Topspin free kick
Topspin makes the ball come down and enables the player to hit free kicks over the wall and under the bar with power, even from short range.
There are many opinions on who is the best free kick taker and why that’s the case. In these assessments often ignored is the most important and obvious criterion – goal scoring. The player who scored most goals from free kicks – 76 – is Juninho Pernambucano. One of the key technical factors behind Juninho’s free kick effectiveness and the one that distinguished him from the vast majority of other takers was the ability to apply topspin to the ball – a rare skill which few players have mastered.
A player whose topspin free kick, although technically different to Juninho’s, was just as excellent and one of the best in the history of the game is Marcos Assunção. Between 2010 and 2012 Assunção scored 25 free kicks for Palmeiras and converted many others at Santos, AS Roma or Betis Sevilla (himself claiming to have scored at least 130). Mentioned here must also be Marcelinho Carioca as he was hitting the ball with forward spin even before Juninho and Assunção and his incredible technical ability from free kicks inspired both of them.
Numerous free kick specialists have since tried to imitate Juninho and master the topspin swing, including Andrea Pirlo, Cristiano Ronaldo, Didier Drogba, David Luiz, Gareth Bale or Kevin De Bruyne. Some of these players reached a good level, but none of them perfected this shot.
However, the technique that made Juninho and Assunção the greatest free kick takers in the history of the game can be broken down into elements and coached. And though Juninho’s and Assunção’s swings rightly served as models, it is possible to take this strike to an even higher level.