In March 2017, Atletico Madrid played Bayer Leverkusen in a UEFA Champions League knockout tie. It was one of Atletico’s final European Cup games at the old Vicente Calderon Stadium, and they were defending a 4-2 lead from the first leg in Germany.

Three shots, three seconds, three saves. The Calderon went crazy. For Oblak, though, he was just taking care of business, as he did by famously stopping Thomas Muller’s penalty in the 2016 UEFA Champions League semi-final and by pulling off several brilliant saves against Liverpool at Anfield last week.

“Oblak thinks that to stop the ball is his job,” says Ladislao J. Monino, a journalist with El Pais. “Whenever he has good performances, he always just says that he’s there to do that. It’s something about his character. He never puts pressure on himself. His sense of tranquillity is striking. It helps with his positioning.

“Of the great goalkeepers in the world at the moment—Ter Stegen, Oblak, Courtois, Alisson—Oblak is the best at positioning himself. If Oblak can clear his area and make a save, he does it, but he also often holds onto the ball. At Atletico, they call him ‘Pincers’ because he catches so many balls. Every time he can, he gathers the ball. It’s a great strength.

“Here’s a guy who comes from the Balkans. They’ve always been known for the high standard of their players—whether it’s football or other sports like basketball or handball. Their mentality is perfect for elite competition. It often seems like they’re older than their years. Continue reading

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