All of the experts have a story.
It was David Beckham who took “maybe hundreds of thousands” of free-kicks with his father in the local park, sometimes in the garden, per The Times of London (subscription required). And then when he got home, he would carry on inside the house, kicking teddy bears from his sister’s bedroom.
Preparation is the secret. Even the great Juninho said in an interview with The Guardian that he loved to go through “a series of free-kicks after training.” He did not magically create the knuckle-ball effect on the ball.
And so the same goes for Andrea Pirlo. He studied Roberto Baggio, Maradona and, of course, Juninho. It was on his toilet that Pirlo realized that Juninho hit the ball with only three of his toes. Each kick is measured. The Italian has struck plenty of free-kicks since.
But Pirlo is not the only one. There are plenty of players still active in the game that make the ball do ridiculous things in the air, en route to the back of the net. Sometimes it is a special kind of delivery; other times it is the winning goal.
Here's a look at the specialists still playing, and how Pirlo stacks up.