Taking a penalty shot necessitates a great deal of mental fortitude: the taker, a goalkeeper, just one ball, and chances that don’t come much higher in football than a clear opportunity to grab a goal.
It always appears simple enough on TV screen because all you have to do is just put the ball at the back of the net from 12 yards out without being challenged, right?
Those who have ever taken one before, even at Sunday league level, know that the trek there is the longest and most lonely in football, as nerves rattle, legs tremble, keepers stretch, and posts recede.
It’s never a smooth road to take because all eyes will be on you, the pressure will be high, and everyone’s hopes will be riding on you to nail that perfect kick.
Penalties scored and missed penalties have offered moments loaded with controversy and thrilling events throughout the history of world football.
A penalty kick should be completed at the professional level; anything less is a catastrophic disaster.
Such a responsibility should only be assigned to players with the coldest veins, and I’m certain there are some ice-cold footballers out there who have mastered the art of the penalty kick with their accuracy, fearlessness, and ability to score whenever they are needed.
A penalty save is a means for goalkeepers to stand out, alter tempo in a game, and exonerate the defender who committed the penalty of blame.
As a result, we’ve taken the effort to spotlight all of the greatest penalty kick takers in the history of the game.
While some of the rating is based on actual penalty accuracy, additional criteria are taken into account and acquired via viewing penalties and analyzing technique and stakes.
And, just so you know, no list is perfectly 100 percent accurate, so feel free to use the comment box to share any information regarding who was left out.
So, without further ado, here are the 18 best penalty takers in world football history.
18. Eden Hazard
We kicked off the list with Eden Hazard, not only for his incredible success percentage from the penalty spot, but also for his sheer boldness.
The former Chelsea player frequently rolls the ball in as though it doesn’t matter, and his calmness and dependability make him the ideal guy to take a key penalty.
The Real Madrid forward has scored 47 penalties in his career, both for his club and for his country. He’s only missed seven times, for an 87 percent conversion rate, with his most recent miss coming two years ago.
17. Didier Drogba
While his 31 career penalty kicks aren’t as impressive as Ronaldo’s or Messi’s, Drogba is another player who enters our list thanks to some of his magical moments.
Recall that when he stepped up to take the game-winning penalty in the Allianz Arena in 2012, it only took him two steps to secure Chelsea’s first-ever Champions League trophy in the club’s history.
Drogba will forever be known as one of the best players and spot kick takers in the world.
16. Thierry Henry
Throughout his spell at the Emirates, the French striker took 25 penalties and converted 23 of them, with only two misses during his career in the English Premier League.
With 175 goals, 74 assists to his name in 258 appearances, Thierry Henry was indeed a star boy. While Shearer has the most penalties in the Premier League, only Le Tissier has a higher penalty success rate than Thierry Henry.
In his football career, he had 28 penalties and only managed to miss seven.
15. Gerd Muller
Gerd Muller will go down in German football history as a pivotal figure. Muller was a spectacular goal scorer who could routinely convert from the penalty spot.
Muller, who was known for trying to beat goalkeepers down the middle, was able to convert his open-play prowess to the penalty box on numerous occasions.
He was willing to try anything.
Ronaldo de Assis Moreira, better known by his nickname Ronaldinho, is one of soccer’s most recognizable trickster, who primarily played as an offensive midfielder but also as a winger.
His free-flowing, easygoing playing style reflects his bright personality.
In dead-ball situations, the Brazilian was well-equipped and finished well more often than not, tricking the goalie with a subtle change in body weight before striking with precision.
13. Dennis Bergkamp
Dennis Bergkamp is one of the smoothest finishers in the history of football. He was a maestro of penalties and never missed a penalty kick.
When positioned over the ball from 12 yards, the Dutchman was always cool and controlled, scoring 21 penalties during his illustrious career.
12. Eric Cantona
Cantona was a master of the penalty shootout, missing only two in his whole Premier League career.
In the top division, King Eric converted 14 of his 16 penalties, giving him an outstanding conversion percentage of 87.5 percent and a status worthy of his moniker.
Eric Cantona, a Manchester United legend who is known for his explosive moments on the field and in the stands, is a player who should not be overlooked.
The Frenchman brought a physical presence to the pitch, as well as a set of skills that enabled him to score goals that other footballers could never even imagine.
On several occasion, he was a little too zealous from the penalty spot, sending the ball over the crossbar, but for the most part, Cantona dispatched his penalties with gusto.
11. Andrea Pirlo
Pirlo has always been a consistent player, but his performance at Euro 2012 epitomized the Italian.
Pirlo faced Joe Hart in goal in the quarter-final penalty shootout against England in Kiev.
He neatly dummied the ball past Hart to convert as if he were half-Italian, half-cucumber, in front of almost 64,000 fans in the stadium.
Andrea Pirlo is a creative genius who routinely provides his teammates with delivery that is so beautiful that some may mistake it for modern art.
Pirlo’s command with the soccer ball was transferred to the penalty spot.
10. Michael Ballack
During his career, Ballack had one of the most powerful shots in football, but he was able to combine it with pinpoint accuracy and reliability when it came to penalties.
The German superstar was a master penalty taker, converting his kicks time after again.
Michael Ballack, the German international, had a strong agility with great skill to develop an overall soccer ability capable of dominating the midfield.
Ballack used his feet to strike the ball with precision and strength down the ground during penalty attempts for both Germany and Chelsea back then.
