Meet the 5 greatest throwers in world football – including Delap, Schmeichel and co

Who said you don't use your hands in football?

Throw in generic

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The clue’s there in the name. Football.

Your hands are at their most relevant when they’re where they’re not supposed to be, as we saw with PSG’s Presnel Kimpembe in last season’s Champions League against Manchester United, or that time West Ham defender Arthur Masuaku gave away a free-kick for handball and then handled said free-kick to immediately give away a penalty.

There is a place for good hands in football, though, as some of the game’s best throwers demonstrate.

Oh, and we want to give an honourable mention to Thomas Grønnemark, Liverpool’s throw-in coach, who officially holds the world record for the longest throw.

Peter Schmeichel

If there’s anything Peter Schmeichel is known for beyond his trademark star-jump, it’s his weapon of a throw.

Countless Manchester United counter-attacks began with the Dane’s arm, but the pinnacle came with Ole Gunnar Solskjær’s goal against Sunderland in 1996, where the Norwegian collected Schmeichel’s throw and scored without any other player touching the ball.

This wasn’t a case of a long run-up or unchecked energy producing a hurled ball, but rather significant strength allowing him to fire the ball 40-50 yards without even requiring a ridiculous backlift. It’s simply not human.

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Rory Delap

Any team climbing up to the Premier League needs a secret weapon to thrive.

This can be something as simple as a lack of fear, as we saw with the likes of Wigan in 2005 and Reading in 2006 as they changed little yet still got the better of more established sides, or it can be tactical creativity like we’ve seen from Sheffield United in 2019/20.

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Alternatively, you can get a guy with an absolute missile of a throw-in and use him to confuse teams with all the grace of shining a laser pointer into the eyes of a darts player before a crucial throw.

Look, if it works, it works, and it definitely worked against Arsène Wenger’s Arsenal.

Weirdly, Delap’s previous club Sunderland didn’t make use of the Irish international’s throws, but that probably says more about them than anything else.

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Andy Legg

Here’s a fun fact for you: Andy Legg is on the cover of FIFA 96, appearing to miss a tackle in an Anglo-Italian Cup game between Notts County and Brescia.

The 1997 version had David Ginola, Road to World Cup had David Beckham, but 96 had Legg, plus Romanian midfielder Ioan Sabau. The past truly is a different country.

Why am I mentioning this in an article about throws? Well, it’s because Legg, enemy of nominative determinism, was once in the Guinness Book of Records for the longest throw-in in football.

That record, standing at 44.6 metres (and since surpassed by Grønnemark), is just 30 metres shy of the discus world record, and he achieved it without spinning around for momentum first.

With the benefit of distance (geddit), we’re not sure what’s more eye-catching, the throw-in record or the FIFA thing.

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Alireza Beiranvand

You probably remember Beiranvand from the last World Cup, where he made some good saves and kept Iran in the tournament long enough for team-mate Milad Mohammadi to produce a bizarre aborted forward-roll throw-in minutes from the end of their crucial final group game.

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Well, it turns out Beiranvand knows a bit about throwing himself, and you only need to put a comma in that description if you want to. Because when he throws the ball, he also throws himself fully off the ground.

How do you send an attacker clean through beyond the last man with a throw from inside your own penalty area? It simply shouldn’t be possible, and yet…

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Megan Campbell

Cynics will say this is just a subtle variation on Delap’s throw, to which we say “so what if it is?”

Back in 2017, the FAI contacted Guinness World Records after two Campbell throws contributed to goals in a 2-0 World Cup qualifying win over Northern Ireland, but it’s not just about the distance.

There’s a variety, with high, arcing throws and flatter, more bullet-like ones, and both are equally effective. It’s as close as we have to a throw-in equivalent of a free-kick taker who leaves goalkeepers guessing until the last moment whether they’ll go for the near or far post.

When Campbell’s on her game, this is impossible to defend against.

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