Thomas Swan has been an avid fan of the English Premier League and European football for more than 20 years.
What Makes the Perfect Goalkeeper?
The agility and concentration demonstrated by the greatest goalkeepers in European football (soccer) surpass that of any outfield player. Their job is to keep the ball out of a 7.32-by-2.44-meter goal in any way they can. 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 must demonstrate perfectly honed skills in a variety of domains.
World-Class Goalkeeper Skills
- Pace: Charge down oncoming strikers
- Bravery: Smother or clear the ball by throwing themselves into dangerous collisions
- Strength: Dominate the penalty area without being pushed around
- Leadership: Organize their defense
- Concentration: Be ready for action at a moment's notice
- Positioning: Be in the best possible place to make a save
- Anticipation: Predict where a striker will place the ball
- Reflexes: Minimize response time
- Agility: Reach every corner of the goal
- Handling: Catch the ball or push it into a safe area
- Distribution: Find a teammate by throwing or kicking the ball over long distances
10. Edwin Van Der Sar
Born: October 29, 1970
Height: 1.97 m (6 ft 6 in)
This Dutch legend once went 1,311 minutes without conceding a goal during Manchester United's 2008–09 Premier League campaign. Van Der Sar played 820 times over a 21-year career that began in 1990 with Ajax. He went on to play for Juventus, Fulham, and Manchester United. He also earned 130 caps for the Netherlands and is their most capped player. Van Der Sar won the 1995 and 2008 Champions Leagues with Ajax and Manchester United, respectively. He also won the 1992 UEFA Cup, four Premier League titles, and four Dutch League titles.
9. David Seaman
Full name: David Andrew Seaman
Born: September 19, 1963
Height: 1.91 m (6 ft 3 in)
David Seaman spent the majority of his 22-year career playing for Arsenal during the 1990s and early 2000s. He made 957 appearances at club level and earned 75 England caps. He won three league titles, four FA Cups, one League Cup, and one Cup Winners Cup with Arsenal. He is known for making one of greatest saves of all time (see video at 0:52) but is also famous for being lobbed by Ronaldinho in the 2002 World Cup. This is perhaps a little unfair, as the 39-year-old Seaman was close to retirement at the time.
8. Sepp Maier
Full name: Josef Dieter "Sepp" Maier
Born: February 28, 1944
Height: 1.85 m (6 ft 1 in)
Known as "the cat from Anzing," Sepp Maier was one of the greatest German goalkeepers. He spent his entire 17-year career with Bayern Munich, making 536 appearances and winning three consecutive European Cups in the 1970s. He also featured 95 times for West Germany, winning the 1974 World Cup and the 1972 European Championships. This legendary goalkeeper played in 442 consecutive matches from 1966 to 1979 and even won the German Footballer of the Year award three times.
7. Peter Shilton
Full name: Peter Leslie Shilton
Born: September 18, 1949
Height: 1.83 m (6 ft 0 in)
This remarkable athlete made 1,005 appearances over a 30-year career. Peter Shilton had notable spells with Nottingham Forest, Southampton, and Derby County in the 1970s and '80s. He also earned 125 caps for England, playing in two European Championships and three World Cups. He shares a World Cup Finals record of having kept 10 clean sheets with Fabien Barthez. With Nottingham Forest, Shilton won two European Cups and a league title.
6. Gianluigi Buffon
Born: January 28, 1978
Height: 1.92 m (6 ft 4 in)
This popular Italian goalkeeper began his career with Parma in 1995 but has spent the majority of his career with Juventus. Gianluigi Buffon has made over 600 club appearances and has more than 130 caps for Italy. He won the UEFA Cup and the Coppa Italia with Parma, and he also has four Serie A titles with Juventus. In 2006, he helped Italy to victory in the World Cup. He only conceded two goals in the seven matches—a penalty and an own goal by a teammate.
