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The 21st Century’s Best Penalty Saving Goalkeepers

Take a look at which goalkeepers have saved the most penalties since the turn of the century and their other impressive achievements.

We are just 20 years into the 21st century, there have already been a number of hugely impressive goalkeepers, and it is no easy task to rank them. However, one way of evaluating them is by looking at the number of penalties saved. While it isn’t the most important part of the job, it can certainly make all the difference at crucial stages of leagues and tournaments.

Here is a look at the goalkeepers who have saved the most penalties since the start of the century:

Samir Handanovic – 38 Penalties Saved .

Slovenia’s Samir Handanovic is currently leading the field of penalties saved this century with a massive 38 of them. Nicknamed ‘Batman’ by fans of his current club, Inter Milan, thanks to his ability to pull of spectacular saves, he has stopped 24 penalties in the Serie A alone, a record he shares with Gianluca Pagliuca.

However, he currently holds the record for most consecutive penalties saved. Impressively, he stopped six in a row between 2013 and 2015 and his run of six spot-kicks saved in the 2010/11 season also equalled a record that had stood since the 1948/49 season.

Handanovic has been a major presence in Serie A since he joined Udinese in 2007 and he made the move to Inter Milan in 2012. Since then he has barely missed a game and saved penalties taken by players such as Luca Toni, Antonio Cassano, Edinson Cavani, Samuel Eto’o and Kaka.

While there have been more successful goalkeepers in recent years, none come close to Handanovic in terms of penalties saved and players are sure to feel even more pressure when faced with him in goal.

Gianluigi Buffon – 30 Penalties Saved

Gianluigi Buffon is widely considered one of the best goalkeepers of all time, so it is no surprise that he has saved numerous penalties.

At the age of 41, Buffon is still playing in Serie A with Juventus and he has been named the IFFHS World’s Best Goalkeeper five times. The same organisation also named him as the 21st century’s best goalkeeper.

Buffon has made over 700 top-flight appearances and played for Juventus for 18 seasons after joining from Parma in 2000. He spent one season in France with Paris Saint-Germain, but with that aside, he has had an incredible run as Juventus’ keeper.

Over the last twenty years, Buffon has saved 15 penalties in Serie A, including attempts made by players such as Ronaldo, Francesco Totti and Roberto Baggio. He has also made numerous saves as Italy’s national team goalkeeper. For example, in the 2002 World Cup he saved a penalty in Italy’s second-round defeat to South Korea. In 2008, he saved a penalty from Adrian Mutu in a group match against Romania. He also saved a penalty taken by Dani Guiza in the quarterfinal shootout with Spain. It didn’t stop then, in Euro 2012 Buffon saved a penalty in Italy’s quarterfinal shootout with England. He stopped the key penalty attempt from Ashley Cole to send his side into the semi-finals.

In short, he has an amazing record of accomplishment and he still shows no signs of slowing down.

Diego Alves – 26 Penalties Saved

Many people consider Diego Alves to be the ultimate expert at saving penalties. He is currently back in Brazil with Flamengo, but he spent ten seasons in La Liga with Almeria and Valencia from 2007 to 2018. During that time, he was considered one of the best keepers in Spain and his record saving penalties definitely backs this up.

Over the past 20 years, Alves has saved 26 penalties with 23 of them coming in La Liga. He famously once described a penalty as a “psychological battle” between the player and the goalkeeper, and clearly, it is a battle he is used to winning.

In 2015, Alves saved a penalty from Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo to equal Andoni Zubizarreta’s record number of penalties saved in La Liga history. It was his sixteenth save from thirty-seven penalties, giving him a save percentage of 43%!

Ronaldo isn’t the only player to have been denied by Alves. He has also saved penalties from stars such as Antoine Griezmann, Diego Costa, Mario Mandzukic, and Lionel Messi.

Manuel Neuer – 25 Penalties Saved

Manuel Neuer is often described as the original ‘sweeper-keeper’. He is widely recognised as one of the best goalkeepers of his generation and he is certainly one of the most decorated.

