Football News

Lev Yashin: ‘The Black Spider’ is in a Ballon d’Or class of his own

By Ben Green

Published: 17:00, 22 October 2019

The final 30-man shortlist for the 2019 Ballon d’Or award has been announced with three goalkeepers making the final cut.

Liverpool shot-stopper and European champion Alisson has been accompanied on the illustrious list by Barcelona’s Marc-Andre ter Stegen and Tottenham Hotspur captain Hugo Lloris.

Alisson played a key role between the sticks during his maiden campaign at Anfield as the Reds clinched the Champions League title last season, but not since 1963 has a goalkeeper stood above his outfield counterparts and won the Ballon d’Or.

The last, and only, man to do so was the great Dynamo Moscow goalkeeper Lev Yashin, who won eight major trophies with the Loudspeakers between 1950 and 1970.

Such was Yashin’s innate athleticism, dexterity and ethereal reflexes in the box that he earned the monicker the “Black Spider” or “Black Octopus” during his time, a nickname not only attributed to his imposing presence in goal, but also on account of his trademark all-black strip.

Yashin, described by Portugal legend and former Ballon d’Or recipient Eusebio as “the peerless goalkeeper of the century”, also helped guide the Soviet Union to a gold medal at the 1956 Olympic Games and a European Football Championship in 1960.

His imperious form and world-class talent rose to significant prominence during the 1958 World Cup, notably during the Soviet Union’s 2-0 reversal to a Pele-inspired Brazil side.

The 17-year-old phenom famously masterminded a Selecao triumph in Sweden, scoring six goals en route to the final in Solna, but Yashin, despite the Soviet Union losing to the hosts in the quarter-finals, kept the teenager quiet in their group stage encounter and was subsequently voted as the best goalkeeper of the tournament.

Across his entire career, the 6 ft 2 in ‘keeper saved a quite ridiculous 151 penalty kicks and kept nearly 300 clean sheets, with his services between the goalposts earning him the Order of Lenin in 1967 – the most prestigious civilian accolade in the Soviet Union.

Indeed, Yashin was one of a kind; a man who currently sits in the Ballon d’Or pantheon as the only goalkeeper to have won the gong, with just six making the top three since his coronation in 1963.

The likes of Manuel Neuer, Gianluigi Buffon, Oliver Kahn, Ivo Viktor and Dino Zoff have come close, but none yet have been able to emulate the unprecedented feat set by Yashin over half a century ago.

In honour of the Moscow legend, the Yachine Trophy has also been set up in his name this year, with the inaugural award going to the best goalkeeper in the world for 2019…

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