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Best goalkeepers in football history

Although goalkeepers are often neglected or underrated in lists of the best footballers, the agility and concentration demonstrated by the top goalkeepers in world football surpasses that of players in other positions.
Best goalkeepers in football history

Goalkeepers’ responsibility is to keep the ball out of a 7.32×2.44 meter goal in any possible way. A goalkeeper must remain vigilant for several minutes at a time before being called into action, and their split-second decisions can often decide the outcome of an entire match.

The best goalkeepers of all time exhibit attributes, such as pace, coordination, bravery, strength, leadership, concentration, positioning, anticipation, reflexes, and agility.

 

Below we take a look at the top goalkeepers of all time:

Best goalkeepers in football history

1. Manuel Neuer (Bayern Munich & Germany)

Manuel Peter Neuer, born on the 27 March of 1986, is widely regarded as one of the greatest goalkeepers of all time.

The German professional footballer plays as a goalkeeper and captains Bayern Munich and the German national team.

Because of his unique playing style and speed when rushing off his line to anticipate opponents, Neuer has been described as a "sweeper-keeper."

Schalke 04, Bayern Munich, and Germany's national team goalkeeper may only just be starting out on his career, but he has, in the nine years he has been playing the game, shown that he is one of the best.

In fact, it was the 26-year-old’s sensational displays for Schalke as they unexpectedly made it all the way to the semi-finals of the 2011 Champions League that persuaded Bundesliga giants Bayern Munich to splash €22 million to recruit Neuer.

However, Neuer has simply gone from strength to strength since moving to the Allianz Arena, gaining in confidence, with his remarkable shot-stopping, reflexes, and agility defying belief.

Neuer carried his outstanding form on to the international stage, being the best goalkeeper at both the 2010 World Cup and Euro 2012 as he established himself as the undisputed German goalkeeper.

The 33-year-old goalkeeper suffered serious injuries in 2017/18 and spent 2018/19 regaining his form.

Neuers’ marriage was reported to fall apart and the couple has been reported to live separately for some time. Neuer and Nina’s love story began in 2014 and was reportedly over only three years later. When asked about the situation, the goalkeeper asked for privacy on the issue.

Neuer salary is £259,000 on a weekly basis and he has signed a contract with Bayern Munich until 2021.

Best goalkeepers in football history

2. David Da Gea (Manchester United & Spain)

David de Gea Quintana, born on the 7th of November 1990, is a Spanish professional footballer who plays as a goalkeeper for Premier League club Manchester United and the Spain national team. He is regarded to be one of the best goalkeepers of all time.

The Spaniard has undoubtedly taken the art of goalkeeping to a new level in the past couple of years. There's nothing excessively flash about him, in fact, he could be considered as unconventional because of the high percentage of saves he makes with his feet, but so often he just makes saves which nobody expects him to make.

Best goalkeepers in football history

His showreel develops season by season, with this campaign's highlighting the save from Cristiano Ronaldo in the Champions League. There was the double stop against Arsenal which sent the internet into a spin, while a favorite of many is the Superman dive against Everton in the 2014/15 season.

David De Gea signed a 6-year contract with the Manchester United club, including an annual average salary of £19,500,000. He earns £375,000 on a weekly basis and he has signed a contract with Manchester United until 2026.           

Best goalkeepers in football history

3. Gianluigi Buffon (Juventus & Italy)

The goalkeeper with the Alice band in his hair is, and always has been, one of the world’s greatest goalkeepers.

From his famous Serie A debut against AC Milan as a teenager to leading Juventus to a record-breaking seventh successive Scudetto, Buffon boasts a sustained level of excellence that is simply unrivaled.

His opponent Casillas once said, "It's impossible to find any weaknesses in his game."

As well as being a national icon for the role he played in Italy's 2006 World Cup triumph when he was beaten only by an own goal and a penalty, Buffon is a legend at Juve for having stayed with the club in spite of their relegation to Serie B.

The one major title missing from his CV is the Champions League but its absence does nothing to detract from his standing within the game. Indeed, he bows out as one of the few universally famous goalkeepers in football history.

Buffon first came into view as a 19-year-old when he replaced Gianluca Pagliuca for Italy’s crucial World Cup play-off first leg in Moscow. Buffon was selected as the man-of-the-match display in the process, and ever since, he has been performing miracles in goal for his country, as well as for club sides Parma and Juventus.

Best goalkeepers in football history

It was the ‘Old Lady of Italian Football’ who bought the shot-stopper from Parma for a then world-record fee of £32.5 million in 2001. In the intervening 12 years, Buffon has won Serie A titles with Juve and has been voted the best goalkeeper in Europe on several occasions.