Neuer made his debut in the 2003-04 season with Schalke and since then he has gone on to win eight Bundesliga titles, the 2013 Champions League with Bayern Munich and the 2014 World Cup with Germany. He has also been crowned IFFHS World’s Best Goalkeeper on four occasions and he came third in the 2014 Ballon d’Or.

Neuer’s 25 penalties saved is no small achievement. He has faced formidable strikers such as Antoine Griezmann, Fernando Torres, and Robert Lewandowski. He has also performed exceptionally in penalty shootouts. For example, in the 2012 Champions League final shootout he saved from Juan Mata, even if he couldn’t stop the team eventually losing to Chelsea. He has also performed admirably on the international stage. He famously saved two penalties, including one taken by Leonardo Bonucci, in Germany’s quarterfinal shootout with Italy, ensuring his team a 6-5 victory.

Most impressively, Neuer is just 34 years old and has many years ahead of him. It wouldn’t be a surprise if his star continues to rise.

Petr Cech, Andrea Consigli, & Mickael Landreau – 21 Penalties Saved

There are three goalkeepers who have saved 21 penalties since the turn of the century, Petr Cech, Andrea Consigli, and Mickael Landreau.

Petr Cech is perhaps the best known. The Czech international was Chelsie’s goalkeeper for more than a decade and he won numerous titles with the team including four Premier League titles and the 2012 Champions League. He is often considered one of the best goalkeepers in the league’s history and he regularly saved goals from players such as Wayne Rooney and Leighton Baines.

However, he was perhaps most impressive in Europe. In the Champions League final with Bayern Munich, he saved a penalty from Arjen Robben and then saved a further two to ensure the team’s victory. He also saved from Cristiano Ronaldo in the 2008 Champions League final against Manchester United, even if the team did lose in the end.

Mickael Landreau retired from playing in 2014. Over the course of his career, he played for teams such as Paris Saint-Germain, Nantes, Lille and Bastia, amassing an impressive 618 Ligue 1 appearances. He won two Ligue 1 titles and saved penalties from players such as Emmanuel Adebayor, Ronaldinho, and Samir Nasri.

Italy’s Andrea Consigli is still playing today for Sassuolo. He has made over 400 appearances in Serie A and joined his current team after spending seven seasons with Atalanta. He has made the third-most penalty saves in Serie A history, 19, with just Gianluca Pagliuca and Samir Handanovic ahead of him.

Iker Casillas, Benoit Costil, Frank Rost – 20 Penalties Saved

There are three goalkeepers to make 20 penalty saves in the last twenty years, but one of them clearly stands out.

Iker Casillas was the goalkeeper at Real Madrid and won numerous awards over the course of his career. He was the winner of the 2010 World Cup and the 2008 and 2012 European Championships with Spain, and he also has 5 La Liga titles and 3 Champions Leagues under his belt.

He is one of very few players to have made more than 1000 professional appearances and he was particularly known for his ability to produce incredibly saves. Over the course of his career, he saved penalties from players such as Samuel Eto’o and Sergei Rebrov, while he also helped Spain win a number of penalty shootouts, including in their two successful European Championship campaigns.

Benoit Costil may not be as well known as Iker Casillas, but Bordeaux’s keeper has also saved an impressive 20 penalties in recent years. Before playing for Bordeaux, he made more than 200 appearances for Rennes, the majority of which were in Ligue 1. His most successful season as a penalty saver was 2017/18, in which he saved five and conceded the same number.

Frank Rost retired in 2011, making his 20 saves this century all the more impressive. He played for teams such as Werder Bremen, Schalke and Hamburg, and was already known as a penalty expert in the 1990s. In the 1998-99 DFB-Pokal, Rost was the hero for Werder in their penalty shootout against Bayern Munich. He scored his team’s sixth penalty and then saved from Lothar Matthaus to win the game. This century saw him saving penalties from players such as Jan Koller, Dimitar Berbatov and fellow goalkeeper Hans-Jorg Butt.

OCA News Editor