Tuesday, 23 Apr 2024

The Art of Penalty Taking: Analyzing the Best in the Game

who is the best penalty taker of all time

How many times have you found yourself searching for “the best penalty takers of all time” on Google, only to be disappointed by the lackluster results? Well, worry no more! In this article, we will delve into the world of penalty taking and explore the best in the game.

Data Exploration: Unearthing the Numbers

Finding reliable data on penalties is no easy feat. While there are limited lists of top penalty scorers for leagues and major tournaments, data on missed penalties is scarce. However, our search led us to an impressive penalty database compiled by Angelo Vigorita and Federico Morano for the Sdoppiamo Cupido blog. This database includes a comprehensive list of the players with the most taken penalties in their careers, including both scored and missed penalties.

Transforming Data: From Conversion Rate to Insightful Metrics

While the conversion rate is a valuable indicator of a player’s penalty-taking ability, it can be misleading when comparing players with different sample sizes. To address this, we employed two transformations:

  1. Empirical Bayes estimation: By modeling the conversion rates as a beta distribution and combining it with each player’s individual data, we improved the average penalty conversion rate for each player.

  2. Beta-binomial regression: We accounted for the fact that better penalty takers tend to take more penalties by incorporating the number of total penalties into the prior distribution.

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Estimation of Conversion Rates

Through these transformations, we obtained more representative metrics for each player’s ability to score penalties.

Results: Unveiling the Best Penalty Takers

Analyzing the probability distribution of conversion rates for each player, we compared penalty takers to one another. Players with higher and narrower curves, such as Roberto Baggio and Cuauhtémoc Blanco, took more penalties and exhibited higher conversion rates. On the other hand, players like Lionel Messi had curves skewed to the left, indicating lower conversion rates.

Conversion Rate Distribution

We also calculated credible intervals to determine the range within which a player’s conversion rate fell, with a predetermined probability. According to this analysis, Cuauhtémoc Blanco emerged as the best penalty taker, followed by Graham Alexander and Matt Le Tissier. Conversely, Marek Hamsik, Marino Perani, and Edin Džeko ranked among the lowest performers.

Top and Bottom Penalty Takers


Q: How was the data for this analysis obtained?
A: The data was compiled from a comprehensive penalty database maintained by Angelo Vigorita and Federico Morano for the Sdoppiamo Cupido blog.

Q: Are these results definitive?
A: While these results provide valuable insights into the best penalty takers based on the dataset used, they are not absolute. Factors such as game state, goalkeeper quality, and psychological factors can influence penalty success.


In a game where every goal matters, penalty taking can make or break a team’s chances. Based on our analysis, Cuauhtémoc Blanco emerges as the best penalty taker in the world, with a high probability of surpassing his peers. So, if the fate of a World Cup final penalty rested in one player’s hands, Blanco would be our top choice.

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For more football stats and insights, visit Pesstatsdatabase.