldo, celebration, Manchester United, Premier League, 2007
Not just one of the best free-kick takers, but also one of the best to ever kick a ball.

After his £12million move to Manchester United in 2003, Ronaldo took the Premier League by storm and particularly shone from dead-ball situations.

Ronaldo's unique technique sees him strike the ball on it's valve, making it move unpredictably in the air. While at times inconsistent, when it hits the spot it has generated some breathtaking goals.

Across his 196 Premier League appearances, the Portuguese forward managed nine free-kick goals. Overall, the veteran has accumulated 55 for both club and country.

David Beckham

Bend it like Beckham - the Manchester United winger is one of the best ever seen in the Premier League, and he currently boasts the record number of free-kick goals - 18.

An icon of the sport, Beckham's free-kicks undoubtedly inspired a generation - not just Ward-Prowse - with his often physics-defying strikes.

The iconic No. 7 possessed a wand of a right foot and while it wasn't in the Premier League, will always be remembered for the last-minute strike against Greece that secured England's qualification for the 2002 World Cup.

Gianfranco Zola

Gianfranco Zola, Chelsea, Premier League, 2002

In a seven-year spell at Chelsea, spanning 229 appearances, the Italian forward managed 12 free-kick goals.

A player who was blessed with world-class ball control and technique, it's hardly a surprise that Zola was able to consistently produce a fierce free-kick.

The Chelsea legend was known as a set-piece specialist, but it was his ability to dispatch a free-kick almost as comfortably as a penalty that shoots him into this list.

Thierry Henry

Thierry Henry, Arsenal, 2003, Premier League

One of the Premier League's best ever, Thierry Henry was the complete striker, and while he didn't heavily rely on free-kick goals, they certainly bolstered his tally.

Arsenal's legendary No. 14 scored so many spectacular strikes that his free-kick taking ability is often overlooked. However, an impressive 12 strikes from set-pieces places him right among the league's best.

Furthermore, Henry is one of only a handful of players that felt comfortable taking a free-kick on either foot, meaning nowhere on the pitch was out of bounds for the French forward.

Dimitri Payet

While Dimitri Payet's West Ham career ended rather controversially, he still managed to supply Hammers fans with some spine-tingling free-kicks before his departure to Marseille.

Aware of his astounding set-piece ability, many Premier League clubs did all within their power to try and stop Payet's inevitable shot, but it often wasn't enough to stop the Frenchman from etching his name on the scoresheet.

Despite scoring just three from free-kicks in his Premier League career, Payet managed to achieve this in just over 50 appearances and made quite the highlight reel of set-piece strikes from his time in London.

Laurent Robert

Newcastle United's Robert notched exactly half of his 22 Premier League goals from set-pieces, and achieved his tally in just 150 appearances.

A free-kick specialist, the Frenchman's average of scoring one every 994 minutes places first in this list.

While he is a long way from being the best player on the list, he'd certainly be the first we'd look to for any dead-ball situations around the edge of the box.

READ MORE: High Five: All of Mo Salah’s opening day goals for Liverpool

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