Penalty-taking is not for the faint of heart.
While it seems easy enough (you only need to put the ball in the net from 12 yards unchallenged, right?), those who have ever taken one even at Sunday league level know that the walk to that spot is the longest and loneliest in football as the nerves jangle, the legs wobble, keepers grow and posts shrink.
However, there are some ice-cold footballers who have perfected the art of the penalty with their precision, courage or just by… y’know, being German.
So, without further ado, here (in no particular order) is 90min’s 50 best penalty takers in football history.
On many occasions, the Belgian simply rolls the ball in as if it doesn’t matter, with his composure and reliability making him the perfect man to take a crucial penalty.
Pirlo was always a reliable player, but the one moment that epitomised the Italian was at Euro 2012.
In the quarter-final penalty shootout against England in Kiev, Pirlo stepped up to face Joe Hart in goal. With 64,000 people watching on in the stadium, he deftly dinked the ball past Hart to convert as if he was half-Italian, half-cucumber.
Lampard was a fantastic penalty taker during his playing career, striking all of his spot kicks with power and precision.
Matt Le Tissier
Matt Le Tissier is one of the most famous names in English football, but he is best known for his remarkable penalty statistics.
In a career spanning 16 years at Southampton, Le Tissier famously scored 48 of his 49 penalties throughout his career, with the only goalkeeper to prevent him scoring from the spot being
Nottingham Forest’s Mark Crossley.
Panenka is a household name in the world of football, thanks to just one kick of a ball from 12 yards.
In the 1976 European Championship final, the game between West Germany and Czechoslovakia went to penalties. As Panenka stepped up for the deciding penalty, he cheekily chipped his effort down the middle to win it for Czechoslovakia. Thus a legend and the ultimate nerves of steel skill move was born.
Gerrard’s ability as a footballer was unrivalled in the famous Liverpool red, not least for his reliability from the spot.
The Englishman’s penalties were powerful and unstoppable, converting on many occasions for the Reds and leading by example as captain.
If there’s ever a player you would want to take a decisive penalty, then Cristiano Ronaldo is surely that man.
With over 100 penalties scored to his name, the Portuguese is also famous for his unflinching attitude to pressure spot-kicks, scoring in the 2006 World Cup quarter-final against England and the 2016 Champions League final win over Atlético Madrid.
One of the first of a few goalkeepers to appear on this list, Rogério Ceni could do more than just prevent goals.
The Brazilian keeper was São Paulo’s designated penalty taker during his career and could be seen running up the end of the pitch to assume the ball and convert the spot-kicks.
Alessandro Del Piero
Del Piero was another excellent penalty taker, one who was entrusted by both club and country with Juventus and Italy respectively. He was accurate and reliable, as one of the go-to players in a penalty shootout whenever he was on the pitch.
Many people’s GOAT, Messi
The Argentine magician is unrivalled when it comes to technical ability and despite the odd miss (such as his infamous one in the 2016 Copa America final and against Iceland at World Cup 2018) there are few you would prefer standing over the ball from 12 yards out.
While his record of 31 career penalty strikes doesn’t compare to Ronaldo or Messi, Drogba is another player who makes this list thanks to one particular moment of magic,
Stepping up to take the decisive penalty in the Allianz Arena in 2012, it only took him two steps to secure Chelsea’s first-ever Champions League title, in the greatest night in the history of the club.
One of football’s coolest finishers, Dennis Bergkamp was a master in penalties.
The Dutchman was always a calm and collected figure when poised over the ball from 12 yards, scoring 21 penalties throughout his successful career.
The stats don’t lie for Shearer, who has scored more penalties than anyone else in the Premier League.
The Newcastle legend had an 83.6% success rate from 12 yards in the English top flight, converting 56 of his 67 penalties during his time at Blackburn, Southampton and Newcastle.
While Shearer has the most in the Premier League, Thierry Henry has a penalty success rate bettered only by Le Tissier.
In his time at Arsenal, the French striker took 25 penalties and scored a remarkable 23 of them, as he only failed to convert on two occasions in his time in the English top flight.
Manchester United’s all-time leading goalscorer had a knack for scoring, and unsurprisingly he is a master of penalties.
Rooney has scored 21 spot kicks in the Premier League, with his distinct run up giving goalkeepers minimal idea of where he is going and little time to keep his powerful strikes out.
