The definitive XI of the greatest penalty takers ever


Nothing beats the drama of a penalty shootout – unless your team are playing – and so what better way to deal with the anxiety of having your fate decided from 12 yards than by constructing a team solely based on an individual’s penalty taking ability.

We’ve scoured the great and good of world football to pick a starting XI of the game’s all-time best male penalty takers.

We can’t promise they’ll be a cohesive unit, we can’t promise they’ll get a lot of defending done and we can’t promise they won’t squabble over who’s on penalty duties should they be awarded one. But when it comes to a shootout, they’re going to come into their own.

Sao Paulo v Universitario de Deportes - Libertadores Cup 2010
Ceni was quite the goalkeeper | LatinContent/Getty Images

Rogerio Ceni (GK) – The former Sao Paulo number one boasts the record for the most goals scored by a goalkeeper in world football – 131 career goals, 70 of which were penalties. The Brazil international was a pretty decent free kick taker to boot.

Graham Alexander (RB) – The EFL stalwart was legendary from 12 yards, netting 77 of his 83 spot kicks across spells at Preston, Scunthorpe, Burnley and Luton. Synonymous with ITV’s The Championship featuring Matt Smith and Beautiful Day.

David Unsworth (CB) – More of a left back by trade but capable of being deployed at centre half, Unsworth is one of the Premier League’s all-time great penalty takers, converting 25 of his 29 career penalties for Everton, Sheffield United, Wigan and Portsmouth.

Sergio Ramos (CB) – Despite the array of attacking talent at Real Madrid, centre back Sergio Ramos is often on penalty duty. The Spaniard has scored 30 of his 35 career spot kicks, and it remains a childhood dream of his to play alongside Graham Alexander.

Leighton Baines (LB) – It’s a great list for Everton supporters, this. Mid noughties and 2010s fantasy football fans will be aware of Baines’ penalty prowess. The Toffees full back was renowned for finding the top corner from 12 yards out, and converted 26 of his 29 career spot kicks.

Matt Le Tissier of Southampton
Le Tissier’s spot kick prowess is legendary | Phil Cole/Getty Images

Gaizka Mendieta (CM) – We’ll be honest, poor old Mendiata will be doing a lot of the heavy lifting defensively in this midfield four. The former Valencia, Lazio and Middlesbrough man netted 30 of his 32 career spot kicks, including one in the 2001 Champions League final.

Matt Le Tissier (AM) – The Southampton great famously missed just one penalty across his entire career, converting 53 spot kicks with his trademark style. Nottingham Forest’s Mark Crossley was the solitary goalkeeper who denied Le Tissier from the spot.

Cuauhtemoc Blanco (AM) – Mexico centurion Cuauhtemoc Blanco spent much of his 24-year domestic career plying his trade in his homeland. The attacking midfield scored a ridiculous 71 out of 73 spot kicks and is regarded among the best in the world from 12 yards out.

Michel Platini (AM) – The French footballing icon was near flawless from 12 yards out, scoring 25 of his 26 penalties during his glittering career. We reckon he’ll link up really well with Leighton Baines.

Marco Van Basten
Van Basten is a great of the game | Etsuo Hara/Getty Images

Marco van Basten (ST) – Pipping poor Rickie Lambert to a place in the side is Marco van Basten – or as Dutch fans often call him, the Rickie Lambert of the 80s. The striker netted 51 of his 55 career penalties, looking oh so suave while doing so.

Ferenc Puskas (ST) – This guy was so good at scoring goals that there’s an entire global goalscoring award named after him (although a Rickie Lambert rebrand is pending). Puskas was pretty nifty from the spot too, with 70 of his 73 career penalties finding the back of the net.

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