Andriy Lunin: The Ukrainian Making a Name for Himself in Goal at Real Madrid

Andriy Lunin has quietly become the best shot stopper in the world. He has done it in a relatively under-the-radar fashion as well. While the 6’3” Ukrainian is not without deficiencies, he’s certainly earned a first choice spot somewhere when Thibaut Courtois returns to fitness next campaign. Let’s explore how someone in a club as prolific as Real Madrid can have such a stellar season without much fanfare.


To begin, let’s get in a time machine and go back to August 12th, 2023. Thibaut Courtois tore his ACL in training, and Los Blancos were (seemingly) scrambling. With only Andriy Lunin as a backup in the squad, every free agent and transfer-available keeper in the world were linked with Real Madrid. Would David de Gea finally make his long-awaited move to the Santiago Bernabeu? Not the strongest vote of confidence in the 24 year-old Ukrainian.


In the end, Real Madrid opted to pay Chelsea €1m for a one-year loan for the services of former Athletic Club keeper Kepa Arrizabalaga. A sensible move given the fee and potential the Spaniard had previously shown when playing in La Liga, but one that still left the door open for Andriy Lunin to prove himself.



Fast forward to November 9th, and the news breaks: Arrizabalaga suffered a muscle injury during the warm up for Real Madrid’s Champions League clash against Braga. Lunin was forced into action on short notice and delivered. He allowed 0 goals on 1.43 xG faced, made 4 saves, and completed 16/18 passes. 


Prior to that fateful night, he had started Real Madrid’s first 2 La Liga games, then was benched in favor of Arrizabalaga for the next 13 across all competitions. From the Braga game on, he has started 17 of 22, including 7 in a row. Andriy Lunin hasn’t just taken the opportunity to claim the first team spot between the sticks, in my estimation, he’s completely run away with it.


Before I share why I hold this opinion, we’ll need to discuss a very specific metric I use for evaluating goalkeeper shot stopping: (PSxG-GA)/SoT. If you’re unfamiliar with the stat, I do not blame you. I have not seen anyone besides myself tout its importance. 


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PSxG means post-shot expected goals. It is a measure of how many goals an average keeper would let up given the quality of shots they’ve faced. GA is goals allowed – pretty self-explanatory. SoT is shots on target faced… again it is exactly what it sounds like.


By subtracting goals allowed from PSxG, you can find how many goals better (or worse) a keeper has performed compared to the quality of shots they’ve faced. For example: if a keeper faces 6 shots with each having an expected value of 0.20 (the shots have a 20% chance of finding the net), the “average” keeper would allow 1.2 goals. If this particular keeper allows only one goal, their PSxG-GA is +0.2.


As some keepers face more total shots than others, dividing that difference by the shots on target makes this a fair statistic for all keepers. In aggregate, it evaluates quality of shots faced that require a save (PSxG), how many goals they’ve actually let in (GA), and accounts for some keepers facing more shots due to team environment or simply having played more games. 


With a large enough sample size, it is, in my estimation, the very best statistic for determining a keeper’s ability to stop shots. Far clear of save %, clean sheets, any other traditional metric. Now that we’re hopefully on the same page with respect to the value of (PSxG-GA)/SoT – how does it relate to Andriy Lunin?


In league play this season, Lunin is clear of every keeper in Europe’s Top 5 Leagues. His +0.159 (PSxG-GA)/SoT is nearly double the next-best figure belonging to Gianluigi Donnarumma. Think about that – one of the widely regarded best shot-stoppers in the world is closer to the middle of the pack than he is to Andriy Lunin this year.




I can already anticipate your question – this graph doesn’t include all keepers in Europe’s Top 5 Leagues. Don’t worry, he’s still by far the best, including every keeper in the full sample, but that wouldn’t make for an easy image to interpret. Instead, I opted for the couple of keepers with the highest figure (Donnarumma, Valles, Samba), plus keepers from some of the larger clubs for a frame of reference to what Real Madrid’s competitive “peers” are experiencing in goal.


It’s a truly incredible figure that Lunin has managed, but obviously, shot-stopping isn’t the only action required of the modern keeper. Depending on the system a team deploys, distribution can be just as important. In this regard, Andriy Lunin can use a bit of improvement.



“Launched Passes” are defined as a pass from the keeper that travels 40 or more yards. Despite having a middle-of-the-pack completion rate for long passes, Lunin attempts an extremely low amount compared to the sample of keepers from prominent teams.


In case you are curious on the outliers: 


  • Donnarumma is the datapoint above Lunin with a lower launched passes/90 figure
  • Marc-André ter Stegen is the one with the insanely high completion rate
  • Unai Simon, Giorgi Mamardashvili and Fabian Bredlow are the three (from right to left) with the abnormally high launched passes/90
  • Guglielmo Vicario is the keeper with the clear lowest completion rate


I certainly acknowledge shot stopping and long distribution are not the only aspects of a keeper’s game that should be evaluated (penalty saving, cross defense, ability to marshall a backline, etc.), but in today’s game, they are two of the most important. They also best illustrate Andriy Lunin’s abilities between the sticks.


The real question in my mind is not, “Has Andriy Lunin completely won the job until Thibaut Courtois returns?” The better question is, “Once Lunin returns, can Real Madrid manage to keep Lunin as the number 2, or will a major club move to make him their number one?” For reference, Lunin’s ability to stop both crosses and shots this season has been better (statistically) than Courtois’ figures last year. Even more impressive:


Lunin this year: 0.159 (PSxG-GA)/SoT; 10.9% of crosses stopped

Courtois’ career bests: 0.070 (PSxG-GA)/SoT; 8.7% of crosses stopped


See below how Lunin compares to Courtois last year, Kepa this year, and his own previous seasons. A completely underappreciated jump from the Ukrainian.



As well, it is important to understand how Lunin rates compared to the same sample for the distribution metrics we discussed earlier. His launched passes quantity in ‘20/21 is very easily attributed to his loan spell at Real Oviedo, where he was asked to (or maybe forced to, given the quality of the squad) play it long often.


Even though Lunin has displayed a higher quality of long passing distribution than Kepa in both of his samples for Real Madrid, he attempts fewer launched passes. As well, it is pretty clear Courtois is a better long passer. I would argue though, that given how infrequently Los Blancos ask their keepers to punt it long, this is not as big of a detriment to Lunin as it might seem.



Further proof that Lunin’s impressive form this season is likely here to stay? Despite his contract reportedly running through 2025, Real Madrid is actively seeking to extend his stay with a major salary increase. While there are no “active” rumors that Lunin will be leaving the Santiago Bernabeu anytime soon, I cannot imagine he will be a backup keeper for much longer. 


He has more than earned his first team place for the rest of the season, and would frankly be wasting the onset of the prime of his career sitting behind Thibaut Courtois. His middle-of-the-pack distribution abilities might limit his opportunities should he look for the number one shirt away from the Spanish capital, but given his shot-stopping prowess, I would imagine there would be a long list of suitors looking to win his signature.


By: Spencer Mossman / @fc_mossman

Featured Image: @GabFoligno / Mateo Villalba / Getty Images