The only position yet to be represented on this list is a defender, and what better player to start with than Sergio Ramos.
The Spain and Real Madrid captain is the designated penalty taker for both club and country, and he is one of the best spot kick takers around for his accuracy, success rate and pure cheek, as he often opts for a panenka penalty.
One of Kane’s best attributes as a traditional striker is his ability from the spot, something which has greatly contributed to his goal tallies.
His success from the spot was key as he won the Golden Boot at the 2018 World Cup, which included two penalties scored against Panama.
Manchester City’s all-time leading goalscorer, Agüero is a cool finisher across the pitch.
However, the Argentine is especially clinical from the penalty spot, and his confidence to simply roll the ball past the goalkeeper and almost always convert is crucial for the Citizens.
He has over 40 spot-kick conversions to his name so far in an illustrious career.
Baines recently made history in the Premier League, as he entered the list of the top 10 penalty takers.
The English defender has always been a reliable penalty taker for the Toffees, with 90.5% success rate from the spot, scoring 20 from 12 yards out in the Premier League.
Griezmann’s most important penalty came in the 2018 World Cup Final, as a famous VAR check gave France a spot kick.
On the world’s biggest stage, he simply rolled the ball in to restore Les Bleus’ lead and eventually help them to their second World Cup win.
While you may never have heard of Stuart Gauld before, he definitely deserves his place on this list.
The Scottish defender, who played during the 1980s and 1990s, scored a record 24 consecutive penalties in his career, for which he was recognised in the Guinness Book of Records.
One of the greatest players of his generation, Zidane was one of the mostr trustworthy players to turn to when it came to converting penalties.
Zizou’s most famous spot kick was in the 2006 World Cup Final, as he chipped his effort in off the bar to give France the lead in Berlin.
For obvious reasons, he wasn’t on the pitch for the penalty shootout later.
Noble is certainly one of the most accurate and clinical penalty takers in the Premier League, as he consistently scores penalties for West Ham.
The Hammers captain is a penalty expert, and his accuracy and confidence from the spot has proved vital for the east Londoners, as he has bagged 24 in the Premier League.
Robin Van Persie
Another clinical striker, Van Persie was one of the most accurate penalty takers in England when he played for Arsenal and Manchester United.
His stylish shooting made him a perfect candidate to step up to the spot, often whipping his penalties high into the top corner.
He finished an impressive career with 39 penalties in all competitions.
As one of the coolest, cheekiest and most confident players in football, Balotelli is unsurprisingly a brilliant penalty taker. The Italian striker has converted 37 of his 42 penalties taken in his professional career, last missing a spot kick in January 2018.
In a team which featured the late great Johan Cruyff, it was Johan Neeskens who assumed responsibility on penalties.
The Dutch midfielder scored seven out of his eight penalties for the national team, with his sole miss coming against neighbours Belgium in 1976.
Modrić showed his penalty taking ability in the 2018 World Cup, scoring in both of Croatia’s penalty shootout victories en route to the final.
First, he redeemed his penalty miss in extra time by scoring in the shootout against Denmark in the round of 16. Then, six days later he scored again in a penalty shootout, this time against the hosts Russia to send the Croats into the final four.
Cantona was deadly from the spot, and only missed two penalties throughout his entire career in the Premier League.
King Eric scored 14 out of his 16 penalties in the top flight, giving him an excellent success rate of 87.5% and a reputation worthy of his nickname.
Ballack had one of the most powerful shots in football during his career, yet he managed to balance that with accuracy and precision when it came to penalties.
The German legend was an excellent penalty taker, consistently converting his spot kicks.
Ricardo Rodríguez is one of football’s most underrated penalty takers, with his spot kick expertise proving crucial for Switzerland.
The Milan defender has scored a number of pivotal penalties for the Schweizer Nati, such as the winning goal to send the Swiss to the 2018 World Cup and the one to kickstart their remarkable Nations League comeback against Belgium in November 2018.
Lambert has one of football’s best penalty records, as he was one of the finest penalty takers around.
The ex-England forward scored half a century of penalties, scoring 50 out of his 53 spot kicks and last missing one in February 2009, in a League One match against Leicester.
Another one of the Premier League’s best penalty takers, Milivojević was one of Crystal Palace’s top goalscorers in 2018/19 thanks to his penalty expertise.
