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The 10 Best Goalkeepers in Premier League History

Thomas Swan has been an avid fan of the English Premier League and European football for more than 25 years.

Who is the greatest goalkeeper to ever play in the Premier League? From left to right, Edwin van der Sar, David Seaman, Peter Schmeichel, and Petr Cech.

Who is the greatest goalkeeper to ever play in the Premier League? From left to right, Edwin van der Sar, David Seaman, Peter Schmeichel, and Petr Cech.

Who Are the Best Goalkeepers?

The goalkeeping position has evolved over the Premier League's 30-year history. Modern-day goalkeepers are expected to be more like outfield players, with an ability to control the ball, pass it accurately, and defend further from the goal by "sweeping up" opposition attacks. They also tend to be fitter than keepers from the 1990s.

Nevertheless, the main purpose of a goalkeeper is still to keep the ball out of a 7.32-by-2.44-meter goal in any way they can. To do this, a top goalkeeper must have agility, reflexes, strength, and the awareness to locate themselves and their limbs in the best positions to block shots. They also require a diverse array of mental skills, including concentration, anticipation, bravery, and leadership.

This list of the 10 greatest Premier League goalkeepers includes players who translated their natural ability in these domains into great success on the pitch. Videos and clean sheet statistics are used to justify their inclusion.

10. Thibaut Courtois

  • Nationality: Belgium
  • Premier League clubs: Chelsea (2011-2018)
  • Appearances: 126
  • Clean sheets: 48 (38% of games)

Thibaut Courtois would be ranked higher on this list if he had played more seasons in the Premier League. Petr Cech was still Chelsea's first-choice goalkeeper when he arrived in 2011, and so Courtois was loaned to Atletico Madrid for three seasons. He then enjoyed four years at Chelsea before leaving for Real Madrid.

While at Chelsea, Courtois won 2 Premier Leagues, an FA Cup, and a League Cup. He also won the Premier League's Golden Glove award in 2017 (for most clean sheets in a season).

Courtois is a consistent, modern goalkeeper with few weaknesses. He uses his tremendous height (2 metres, or 6 ft 7 in) to reach more shots than other keepers can, and he excels in one-on-one situations.

9. Shay Given

  • Nationality: Ireland
  • Premier League clubs: Blackburn (1994-1997), Newcastle (1997-2009), Manchester City (2009-2011), Aston Villa (2011-2015), Stoke City (2015-2017)
  • Appearances: 451
  • Clean sheets: 113 (25%)

Shay Given's career covers almost the entire history of the Premier League, although he didn't become a starter until he joined Newcastle in 1997. He reached an FA Cup final with them in 1998, and also with Aston Villa in 2015. Given's only significant silverware was an FA Cup win with Manchester City in 2011.

The lack of silverware and his clean sheet record reflects the teams he played for. However, he was widely regarded as a top goalkeeper and was named in the PFA team of the year twice (2002 and 2006). Aside from his Premier League duties, Given amassed 134 caps for the Irish national team.

8. Brad Friedel

  • Nationality: United States
  • Premier League clubs: Liverpool (1997-2000), Blackburn (2001-2008), Aston Villa (2008-2011), Tottenham (2011-2015)
  • Appearances: 450
  • Clean sheets: 132 (29%)

Brad Friedel was known for being a reliable goalkeeper who was almost never injured, which is why he has the record for "most consecutive appearances" in the Premier League (310). His total of 450 appearances is also the most for any player from the Americas.

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Testament to his fitness, Friedel became the 4th oldest player to ever play in the Premier League when, at the age of 42, he played his final match for Tottenham (after an injury to Hugo Lloris).

Friedel won a League Cup with Blackburn in 2002. He also had the most clean sheets in the 2003 Premier League season (the "Golden Glove" award was established in 2005) when he was also named in the PFA team of the year.

7. Hugo Lloris

  • Nationality: France
  • Premier League clubs: Tottenham (2012–)
  • Appearances: 336
  • Clean sheets: 120 (36%)

When Hugo Lloris arrived at Spurs in 2012, he already had a formidable reputation from his time in France with Nice and Lyon. Indeed, Lloris has been the first-choice goalkeeper for the French national team since 2009 and he has well over 100 caps.

At Spurs, Lloris has reached two League Cup finals and a Champions League final, but he has not won any silverware with the club. However, he showed his quality when he won the 2018 World Cup with France. Indeed, Lloris is an expert shot-stopper. He is also especially agile and quick in terms of his reflexes and pace off his line.

6. Pepe Reina

  • Nationality: Spain
  • Premier League clubs: Liverpool (2005-2013), Aston Villa (2019-2020)
  • Appearances: 297
  • Clean sheets: 136 (46%)

Although his Liverpool career fizzled out toward the end, Pepe Reina was probably the best goalkeeper in the Premier League for several years. Indeed, he won the Golden Glove award three years in a row (2006-2008) and his clean-sheet rate (46%) is the joint-best on this list.

While at Liverpool, he won an FA Cup, a League Cup, and reached the 2007 Champions League final. He also played in a League Cup final with Aston Villa in 2020. Known as a "sweeper keeper" who is "good with his feet," Reina is also an expert saver of penalties.

5. David de Gea

  • Nationality: Spain
  • Premier League clubs: Manchester United (2011–)
  • Appearances: 377
  • Clean sheets: 130 (34%)

David de Gea was only 20 years old when he arrived at Manchester United from Atletico Madrid, and it is testament to his quality that he has kept his place for more than 10 years.

At United, David de Gea has won a Premier League (2013), an FA Cup, a League Cup, and the 2017 Europa League. He also won the Golden Glove in 2018 and has been in the PFA team of the year five times.

