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Messi, Ronaldo and others happy to see penalty expert Diego Alves depart

Messi, Ronaldo and others happy to see penalty expert Diego Alves depart
From ESPN - July 17, 2017

There will have been sighs of relief from La Liga's biggest stars, including Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi and Antoine Griezmann, when it was confirmed this weekend that penalty-saving superstar Diego Alves was leaving Valencia and returning home to Brazil to join Flamengo.

The goalkeeper's penalty record during his decade in Spain (four years at Almeria and six seasons at Valencia) was spectacular. He has saved almost half the penalties he has faced in his career, denying high-profile spot kick takers including Ronaldo, Messi, Griezmann, Diego Costa, Carlos Vela, Ivan Rakitic, Fernando Llorente and Carlos Bacca, all the way back to his first stop from then-Sevilla striker Frederic Kanoute back in April 2008.

Last September, the Brazil international broke the longstanding La Liga record of 17 penalty saves, set by former Spain, Barcelona and Athletic Bilbao goalkeeper Andoni Zubizarreta, when he parried away an effort from Leganes' Alexander Szymanowski.

Alves moved the Primera Division's all-time record to 22 by denying Ronaldo again in a 2-2 draw at Madrid last April. The Portuguese now has scored just one of the four spot kicks taken against Alves over the course of their careers.

That Bernabeu effort also meant Alves saved six of the nine spot kicks he faced in La Liga last term -- setting another new record and sealing his reputation as one of the best penalty savers of all time, anywhere.

Since arriving in Spain, Alves has stopped 24 of the 50 penalties he faced -- with one going wide and another hitting the crossbar.

His 47 percent success record is way, way ahead of anyone else in La Liga history. The closest is former Real Sociedad and Athletic Bilbao keeper Vicente Biurrun (coincidentally another Brazilian) who had a 28 percent ratio, closely followed by ex-Sevilla stopper Andres Palop with 27 percent.

Such success understandably led to many questions over the years about how he does it, but the quietly spoken Brazilian was never keen to give away any secrets. While he had clearly done his research on the technique of opposition players, as time went on it seemed his success was principally due to clever use of his "unbeatable" reputation as he got in the mind of his opponent.

In October 2014, after saving easily from Atletico's Guilherme Siqueira (who had previously scored 11 of 12 in La Liga), he gave a rare insight to Spanish radio show El Larguero about what he called a "psychological war" between penalty taker and keeper.

"It is a bit about intuition," Alves said. "I always see it as a psychological war. There is no specific work for it. It is a moment in the game when nerves come into it. You have to try and win that war."

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