Buffon, Neuer, Cech: Goalkeepers with the most penalty saves in the 21st century

Samir Handanovic

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.

Rost saved 20 penalties during his career
HARRISON, NJ – SEPTEMBER 21: Frank Rost #1 of New York Red Bulls inaction against Real Salt Lake on September 21, 2011 at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, New Jersey. Real Salt Lake defeated the Red Bulls 2-1. (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images for New York Red Bulls)

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.

Costil has spent his career in France
PARIS, FRANCE – MAY 07: Goalkeeper, Benoit Costil of Rennais runs for the ball during the Ligue 1 match between Paris Saint-Germain FC and Stade Rennais FC at Parc des Princes on May 7, 2014 in Paris, France. (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)

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.

Cech was a fine penalty saver
LONDON, ENGLAND – FEBRUARY 09: Petr Cech of Chelsea dives to make a save during the Barclays Premier League match between Chelsea and Wigan Athletic at Stamford Bridge on February 9, 2013 in London, England. (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

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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.

Landreau developed a reputation for being a penaty expert
LILLE, FRANCE – SEPTEMBER 19: Goalkeeper, Mickael Landreau of Lille looks on during the Group F UEFA Champions League match between LOSC Lille Metropole and FC BATE Borisov at the Grand Stade Lille Metropole on September 19, 2012 in Lille, France. (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)

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.

There is very little that Neuer cannot do
DORTMUND, GERMANY – DECEMBER 04: Manuel Neuer of Muenchen celebrates his team’s second goal during the Bundesliga match between Borussia Dortmund and FC Bayern München at Signal Iduna Park on December 04, 2021 in Dortmund, Germany. (Photo by Joosep Martinson/Getty Images)

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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.

Casillas was strong from spot kicks
BARCELONA, SPAIN – SEPTEMBER 12: Iker Casillas of Real Madrid reacts during the La Liga match between Espanyol and Real Madrid at the Nuevo Estadio de Cornella-El Prat stadium on September 12, 2009 in Barcelona, Spain. (Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images)

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.

Consigli is a Serie A veteran
NAPLES, ITALY – JULY 25: Andrea Consigli of US Sassuolo during the Serie A match between SSC Napoli and US Sassuolo at Stadio San Paolo on July 25, 2020 in Naples, Italy. (Photo by Francesco Pecoraro/Getty Images)

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.

Alves' penalty saving is overpowered
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – OCTOBER 23: Diego Alves of Flamengo celebrates after a goal scored by teammate Bruno Henrique of Flamengo during a second leg semi-final match between Flamengo and Gremio as part of Copa CONMEBOL Libertadores at Maracana Stadium on October 23, 2019 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Buda Mendes/Getty Images)

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.

Buffon's longevity is incredible
BARCELONA, SPAIN – DECEMBER 08: Gianluigi Buffon of Juventus looks on during the UEFA Champions League Group G stage match between FC Barcelona and Juventus at Camp Nou on December 08, 2020 in Barcelona, Spain. Sporting stadiums around Spain remain under strict restrictions due to the Coronavirus Pandemic as Government social distancing laws prohibit fans inside venues resulting in games being played behind closed doors. (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)

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.

Handanovic has the best penaly saving record of all
NAPLES, ITALY – APRIL 18: Samir Handanovic of FC Internazionale during the Serie A match between SSC Napoli and FC Internazionale at Stadio Diego Armando Maradona on April 18, 2021 in Naples, Italy. Sporting stadiums around Italy remain under strict restrictions due to the Coronavirus Pandemic as Government social distancing laws prohibit fans inside venues resulting in games being played behind closed doors. (Photo by Francesco Pecoraro/Getty Images)

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