IN PICTURES: Top 10 free-kick specialists

Think of the best free-kick takers, and a few obvious names come to mind.

Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo would top most fans’ lists, while players like Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Neymar would most likely feature. Christian Eriksen has gained a reputation as one of the best in the Premier League as well.

Yet none of these players are among Europe’s best. According to a Squawka list compiled based on free-kick conversion rate (goals scored versus shots taken) over the last five years, the names mentioned above aren’t even in the top 20.

Unlike many lists regarding the best of Europe, the Premier League fares well in this one, with four players in the top 10, including Alexis Sanchez and Juan Mata, while there’s only one La Liga-based player.

There’s a surprise name at the top, however. View our gallery above to find out!

Who’s your favourite free-kick taker? Share with us your thoughts by commenting below, using #360fans on Twitter or getting in touch via Facebook.

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From Lampard to Garcia: When goal-line technology was needed

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Controversial goals and no-goals.

Luis Suarez has often been in the spotlight for misconduct on the pitch, but when Barcelona travelled south to Seville, his dissent was somewhat justified.

The Catalans salvaged a draw against Real Betis on Sunday with one particular incident steeped in controversy.

Footage showed that Jordi Alba had bundled the ball over the line two minutes after Betis opened the scoring in the 75th minute. However, the goal was disallowed, much to Suarez and Barcelona’s frustration.

The decision has been widely criticised, with the Catalan media quick to call out “the colossal holdup”.

Recognising the gravity of the situation, the Spanish FA has vowed to introduce technology in league matches by 2018.

Here, we look back at the instances when the lack of goal-line technology has let the sport down.

Sulley Muntari

Back in 2012, all AC Milan required was a win at the San Siro for a chance to displace Juventus as Serie A champions. It seemed the night was going in favour of the Rossoneri when Nocerino’s deflected shot bamboozled Gianluigi Buffon before finding its way into the net.

However, the most contested moment of the match had the home crowd livid – Urby Emanuelson delivers a cross met by the Muntari’s head.

The ball crossed the goal-line by 12 inches before the Juventus keeper quickly pulled the ball back into play. At first, the referee awarded the goal but his assistant linesman was not in agreement. Cries of jubilation turned into anger, as spectators at the Giuseppe Meazza were incensed with the reversed decision.

Quite predictably, the Bianconeri equalised, returning to Vinovo with an important point; enough to to keep their Milanese title contenders at bay and secure the Scudetto months later.

Stefan Kießling

It looked as though nothing was going to separate Hoffenheim and Bayer Leverkusen from ending their encounter in stalemate in October 2013. However, a corner kick 20 minutes from time saw the visitors take the lead from nowhere.

Midfielder Kießling adjusted his body shape but failed to direct his header accurately towards goal. However, he was embraced by teammates when he turned around and noticed the ball somehow found its way into goal.

Just as confused as the player, the referee reluctantly decided to validate the effort. Much to their dismay, the men in blue gesticulated to reveal a gap in the side netting – enough for the ball to travel through.

Kießling remained defiant – he couldn’t have known whether the ball was destined for goal since his back was turned – but has since apologised for his phantom goal.

Thomas Helmer

During the course of the season, Nuremberg spent a great portion battling for relegation whilst Bayern Munich were involved in a tough five-way vie for Bundesliga bragging rights. In a match sealing each side’s fate, one episode will forever remain imprinted in the memories of Der Ruhmreiche fans.

Similar to the episode at the Rhein-Neckar-Arena, a set-piece from the corner arrives with Bayern’s Helmer struggling to find his footing. The player stumbled and made minimal contact with the ball as it rolled out of play.

However, the referee whistles, implying the defender had scored. This enraged Nuremberg players who were nearing a beneficial goalless draw.

With footage embarassing the officials’ decision, the German FA decided the most appropriate course of action would be a replay. This was accepted and both teams stepped onto the field once again but unfortunately for Nuremberg, Bayern Munich demolished their defence with five unanswered goals.

This meant Nurember were level with Freiburg on points, but faced the drop regardless as per the goal difference rule. Had it not been for the referee’s error, perhaps the extra point accumulated may have been sufficient for their survival in the top tier.

Pedro Mendes

When Tottenham Hotspur travel to Old Trafford, it hardly spells success but every Spurs fan will remember the ghost goal incident just over ten years ago. During the dying embers of the game, midfielder Pedro Mendes spotted goalkeeper Roy Carroll off his line and attempted an audacious pot-shot from distance.

The shotstopper returned to his line in time to collect the tame effort but spilled it, allowing it to cross the line. The keeper pulled it back though before the referee could pass judgement.

Mark Clattenburg later commented how it would not be appropriate for him to make a bold decision with a limited field of vision.

Frank Lampard

Played in Bloemfontein, Germany and England took to the field for a Round of 16 World Cup 2010 encounter.

The Germans dominated most of the affair, ransacking the England defence with two goals without reply.

In a moment of distraction, the Three Lions found themselves back in it thanks to a header from Matthew Upson. With momentum on their side, Frank Lampard struck a loose ball which ricocheted off the frame of the bar, bouncing in and out of the goal before Manuel Neuer would lay claim.

The England bench including coach Fabio Capello celebrated but the official believed the former Chelsea man’s effort didn’t pass the line entirely. Die Mannschaft regained its focus and composure, scoring two more goals as their European rivals crashed out of the tournament in disappointment.

Luis Garcia

With AC Milan awaiting one of the two English sides, Chelsea were favourites to join the Italian club for the Champions League final in Istanbul, with their impressive 28 wins in 38 games as testament. After a hard-fought goalless draw at Stamford Bridge, the Blues travelled to Anfield for the deciding second leg.

Both sides were evenly matched and it seemed nothing was going to break the deadlock. Nevertheless, one moment of confusion meant Luis Garcia was left to stretch his leg, scuffing the ball towards goal.

William Gallas cleared the danger but the official had signalled a goal for Liverpool. The Reds held onto their lead as Chelsea continued their onslaught but to no avail. The rest is history.

Geoff Hurst

In the 1966 World Cup final, Geoff Hurst tamed a cross from the wing before having a crack at goal. Similar to Lampard’s effort decades later, the football ricocheted off the bar. Whether it bounced beyond the line remains up for debate.

Awarded by the referee, the West Germans couldn’t overturn the decision and despite their efforts, went on to lose the final against the host nation.

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Leaky defence? GK sent off for taking a wee

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A Scottish non-league goalkeeper was red-carded on Saturday for leaving the pitch during a match to urinate, local media reported.

Garry Whyte, playing for Shettleston against Shotts Bon Accord in the West of Scotland Super League, was caught short after 72 minutes and pleaded with officials to let him go to the toilet.

However, he was told play wouldn’t be stopped, so he relieved himself behind the goals and when he returned to the action, he was sent-off.

“He was ready to take a goalkick and he shouted over to the linesman that he needed the toilet. The linesman said to him, ‘We can’t stop play’,” Shettleston manager John Fallon told the Scottish Sun.

“He ran behind the goals and went up to the wall to do a pee. Then he came back on and the referee has sent him off. There’s nothing about it in the rule book so we’re all a bit confused.”

Despite the red card, Shettleston still won the game 1-0.

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