An ode to Hans-Jorg Butt, goalscoring keeper, & one of the funniest goals ever
When Hans-Jorg Butt hung up his gloves in 2012, he robbed top-level football of one of its last examples of a dying art: the goalkeeper who scores goals.
Others have followed where the former Bayern goalkeeper left off, but a penalty converted in a shoot-out isn’t the same as a penalty converted in regular play.
Butt recognised those high-stakes and decided he didn’t care: if he was the best man for the job, he would take it on.
Indeed, Butt’s one and only Bayern goal – after 20 for Hamburg and eight for Bayer Leverkusen – came when the stakes couldn’t have been much higher.
Louis van Gaal’s side had travelled to Turin for a crunch Champions League group stage match: Juve needed just a point to progress, while Bayern needed to win, and the home side were a goal to the good when referee Massimo Busacca pointed to the penalty spot.
If Butt had taken the kick and seen it saved by Gigi Buffon, Bayern could easily have found themselves 2-0 down and facing near-certain elimination.
Instead, though, he scored, setting the Bundesliga side on their way to a 4-1 win and, a few months later, a spot in the Champions League final.
One way of looking at it is that it’s a huge risk, but that’s not the case if you know you’ll score.
When that’s the case, you have an added bonus. You’ve shown your opponents you’re playing without fear, giving yourself what’s known in poker as fold equity: you can win by having the best of it, or by your opponent giving up, and the result is the same for you either way.
Of course, when it goes wrong, it goes very wrong. And even when it goes right, it can go wrong, as we saw during Butt’s time at Leverkusen.
After scoring from the spot against Schalke, he was congratulated by anyone and everyone on what amounted to a victory lap back to his area, only to be greeted by another well-wisher when he got there… the ball, fired over his head by Mike Hanke from inside the centre-circle.
That might put someone off taking another penalty, but Butt converted two the following season, against Nurnberg and Hertha Berlin, and one against Frankfurt the season after that.
God tier of goalkeeper goals
One step up from the penalty-taking goalkeeper is the free-kick taking keeper, an even higher risk-reward move.
It’s the domain of players like Jose Luis Chilavert and Rogerio Ceni, and it really feels like a relic of a time gone by.
These days, if we see a goalkeeper threaten the opposition goal, it’s usually the fault of a freak clearance or a situation so desperate it requires them to come up for a corner, but the free-kick takers were doing this out of choice.
Not only was it harder to score and easier to be threatened if you missed, but it was completely unnecessary: even the best set-piece takers don’t score at a good enough rate to justify it, and they don’t need to sprint back 70 or 80 yards every time they send the ball into the hands of their opposite number.
These are people who assess the risks and decide they don’t apply to them. Or, if they do apply, there’s at least enough self-confidence for them to leave it as a problem for Future Jose or Future Rogerio to deal with.
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There have been a few memorable recent examples of goalkeepers scoring from the spot.
Manuel Neuer put away his spot-kick during the penalty shoot-out in the 2012 Champions League final, even if Bayern Munich’s eventual defeat means it doesn’t live as long in the memory as it might.
And then, in 2015, after watching opposite number Joel Robles hit the woodwork with a penalty in an FA Cup shoot-out, West Ham goalkeeper Adrian took off his gloves in a “won’t be needing these anymore” show of bravado and beat the Everton man from the spot.
Still, while all of this is plenty entertaining, all it does is remind us of what we’re missing. It’s good, sure, but it’s not a patch on Hans-Jorg Butt and the maverick keepers of years gone by.
By Tom Victor