We’ve crunched the data on the goalkeepers in Europe’s five major soccer leagues. Who are Europe’s top stoppers? Who wouldn’t you want to face in a penalty shootout? And who is the best at building play from the back?
At MicroStrategy, we have accessed data provided by Opta for the top five football leagues in Europe (England, Spain, Italy, Germany, and France), and we’ve created a customized real-time dossier for you to explore. Let’s look at the man between the sticks—the goalkeeper—and, for context, we have only counted players who have played more than 1,000 minutes.
In terms of minutes-per-save, the most prolific saver is Marco Sportiello of Italian club Frosinone in Serie A’s relegation mire. He has made 119 saves in 2,160 minutes of play—or one save every 18 minutes. Cagliari’s Alessio Cragno is just behind with 118 saves in the same amount of playing time. Cagliari currently sits 12th in Serie A, so Cragno’s performances have been essential to keeping the club out of trouble.
Meanwhile in Germany, Michael Esser of the Bundesliga’s basement club Hannover 96 has made 123 saves in 2,430 minutes of football, averaging 19.75 minutes per save. Hannover has shipped 66 goals in 29 games this season.
Across Europe, a shot on target has a 30% average of resulting in a goal.
West Ham’s Lukas Fabianski is the Premier League’s top stopper, with one save every 23.3 minutes, although West Ham have conceded much less than Hannover—52 goals in 34 games. In Spain, Levante’s Oier Olazábal averages 19.7 minutes per save, which has helped the Valencia-based club as it fights relegation to La Segunda. In Ligue 1, bottom-place Caen has conceded 47 goals—the same as 11th-place Nîmes, but it could have been much worse if not for gardien de but Brice Samba’s 116 saves—one every 24 minutes.
At penalties, there are four ‘keepers who have each saved three league spot kicks this season; Everton’s Pickford and Cardiff City’s Etheridge in the Premier League; Jordi Masip of Real Valladolid in Spain; and Nantes’ Ciprian Tatarusanu in France. These guys are a massive asset in a penalty shootout!
It’s no surprise that the ‘keepers with the most saves to their names were at clubs struggling in the lower reaches of their leagues. There is also a direct correlation between successful clubs and the distribution skills of their goalies. PSG’s veteran stopper Gianluigi Buffon has a 90.5% successful pass rate, the best in Europe’s top leagues, followed by Chelsea’s Kepa (87%), Buffon’s own teammate Areola (84%), Manchester City’s Moraes (83.5%), and Barça’s ter Stegen (83%).
A special mention goes to Yann Sommer of Borussia Moenchengladbach in Germany who has made 1,154 passes in 2,520 minutes of play. All the four top passers, numerically, are based in the Bundesliga. Four goalkeepers can even claim a goal assist—Moraes at Manchester City in England, Herrerín at Athletic Bilbao in Spain’s La Liga and, in Germany, Baumann at Hoffenheim and Freiburg’s Schwolow.
Seeing Red…and Yellow
Being a goalkeeper carries several risks as the last line of defense, from the risk of committing a professional foul and receiving a straight red right through to being required to time-waste and risk a yellow when the team is leading in the dying minutes of play. But just eight ‘keepers have seen red this season so far in the top five leagues—three apiece in Italy and Spain, one in Spain, one in Germany, and none in England.
Pichu Cuéllar of Leganés in Spain has clocked up the most yellow cards—five—while the Serie A trio of Frosinone’s Sportiello, Sampdoria’s Audero, and Lazio’s Strakosha have all seen yellow four times. A special shout out goes to Sevilla’s Juan Soriano, who has bagged one red and one yellow in just 359 minutes of football.