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Ranking the Top 10 Best Goalkeepers of All Time

best goalkeepers all time
This image is courtesy of Getty Images

There is a common misconception that a role of a goalkeeper does not include a lot of pressure, and hence they should not have a problem in fulfilling their duty. But what they forget is that a goalkeeper has to face the onslaught of the opposite team’s attack and jump from one end to another to keep his team from conceding.

Furthermore, the tensions that creep into their minds while in a penalty scenario are high enough to make them want to barf. This list recognizes those heroes who kept their fear aside and made the necessary saves to lead their team to trophies and fame.

Before we jump to the list, a few honorable keepers deserve a special mention:ย 

1. Gordon Banks:

Gordon Banks has found his way onto many all-time lists, but he has not proven his worth to deserve a position in this current list. Though he is remembered for saving, Pele’s shot on goal in the year 1970.

Additionally, he won the FIFA Goalkeeper of the Year award six times from 1966 to 1971.

2. Peter Shilton:

Peter Shilton is one of the few players who has received the Order of the British Empire merit. For this, he had made himself a legend at club level for Leicester City and Nottingham Forest.

As for awards, Shilton won the European Cup twice in the 1978-79 and 1979-80 season.

3. David Seaman:

The former Arsenal keeper has accumulated a record of 205 clean sheets in 535 appearances and conceded 498 goals in the Premier League. This record would have placed him on the list if not for his lack of trophies on the international stage.

The top ten Goalkeepers of all time

#10. Edwin van der Sar

To start off, we have Manchester United legend, Edwin van der Sar. The Dutchman finds himself on this list due to the many accomplishments he has achieved in his 21 years of playing goalkeeper.

Van Der Gol has been at many engaging clubs like Ajax, Juventus, Fulham, and Manchester United. Nevertheless, it was at the Manchester side that he gained international recognition for his performances. ‘The Flying Dutchman’ recorded 136 clean sheets in 313 PL appearances and conceded just 302 goals in his six years with the Manchester club. At United, he won the prestigious Champions League title in the 2007-08 season after United beat Premier League rivals on penalties under Sir Alex Ferguson’s guidance.

New Signing Edwin van der Sar poses with Sir Alex Ferguson

New Signing Edwin van der Sar poses with Sir Alex Ferguson (via getty images)

The UCL title had been the second European trophy for ‘Ice Rabbit as he had won the award with De Godenzonen in the 1994-95 season. In comparison to Van Der Sar’s accolades at Old Trafford, his national team performances did not have the same spark. Despite recording 72 clean sheets in 130 appearances, he won little with the Netherlands national side. The only time he won a trophy while associated with the Oranje was his induction into the 1998 FIFA World Cup All-Star Team as a reserve.

Thus his performances at just the club secured him the third rank on the IFFHS World’s Best Goalkeeper for the years of 1998 and 2008. Due to his absence of major trophies with the national side, he finds himself in the tenth rank.

#9. Petr Cech

The next name on the list is Petr Cech, who wore rugby headgear and became famous for that. The Czech made a name for being a shot-stopper with excellent caliber.

In the year 2004, he moved from Rennes in Ligue 1 to Chelsea. Ever since then, he recorded 341 clean sheets in 784 appearances overall while conceding just 695 goals in his fifteen years in England. Coincidentally, he won his IFFHS World’s Best Goalkeeper award in 2005 while at Stamford Bridge, and therefore he beat Juventus’s Buffon for the title of best shot-stopper in the whole world.

Three of Chelsea football club's new signings, (fromL) Dutch winger Arjen Robben, Czech goalkeeper Petr Cech and Serbian striker Mateja Kezman pose

Three of Chelsea football club’s new signings, (fromL) Dutch winger Arjen Robben, Czech goalkeeper Petr Cech and Serbian striker Mateja Kezman pose (via getty images)

However, like Van Der Sar, his performance at the club level did not reflect in the way that he performed for the Czech national side. Thus his name beats out Edwin, and he has secured the ninth rank on this exclusive list.

#8. Peter Schmeichel

Another Manchester United legend makes his way into the list, and it is none other than Peter Schmeichel. The father of Leicester City keeper Kasper Schmeichel, Peter, has achieved more than his son can ever wish to gain over in his 22 years as a goal-keeper.

