Lionel Messi scored the 50th free kick goal of his career on Tuesday, and like so many others it bears repeat viewings — in part to figure out if Valladolid ever had a chance to stop it.
Let’s play this out. First, the kick itself, courtesy of beIN Sports:
Now, the closer look. At first, it appears Valladolid has this covered perfectly. The wall has four defenders in it, blocking the near side of the net, while Valladolid goalkeeper Jordi Masip is cheating left (his right) to fill the remaining space.
Next, it sure looks like the referee’s vanishing spray is a foot or two short of the 10-yard demarcation allotted to free kick takers. So if anything, Valladolid had the advantage here, not Messi.
Who are we kidding. Messi always has the advantage.
His form is characteristically excellent, with no steps wasted and minimal follow-through as he darts his kick with placement and power, neither encumbering the other. Messi even shrugs off the help of teammate Sergio Busquets, who’s boxing out Valladolid’s Federico Barba and offering a window to the net.
The result is a goal, going right where Valladolid thought he wouldn’t, tucking right inside the post. That ball was on the same sliver of frame the entire time it was in the air. Look at this:
So what could Valladolid do? Well, Masip only stands 5 feet, 11 inches, so maybe he would’ve gotten there if he was taller? Then again, why has Messi been able to do the same thing against ever type of keeper that’s crossed his path?
We know why. Messi also had another goal and a pair of assists against Valladolid, not to mention an incredible nutmeg.
And if you REALLY want the pot stirred, contrast his free kick with Cristiano Ronaldo, whose free kick taking has been so astonishingly poor with Juventus that manager Maurizio Sarri recently had to give him a vote of confidence in that regard.
Barcelona won 5-1 in the midweek La Liga fixture.
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