The numbers behind Sebastian Giovinco's free-kick supremacy

He’s simply the best.

What Toronto FC brass knew from the beginning, Major League Soccer teams found out soon thereafter, Liga MX now painfully realizes.

There’s no one quite like Sebastian Giovinco on a set piece.

The “Atomic Ant” proved that in a big way, bending in a free kick in the second half that gave TFC a second away goal and helped lift the defending MLS Cup champions over reigning Mexican champions Tigres UANL in the Concacaf Champions League quarterfinals.

It was that away goal that was the difference with the teams tied 4-4 on aggregate.

So where does Giovinco stand among the world’s elite with his free kick prowess? You already had an idea, but it is backed up by data from Opta detailing all players since March 1, 2015 (the start of Giovinco's MLS career) with more than four direct free-kick goals. It includes the top five European leagues (Premier League, Ligue 1, La Liga, the Bundesliga and Serie A), MLS, UEFA Champions League and Concacaf Champions League. 

 

Player Goals from direct FKs Direct FK conversion rate Minutes per direct FK goal
S. Giovinco
Toronto FC
15 9.7% 580.47
L. Messi
Barcelona
12 7.7% 966.17
M. Pjanic
Roma/Juventus
9 13.4% 1043.78
Neymar
Barcelona/PSG
9 18% 1248.00
P. Dybala
Juventus
8 17.8% 1114.50
C. Ronaldo
Real Madrid
7 6.7% 1768.71
D. Parejo
Valencia
7 10.4% 1419.86
Willian
Chelsea
7 18.9% 1088.29
D. Drogba
Montreal Impact
6 14.3% 565.83
F. Viviani
Multiple teams
5 13.9% 976.60
D. Payet
West Ham/Marseille
5 9.3% 1607.60
A. Kolarov
Man City/Roma
5 10.2% 1949.80
M. Plattenhardt
Hertha BSC
5 15.2% 1727.80
P. Coutinho
Liverpool/Barcelona
5 18.5% 1466.20

Clearly no one has scored more direct free kicks in the world game than Giovinco, with Lionel Messi three goals behind in second. He is second in free kicks taken (154), two behind Messi and he's second to former Montreal Impact star Didier Drogba in minutes per direct free kick goal. 

That economy of scale works against Giovinco in terms of the efficiency with which he converts his set pieces into goals; Chelsea midfielder Willian tops that list at a stunning 18.9 percent. But as he's proven in the United States, Canada and now Mexico, the odds are pretty good Giovinco will burn you given the opportunity. 

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