TheHardTackle Award #1: Goalkeeper Of The Season – Petr Cech, Gianluigi Buffon, Joe Hart, Marc-André ter Stegen, Manuel Neuer

Goalkeepers are among the most underrated players on a football field. Their participation in a match can often be limited to a few minutes, and in those few minutes a legend is born. The recently concluded European Season 2011-12 has seen some amazing action from goalkeepers – both legendary and downright laughable. We, here at TheHardTackle, have identified five top-performing goalkeepers of this season for the End of Season Awards. There have been some who missed out closely.

Petr Cech (Chelsea)

Stats: Games 34 Saves 84 Clean Sheets 10

Cech has never been the same after a career-threatening skull injury in 2006. Six years later, he is still susceptible in coming out to claim crosses. Inspite of this, he has been among the best goalkeepers of the present era. His dominating and lanky frame has saved Chelsea on more than one occasion, the latest being in the Champions League final against Bayern Munich. Using his height and huge frame, Cech not only saved a penalty from Robben, which could’ve handed Bayern the trophy, but also in the penalty shootout, was able to stop two of Bayern’s penalties. Like Chelsea, Cech has been written off on more than one occasion, and like Chelsea, he likes to prove the critics wrong.

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Gianluigi Buffon (Juventus)

Stats: Games 35 Saves 79 Clean Sheets 21

They say it only gets better with age, and how true it is in case of Buffon, the Juventus custodian. Out of the first team through injury for most of the time last year, Buffon has been one of the chief reasons for Juventus’ undefeated season in Serie A this year. Having already won everything there is to win, his hunger and passion for the game at the young age of 34 is a lesson to goalkeepers all over the world. Juventus’ untainted season was built on the strong foundation of a sound defense and a disciplined and energetic midfield. And they only got to play that way knowing that Gigi was always watching their back.

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Joe Hart (Manchester City)

Stats: Games 38 Saves 97 Clean Sheets 17

Joe Hart’s performance has been one of the reasons for Manchester City’s fairytale ride to the top this season. The tall Englishman has been almost unbeatable under the bar and his calming presence at the back has been instrumental in the solid performance of the defenders. Blessed with great reflexes and a good positional sense, Hart is equally comfortable with the ball at his feet. With age by his side, Hart is destined to go a long way for both his club and country. With an amazing saves to goal ratio of 3.34, Hart has also been instrumental in stopping penalty kicks. But, has he been the best in Europe? Only your vote will tell.

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Marc-André ter Stegen (Borussia Monchengladbach)

Stats: Games 34 Saves 103 Clean Sheets 15

Ter Stegen is the second goalkeeper from Germany to make it to our End of Season Awards list. His statistics this season is simply mind numbing and his saves to goals conceded ratio is a mere 4.6. All these and the lad is only 19 years old. Needless to say, his efforts under the bar will have alarmed a lot of European clubs and come the transfer season, he will be a hot property indeed. On the plus side, with the European Championships coming up, it will be interesting to see a head to head battle between ter Stegen and Neuer for the number one spot in the German team.

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Manuel Neuer (Bayern Munich)

Stats: Games 33 Saves 58 Clean Sheets 17

For the second time in two years, Neuer makes it to our End of Season Awards by his sheer talent and merit. Moving to Bayern Munich at the beginning of this season, it was partly due to his heroics under the bar that Bayern were unstoppable before January. Although Dortmund eventually beat Bayern to the title, Neuer’s performance was praised by one and all. His heroics in the semi-final against Real Madrid eventually ended Mourinho’s ambition of a third UCL crown. His heroic performance under the bars, specially during penalty kicks make him a strong contender for goalkeeper of the season.

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THT is pleased to declare Petr Cech of Chelsea as the winner of our goalkeeper of the season award for the 2011-12 edition. The Blues’ custodian had a remarkable season and thoroughly deserves this crown after his heroics against Bayern Munich that earned his team the first ever Champions League title in the history of the club. Gianluigi Buffon was not a far second in the race but this season has truly belonged to the man from Czech Republic and so has been the fans’ verdict.

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