5. Peter Schmeichel
Full name: Peter Bolesław Schmeichel
Born: November 18, 1963
Height: 1.91 m (6 ft 3 in)
Danish legend Peter Schmeichel is best known for his eight-year spell with Manchester United, though he was also a success with Brondby and Sporting Lisbon. With United, he won the 1999 Champions League, five Premier League titles, and three FA Cups. He also won the Portuguese League and three Danish League titles in a career with 740 club appearances. Incredibly, he also won the 1992 European Championships with Denmark and has 129 national caps. Schmeichel kept clean sheets in a record 42 percent of Premier League games.
4. Dino Zoff
Born: February 28, 1942
Height: 1.82 m (6 ft 0 in)
Widely regarded as the greatest-ever Italian goalkeeper for his exceptional agility and reflexes, Dino Zoff made 642 club appearances and has 112 caps for the national team. In his 11-year spell with Juventus, Zoff won six Serie A titles, one Coppa Italia, and a UEFA Cup. He played in Italy's victorious 1968 European Championship squad, but his greatest triumph was the 1982 World Cup. At 40 years of age, he captained the Italian side to victory and was named the best goalkeeper at the tournament. He is the oldest player to have ever won a World Cup, and he holds the record for the longest period without conceding a goal in international football (1,142 minutes).
3. Gordon Banks
Life: December 30, 1937–February 12, 2019
Height: 1.85 m (6 ft 1 in)
As probably the greatest English goalkeeper, Gordon Banks is commonly ranked in the top three goalkeepers of all time. He made 628 club appearances and has 73 caps for England between 1958 and 1972. His most notable achievement was a victory in the 1966 World Cup. He played in every match and only conceded three goals. At club level, he won the League Cup with Leicester and Stoke. He won FIFA goalkeeper of the year on an incredible six occasions, but his career ended at the age of 34 when a car crash left him blind in one eye.
2. Oliver Kahn
Full name: Oliver Rolf Kahn
Born: June 15, 1969
Height: 1.88 m (6 ft 2 in)
Oliver Kahn made 780 club appearances and received 86 caps for Germany. His 21-year career involved 14 years at Bayern Munich. With Bayern, he won the 2001 Champions League, eight league titles, six domestic cups, and a UEFA Cup. With the German National Team, he won Euro '96, and in 2002, he became the only goalkeeper in history to win the Golden Ball at a World Cup. He was known as "The Titan" for his strength and leadership and has been described as very disciplined and impatient.
1. Lev Yashin
Nationality: Soviet Union (present-day Russia)
Full name: Lev Ivanovich Yashin
Life: October 22, 1929–March 20, 1990
Height: 1.89 m (6 ft 2 in)
Lev Yashin is widely recognized as the greatest goalkeeper of all time. From 1950 to 1970, he only played for one team, Dynamo Moscow, who he guided to five league titles and three domestic cups. Yashin appeared 75 times for the Soviet Union, winning the 1960 European Championships and the 1956 Olympic Games. His nickname was "The Black Spider" for his incredible athleticism and reflexes. However, Yashin epitomized the perfect goalkeeper by combining these skills with massive strength and power. His talents were so great that he was also employed as an ice hockey goalie for a short time. He is also the only goalkeeper to ever win the Ballon d'Or.
By necessity, any top 10 list must make some omissions. Honorable mentions would certainly go to the following magnificent goalkeepers:
- Manuel Neuer: Germany - Bayern Munich
- Petr Čech: Czechoslovakia (present-day Czech Republic) - Chelsea
- Iker Casillas: Spain - Real Madrid
- Pat Jennings: Northern Ireland - Newry Town & Watford, Tottenham Hotspur, Arsenal
- Michel Preud'homme: Belgium - Standard Liège, Mechelen, Benfica
- Jean-Marie Pfaff: Belgium - Beveren, Bayern Munich
- Angelo Peruzzi: Italy - Roma, Hellas Verona, Juventus, Internazionale, Lazio
- Ricardo Zamora: Spain - RCD Espanyol, FC Barcelona, Real Madrid
- František Plánička: Austria-Hungary (present-day Czech Republic) - Slavia Prague
- Bert Trautmann: Germany - Manchester City
- Abel Resino: Spain - Atlético Madrid
- José Chilavert: Paraguay - Sportivo Luqueño, Guaraní, San Lorenzo de Almagro, Real Zaragoza, Vélez Sarsfield, RC Strasbourg, Peñarol
- Vladimir Beara: Yugoslavia (present-day Croatia) - Hajduk Split, Red Star, Alemannia Aachen, Viktoria Köln
If you think a great goalkeeper is missing from this list, please leave a comment below.