The Serbian almost always sends the goalkeeper the wrong way and is fantastic from the spot for the Eagles.
Milner is Liverpool’s most reliable penalty taker, scoring five out of his five penalties taken in 2018/19.
The Englishman has always struck his penalties with meaning and real accuracy, as he remains one of the go-to players to step up to the spot when needed.
Leicester’s talisman has been the Foxes’ regular penalty taker since his arrival years ago, and they haven’t looked back since.
Vardy is a precise and composed player from the spot, with an 83.3% conversion rate from the spot. His 15 penalties scored for Leicester have been crucial, as they helped him reach 100 goals for the club in 2019.
Alongside Modrić, Rakitić also truly proved himself from the penalty spot at the 2018 World Cup. Not only did the Barcelona midfielder score in the shootouts against both Denmark and Russia, but on both occasions he kept his cool to score the winning penalty.
Müller epitomises the German stereotype of penalty perfection, consistently firing home his spot kicks for Bayern and Germany.
While it has almost been a year since the Bayern forward stepped up to take one, he has scored 27 penalties in his career and also contributed in penalty shootouts for club and country.
Ibrahimović is a man of many talents on the football pitch, not least his coolness from the penalty spot.
Currently playing for LA Galaxy, Ibra’s 77 goals from the spot give him a 88.5% success rate, with the Swede last failing to score a penalty back in March 2017.
With Aston Villa earning promotion to the Premier League for the 2019/20 season, it will see the top flight return of Mile Jedinak.
The Australian is one of the most accurate penalty takers in England, with his spot kicks often so precise they nestle in the side netting week in week out when he steps up.
Marco van Basten
In his long and fruitful stint at Milan, Marco van Basten was a true penalty master for the Rossoneri.
The Netherlands legend had a 94.4% success rate when it came to taking penalties, as he managed to convert 51 of his 54 spot kicks during his career.
The Bosnian midfielder, who spent the majority of his career at Hoffenheim, scored 37 penalties, including a run of seven successful spot kicks in a row.
Touré was a powerhouse in midfield, something which carried over to his penalty-taking ability. The Manchester City and Barcelona star scored dozens of penalties during his career, producing sheet power and precision in his spot kicks.
Although famous for one very specific type of goal, Robben was also a very strong penalty taker.
His calmness on the pitch greatly helped him, as he would often fool the keeper to tuck his spot kicks home in his time at Bayern.
One of Mexico’s greatest players, Blanco had a remarkable record from the penalty spot for club and country.
Blanco scored 71 out of 73 penalties, with his most memorable penalty coming in the 2010 World Cup against France, as he leathered the ball into the bottom corner.
Matthäus was a leader on the pitch, and the World Cup-winning captain was always reliable from the spot as well.
The German had an excellent penalty record throughout his career, converting 66 penalties and only missing seven penalties in a career spanning 21 years.
The King of Rome was clinical from the spot, as Roma always had Totti to rely on for goals. The Italian talisman was cool and collected from the spot, with the best example of this being his match-winning penalty in Italy’s World Cup round of 16 win over Australia in 2006.
He scored 86 in his career from start to finish.
While his reputation in the football world has changed recently, there was no doubting Platini’s excellent form from 12 yards.
The Frenchman took 24 penalties during his career, and scored… 24. Platini was the definition of clinical.
Gomez is a penalty expert, having scored 18 spot kicks throughout his career at Stuttgart, Fiorentina, Wolfsburg, Besiktas and Bayern.
While he has indeed missed a handful, he remains a reliable penalty taker who can be trusted to find the back of the net.
Šuker is best known for winning the Golden Boot at the 1998 World Cup, as his six goals helped Croatia to a third-place finish. The Croatian striker was just as reliable from the spot, as his winner in the round of 16 clash with Romania coming from a stoppage-time spot kick.
While Villa rarely got the chance to take penalties for Barcelona, he was always a reliable figure from the spot. The striker was often successful with his spot kicks, taking a number of vital ones for Spain and converting 31 of his 33 penalties in his La Liga appearances.
Croatian striker Krastanović finishes of this list, as he has reportedly never missed a penalty in his 19-year career. The forward, who plays for Croatian top flight side Slaven Belupo, has said that he has scored “at least 30 goals” and has never failed to convert from the penalty spot.