David de Gea is known for using his long legs to stop shots with his feet, which allows him to make instinctive saves that other goalkeepers are unable to "get down" to make with their hands. The video contains his more eye-catching saves, however.

4. Edwin van der Sar

  • Nationality: Netherlands
  • Premier League clubs: Fulham (2001-2005), Manchester United (2005-2011)
  • Appearances: 313
  • Clean sheets: 132 (42%)

Edwin van der Sar was already 34 years old when he arrived at Manchester United in 2005. In his six seasons at Old Trafford, he won four Premier League titles and the 2008 Champions League. He also went 1,311 minutes without conceding a goal during the 2008–09 campaign.

Van der Sar's quality was apparent well before joining United, having won 14 trophies for Ajax (including the 1995 Champions League) before spells at Juventus and Fulham. He claimed another 11 trophies at United. Individually, he won the 2009 Golden Glove and was in the PFA team of the year three times.

Van der Sar was quick despite his height (1.97 m; 6 ft 6 in) and was notoriously "good with his feet," inspiring other sweeper-keepers such as Manuel Neuer. During his career, he played 820 club games and is the Netherlands most capped player with 130 appearances.

3. Petr Cech

  • Nationality: Czech Republic
  • Premier League clubs: Chelsea (2004-2015), Arsenal (2015-2019)
  • Appearances: 443
  • Clean sheets: 202 (46%)

Petr Cech has the greatest number of clean sheets in Premier League history. Even before joining Chelsea from Rennes at the age of 22, he had gone 903 minutes without conceding a goal in the Czech league.

With Chelsea, Cech won 4 Premier Leagues, 4 FA Cups, 3 League Cups, the 2012 Champions League, and the 2013 Europa League. He also won an FA Cup with Arsenal. Individually, Cech won the Golden Glove a record four times and was in the PFA team of the year twice.

Although he has the joint-best clean-sheet rate on this list (46%), Cech made his first 100 clean sheets in only 180 games (56%). He also has the record for most clean sheets in one season (24, in 2004-2005) and went 1,025 minutes without conceding a goal in that season (a record at the time).

Petr Cech was known for being an extremely reliable goalkeeper, which can be attributed to his mental strength and decision-making. Although not a modern, ball-playing goalkeeper, he had all the traditional attributes that were required, as well as a long kick and a penchant for saving penalties.

2. David Seaman

  • Nationality: England
  • Premier League clubs: Arsenal (–2003), Manchester City (2003-2004)
  • Appearances: 344
  • Clean sheets: 141 (41%)

When Arsène Wenger arrived as Arsenal, he noted David Seaman's incredible coordination and how he knew exactly where each of his four limbs were positioned at all times. Seaman started his career in 1982 and had been at Arsenal since 1990 when the Premier League began in 1992.

Overall, Seaman played in 957 club games and earned 75 England caps. With Arsenal, he won three league titles (including two Premier Leagues), four FA Cups, one League Cup, and one Cup Winners Cup.

Although he had a big frame and was not the quickest goalkeeper, Seaman had remarkable agility and made some Earth-shattering saves (e.g., at 2:02 in the video), including many penalties during a career in which he was called "safe hands" for his reliability. He had the most clean sheets in 1994 and 1999 (i.e., Golden Glove) and he was in the PFA team of the year once in 1997.

1. Peter Schmeichel

  • Nationality: Denmark
  • Premier League clubs: Manchester United (–1999), Aston Villa (2001-2002), Manchester City (2002-2003)
  • Appearances: 310
  • Clean sheets: 128 (41%)

When Peter Schmeichel arrived at Manchester United in 1991, he was described by Alex Ferguson as "the bargain of the century" based on his performances for Denmark. In a career with 740 club appearances, Schmeichel also played for Brondby and Sporting Lisbon before and after his time with United.

In his eight years at Old Trafford, Schmeichel won five Premier League titles, three FA Cups, a League Cup, and the 1999 Champions League. His 129 caps for Denmark also included winning the the 1992 European Championships.

Known for his vocal leadership, his ability to rush off his line, and his infamous "star jump" save, Schmeichel is the only goalkeeper to have been named Player of the Season (in the 1996 Premier League). He also featured once in the PFA team of the year (1993) and had the most clean sheets three times, in 1995, 1996, and 1998 (i.e., Golden Glove).

Honorable Mentions and Future Additions

This list could not include every goalkeeper to have made an impression on the Premier League. Honorable mentions go to the following:

  • Nigel Martyn (137 clean sheets; 5th overall)
  • Joe Hart (4 Golden Glove awards with Manchester City)
  • David James (169 clean sheets; 2nd overall)
  • Mark Schwarzer (151 clean sheets; 3rd overall)
  • Jens Lehmann (goalkeeper for the Arsenal "Invincibles")
  • Tim Howard
  • Jussi Jääskeläinen
  • Tim Flowers
  • Kasper Schmeichel

There are also several current goalkeepers who need more time to establish their Premier League legacies. The following shot-stoppers are making a case to be on this list in the future:

  • Alisson Becker
  • Ederson de Moraes
  • Aaron Ramsdale
  • Édouard Mendy

Goalkeepers may be the most important players on the pitch. Their split-second decisions can decide the outcome of entire games. Even with Messi and Ronaldo in your team, a bad goalkeeper will cost you a match. It is therefore no surprise that nearly all of the greatest teams have included great goalkeepers.

Thank you for reading and watching this compilation of the best goalkeepers to appear in the Premier League. How will they stand up against keepers from the rest of the world?

© 2022 Thomas Swan

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