Goalkeepers are often forgotten in lists of the best footballers. However, they are perhaps the most important players on the pitch. Even with Messi and Ronaldo in your team, a bad goalkeeper will lose you a match. Indeed, it is very difficult to find a successful team without a talented goalkeeper. Their specific group of skills is unique in the beautiful game and, as such, they deserve greater recognition.
More European Football (Soccer) Top Tens
© 2013 Thomas Swan
Ronan Anker on September 12, 2020:
Bert Trautmann Should Be No.2
George konig on September 11, 2020:
You left out Hungarian goalie Grochis Gyula; by far one of the world’s best
Berniux on August 23, 2020:
What about Keylor Navas????
Neville Galea on July 18, 2020:
Neville Southall (Everton & Wales)
Nair w on July 10, 2020:
What a joke? Buffon is the greatest gk ,he is 42 and still going on,and where is Casillas the Madrid legend.
Okulu Robert on May 29, 2020:
It's okey & fine so let da young goal keepers also pull up their shocks to work hard and where iz de gea
Manan doshi on May 28, 2020:
Kahn is so overarted
micheal kalu on May 22, 2020:
david de gea
finn on May 22, 2020:
what about dudek he was the best too!!!
Pete on May 18, 2020:
Lloris is missing...
George on May 16, 2020:
Allison from liverpool is the best of all
Nirved chaturvedi on May 10, 2020:
Why is iker casillas is not in the list he was the best goalkeeper of spain
he holds the record for the most trophies and was world class
iker casillas was awarded the best goalkeeper several times he won 3 champions league one world cup 1 european cup 5 golden gloves and he came fourh in the 2004 ballendor why the hell casillas is not there
casillas was the the best goalker of all time
Anonymous on May 07, 2020:
What happened to Tim Howard and Jens Lehmann
Shakes on May 06, 2020:
Casillas for me is the greatest keeper to have ever lived.Who can forget the match winning save against Netherlands in the 2010World Cup?
Bov on April 11, 2020:
Iker Casillas in my opinion is the GOAT. What other goalkeeper has won everything there is to win? And many of the titles multiple times? There aren't any. Buffon perhaps comes the closest, but Iker winning GK of the year 5 times in a row, being in a team of the year 6 times in a row. Nobody beats these number. Iker Casillas is the greatest ever
ed on April 01, 2020:
Steve Clare on February 23, 2020:
Respect for Harry Gregg, on and off the pitch.
Alexander on February 19, 2020:
What about David Onyango of Uganda? He is better than many of those.
Antonio on January 22, 2020:
Where is ROGÉRIO CENI he has a World Cup and 131 goals in his career
John lopez on January 19, 2020:
Bill Hayes on January 09, 2020:
I am laughing out loud here. Out of your top ten only Lev Yashin can compare with Neville Southall
steven on January 03, 2020:
Ghazi on December 27, 2019:
Buffon 2nd in ball ondor
St Domingo on December 27, 2019:
Greatest Goalkeepers and you don't even mention Neville Southall! Unbelievable Jeff!!
