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The Joy of Three

Written By Justin on Wednesday, October 19, 2016 | 3:42:00 PM

In the span of twenty-four hours, three of the world's best goalkeepers made three of the best saves you could ever want to see. The saves differed - one featured blinding reflexes from a close-range deflection, one required scrambling determination to keep out what should have been a tap-in, and one demonstrated the leaping dolphin-like agility for which the keeper has become known. Gianluigi Buffon, Hugo Lloris, and David De Gea are goalkeeping artists. The highest compliment we can pay them is that none of these saves were surprising.

In the immediate aftermath, the Twitterati seemed determined to rate, critique, and rank each of these saves. No. Stop. Just enjoy them for what they are: the art of goalkeeping manifested at the highest possible level. Starting with Gigi (it's the last of five saves on this video, but really, watch all of them):

This save is, in a word, crazy. Gigi is committed to the shot, and as it deflects - sending it higher but taking no pace off the shot - he somehow whips up his right hand and is strong enough to turn the ball over the bar. 38 years old and still going strong.

Next up, Hugo Lloris:

Another absurd piece of goalkeeping, this one as much about will and determination as anything else. Lloris had time to see the danger as Chicharito closed in, but refused to believe he was beaten. Yes, Hernandez should have done better, but Hugo still had to battle the forces of momentum once he got his right hand to the ball. He somehow contrived to roll and turn with the ball, while (just) keeping it from crossing the line. There's an old cliche that says tall goalkeepers have a hard time getting down to low saves; not when they're this athletic and talented, they don't.

Last up, David De Gea, enlivening an otherwise dreary Manchester United-Liverpool encounter:

Simply beautiful. De Gea top hand saves are some of the most gorgeous sights in the modern game. I saw a bit of 'If Goalkeeper X had made this save, nobody would have raved about it.' Well, here's the thing: very few other goalkeepers would have kept out this particular shot. Very few have this body length, arm length, spring, and elasticity.

These were not the only saves these keepers made. Buffon saved a penalty, De Gea denied Emre Can from close range, and Lloris was busy all day. As much  as we appreciate the nuances of top-level goalkeeping - the positioning, the organizing, the distribution - moments like these are when goalkeepers move beyond craftsmen, and become entertainers.

(But here's the real best part of these saves:)