Like Van Der Sar, he was also recruited to Old Trafford by Sir Alex Ferguson, and the Dane owes the Englishman due credit for giving the necessary boost to his career. At United, he won the Champions League in the 1998-99 season. However, this was not the most prominent award that had been bestowed on the Dutchman as he won the IFFHS World’s Best Goal-keeper award twice in 1992 and 1993.

 

The Dane is ranked above the Dutchman because he has given a better output overall at the club and national level and maintained his consistency.

#7. Oliver Kahn

Making his entry at number eight is Oliver Kahn. After his performances, the name became a brand for Bayern Munich fans, inspired Die Rotten to their Champions League win in the 2000-01 season. Though he became such a big name, his arrival at the Allianz Arena led to an injury that placed him on the sidelines for a long time.

Though Kahn took some time to recover from his injury, his impact for the Bavarians since his debut was instantaneous. Before Kahn leading his side to their first UCL title after a ten-year drought period, Der Titan made vital saves and won his team their first UEFA Cup. Other than his contributions at the club level, he had been an essential component of the German national team.

Der Mรผnchner Torwart Oliver Kahn wird am 20.06.1995

Der Mรผnchner Torwart Oliver Kahn wird am 20.06.1995 (via getty images)

At the club level, he recorded 292 clean sheets and conceded 783 goals in 781 appearances. Along with that, he made a name at the German national team and recorded 30 clean sheets gave away 95 goals in 87 appearances. Despite the goals conceded, in 1996, he led Die Mannschaft to the final of the UEFA European Championships, and they beat the Czech Republic by 2-1.

However, he could not achieve the same level at the FIFA World Cup, and the Germans succumbed to a second place and third place position in the year 2002 and 2006, respectively. Through his performances, he won the prestigious IFFHS World’s Best Goalkeepers three times (1999, 2001, and 2002.). Kahn missed out on the award just once between the years of 1999 and 2002.

#6. Sepp Maier

Sepp Maier is the next name on the list, and he is an ancestor of Oliver Kahn at the Allianz Arena. Like Lionel Messi, Maier has been at only one club his entire life and made the first steps to his status as a legend with the Bavarian Giants.

With Bayern Munich, he recorded 202 clean sheets and conceded 866 goals in the 661 appearances that he accumulated overall in his eighteen years as a short-stopper. Even though his performance domestically was impressive, it had been his skill at the national level that garnered him fans as he recorded 43 clean sheets in 94 games and conceded 74 goals for nine years.

Bayern's keeper Sepp Maier in action

Bayern’s keeper Sepp Maier in action (via getty images)

He won the IFFHS World’s Best Goalkeeper award for the years 1999, 2001, and 2002. These awards never came easy for the German as he had to win the Euros and the FIFA World Cup in the years 1972 and 1974, respectively, in order to be recognized by the IFFHS.

#5. Dino Zoff

If anyone were to ask the Italian goalkeepers of today who they sought after as a role model, all fingers would point to Dino Zoff. His record of 384 clean sheets in 836 appearances is awe-inspiring since there are only a few clubs in Italy who could be seen at the same level as other big European clubs.

The shot-stopper born in the Mariano Del Fruiri region of Italy rose to fame after completing a move to Juventus in the year 1972. His days with Biancoeri resulted in him winning his first UEFA Cup in the 1976-77 season. It was at the Old Lady stadium that he recorded 227 clean sheets in 473 games and thus accumulated the most extensive record in his career.

Following his first international club title, his confidence grew with the national team, and he prompted the Azzuri’s to their third World Cup win in the year 1982 after an eight-year gap. Overall he created 62 clean sheets in the 112 games that he played over the course of seven years.

During his tenure at Napoli (former club), he led La Nazionale to their first-ever UEFA European Champions, and hence he owes some credit to the Partonoepi for giving him the necessary game time to acquire his first-ever trophy at the national level.

In light of his performances, he won the IFFHS Italian Goalkeeper of the 20th Century in the year 1999. Furthermore, he received the third rank for the IFFHS World Goalkeeper of the 20th Century in the same year (1999). By winning the 1982 FIFA World Cup and placing himself second (1973) on the Ballon d’Or list, he has set himself the fifth rank on the list.

