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Tuesday, 9 April, 2002, 16:53 GMT 17:53 UK
The path of the 'Panther'
Yashin makes a dramatic save in the 1966 World Cup semi-final against West Germany
Yashin's athletic style earned praise from all quarters
Renowned for his athleticism and bravery during a lengthy career, Lev Yashin has battled with Gordon Banks for the No.1 jersey in most pundits' all-time world XIs.

In fact Banks once admitted he would have included Yashin in his pick of the world's best team.

"Everything that Lev Yashin did was of the highest order," Banks said.

Open Quote
The joy of seeing Yuri Gargarin flying in space is only superseded by the joy of a good penalty save
Close Quote
Lev Yashin

"He made great saves, knew his angles, and could take crosses. He was also a real gentleman.

"In the 1966 World Cup he made a save for the USSR at the feet of a guy who nearly took his head off.

"The first thing he did when he got up was make sure the fella who'd just clattered him was all right."

Born in October 1929, he died on 20 March 1990, after complications during an operation.

Four years earlier, the great Russian had had his leg amputated after worsening problems with his knee.

Yashin played for Dymano Moscow, his only club, for 22 consecutive seasons.

With them he won five league championships and three domestic cups.

He remains the only goalkeeper ever to be named European Player of the Year, after winning the award in 1963.

Former England goalkeeper Gordon Banks in action
Banks is the alternative goalkeeper in all-time XIs

Yashin, though, is probably best known as the player who reshaped goalkeeping for the modern era.

He was the first player to make the penalty area his own, combining his athleticism and courage to halt even the best strikers.

And, while his technique has been copied and possibly bettered, no one can match his 270 clean sheets or a reported 150 penalty saves.

But Yashin, who had started working in a tools factory in Moscow at the age of 13, very nearly turned his back on the game.

Restless at being forced to warm the Dynamo Moscow bench behind Alexei Khomich, he considered a switch to ice hockey.

He stayed put, earning the nicknames "Black Panther" and "Black Spider" in reference to the all-black outfit he insisted on wearing while playing.

Yashin's ice-cool exterior remained intact throughout his career thanks in part to his unorthodox ritual of a strong drink and cigarette before big matches.

Lev Yashin profile
Born: 22/10/29
Died: 20/4/90
Caps: 78
World Cups: Three (1958, 1962, 1966)

The primacy of football in his world was reflected when asked to comment on the achievements of the first man in space.

"The joy of seeing Yuri Gargarin flying in space is only superseded by the joy of a good penalty save," Yashin said.

Like Gargarin, Yashin relished shining in the face of adversity.

Following a 4-4 draw with Chile in the 1962 World Cup, in which an off-form Yashin conceded a series of unnecessary goals, French newspaper l'Equipe predicted the end of his glittering career.

But he bounced back to win the player of the year award, play for Russia in the 1966 World Cup and be named his country's athlete of the century nine years after his death.

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