Oliver Kahn, Germany's safe hands

In 2002, Kahn became the first goalkeeper to win the Golden Ball Award, given to the best player at the FIFA World Cup.

Referee Pierluigi Collina and Oliver Kahn during the final of the 2002 World Cup between Germany and Brazil.   -  AFP

Oliver Kahn was undoubtedly one of the greatest goalkeepers the game has ever seen. In 2002, he became the first goalkeeper to win the Adidas Golden Ball Award, given to the best player at the FIFA World Cup. As a consequence, he also won the Lev Yashin Award for the Best Goalkeeper.

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In Korea-Japan, he was in imperious form during the course of the World Cup, keeping five clean sheets as a less-than-impressive Germany reached the final. In each of Germany’s 1-0 wins in the round of 16, quarterfinal and semifinal, Kahn was the top performer. It’s no exaggeration, but they wouldn’t have managed to get to the final without him.

But it was also to be the site of his greatest disappointment as he was beaten twice in the final by the resurgent Brazilian striker Ronaldo, which also included a horrendous mistake when he spilled a regulation save.

 

Still, that shouldn’t tarnish an otherwise spectacular career. It spanned two decades and included eight Bundesliga titles, a Champions League title, a UEFA Cup and more than 500 appearances in Germany’s top division. The Champions League final against Valencia in 2001 is in particular noteworthy as he made three saves in the penalty shoot-out. Only two years before that Manchester United had snatched the title from right under Bayern Munich’s nose with two late goals.

In effect, that three-year spell between 1999 and 2002, with a European Cup win sandwiched between two emphatic failures, came to define him. It was said that it would ultimately undermine his legacy. But history has been kinder.