Ballack steered the ball to the side of the net with speed and accuracy on numerous times.
9. Wayne Rooney
The all-time leading goalscorer for Manchester United has a penchant for scoring, and he was regarded as a penalty specialist during his time.
In the Premier League, Rooney managed to score 21 penalty kicks, with his unique run up giving goalkeepers little indication where he is heading and little time to keep his powerful strikes out.
This list wouldn’t be complete without the current coach of EFL Championship club – Derby County.
8. Steven Gerrard
In the renowned Liverpool red, Gerrard’s ability as a footballer was unrivaled, not only for his consistency from the penalty spot.
The Englishman’s penalties were brilliant and deadly, and he led by example as captain, scoring on multiple occasions for the Reds.
Steven Gerrard, the Liverpool great and England constant, can strike a soccer ball with his laces as well as or better than any other player in history.
Gerrard was known for his long shots from outside the box, but he was able to also hit the back of the net from 12 yards away.
The former Liverpool captain frequently used the same area of his right foot that made him so dangerous from the penalty spot over the years and it came in handy during certain tough situations.
7. Alessandro Del Piero
Del Piero was another great penalty taker, recognized by both his club and his country, Juventus and Italy, respectively.
When he was on the field, he was precise and consistent as one of the go-to players in a penalty shootout.
Alessandro Del Piero is indeed a legendary striker who has made several goals for both club and country.
Del Piero is one of the most successful attacking players in Italian history, and yet he still leads his previous club, Juventus, as the team’s leading scorer.
Del Piero has no anxiety from the penalty spot, thanks to his conviction in his own skill, enthusiasm, and a talent for rounding up and manipulating the ball to precision. Del Piero was quiet unique.
6. Lionel Messi
Messi, the Barcelona superstar, has proven to be a reliable penalty kicker throughout the years, hitting over 806 goals since his debut at the Under-20 World Cup in 2005.
When it comes to technical ability, the Argentine magician is unrivaled, and despite the occasional miss (such as his notorious miss in the 2016 Copa America final and against Iceland in the 2018 World Cup), there are few players you’d rather have standing over the ball from 12 yards out.
Not only for his goal-scoring skill, but also for his spot-kick proficiency. In UEFA Champions League, Leo Messi equaled Thierry Henry’s record for most missed penalties with his penalty miss (5).
But in total, he has scored over 103 penalties while missing 30. No wonder he is often regarded as the GOAT.
5. Cristiano Ronaldo
Cristiano Ronaldo is without a doubt the player you’d want to take a game-changing penalty for.
With over 200 penalties to his name, the Portuguese is also known for his fearless approach to pressure spot-kicks, scoring in the 2006 World Cup quarter-final against England and the 2016 Champions League final victory against Atlético Madrid.
You might be interested to know that Ronaldo has taken 149 club penalties, scoring 127, and 22 international penalties, scoring 16.
For Manchester United, Real Madrid, and Portugal, the Portuguese superstar has set new records and also known as the GOAT.
Ronaldo is a self-assured player. From the start, he displays poise and patience, demonstrating how seriously he takes these chances through his attentive body language.
4. Frank Lampard
During his playing career, Lampard was a brilliant penalty taker, hitting all of his spot shots with strength and precision.
Throughout his time at Chelsea, the Englishman scored numerous penalties, many of which were essential in earning a number of trophies at Stamford Bridge.
Frank Lampard has been involved in crucial penalty scenarios for both club and country, and he is always willing to take on the responsibility that come with taking a PK.
In the 2008 UEFA Champions League final, he completed his attempt against Manchester United. In the semi-final against Liverpool, the Englishman also scored a penalty, only days after his mother died.
Lampard is a first-class penalty taker who plays only with his right foot.
3. Zinedine Zidane
When it comes to taking penalties, Zidane was one of the most consistent players of his generation.
His most memorable penalty kick came in the 2006 World Cup Final, when he hit the crossbar with his effort to give France the lead in Berlin.
He didn’t play in the penalty shootout later for understandable reasons.
Zinedine Zidane’s contribution in the 2006 World Cup final will be noted for two things: his infamous headbutt on Marco Materazzi and his tremendously audacious penalty that put France ahead early.
To say Zidane’s hesitancy and chipped-shot were brave would be an understatement.
Taking such a risk on the greatest platform possible was incredible.
The dice-roll was well worth it, as this was one of the most iconic penalties in soccer history, and he only missed three penalties in his whole career.
2. Alan Shearer
Shearer has converted more penalties than anyone else in the Premier League, according to the statistics.
During his career at Blackburn, Southampton, and Newcastle, the Newcastle icon had an 83.6 percent success record from 12 yards, converting 56 of his 67 penalties.
The Newcastle striker is the all-time leading goalscorer in the English Premier League.
In 434 appearances, his proficiency from the spot was essential in him scoring a record-breaking 260 goals.
During his penalty attempts, Shearer was not hesitant to hit for force, at times appearing to try to rip the leather off the ball in his chase of a goal.
1. Matt Le Tissier
Matt Le Tissier is regarded by soccer historians as the best penalty taker in the history of the game.
The reason for this is his egregious penalty conversion rate.
During his 16 years with Southhampton in the English Premier League, Le Tissier missed just one of his 49 penalty shots, resulting in a 98 percent success rate.
Southhampton fans dubbed Le Tissier “Le God” because he was as cool as ever.
In light of these figures, that is a suitable moniker.
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