Penalties as a whole is a wholly underappreciated and underestimated piece of the jigsaw that is football.
While many are quick to discard them as nothing more than a lottery, that has changed with the modernisation of the game and we are now seeing penalty experts pop up more frequently, both on the spot and between the goal posts.
There’s a major psychology that goes into penalties, and an education in general. No matter how often the pundits tell both taker and stopper to merely ‘pick a side and stick with it’, there is more to it.
Goalkeepers are now reading run ups, watching eyes and leg movements, studying their opponents’ penalty history before games and so on. Takers, meanwhile, continue to perfect their technique and are now boosted by rules forcing goalkeepers to strictly stay on their line.
You get the idea. Penalties, while still a much less predictable element of the game than normal, are nowadays not just complete pot luck. Some goalkeepers have proven that, with their eye for saving spot kicks becoming a habit and highlight of their careers.
In tribute to those who have developed a fine knack for the art of stopping spot kicks, GIVEMESPORT counts down the top ten goalkeepers with the most penalty saves.
10. Frank Rost – 20 penalties saved
Emerging from a sporting family whereby his mother and father were both Olympics medal winners at handball, German goalkeeper Rost carved out a fine career throughout the 1990s and 2000s.
Rost was capped four times by the German national team and, aside from being particularly handy at stopping penalties, was also a reliable Bundesliga level goalkeeper, with 426 appearances in the league.
9. Benoit Costil – 20 penalties saved
Capped once by the French national team, Costil has spent his entire career so far in his native France, and has a pretty impressive portfolio of penalty saves.
Unfortunately, he’s never been able to take that and use it as a means of getting to the top level of football, but that doesn’t take away from the career he’s enjoyed, saving five penalties in the 2017/18 season.
8. Petr Cech – 21 penalties saved
As if becoming one of the world’s best goalkeepers wasn’t enough, Cech has since taken up ice hockey at semi-professional level since retiring from football.
Let’s talk about that football career for a second, though. Chelsea’s all-time clean sheet holder and a four-time Premier League winner, the Czech was also a dab hand at denying strikers from 12 yards.
Frenkie de Jong to Man Utd latest (Football Terrace)
7. Mickael Landreau – 21 penalties saved
Ligue 1’s record appearance holder with 618 outings in the French top flight, Landreau quickly earned a reputation as a penalty saver early on in his career.
One of his most memorable stops was in a Coupe de la Ligue tie for Nantes against Paris Saint-Germain, where he outwitted Ronaldinho by standing closer to his post and leaving the middle of the goal open. Ronaldinho was perplexed and his effort was saved.
6. Manuel Neuer – 22 penalties saved
The man credited with modernising the goalkeeper position with his sweeping up antics, Neuer has proven equally as effective at the traditional stuff, with a fine penalty record.
Nowadays, many forget his iconic performances in Champions League penalty shootouts some years ago, where he was actually just as keen to take them, rather than just trying to save them.
5. Iker Casillas – 23 penalties saved
When not dropping jaws all around the world with his obscene, reflex saves and immense shot-stopping, Casillas was also denying some of football’s biggest names from 12 yards, for Real Madrid and Spain.
During his exceptional 2010 World Cup campaign where he kept five clean sheets for Spain, Casillas notably saved a penalty against Paraguay in the quarter-final to keep his country on the road to winning the tournament.
4. Andrea Consigli – 25 penalties saved
Somehow never capped for Italy at senior level, Consigli would’ve made a solid option for a tournament considering his abilities to stop spot kicks.
The Italian veteran has been plying his trade with Sassuolo since 2014 and is considered one of the best goalkeepers in Serie A, even in the autumn of his career, probably helped by the fact he’s frustrated just about every penalty taker in the division at one point in their career.
3. Diego Alves – 28 penalties saved
A goalkeeper who was perhaps somewhat underrated, but also never mind-blowingly good throughout the usual 90 minutes of a game, Alves strangely excelled when it came to penalties.
The Brazilian has spoken about his impeccable penalty saving rate – which remains the best in La Liga – and believes it is a psychological battle between goalkeeper and penalty taker. He’s since returned to his native country, saved some more penalties, and lifted the Copa Libertadores.
2. Gianluigi Buffon – 30 penalties saved
What is impressive about Buffon’s longevity is the way he has remained at the top of the goalkeeping mountain by constantly reinventing his game around his limits.
Starting out as a sweeper keeper before it was the cool thing to do, age saw the Italian become more composed and reliant on positioning. Consistency has also been a mightily impressive strong point, as has Buffon’s ability to pull out saves from the spot so often throughout his career, for club and country.
1. Samir Handanovic – 38 penalties saved
Frankly, Handanovic’s understanding and record with penalty saves is ridiculous. A consistent figure in his prime, the Slovenian has always been readily available and a reliable, leading presence at the base of the team.
Holding the record for the most penalty saves in Serie A, Handanovic famously saved six penalties in one season from 2010/11 while playing for Udinese, which equalled a record set in 1948/49.