Torkjell on December 24, 2019:
Neville Southall and Pat Jennings.... With Gordon Banks the only 3 keepers to be voted FWA footballer of the year. Great keepers, dominated in their prime, only challenched by Yashin, Kahn and Banks. (personally I would say only by Yashin)
Paul on December 24, 2019:
enrique on November 11, 2019:
lolololz on October 29, 2019:
loris Karius is missing ;-)
Dhruv on October 28, 2019:
Saad on October 26, 2019:
Hugo Lloris is missing in this list
Minus-K on October 24, 2019:
Iker Casillas should be the greatest due to his long-term achievement as FIFA #,his great saves, club, la liga n champion league achievement
goalkeeper on October 23, 2019:
saint ikes is the best of all time
Soccer fan1222 on August 09, 2019:
Courtois,is the best goalkeeper ever and ederson courtois might he’s better than Kahn
Courtois and ederson are the best courtois is,a”little better. Buffon is great to
Shijo on August 06, 2019:
The best of all time by FIFA is Iker Casillas and he is not there in the list. Does this look funny. And the author was 20 years of experience it seems..
Philip Walls on August 05, 2019:
What about Toni Schumacher?
Uberhackerboy on August 04, 2019:
WTF WHY COURTOIS AND TER STEGEN NOT THERE! (btw de gea sucks.) I mean his last save was so dumb, slipped through the armpit
Dabir on July 31, 2019:
Iker cassilass is the best keeper that I know of
Dexter on July 19, 2019:
David de gea should be on the list!!!!!
Gilbert on July 02, 2019:
Ergilio Hato, from Curaçao. Should also been included among the best. For more info, book ISBN 90 6665 546 1/NUR 523. Ergilio Hato: simpel, sierlijk, sensationeel. De hoge vlucht van een voetballegende. 2003 B.V. uitgeverij SWP Amsterdam. Redactie Nancy van der Wal & Valdemar Marcha.
Murray on June 25, 2019:
What about Alisson Becker? He has been ranked best in the world 2018/2019 and also got the Premier League Golden glove. And Higuita of Columbia who did the scorpion kick.
Papi Luona on June 25, 2019:
Rene Higuita of Colombia
none of your business on June 04, 2019:
neuer is the best option for 2nd place
Arijit Dasgupta on May 28, 2019:
Please add Edwin Van Der Sar
???????? ? ? ? on May 21, 2019:
Diego on May 12, 2019:
Wtf, Casillas son more individual and collective that all of this losers like buffon who just won a wc
Zarco on May 04, 2019:
Alejandro on May 04, 2019:
Where is Victor Valdez
rozmoz012 on April 24, 2019:
i would say ederson
Guru on April 22, 2019:
Where is david de gea
Waseq on April 14, 2019:
Hi on April 05, 2019:
De Gea and Neuer
None on March 19, 2019:
What about Claudio tarrafel
He is also one of the greatest keepers
HORLARMIGHTY on March 18, 2019:
WHAT OF PICKFORD AND DEGEA
David on January 27, 2019:
We need more up to date keepers Ter Stegen De Gea ect
Opatpvp on July 04, 2018:
Why isnt neuer on the list or de gea cassias or navas a excellent keppers
Mayo man on June 22, 2018:
Paici bonar should be on the list for Italia 90.
Vfl Manchester City Man on March 11, 2018:
David De Gea,Neuer,Casillas And Courtois
Hi on March 02, 2018:
De gea should be on this list he saved Manchester United a lot of times and Jerzy Dudek should be on this list Liverpool legend.
FQ on February 18, 2018:
De Gea,Neuer,Navas, Ter Stegen And Cech
Julez on January 18, 2018:
You forgot David De Gea
on December 30, 2017:
Where is neuer and cech? And how is buffon tht low and at least newer goalies can be there like de gea and courtois from man utd and chelsea respectively
Cool on November 26, 2017:
This website does even have David de gea and doesn’t have Manuel Neuer put all of the goalies ps de gea best goalie then Neuer second
sajjad on November 14, 2017:
haha! casillias must be in the first place.
The man has won everything with Real Madrid and Spain, and when I say everything, I mean everything that there possibly is to win in the game. And what’s more, he is only 31.
Kbrewer8 on September 18, 2017:
Ladislao Mazurkiewicz, star of three consecutive World Cups, was one of the finest goalkeepers ever.
on September 01, 2017:
Edwin Van Der Sar is one of the best 3 goalkeepers ever he can make every team better cause he is a good captain doe defence and once in a match he stopped 3 penaltys
Barry on August 29, 2017:
This is absolutely bullshit, because you have left the most experienced one which Iker Casillas
Everton on August 20, 2017:
How anybody can leave out the great Neville Southall in an article about great Goalkeepers is beyond me, and shows the author has little knowledge of football.
