Lionel Messi and Christiano Ronaldo are the current most famous football stars. However, none of them match the record of Juninho Pernambucano. With 76 free kicks scored under his name, Juninho record isn’t to be matched anytime soon either by Christiano or Messi who as at September 2018 free kick records were 56 and 42 respectively.
Ask any Lyon fan about who they remember most for taking free kicks Juninho. His goal scoring craft didn’t matter the distance between the ball and the goalkeeper or the impossibility of the angle, the result was the same, the ball had to be collect behind the net. Juninho was revered even by Italian football legend Pirlo. So who exactly is Juninho?
Born in Recife, Brazil on 30th Jan 1975, Juninho Pernambucano made his fame in the football world through his unique mastery of accurate free kicks dubbed as ‘knuckle’. The football star started his professional football career in 1993 for his hometown club, Sport Recife. His ease of passing the ball and his ball control saw his skills quickly scouted to Vasco da Gama in 1995. His shining star continued and for 6 years while playing at Vasco da Gama, Juninho won two Brazilian championships and continental cups for his club and Player of the Year and Midfielder of the year award for himself. It was in 2001 that he parted ways with his club and joined European club Olympic Lyonnais who for the first time after his signing won the first ever title. The highlights of Juninho the free kicks that you are about to read are attributed to his stay at Olympic Lyonnais.
30 yards stunner against Bayern Munich in 2003 Champions League
The most famous Juninho free kick is the 30 yard free kick against Bayern Munich in 2003 at the Olympistadion. Faced by a solid Bayern defensive wall and goal keeper Oliver Kahn, Juninho sent a ferocious shot past the goalkeeper in what was seen as an effortless attempt by Oliver Kahn to save the ball. The goal gave the visitors a lead in the 6th minute and resulted to an overall 2-1 win over the Bavarians. Scoring Oliver kahn who was then the world best goal keeper and German captain at home ground was a stunning moment for Juninho and the Lyons fans. He is the only footballer to score Kahn past 35m.
Lyon vs Ajaccio 2006, 41 m free kick goal
Playing an away match doesn’t give the best outcome for most football matches. However, Juninho when paying against Ajaccio for Ligue competition wowed fans by his 41 meter free kick which sent Sébastien Porato chasing for the ball behind the net. In what seemed to be rather impossible, Juninho composed himself took several steps behind and the aftermath was a free kick to last for both Lyons and Ajaccio fans for many years to come.
Lyon vs Barcelona – Champions league 2009
In what left Barcelona goalkeeper Victor Valdes horrified, Juninho ‘knuckle-ball’ free kick came to precision at Stade Gerland stadium at a champion league match against Pep Guardiola led team Barcelona. Juninho took a free kick from his right foot straight to the right corner without any interception from any defender. Valdes was left in shock, angered and seated on the net in disbelief of the free kick.
Lyon vs Nice 2008 – 48 m stunner
From two goals down in the 3rd minute and 25 minute, Juninho helped the Lyon level up the game with his brace. First was a dead ball score that brought back the game to a 2-1 score, and then later on the 71 st minute was the long range 48 meter shot that became the record for Juninho for long range free kick. Packed with energy, sent with precision, and aimed at the top left corner, Juninho free kick ball went straight past the goal keeper. With a free kick awarded at the 95th minute in favour of Lyon, Lyon carried the day.
Al-Gharafa vs Al Sadd 2011
From an impossible angle Juninho scored a free kick past Al Sadd goal keeper and made his team gain dominance over the opponents by three goals. Two defender were some meters from him giving him an obstruction another pack of Al Sadd defenders were manning the goal plus the goal keeper were all in action to prevent Juninho. However, their efforts bore no fruits since Juninho right footed shot went not intercepted past all the efforts of the defenders.