Although, perhaps it is for the Azzurri that Buffon is best remembered. He has won 123 caps to date, and more importantly, played a crucial role in Italy’s 2006 World Cup triumph. He came in second in that year’s Ballon d’Or.

In 2019, Buffon signed a contract with Juventus until 2020, including an annual average salary of €4,992,000.

Best goalkeepers in football history

4. Petr Cech (Chelsea, Arsenal & Czech, retired)

Petr Cech, born on the 20th of May 1982, is a Czech former professional football player who played as a goalkeeper and has been described by numerous players and managers as one of the greatest goalkeepers in European history.

The giant Chelsea and Czech Republic goalkeeper has been one of the most consistent and outstanding shot-stoppers of the last 10 years. Many consider Petr Cech to be one of the top three keepers on Planet Football for the period following his move from Rennes to Chelsea in 2004.

Cech has remained ever-present at Stamford Bridge, winning three Premier League titles and the Champions League, while also recording 98 caps for his country, the second-most in Czech Republic history.

However, the man who once went 928 minutes without conceding a goal while at Sparta Prague in 2001-02 lost just some of his aura in goal following the horrific broken skull that he suffered while playing against Reading in the Premier League in Oct 2006.

But his sensational displays in goal as the West Londoners won their first-ever European Cup in 2011-12 silenced the whispers forever.

Petr Cech signed a one-year contract with the Arsenal F.C., including an annual average salary of £5,720,000. Later, in June 2019, he announced his retirement and continued his job as a technical and performance advisor for Chelsea.

Best goalkeepers in football history

5. Iker Casillas (Real Madrid, FC Porto & Spain)

Iker Casillas Fernandez, born on the 20th of May 1981, was a Spanish professional footballer who played as a goalkeeper for Portuguese club Porto. Casillas is widely recognized as one of the greatest goalkeepers of all time mainly because of his spectacular saves.

Ever since Iker Casillas debuted for the biggest club in the world at the young age of 16, he enjoyed nothing but success, claiming five Liga titles, two Champions League crowns, one Copa de Rey, four Supercopas, the UEFA Super Cup, and the Intercontinental Cup.

Moreover, he captained the country to their first national title in 44 years at Euro 2008, a feat he repeated at Euro 2012, and in between he led Spain to their first and only World Cup triumph in South Africa, making him one of only a very select band of players to have won every major domestic and world titles.

Despite the fact that Casillas had a heart attack in July 2019, he returned for pre-season training with Porto squad.

After Casillas agreed to play one more season at Porto, he took a pay cut to stay in Primeira Liga. For the two-year deal the goalkeeper initially signed at Estadio do Dragao, Real Madrid covered a portion of his €11 million a year wages. However, Casillas could claim only 7m euros in annual salary in 2017/18.

Best goalkeepers in football history

6. Lev Yashin (Dynamo Moscow & Soviet Union)

Lev Ivanovich Yashin, born on the 22nd of October 1929 and died on March 20th of 1990 in Moscow, Russia, was a former Soviet professional footballer, considered by many as the greatest goalkeeper in the football history.

The only goalkeeper to have ever won the Ballon d'Or, Lev Yashin was a true pioneer of his position. At a time when goalkeepers were expected to remain rooted to their line, the Russian became renowned for his bravery in charging out of his goal to claim crosses and close down onrushing forwards.

Yashin, who was named goalkeeper of the 20th century by the IFFHS, was beloved for his showmanship, wowing crowds with his spectacular, acrobatic saves, as well as his iconic all-black strip, which, coupled with the illusion of having extra limbs, earned him the nickname 'The Black Spider'.

A revolutionary in terms of punching the ball away and short throwouts, Yashin became the standard by which all other goalkeepers were judged and it is only fitting that, since 1994, the best goalkeeper at any World Cup is presented the 'Lev Yashin Award'.

The first great modern goalkeeper, the ‘Black Spider’, as he was known due to his outstanding reflexes, played for just one club throughout his career, Dynamo Moscow. He represented Dynamo Moscow on 326 occasions between 1950 and 1970 while winning 78 caps for the Soviet Union (1954-67), playing in three World Cups, and winning gold at the 1956 Olympics in Melbourne.

The working-class hero, Yashin, didn’t enjoy the same salary compared to his European counterparts. A Soviet journalist recalls a story about Yashin going to a restaurant with Ferenc Puskás, a star forward from Hungary who played for Real Madrid.

As Puskás took out his wallet to pay the bill, Yashin was shocked: “I’ve never seen such a large amount of money in my life, let alone earned it.”