Sniper on June 19, 2017:
Since 1960, watchin for World Cup titles (and finals), European Cup titles (anf finals), Copa America titles (and finals), Copa Libertadores or Champions Leaggue (addicionaly finals and domestic championships.....) there are the best goal keepers: 1. Casillas; 2. S Mayer; 3. Taffarel; 4. Barthez; 5. Marcos; 6. Buffon; 7. Van Der Sar; 8. Goycochea; 9. Gilmar; 10. Schmmeichel; 11. Zoff; 12. Dida; 13. Khan; 14. Clemence; 15. Valdez; 16. Ilgner; 17. Bravo; 18. Santoro; 19. Costa Pereira; 20. Yashin.
Rashied on May 24, 2017:
Anonymous on May 24, 2017:
Canizares,Taffarel,Julio Cesar,Jorge Campos?
DAZZLE on April 19, 2017:
DAVID DE GEA IS EASILY ONE OF THE BEST AT THE MOMENT
Lucas on March 11, 2017:
Taffarel, Marcos and Dida should be on the list.
Dan on December 11, 2016:
askformore lm on December 11, 2014:
My favorite is Peter Schmeichel.
However, I might be biased, because I am Danish too.
Thomas Swan (author) from New Zealand on October 26, 2014:
Thanks for the heads up :) I have given them both honorable mentions at the end of the article. Cheers.
Ryan on October 21, 2014:
No Pfaff or Prudhuemme, you can't be serious!
Thomas Swan (author) from New Zealand on July 06, 2014:
Thanks for commenting daedalron. From reading about Beara I see that he saved a penalty from Puskas, and he was the Yugoslavia keeper for a long time. I agree though that it's very difficult to find videos of these times. I will give Beara an honorable mention at the end of this article.
daedalron on July 06, 2014:
I wondered about Vladimir Beara, as Yashin once said Beara was a better goalkeeper than himself. Kinda hard to have an opinion about it myself as it's not easy to find videos of that time...
Thomas Swan (author) from New Zealand on April 07, 2014:
Thank for commenting. Buffon is certainly a popular choice. Courtois looks like a real prospect. It's a good time for him too with Petr Cech getting on a bit. When he returns to Chelsea, he'll be their number 1. I hear he's from Belgium too. I sometimes wonder if the Belgium government genetically engineered their team lol. How can they have so many great players at the same time!?
FutbalTube on April 07, 2014:
Hands down to Gianluigi Buffon. But I'd rather give credit to Thibaut Courtois this season. He really has a bright future ahead of him.
Thomas Swan (author) from New Zealand on October 14, 2013:
Cheers PositronWildhawk! Well you may be right, but like my comment on the other hub, I think players/teams rise to match the competition they are faced with. Put Lev Yashin in the Premier League and he'd make sure he's fit enough and sensible enough to succeed.
PositronWildhawk from London on October 13, 2013:
I reckon that, players in every position nowadays are superior to their previous counterparts due to better coaching, lifestyle, knowledge of the game etc. So for me Casillas, Cech, Neuer and Buffon should all feature pretty highly. I suppose it depends if your judging them on overall ability or dominance in their own era. Either way, great hub!
Thomas Swan (author) from New Zealand on September 26, 2013:
Good call, Cech has been very consistent over his career. Added him at the end in honorable mentions.
Elias Zanetti from Athens, Greece on September 26, 2013:
Probably Petr Cech will be in that list sometime in the future. Peter Schmeichel was definitely my favorite in your list and one of the best ever!
Thomas Swan (author) from New Zealand on September 26, 2013:
It'll be a few years before he can be considered here, but Neuer is one of the best in the world at the moment.
Muzzammil Maniar from Karachi, Pakistan on September 25, 2013: