Giovinco, free-kick maestro: How he stacks up against Europe's best

Sebastian Giovinco was at it again during the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs, authoring another gorgeous free kick into the top corner of the net to bank a 2-1 win for Toronto FC in the first leg of the Eastern Conference Semifinals vs. the New York Red Bulls

It's the sort of set-piece golazo that has become almost expected when "The Atomic Ant" gets any sort of look around the opposition's box, leading some to brand the Italian MLS' most dangerous dead-ball specialist.

Earlier this year we looked at how some of Giovinco's numbers stack up against the global elite; now we have more detailed data from OPTA that provides further perspective.

Player Goals from direct FKs Direct FK conversion rate Minutes per direct FK goal
S. Giovinco
Toronto FC
14 9.72% 570.50
P. Dybala
7 22.58% 919.57
M. Pjanic
6 11.54% 1048.33
D. Parejo
6 12% 1315.17
L. Messi
6 5.83% 1271.67
D. Drogba
6 14.29% 560.83
A. Kolarov
5 16.67% 1265.6
D. Payet
Olympique Marseille
5 10.87% 1353.4
M. Plattenhardt
Hertha BSC
5 18.52% 1439.8
G. Sigurdsson
4 9.09% 1944.25
A. Sanchez
4 11.76% 1788.5
P. Coutinho
4 23.53% 1435.5
F. Viviani
4 14.81% 924.5
Cristiano Ronaldo
Real Madrid
4 6.78% 1874
4 12.50% 1843.75
T. Lemar
4 12.12% 1386
H. Calhanoglu
4 6.78% 1200.25
D. Alaba
Bayern Munchen
4 16.67% 1452.5
M. Suttner
B&H Albion
4 13.79% 1176.25

This is a rundown of players who've scored four or more direct free-kick goals in MLS, the Premier League, Ligue 1, La Liga, the Bundesliga and Serie A from March 1, 2015 (the outset of Giovinco's TFC career) through October 30, 2017. Obviously it can be treacherous, some would say hopeless, to compare across so many diverse leagues and player types, but it's worth a go. 

As you can see, Giovinco ranks tops in terms of raw scoring numbers, and very close to the top in terms of the regularity with which he bangs them in from restarts. So the sheer scale of his number of opportunities provides him with an advantage. It's not shown here, but he's also No. 1 in number of total direct free kicks taken with 144; Leo Messi is the only other player to have taken more than 100 (103). 

That economy of scale works against Giovinco in terms of the efficiency with which he converts his set pieces into goals; Juventus ace Paulo Dybala's rate is fairly incredible in that regard. But given what we saw on Monday, if you were TFC boss Greg Vanney, you'd want your Atomic Ant to take as many free kicks as humanly possible, right?

In conclusion: Different analysts will weight some metrics more heavily than others, but overall Giovinco is right up there with the world's best.