While looking into set-piece data for the Cypriot First Division, I thought I’d conduct a fun exercise. Compare the numbers to those of Lionel Messi.
Messi is one of the best free-kick takers of all time and still has plenty of time to go for the number one spot of total goals scored from a direct free-kick. The other greats on the list are players like Sinisa Mihajlovic (50), Cristiano Ronaldo (54), Rogerio Ceni (56), Ronald Koeman (60), Diego Maradona (63), David Beckham (65), Ronaldinho (66) and the current God of free-kicks, Juninho Pernambucano (76).
For this exercise, I decided to look into two key metrics: Direct Free-Kicks per 90 minutes and Direct Free-Kicks on target percentage (%).
Firstly, let’s look at the players in the Cypriot First Division.
Defining the player pool
Out of all of the players in my player pool for the current season, I decided to remove players with less than 700 minutes played.
Furthermore, I removed players with less than 0.5 Free-Kicks per 90 minutes.
Essentially, I want no player who doesn’t take at least 1 Free-Kick every two games played.
Finally, I removed players who qualify for the above two filters but have not hit the target with a Direct Free-Kick at least one time, whether it was saved or not. So players with zero success percentage in terms of hitting the target have been removed.
The Final Contenders
Can you guess how many players this leaves us with? I’ll tell you: seventeen (17).
Direct Free-Kicks Per 90 minutes
Firstly, let’s look at who tops the table in terms of Direct Free-Kicks per 90 minutes.
These are the top 15 players in terms of Direct Free-Kicks per 90 minutes that also meet our criteria.
In the chart, we can look at the above data in a bit more detail. We can see that Rayo takes nearly double the amount of Direct Free-Kicks than the second-placed player here, Kiko.
Bautheac and Marjanovic are pretty close to each other with 0.43 and 0.4 DFK’s per 90 respectively.
Direct Free-Kick accuracy percentage (%)
Now we add our second key metric into the mix: how many Direct Free-Kicks find the target?
Rayo’s high volume of Direct Free-Kicks per 90 was bound to have a moderately low success percentage.
However, from the rest of the pack, three players stand out.
- Bautheac, who finds the target from a Direct Free-Kick half of the times he attempts, and from a fairly high volume of attempts (0.43 DFK’s per 90 minutes).
2. Marjanovic, who also has a 50% DFK target success rate, from 0.4 DFK’s per 90 minutes.
3. And Okriashvili, who has an astounding 66.67% success when it comes to finding the target from Direct Free-Kicks, from an average of 0.34 DFK’s per 90 minutes.
Messi is currently the best free-kick taker in the world, or at least in any league that really matters.
For the current season, the Argentine forward has 1.19 Direct Free-Kicks per 90 minutes, from which 45% hit the target.
Throughout the previous season of La Liga, Messi had 1.32 Direct Free-Kicks per 90 minutes with a 35.71% on-target success percentage.
Cypriot First Division vs Messi
With all of the above in mind, let’s see if anyone comes close to Messi’s numbers from this season.
Direct Free-Kicks per 90 vs Direct Free-Kicks on-target success percentage
The chart speaks for itself. Quite simply, no one comes close to replicating Messi’s accuracy while having also taking anywhere near the same volume of Direct Free-Kicks.
- Rayo has half of the accuracy rate while having 0.5 fewer attempts per 90 than Messi
- Marjanovic and Bautheac have similar accuracy levels while taking almost one-third of the Direct Free-Kicks per 90 minutes that Messi does
- While Okriashvili has better accuracy but from only about one-fifth of Messi’s attempts per 90 minutes
Messi’s combination of high accuracy from a high volume of attempts confirms what we already knew: that we are witnessing a truly special player.
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