#4. Iker Casillas

Real Madrid has had a lot of goal-keepers who have taken their position in between the stands. But none have made a name at the Spanish capital like Iker Casillas. Sporting the title of ‘San Iker’ for some of the biggest saves ever made in his career, the Spaniard won many laurels at the Santiago Bernabeu over the course of 16 years.

Real Madrid goalkeeper Iker Casillas catches the ball

Real Madrid goalkeeper Iker Casillas catches the ball (via getty images)

The nickname bestowed upon him was rightly done because his presence for the Los Blancos is nothing short of a blessing for them. In overall, he has recorded 338 clean sheets in 881 games and conceded 867 goals. Of the two clubs (Madrid and FC Porto) that he has played in, he recorded most of the stats with Los Vikingos over the Dragons.

Before his rise to fame, however, Casillas played for Real Madrid Castilla and he took some time to make the number one spot on the Los Blancos lineup his own and maintain it as he did.

In addition, he has made an impact with La Roja Blancos by recording 102 clean sheets in 163 games and just conceded 93 goals during his time as skipper for the Spanish national team.

Casillas’s performance awarded him the IFFHS World’s Best Goal-keeper for five years straight from 2008 to 2012. One of the awards was bestowed upon on him for helping his team win the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.

#3. Manuel Neuer

The German has one-upped Casillas in this list of goalkeepers. This would instigate Madridistas as they feel that Neuer and San Iker have attained similar laurels. However, the fans often forget that Neuer has recorded 318 clean sheets in 648 appearances and conceded 563 goals and after close comparison with Casillas, Manu would be proclaimed as the player with more useful stats.

Snapper is a dominant player, and there is no doubt in his ability. Neuer as a player has played in two clubs in his entire career. The clubs are Schalke and Bayern Munich.

Manuel Neuer of FC Bayern Muenchen

Manuel Neuer of FC Bayern Muenchen (via getty images)

In a similar manner to the other players on this list, Neuer also struck the chord for the first time at a bigger club. For Manuel Neuer, Bayern Munich had been the club where he made his name at.

During his time with Die Rotten, he recorded 209 clean sheets in 453 games and gave away 322 goals in his time there. At the same time, he recorded 43 clean sheets in 98 games while only conceding 93 goals.

Thus Neuer became the recipient of the IFFHS World’s Best Goalkeeper award five times in the years of 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, and 2020.

#2. Gianluigi Buffon

The second Italian on the list, Gianluigi Buffon, has coincidentally been ranked in the second position. The Italian started his career in Parma but made his name with Juventus. Buffon played football at the top level for nineteen years and recorded 416 clean sheets in 927 games overall. In his extensive career, he has played at the club and national level and won awards at both these stages. In particular, for the national team, he has recorded 76 clean sheets in 176 games and conceded 146 times.

Through his performances, he won the esteemed IFFHS World’s Best Goalkeeper five times in the years of 2003, 2004, 2006, 2007, and 2012. Furthermore, he became the recipient of the FIFA Best Goalkeeper award in the year 2017.

Buffon received the second rank due to the excellent record that he maintained against the opposition, over the other names on the list, except for the player ranked as number one.

#1. Lev Yashin

The Number one rank has to be given to Lev Yashin. But, before that, the question of who he is has to be addressed.

To the ardent fans of football, Yashin’s ranking would be widely accepted. However, in others’ eyes, his inclusion would raise the question as to what he did to achieve it. The answer is straightforward.

The Ballon d’Or, which is given to the World’s most outstanding player, had been awarded only once to a keeper. That player had been Lev Yashin, and he won it in the year 1970. Though he did not win the award easily, as he worked hard for Soviet Russia’s national football team, and he recorded 22 clean sheets in 68 appearances for Nashi Parni.

At Lenin Stadium,famous Soviet goalie LEV YASHIN presents souvenir to Edson Arantes do Nascimento, dit PELE ,one of the players of Brazilian soccer team

At Lenin Stadium,famous Soviet goalie LEV YASHIN presents souvenir to Edson Arantes do Nascimento, dit PELE ,one of the players of Brazilian soccer team (via getty images)

The list may create some friction with the placements of Iker Casillas and Lev Yashin. But, the truth of the matter is that the stats they have accumulated are concrete proof to reaffirm their standings in this list.

Thus, Lev Yashin receives the first rank, and with that, we can conclude the list.

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