The five best goalkeepers of all time
It’s becoming ever more difficult to compare players from different eras. The goalkeeper spot is perhaps the toughest of the lot to cross examine. Why? Well, simply put, what was required of keepers back in the ‘good old days’ isn’t the case now with footwork being one of the key requirements of the modern game. That said, we’ve still decided to take a look at the best goalkeepers of all time. There will be a few different eras included too.
And the best goalkeepers of all time are…
Number 5. Peter Schmeichel
Now we move into our top five and taking that spot is the ‘Great Dane’, Schmeichel. Schmeichel, who has been the face of STSBet, is best remembered for his eight year spell with Manchester United; that’s hardly surprising given he won 10 major honours with the club as he established himself as the greatest goalie in the history of the Premier League. It is, however, a harsh look on the rest of his career. Even prior to joining United, Schmeichel had five team honours to his name; he won four league titles and one cup in his homeland with Brondby.
Beyond that, early in his Manchester United career he was part of the Denmark squad that shocked the world to win the 1992 European Championship. You can look at his time after United with positive eyes too. He initially moved to Sporting in Portugal and won the league. A return to England followed with Aston Villa; with Villa he won the 2001 Intertoto Cup.
So, yes, Schmeichel might be best associated to Man United but he was far more than just Man United’s keeper as well. That said, you can use his time with the Red Devils to sum up just how good he was. After leaving Aston Villa, Schmeichel joined Manchester City; joining a rival club is a big no-no in football but he is still seen as a legend by the Reds fanbase. Alongside just collecting honours, Schmeichel was famed for his wide spread frame that is perhaps one of the most daunting things for a striker to see when running through on goal whilst he wasn’t afraid to voice his opinions to his teammates. Oh, and he famously has his name amongst goalkeepers that have scored goals in the game too.
Number 4. Gordon Banks
Gordon Banks only made his professional breakthrough in 1958 when Chesterfield gave him a shot at being number one as a 21-year-old. His performances didn’t disappoint and his ceiling was clearly a phenomenal one with Leicester snapping him up after just 23 league appearances for the Spireites. He spent eight years with the Foxes before moving on to another of his well known clubs, Stoke City. With each of those bigger clubs, Banks won the only domestic silverware of his career in the shape of two League Cups but whilst his trophy cabinet is not nearly as full as Schmeichel’s his status as a hero for pretty much every club he represented is enough of a legacy by anyone’s measure.
That said, for most people – certainly those who don’t support the clubs he played for – his legacy is immortalised by something else; he is best known for that save to deny the great Pele. In many ways though that does the former England number one a disservice; he was much more than a ‘one save man’. Beyond his club football, that thought is backed up with six back to back FIFA Goalkeeper of the Year awards. The start of that run? 1966, which just so happens to coincide with the year he kept goal throughout England’s solitary World Cup winning campaign where he made the team of the tournament. As for his skillset, the usual suspects of strong shot stopping and reflexes rank highly in his arsenal but his real asset was his positioning; it meant he so often made even the hard things look easy.
Number 3. Manuel Neuer
Manuel Neuer is the only member of our top five to still be holding a number one spot today. Depending how much longer he goes on, he may well oust our number two pick. For now though, the first true ‘sweeper keeper’ will have to settle for third spot. Over the years the role of a goalkeeper has changed a lot. No longer are goalies just a safe pair of hands that are confined to their 18-yard boxes; the Bayern Munich goalkeeper is almost single-handedly responsible for revolutionising the role with his skills on the ball up there with most elite level outfield players.
That’s not to say he’s shabby on the more traditional side of keeping either. His agility and shot stopping ability measures up to the best of them. He’s spent the entirety of his career in Germany with Schalke and, since 2011, Bayern. 14 major trophies – 13 of which were won with the Bavarians – in addition to two World Cup wins means his trophy cabinet must be nearly as impressive as the player himself.
Despite a glittering career to date and a skillset to rival the best of them, it’s probably fair to say Neuer doesn’t get the credit he deserves. That’s probably testament to his consistency level that means people just expect him to be flawless but, when the time comes for him to retire, he’ll rightly be lauded and spoken about forever.
Number 2. Gianluigi Buffon
Depending on your generation, it’s quite possible you’ll be surprised that Buffon isn’t topping this list. The Carrara born shot stopper joined Parma as a 13-year-old before coming through the system with them and broke through to the senior squad within four years racking up 168 league appearances before joining Juventus, which is the club most people associate him; that’s understandable given he spent 17 years with the Old Lady. Since then, he’s spent a year in Paris with PSG, another year – bringing his total to 18 – with Juve and now he looks set to finish his career back in Parma.
Now, given Buffon was born back in 1978, you’d be forgiven for thinking his longevity is a key reason why he ranks so highly in our thoughts; it’s not the only thing though. Beyond us telling you what a good goalkeeper he was, his trophy cabinet speaks for itself. The 44-year-old keeper has lifted major silverware with every team he’s represented; a Ligue 1 title in France, a Coppa Italia and UEFA Cup with Parma and a host of honours with Juve; that honour roll reads as 10 Serie A titles and five Coppa Italia’s. Sadly the Champions League evaded his grasp with Buffon having to settle for three Runners Up medals.
Buffon’s crowning achievement though is the 2006 World Cup triumph where he conceded just two goals – an own goal and a Zinedine Zidane spot kick in the final. He is truly one of the best. Despite that, he’s still having to settle for second place in this list; it’s no mean feat though.
Number 1. Lev Yashin
Right, we’ve just said some will critisice Buffon not being top. Maybe when they swot up on Lev Yashin they will change their mind. Of course, any readers from Yashin’s era will be unsurprised that it is in fact the ‘black spider’, as he was known, that sits clear in this list of the best goalkeepers of all time. Yashin had a career that spanned 20 years between 1950 and 1970; in that time, goalkeepers would stay quietly rooted to their line. Not Yashin. He would bark at his defenders, come for crosses and dive at attackers feet. He was a ‘real’ goalkeeper that broke the mould of the ‘table football’ like lateral moving keepers.
It’s not purely that positional innovation or longevity that sees him into our number one position though; Yashin was a very impressive keeper and highly decorate too. The entirety of his 20 years was spent with one club; Dynamo Moscow. With Dynamo he won eight domestic trophies; they were split as five league titles and three Soviet Cups. On the international scene he earned Olympic Gold, won the 1964 European Championships and came fourth in the 1966 World Cup that England won.
If you’re still wondering how much of those trophy wins were down to Yashin and not the team he had around him then individual honours might explain it. Well, he was nine times named as the European Goalkeeper of the Year. Oh, and he is the only goalkeeper to ever be awarded the Ballon d’Or. Case closed? We think so.
There you have it, the five best goalkeepers of all time.