They used to say that penalties in football is all about luck. Not anymore. While the element of luck still plays a part, there is a science that goes into a penalty kick. Both penalty takers and goalkeepers may have gone through hours of footage before deciding which way to shoot, or whether to dive to the left, right or stand still.
It is no wonder then that a select few goalkeepers are harder to beat than the rest. Most goalkeepers are tall with immense reach and rely on their massive frame to plant a seed of doubt into the penalty taker’s mind. Others have faster reflexes and maybe a better gut instinct when you look at their statistics.
In the end, a lot of information is processed before the ball travels the 12 yards to either hit the back of the net or the gloves of the keeper. So which goalkeeper should you trust to save a penalty if your life was on the line?
Look no further than Diego Alves. The Valencia goalkeeper is currently the best goalkeeper in Europe when it comes to saving penalties, saving almost half the penalties he has faced.
Diego Alves sets a new record in La Liga
Alves made headlines last weekend when he saved two penalties against Atletico Madrid. Both Antoine Griezmann and Gabi saw their penalty kicks saved by the Brazilian shot stopper, even though Atletico had the last laugh with a 2-0 win.
The saves took his tally to 19 in La Liga (a new record beating Andoni Zubizarreta's record) and 22 penalty saves out of 45 attempts! No other keeper has saved as many penalties in Europe’s top five leagues. In La Liga, only two players have scored against him without missing – Lionel Messi and Sergio Garcia.
“It is a characteristic of mine to work out penalties,” he told the club’s official website. “It is a moment when you are on your own with the person that is going to take it.”
“It is a psychological battle between the two,” he continued. “The intuition is important, reading the movement,being calm, reflexes – these are the factors that influence a penalty save.”
One of the most exciting prospects in Italy is AC Milan’s Gianluigi Donnarumma. He is only 17 years old and became the youngest goalkeeper to play for Italy when he came on for Gianluigi Buffon against France. At Milan, the club is still trying to reclaim their glory days but Donnarumma is genuinely one of their most exciting talents.
Another goalkeeper who plies his trade at San Siro and is known for making quick reflex saves is Inter’s Samir Handanovic. He is sixth on the list, just a shade below Donnarumma.
Among Premier League goalkeepers, the only one who makes the top 10 is Chelsea’s Eduardo Carvalho – and he hasn’t even played a game for the Blues yet after arriving from Dinamo Zagreb this summer. Arsenal’s Emiliano Martinez may be third-choice behind Petr Cech and David Ospina but he is the next best penalty saver among players at Premier League clubs.
Other top goalkeepers such as Atletico Madrid’s Jan Oblak, Bayern Munich’s Manuel Neuer, Juventus’ Buffon and Manchester United’s David De Gea are outside the top 20. English goalkeepers Fraser Forster and Joe Hart are not even in the top 30.
|#||Goalkeeper||Club||Penalty Save %age|
|3||Kevin Trapp||Paris Saint-Germain||41.9|
|4||Danijel Subasic||AS Monaco||41|
|5||Gianluigi Donnarumma||AC Milan||40|
|6||Samir Handanovic||Inter Milan||38.2|
|7||Geronimo Rulli||Real Sociedad||38.1|
|Juan Pablo Carrizo||Inter Milan||36.3|
|Alberto Pelagotti||FC Empoli||36.3|
|15||Tommaso Berni||Inter Milan||35.2|
|16||Allan McGregor||Hull City||35.1|
|Keylor Navas||Real Madrid||33.3|
|23||Andreas Luthe||FC Augsburg||32.5|
|24||Jan Oblak||Atletico Madrid||32|
|Manuel Neuer||Bayern Munich||32|
|David De Gea||Manchester United||31.4|
|29||Ivan Cuellar||Sporting Gijon||31|
Stats updated as of 5 October. Only goalkeepers who have saved at least 10 penalties have been considered.