Best goalkeepers in football history

7. Peter Schmeichel (Manchester United, Denmark, retired)

Peter Boleslaw Schmeichel, born 18 November 1963, is a former professional footballer who played as a goalkeeper at English club Manchester United and Denmark national team.

Peter Schmeichel is famous for his intimidating presence in the penalty area when confronting an onrushing player. His now famous ‘starfish’ saves, that he perfected so often throughout his long and glittering career, prove he was undoubtedly the greatest goalkeeper ever to have represented Manchester United and Denmark.

Schmeichel played 292 times for the club from 1991 to 1999, winning five league titles before his crowning moment at Old Trafford that fittingly came in his last game for the Red Devils.

He captained the club to victory in the 1999 Champions League final, where his man-of-the-match performance helped Sir Alex Ferguson’s side win the Treble.

He also shone for his country, playing a record 129 times for Denmark, which included causing one of the biggest shocks in the history of international football when they won Euro 92.

Credited with revolutionizing the way modern keepers now play the game, acting as a sweeper behind his back four, his ability to come out on top when faced with one-one-one attacking situations was remarkable.

Schmeichel scored nine outstanding goals during his career. In August 2018, the goalkeeper’s net worth is estimated to be $25 million.

Best goalkeepers in football history

8. Oliver Kahn (Bayern Munich & Germany)

Oliver Rolf Kahn, born 15 June 1969, was a German former football goalkeeper. In 1994, he signed a contract with Bayern Munich for the fee of DM4.6 million, where he played until the end of his career in 2008.

Oliver Kahn was an absolute colossus between the sticks for both Bayern Munich and Germany and probably the best keeper when confronted with a one-on-one situation with an opposition player.

The blond-haired, fiery No. 1 won everything there is to win in the club game while in Bavaria. The highlight of his career coming when his penalty-saving heroics in the shootout of the 2001 Champions League final against Valencia helped win Bayern their first European Cup for 25 years.

Moreover, his performances in goal for Die Mannschaft at the 2002 World Cup finals in South Korea/Japan virtually dragged his country single-handedly to the final, where they lost to Brazil. Although Kahn made history when he became the first and only keeper to be named player of the tournament when he won the Golden Ball.

It was recently reported that the members of the FC Bayern München AG Supervisory Board unanimously resolved to appoint Oliver Kahn to the FC Bayern München AG Executive Board. The 50-year old former goalkeeper has signed a contract until 2025 to serve as a member of the board.

Best goalkeepers in football history

9. Fabien Barthez (Marseille, Monaco, & France)

Long before Manuel Neuer and other well-known goalkeepers, it was Fabien Barthez who revolutionized goalkeeping.

Fabien Alain Barthez, born 28 June 1971, was a French former footballer and racing driver who played as a goalkeeper.

Barthez played football in both France and England with Toulouse, Marseille, AS Monaco, Manchester United, Nantes, and France national team.

Barthez is probably the best goalkeeper that has ever evolved in the championship of France. From Marseille to Monaco, the international Frenchie has shined in football history.

But it was his Mancunian time that Barthez became one of the best goalkeepers in the world. He won the 98 World Cup with the Blues with an astonishing performance during the competition.

The 48-year old former goalkeeper possessed not just great shot-stopping ability but also brilliant footwork and amazing passing range.

Once he said to reporters, “Calling me a goalkeeper is not enough because I do like to be involved in the game as much as possible. I’m a player.”

Ferguson commented on him “Other goalkeepers would play safety first. Fabien had a wee bit more. He liked the excitement of taking care of the ball.

“I remember he kept telling me he was a better outfield player. He could play sometimes in Friday morning games before the Saturday game, in small-sided games. He had good feet.”

Best goalkeepers in football history

10. Dino Zoff (Juventus & Italy)

Dino Zoff was born on February 28, 1942, in Mariano del Friuli, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Italy. In general, he played in 112 international matches for Italy from 1968 to 1983.

After winning the World Cup at the age of 40, he became the oldest captain, goalkeeper, and overall player ever to win the World Cup. He is also known as the oldest surviving captain following the death of Hilderaldo Bellini in 2014.

Although at 14 years old, he was considered too short to be a serious football prospect, Zoff had an imperious presence in goal in his career. Winning six Scudetti with the Bianconeri while also captaining the Azzurri to World Cup glory in Spain in 1982 at the age of 40 years, four months, and 13 days, he is the oldest player ever to win the tournament, while also becoming just the second-ever goalkeeper to lift the trophy.

Zoff still holds the incredible record of the most minutes in international football without conceding a goal, 1,142 minutes, set between 1972 and 1974.

Upon retirement in 1983, Zoff was recognized to be the greatest goalkeeper that the football world had ever seen.

