Knuckleballs. Keepers hate them, set-piece specialists dream of putting them away. However, the technique behind them remains elusive to many.
For the uninitiated, the concept of a ‘Knuckleball’ – in footballing free-kick terms – is a ball struck with no spin.
That lack of rotation causes two things to happen; keepers find it harder to track the flight of the ball, and the ball can change direction rapidly thanks to the reduced drag.
In the past, we’ve seen Juninho (of Lyon), Pirlo, Drogba and Lampard produce goals with these tricky efforts, but Gareth Bake has made the technique his own in recent years, scoring some memorable efforts since moving to Madrid.
Bale runs through the basics and mechanics of the technique in the video, but if that’s not enough detail for you, you can either read our chat with the man himself, here or check out top five tips for a clean knuckleball below:
#1 – Shorten that Run-Up: If you’re new to this technique, don’t start with the six or seven step run up Bale and Ronaldo use – concentrate on your technique, then add more power.
#2 – Aim for the Middle of the Ball: Either place the valve of the ball or add a sticker to the centre of the ball as it’s stationary to give you a target to aim at.
#3 – Get That Heel Up: Build momentum in your strike by bringing your heel up to your butt to build power. This longer ‘backswing’ will compensate for your shorter follow-through.
#4 – Use the Instep: Your instinct might be telling you to use the top of your foot for more power. Start off with the ‘flat’ of your instep to shunt the ball with as little spin as possible. Once you’ve got this down, graduate to the harder part of your foot that Bale uses in this video.
#5 – Kill the Follow-Through: The reason there’s no spin on a Knuckleball shot is down to the lack of follow-through. Practise bringing your striking foot back down to the ground after making contact.