Set-piece perfection, a weapon in a player’s arsenal that truly elevates their career. Sometimes, those with such prowess from a dead-ball situation are not as competent with other areas of the game but their delivery and accuracy from a free-kick are simply a necessity.
Juninho was a prominent advocate of this theory, the player from Lyon was a good midfielder but it was his free-kicks which put him in a higher bracket. The same can be said about his international compatriot, Marcos Assuncao, who was La Liga’s answer to Juninho during a memorable yet often forgotten five-year spell with Real Betis.
After impressing in his early years in Brazil with the likes of Santos and Flamengo, Assuncao was brought to Europe by Roma who were keen to exploit the central midfielder’s explosive set-piece technique. He was an entity who every time he stood over the ball with a wall at his mercy, you knew the goalkeeper was going to be tested.
Assuncao was not a midfielder that would dictate the tempo of games, nor was he one to score volumes of goals from open play, but the Italian giants realised the benefit of having his renowned trait in their lineup. It wasn’t just his goal threat from dead balls, it was hit pinpoint deliveries into the box that sent every opposing defence into panic mode. He was the perfect squad player for the impressive Italian capital club, lifting the Serie A title in 2001/01.
However, a player of his ilk was desperate for a more important role and in 2002, Betis came calling. Straight away, the Brazilian was propelled into the thick of the action and became a crucial cog in the Spanish side’s midfield. They were the best days of his career, showing his capabilities as an all-round midfielder as well as a dead-ball specialist.
In 2004/05, Assuncao enjoyed his finest season in Europe. In fact, Betis as a whole surpassed all expectations with their brilliant Brazilian trio. Up front was Ricardo Oliveira with Denilson as an attack-minded midfielder ahead of Assuncao in the engine room.
Betis would go on to finish fourth in La Liga, while also winning the Copa Del Rey, an outstanding achievement for the Andalusian club. Assuncao was at his best, scoring eight goals in all competitions as he eradicated theories that he was simply a set-piece merchant. He would play in every game during their maiden Champions League adventure, a just reward for his contribution to the club.
— Revista Balompié (@revistabalompie) April 29, 2017
However, by the time the 2006/07 season, Assuncao was on the decline and at the end of the campaign, he left Spain, embarking on a nomadic nine-year spell which saw him feature for nine different clubs. The United Arab Emirates and Brazil were the two countries he journeyed but he will always be remembered for his days with Betis.
Actually, he enjoyed a rather fruitful spell with Palmeiras under Luiz Felipe Scolari between 2010-2012 but it was in Spain where he certified his reputation. He won’t crop up in many conversations in the modern day but never forget the dead-ball monster that was Assuncao, few right foots have ever been as good.