20 Best Penalty Takers in World Football History

Peter Brownell@pbnoregard11Contributor IApril 16, 2013

20 Best Penalty Takers in World Football History

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    Arguably the most nervy of all moments during the course of a given soccer match, the penalty shot is psychological warfare: Two men, one ball and stakes that do not get much greater in soccer, a clear chance to score a goal.

    Over the years of world football history, penalties and missed penalties have provided memories littered with controversial and dramatic moments.  A penalty is supposed to be finished at the professional level: period.  Anything else is a failure. 

    Such a task should only be required of players made with the iciest of veins.

    For goalkeepers, a penalty save is a way to distinguish themselves, shift momentum in a match and let whichever defender conceded off the hook for his mistake.

    This slideshow looks at some of the best penalty kick takers in the history of world football.  There is no overall empirical method employed for this list.  And while some of the ranking is based around numerical penalty success, there are other variables considered and gathered from watching  penalties and researching style and stakes. 

    As always, no list is 100 percent correct, so feel free to provide any comments about who was missed, who should be higher or who should be lower.

20. Robin Van Persie

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    The former Arsenal, current Manchester United man Robin van Persie is expertly efficient in terms of chance conversion. 

    Simply stated, the Dutchman is classy enough to finish a number of his chances.

    So it is now wonder that van Persie is quality during penalty situations.

    The Red Devil activates his sublime left-foot for penalties aimed for the bottom corner on many occasions. 

19. Graham Alexander

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    The Coventry, England-born Graham Alexander is known for his durability and longevity. 

    He had a long footballing career as both a right back and defensive midfielder. 

    In addition to being able to play match after match without missing a beat, Alexander was a penalty kick specialist.  He found the back of the net without fear and often started his run to the ball beyond the box. 

18. Mario Balotelli

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    The mercurial Mario Balotelli has a lot of football left to play in his young career.  He does not possess the abundant amount of penalty kick attempts as some of the older players on this list. 

    But in his short time as a go-to penalty kick taker, Balotelli has severely impressed.

    The shot presented above displays a brilliant feint by the Italian, right before the he coolly slots the ball into the back of the net.   More to come in this sort of mold from Balotelli from the stripe, undoubtedly. 

17. Leighton Baines

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    English international and Everton back, Leighton Baines knows his way around from twelves yards out. 

    The left-footer generally makes contact with the ball with the inside of his foot, preferring accuracy as opposed to pure power. 

    That is not to say that his penalty efforts are weak, on the contrary, they are paced well-enough to trouble to goalkeeper but controlled so he is unlikely to miss the target.  He will almost always force an opposing goalkeeper to make a save.

16. Jose Luis Chilavert

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    The only goalkeeper to make this list, Jose Luis Chilavert was a fearless and emboldened penalty kick specialist.

    Rare in the modern game is a goalkeeper so willing and so capable from the spot. 

    One has to wonder if Chilavert had a mental edge taking penalties knowing full well what it was like to be a goalkeeper facing the impeding shot.

15. Johan Cruyff

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    Johan Cruyff is known for a revolutionary football mind, dreaming up and enacting tactics and methods that have changed soccer forever.

    So it is fitting then, that Cruyff was able to come up with the penalty presented above.

    So much to say about such a clever maneuver that reeks of hubris, a joy for the game and a superior intellect.

    Do not forget timing, either. 

    Cruyff will always be a special part of the history of both world football and penalties. 

14. Gerd Muller

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    Gerd Muller is forever a key cog in German football history. 

    A prolific goalscorer, Muller could finish from the spot consistently. 

    Sometimes apt to try and beat a goalkeeper down the middle, Muller translated his open play success to the penalty stripe on many the occasion. 

    He was up for anything. 

13. Ronaldinho

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    Ronaldinho is one of the most memorable tricksters in soccer history. 

    His beaming personality is reflected in his free-flowing and carefree playing style.

    Well-equipped during dead-ball scenarios, the Brazilian finished well from the spot more often than not, fooling the goalkeeper with a slight shift in body weight before striking with accuracy. 

12. Gary McAllister

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    Gary McAllister is remembered for a massive penalty miss in the 1996 European Cup tournament against England.

    This stain does not take away from the fact that his overall penalty prowess was fantastic. 

    McAllister was the breed of footballer always demanding to take penalties and free kicks.  While he may have been wasteful at times with the latter he was mostly always collected and finished a great chunk of the former when an the opportunity presented itself. 

11. Eric Cantona

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    A Red Devil favorite famous for bombastic moments both on the pitch and in the crowd, Manchester United's Eric Cantona is a player not to be forgotten. 

