For Lionel Messi, free-kicks are like penalties because of his ridiculous precision from dead-ball situations.
Defender Yeray Alvarez even went scurried back to the goal-line as Messi struck the ball but he and goalkeeper Unai Simon had no chance whatsoever.
It was Messi’s 650th goal and his 49th free-kick for Barcelona. Incredibly, Messi has scored directly from set-pieces on 21 occasions in the past five seasons – 13 more than any other player in Europe’s top five leagues.
But how has Messi been so successful from all ranges and angles? Well, Dr Rajpal Brar has some serious insight into Messi’s technique and his totally unique way of striking the ball.
“When Messi strikes the ball, he shifts his hip to the right. He really moves his hips to the right as he’s striking to open up his left strike leg,” the doctor told the Squawka podcast.
“And what that does on his plant leg is that it shifts all the weight to the outside of the foot. So then when he follows through and he’s striking the ball – that left leg coming from left to right – now everything is going onto the outside of his ankle almost like what happens when you sprain your ankle.
“We call it ‘inversion sprain’ when it twists inwards – it’s that same force. You have all that force on the outside of your ankle and it twists inwards. But in Messi’s case, he’s trained himself and his body to control that motion.”
The position of his standing foot is as he hits the ball is anything but normal and looks rather painful for you and me. But Messi has mastered this technique to quite extraordinary levels.
An in-depth report from MARCA detailed how Messi changed his way of hitting a ball in training early on, using plastic dolls as a barrier between him and the goal.
Messi’s leg when taking a free-kick has an angle of 50 degrees. He plants almost his entire boot on the ground before hitting the ball, giving him stability and control in the shot.
Then, to improve his accuracy, Messi arches his shoulders and chest to caress the ball, hunching his body into a more compact position.
SPORT asked some experts in the field about his set-piece genius. The Department of Physics at the University of Barcelona said he uses the ‘Magnus Effect’ to find his consistency from free-kicks.
This effect is the phenomenon by which the rotation of a body (the ball) generates a force perpendicular to the line of motion, therefore affecting the trajectory.
According to the report, the pressure on the lower surface of the body (the ball) is greater than the pressure on the upper surface, resulting in a force curve trajectory of the body (in this case the ball).
Messi really isn’t human and he simply has to be the greatest free-kick taker of all time.