Can Messi Knuckleball?

The knuckleball technique in soccer is a unique way of striking a soccer ball, and only a select few players with a specific skill set are able to pull off this move on the pitch.

It basically involves hitting the ball to impart very low topspin, sidespin or backspin, which results in the ball moving in a zigzag trajectory.

Now, Lionel Messi is widely regarded as one of the greatest soccer players of his generation, so you’d naturally expect him to meet the skill threshold to be able to execute this different way of striking a soccer ball.

And with Cristiano Ronaldo – one of Messi’s fiercest competitors – able to consistently perform the knuckleball technique, it’s reasonable to expect the Argentinian to have no problems doing the same.

So, that brings us on to the main topic of this article, which seeks to answer the question of whether Lionel Messi can perform a knuckleball strike.

For keen soccer fans and observers, the answer is pretty clear.

Lionel Messi is perfectly capable of performing a knuckleball strike with a soccer ball because of the fact that he is supremely talented as a player. However, Messi rarely if ever opts to use this method of shooting the ball, as he arguably prefers the precision offered by curving the ball instead.

Don’t believe this?

All you have to do is go on YouTube and have a look at a compilation of Lionel Messi’s best free kick goals and you’ll see that he mostly curves the ball into the top corner or blasts it in with pace.


Has Messi ever tried a knuckleball shot during a game?

To my knowledge, there aren’t any pieces of video footage online that show Lionel Messi performing a knuckleball shot.

He clearly has a preference for curving the ball with precision as opposed to going for the power and unpredictability of ball trajectory that such a strike would offer if executed correctly.

More so, Messi doesn’t need to perfect the knuckleball technique because his existing methods of striking the ball work well enough for him to not have the need to change strategy.

Undoubtedly, a player of his talent level would have no problem learning and perfecting the knuckleball if he wanted to.


How does Messi kick the soccer ball?

Lionel Messi has been at the center stage of soccer for close to two decades, so it’s relatively easy to verify how he goes about shooting a soccer ball whenever he’s on the pitch.

His kicking preference generally boils down to the following methods.


1. Curving with the instep

can messi knuckleball - yes but he prefers curving with the instep

Many professional goalkeepers can personally attest to the fact that Messi is a menace when it comes to curving a soccer ball.

He’s consistently able to put the right amount of spin on the ball which usually puts it out of reach for the goalkeeper, who can only pick the ball up once it’s found its way into the net.

The right combination of power and precision is a nightmare for the men between the posts to deal with, as Messi is consistently able to strike the balance between those two elements that makes preventing goals scored exceedingly difficult.

Here’s a video which shows Messi putting the right amount of spin on the ball:


2. Laces shot

can messi knuckleball - yes but he likes the laces shot

Messi also isn’t shy of going for power alone when it comes to hitting a soccer ball.

There are many instances where he’s simply rifled the ball into the back of the net from a set piece situation, leaving a goalkeeper with no possible chance of making a save.


Who is the king of knuckleball in football?

It’s not easy to determine who is the best player when it comes to using the knuckleball technique in soccer, but there are quite a few contenders.

The first one is none other than Cristiano Ronaldo.

When he made his mark on the Premier League with Manchester United, he was arguable the first to showcase this unique way of striking a soccer ball with a sensational free kick goal he scored against Portsmouth back in 2008.

Just look at how the ball moves in the air once it leaves his cleat.

The trajectory is straight yet at the same time it’s so difficult for David James to get a read on where the ball is going, and that’s because of the zigzag movement that Ronaldo was able to impart.

However, Ronaldo’s conversion rate from free kicks with his knuckleball technique hasn’t been as impressive over the span of his entire career.

One source puts Ronaldo’s conversion rate from dead ball situations at just 3.3 percent since 2014, while another saying he had one free kick goal in two years after registering success against Norwich in a Premier League fixture.

Another player who has demonstrated their ability to hit a knuckleball is the Hungarian player Dominik Szoboszlai.

Just have a look at this free kick:

Other notable players who like to do the knuckleball are:

  • Gareth Bale;
  • David Luiz;
  • Hakan Çalhanoğlu;
  • Zlatan Ibrahimovic; and
  • David Luiz

So, you can see it’s not easy to crown a king here because there are quite a few players who are proficient enough at executing this technique.

Although, a pretty strong case can be made for Gareth Bale being the best of the bunch when it comes to this particular free kick technique.

Just have a look at the compilation of his set piece goals below:


Who is better at free kicks – Ronaldo or Messi?

This one is pretty obvious.

Lionel Messi is a better free kick taker than Cristiano Ronaldo, as evidenced by his higher conversion rate over the years and the fact that he’s scored more free kick goals when you compare both of their professional careers.

Even the Ronaldo fanboys don’t have a leg to stand on when it comes to this topic.

Samuel Waihenya
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