Lionel Messi is famous for a very many things and making the so-called ‘Panenka free-kick’ a worldwide phenomena is one such thing.
Just recently, we reminisced about one of the most unique goals that the Barcelona legend has ever scored, impudently finding the back of the net with a free-kick against Espanyol in 2019.
Such was the casual and nonchalant manner in which Messi simply floated the ball over the wall and quite centrally towards the goalkeeper that the finish was duly compared to Antonín Panenka’s legendary penalty technique.
Messi’s famous ‘Panenka free-kick’
And while countless players can lay claim to have chipped a spot-kick down the middle, there are very, very few footballers who can say that they’ve scored a free-kick in much the same way.
Now, don’t get it twisted, there ultimately isn’t such a thing as a pure ‘Panenka free-kick’ because that would somehow require the goalkeeper to pick a side and for the ball to float unchallenged straight down the middle.
But Messi’s internet-breaking strike in the Derbi Barceloní undoubtedly came as close as physically possible, just with a little help from a deflection off of Victor Sanchez along the way.
However, just because Messi’s legendary ‘Panenka free-kick’ might have fit the criteria and made the feat famous, it doesn’t mean that he’s delivered the best version of the technique imaginable.
First thing’s first, there’s actually good reason to think that a cheeky free-kick that Messi scored against Almeria in 2010 not only fit the bill too, but was actually a better version of the finish.
However, we can still up the quality even further courtesy of a strike which has sadly been forgotten by many, but has nevertheless gone viral once again this week – and for good reason.
What is the greatest ever ‘Panenka free-kick’?
That’s because Messi’s very own compatriot Nicolás Gaitán scored a ‘Panenka free-kick’ for Benfica back in 2014 that, for all intents and purposes, must be considered superior to the one that went big six years later.
Taken in a Europa League round of 32 second leg clash against PAOK, Gaitán produced one of the most casual free-kicks you’re ever likely to see in front of a delighted Estádio da Luz.
While this particular effort might not have evoked the Panenka effect in terms of its centrality, it most certainly did in the way that it floated into the net at what felt like just two miles per hour.
As such, it definitely crosses the threshold for a ‘Panenka free-kick’ and you can join the hundreds and thousands of supporters joyfully revisiting it by watching the footage down below:
Watch: Gaitan’s stunning ‘Panenka free-kick’ that outdoes Messi’s
I didn’t even realise a panenka free-kick was possible, until I saw this. 👏👏
— Football Tweet ⚽ (@Football__Tweet) September 27, 2022
Pure sauce. You love to see it.
Better than Messi’s version, surely?
There’s something about the way that Gaitán lofts the ball over the wall like a delicious chip and run on the golf course, leaving the ‘keeper rooted for good measure, that makes the goal such a pleasure to watch.
And that, really, is what qualifies a free-kick as being Panenka-like because it’s in the impudence and audacity of the technique and execution that the approach becomes such a delight to watch.
Plus, for what it undoubtedly lacks in terms of a high profile, we’ve surely got to agree that it has the edge on Messi’s effort if for no other reason than the fact it didn’t actually take a deflection.
That’s not to say that Messi’s version is in anyway unsatisfactory, quite the opposite, but you’ll forgive us for thinking that the ‘Panenka free-kick’ has hitherto peaked with Gaitán’s contribution.
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