    The Frenchman brought a physical prescene to the pitch along with a handful of skills that allowed him to score goals the likes of which lesser footballers could never even begin to dream up. 

    He was on occasion a bit overly enthusiastic from the spot, somethings blasting the ball over the frame, but for the most part Cantona vigorously buried his penalties. 

10. Andrea Pirlo

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    Italian orchestrator Andrea Pirlo is a visionary and consistently offers his teammates  distribution so gorgeous that some might confuse his passing for modern art.

    Pirlo translated his mastery over the soccer ball onto the penalty spot.  The penalty above, against England in the 2012 European Cup was a delight to watch. 

    With confidence in spades, Pirlo calmly chipped Joe Hart to perfection during one of the biggest moments of his career.  Extraordinary stuff from the Azzurri. 

9. Michael Ballack

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    German international Michael Ballack combined powerful athleticism and superior technique to  create an overall soccer ability capable of dominating the middle third of the pitch. 

    Called upon for both Germany and Chelsea, Ballack often used his laces to strike the ball with accuracy and power along the ground during penalty opportunities.

    On many occasions, Ballack guided the ball to the side of the net with pace and precision. 

8. Michel Platini

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    Michel Platini was known for exquisite passing and dead-ball expertise. 

    One of the best footballers ever to play for France, Platini helped his country win the 1984 European Championship.  He was named as the tournament's best player and was the leading goalscorer.

    Platini could get the job done from the penalty spot.  By employing his advanced technique, Platini was efficient at picking his spot and calmly finding the back of the net. 

7. Steven Gerrard

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    Steven Gerrard, Liverpool legend and England mainstay, can strike a soccer ball with his laces better than or as just as effectively as any footballer in recorded history. 

    Known for longer shots from beyond the box, Gerrard can also pound the back of the net from 12 yards away, too.

    The Liverpool skipper often employs the same part of his right foot that has made him so deadly over the years from the penalty spot.  It has served him quite well in some tense moments.

6. Alessandro Del Piero

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    Legendary striker Alessandro Del Piero has scored for club and country on numerous occasions. 

    Del Piero is one of the top-scorers in Italian history and leads his former club, Juventus, as the team's most prolific goalscorer.

    Primed with belief is his own ability, passion and a knack for corralling and controlling the ball to perfection, Del Piero has no fear from the penalty spot.  Nor should he; Del Piero is special. 

5. Cristiano Ronaldo

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    Fans of the English national team might want to avert their eyes from the above clip of a young Cristiano Ronaldo burying a winning penalty in a shoot-out against the Three Lions.

    It was the first of many clutch penalties the Portuguese superstar would go onto the hit for Manchester United, Real Madrid and Portugal.

    Ronaldo is a confident footballer.  He employs poise and patience from the spot, clearly exhibiting just how seriously he takes this sort of opportunities from his focused body language. 

4. Frank Lampard

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    Involved in critical penalty situations for both club and country, Frank Lampard is always up for the responsibilities that come with taking a PK. 

    He finished his attempt against Manchester United in the 2008 UEFA Champions League final. The Englishman also buried a penalty in the semi-final against Liverpool, just days after his mother had passed away.

    Right-foot all the way, Lampard is a class penalty-taker. 

3. Zinedine Zidane

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    Zinedine Zidane's 2006 World Cup final performance will forever be remembered for two actions: His infamous headbutt on Marco Materazzi and his ridiculously cheeky penalty that gave France an early lead.

    To suggest that Zidane's hesitation and chipped-shot was bold is a ludicrous understatement. 

    This was the biggest stage possible so taking such a risk is remarkable. 

    The dice-roll here was worth it, though, as this one of the more memorable penalties in soccer history. 

2. Alan Shearer

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    The Newcastle man is the leading goalscorer in English Premier League history. 

    His ability from the spot was instrumental in netting a record-setting 260 goals in 434 appearances. 

    Shearer was not afraid hit for power during his penalty opportunities, sometimes appearing to be attempting to rip the leather off the ball in his pursuit of a goal.

1. Matt Le Tissier

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    Matt Le Tissier is known among soccer historians as the best ever in terms of penalties in world football history. 

    The reason being his ridiculous penalty conversion percentage. 

    During his 16 years at English Premier League side Southhampton, Le Tissier missed just one of his 49 penalty attempts, for just about 98 percent. 

    Cool as ever, Le Tissier was nicknamed "Le God" by Southhampton fans. 

    That is indeed an apt nickname, considering these numbers.