Best goalkeepers in football history

11. Edwin Van Der Sar (Manchester United, Netherlands)

Edwin van der Sar was born on October 29, 1970, in Voorhout, Zuid-Holland, Netherlands. He started out his professional career with Ajax in 1990 and played for the giant Dutch club for nine years.

Van der Sar represented Ajax, Juventus, Fulham, and Manchester United in his career.

He won the Champions League with Ajax in 1995 and then United in 2008 when he was named man of the match, making him one of a select group of players to have won Europe’s premier club competition with two different clubs.

He also claimed the UEFA Cup and multiple league titles in the Netherlands and England, the last of which at Old Trafford in 2011 made Van der Sar the oldest-ever player to win the Premier League at 40 years and 205 days.

The goalkeeper who was perhaps the best ever with the ball at his feet with a vital skill in the modern game following the abolition of the back-pass rule also held the world record for a long period of time without conceding a league goal at 1,311 minutes during the 2008-09 season at United.

Van der Sar was a regular international for the Netherlands national team from 1995 to 2008. With his 130 caps to the national squad, he holds the record as the most capped player for his national team.

Best goalkeepers in football history

12. Sepp Maier (Bayern Munich & Germany)

Josef Dieter Sepp Maier, born on 28 February 1944, is a former German football player. He played for Bayern Munich and the German national team and is known as one of the greatest goalkeepers of all time. Maier spent his entire professional career at Bayern Munich.

Maier was an integral part of the all-conquering Bayern Munich and West Germany teams of the 1970s. He was known as the ‘Die Katze von Anzing’ (the cat from Anzing) because of his outstanding agility and reflexes.

Maier won virtually all there is to offer in the game, including four Bundesliga crowns, three successive European Cups, the European Championship and the World Cup. Moreover, the three-times German Footballer of the Year still holds the Bundesliga record for having played the most number of consecutive matches (422).

Best goalkeepers in football history

13. Gordon Banks (Leicester City & England)

Gordon Banks born on 30 December 1937 was an English footballer who played for England national team. He is regarded as one of the greatest goalkeepers of all time. He also played for different clubs such as Chesterfield, Leicester City, and Stoke City.

In December 2015, it was announced he was receiving treatment for kidney cancer. Banks died on 12 February 2019 in Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire at 81.

Banks will always be remembered for making the historical save at the 1970 World Cup finals in Mexico when he somehow managed to push Pele’s close-range goal-bound header up and over the bar in what most experts still consider to be the greatest-ever save made in football history.

While Leicester City and England international may not have won the medals and trophies that some of his rivals did, he still played an integral role in his country winning their first and only World Cup on home soil in 1966. He conceded just two goals during the whole tournament.

In terms of goalkeeping skills, few could match his agility, reflexes, and pure shot-stopping capabilities.

Best goalkeepers in football history

14. Jorge Campos (Los Angeles Galaxy & Mexico)

Jorge Campos, born on 15 October 1966, is a former Mexican football player. He has played for Mexican national team.

Campos started his career as a striker; however, he left his job in the attacking zone after his debut season.

Despite being one of the shortest keepers of his era (5'8''), Campos' aerial game was strong, plus he was one of the first Mexican goalkeepers who knew how to play with his feet accurately.

Beyond his colorful kits, the Acapulco-born footballer made quite an impression in the 1994 and the 1998 World Cups. He won the 1999 Confederations Cup, the 1993 and the 1996 Gold Cups, and the 1999 Pan American Games.

He won the Citlali (Mexican Football Awards) as the best goalkeeper a record five times successively.

Moreover, the International Federation of Football History and Statistics (IFHHS) picked him as the third-best goalkeeper of 1993.

In the local league, he played for UNAM, Atlante, Cruz Azul, and Puebla. He was one of the first Mexicans to play in the MLS (LA Galaxy and Chicago Fire).

Best goalkeepers in football history

15. David Seaman (Arsenal, UK)

David Andrew Seaman, MBE, born on 19 September 1963, is an English former footballer who played as a goalkeeper. In a career lasting from 1981 to 2004, he is best known for his time playing for Arsenal.

Seaman was one of England’s best goalkeepers of all time and a crucial ingredient of Arsenal’s success under Arsene Wenger. He certainly enjoyed his peaks at the club level rather than in an England shirt, but the same can be said for virtually every player of that generation.

“He’s still the best goalkeeper in England,” said Wenger of 39-year-old Seaman in 2002.

“I’m very proud of him. He has shown again the calm, the authority and the responsibility on the pitch and that’s what you want from a super professional. It’s about showing how strong you are on the pitch and he’s done that again today and he has always done that since I was at Arsenal,” Wenger added.

 

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