Spot luck: Europe's top penalty-savers

Samir Handanovič had saved six in a row in Italy before the weekend and Diego Alves has blocked three in Spain this season. meets today's spot-kick specialists. checks out the men you do not want to face from the penalty spot.

Spain: Diego Alves (Valencia CF)
Getting a penalty against Valencia is no longer something opposition sides celebrate. Brazilian keeper Diego Alves has let in just 19 of the 39 spot kicks he has faced in Spain since joining UD Almería in 2007. He needs to shut out two more to overtake former FC Barcelona custodian Andoni Zubizarreta's national record, and is certainly headed in the right direction having stopped three this season.

"It's great that players fear taking penalties against me," said Alves on his remarkable exploits. "I try to wait as long as I can before committing and put doubt in the taker's mind. And by contrast, I never have any doubts."

Italy: Samir Handanovič (FC Internazionale Milano)

Handanovič's streak of six consecutive penalty saves in all competitions was ended at the weekend by US Sassuolo Calcio's Domenico Berardi. "When a player takes it properly, it's impossible to save it," he said. The 30-year-old Slovenian international has nevertheless kept out 26 spot kicks out of 57 since coming to Italy, including 20 successes in Serie A – leaving him four short of Gianluca Pagliuca's top-flight record.

"Intuition and reflexes are crucial for saving penalties," Pagliuca said. "Handanovič is a great goalkeeper and he is still young so I'm sure he will beat my record."

Bayern past master Jean-Marie Pfaff
Bayern past master Jean-Marie Pfaff©Getty Images

Germany: Kevin Trapp (Eintracht Frankfurt)
Last term Eintracht keeper Kevin Trapp moved up to sixth in the Bundesliga's all-time penalty-stopper rankings, with his current stats encompassing six saves out of 15 penalties taken – a 40% success ratio.

He has a way to go if he is to match Jean-Marie Pfaff's 64.3% record for FC Bayern München (nine saves from 14 kicks), yet the 24-year-old youth international's simple technique is proving effective enough with three blocks from six attempts in 2013/14. "I decide which corner I am aiming for before the kick is taken, and then go through with it," he said.

Netherlands: Kenneth Vermeer (Feyenoord)
From 26 Feburuary 2012 to 27 March 2014, Vermeer faced seven penalties without conceding for AFC Ajax: five in the Eredivisie, one in the UEFA Champions League and another in the Dutch Cup. "It's good to be important again," he said after the last save, in a semi-final success against AZ Alkmaar. "But we did it all together."

The Netherlands' previous penalty-stopper-in-chief was Hans van Breukelen, who in 1988 repelled a shoot-out spot kick to win the European Champion Clubs' Cup final for PSV Eindhoven, and then blocked another in the EURO final as the Oranje took the UEFA European Championship title.

Russia: Roman Berezovski (FC Dinamo Moskva)
The Armenian international has saved 14 penalties over the course of his career – a Soviet and Russian league record. Five came at FC Zenit where the 40-year-old enjoyed some fine seasons. "The most important thing is not to dive before the kick or you are helpless," Berezovski advised.

"You have to dive at the same moment the ball is struck, while looking the taker in the eye and tricking him with your movements." Berezovski notably rebuffed two penalties during Armenia's 1-0 friendly loss to Greece in May 2012.

Petr Čech's goalkeeping guide
Petr Čech's goalkeeping guide

England: Allan McGregor (Hull City AFC)
McGregor is the current shining star in terms of penalty-saving, the Scotland custodian having stopped his last three, but while much-travelled ex-England No1 David James is the Premier League record holder with 12 saves overall, the all-time great might be Paul Cooper.

The Ipswich Town FC man famously kept out eight of the ten spot kicks he faced in 1979/80. At a time when keepers were not allowed to move their feet at all before a penalty was taken, Cooper's trick was to swing his arms and lean to one side to distract his adversary. "I remember mimicking him in the playground," James said. "It was a bizarre technique, but it worked."

France: Mickaël Landreau (retired)
Landreau's retirement last summer has left a vacancy for a penalties specialist in France. Known as 'Monsieur Penalty' after going unbeaten in six spot kicks between 2006 and 2009, the former FC Nantes, Paris-Saint-Germain, LOSC Lille and SC Bastia stopper kept out 39 in total in his career.

Most memorably, while at Nantes he tempted Paris's Ronaldinho by standing just two metres from his left-hand post in a French League Cup tie; the Brazilian took the bait and Landreau dived to his left to make an easy stop.