1. Lev Yashin. 2. Gianluigi Buffon. 3. Iker Casillas. 4. Dino Zoff. 5. Manuel Neuer. 6. Sepp Maier. 7. Peter Schmeichel. 8. Oliver Kahn. 9. Petr Cech. 10. Gordon Banks
Goalkeepers are arguably the most underrated players in a football team, they are often overshadowed by players occupying outfield positions on the pitch. But they are very paramount to the success of the team; the greatest teams in history also contained some of the greatest goalkeepers of all time.
In this article, FootballOrbit brings you the top 10 greatest goalkeepers in football history.
1. Lev Yashin
Lev Yashin is widely regarded by most soccer followers as the greatest goalkeeper in football history. He was famous for his athleticism, positioning, stature, bravery, imposing presence in goal, and acrobatic reflex saves.
Yashin was nicknamed the “Black Spider” or the “Black Panther” due to his outstanding reflexes.
He played at four FIFA World Cups from 1958 to 1970.
In 2002, he was chosen on the FIFA Dream Team of the history of World Cups. In 1994, he was chosen for the FIFA World Cup All-Time Team, and in 1998 was chosen as a member of the World Team of the 20th Century.
Incredibly, Yashin saved over 150 penalty kicks during his career — more than any other goalkeeper in football history. He also kept over 270 clean sheets in his career.
He helped the Soviet Union win the 1960 European Championships and the gold medal at the 1956 Olympic football tournament.
Lev Yashin won the Ballon d’Or in 1963 — the only goalkeeper ever to have won the prestigious award.
2. Gianluigi Buffon
Buffon is widely regarded by many as one of the greatest goalkeepers of all time, and to some others; he is the greatest ‘keeper ever.
He is one of the few recorded players to have officially made over 1000 professional career appearances.
Buffon broke through at Parma as he helped the club win the Coppa Italia, the UEFA Cup and the Supercoppa Italiana in 1999.
In 2001, he joined Juventus for €52m — a then world record transfer for a goalkeeper. He won 22 trophies with Juventus, which included 10 Serie A titles.
Buffon’s greatest achievement was winning the FIFA World Cup with Italy in 2006. At the tournament, he conceded just 2 goals and deservedly won the Golden Glove as the Best Goalkeeper of the Tournament.
With 176 international caps, he is the most capped player in the history of the Italian national team.
He was the first goalkeeper to win the Serie A Footballer of the Year award, and was named Serie A Goalkeeper of the Year a record 12 times.
Buffon appeared at a joint-record record 5 FIFA World Cup tournaments and was the runner-up for the Ballon d’Or in 2006.
3. Iker Casillas
Casillas is best known for his athleticism, quick reactions, reflexes and outstanding saves. He was famously called “San Iker” (“Saint Iker”) by Real Madrid fans due his ability to make world class saves.
Like Buffon, Casillas appeared in over 1,000 official professional career matches.
He started his career at Real Madrid’s academy and got promoted to the first team at a very early age (especially for a goalkeeper). He became the youngest goalkeeper to play in the final of the UEFA Champions League and to win the title, which he did at just 19 years old — a record that stands till date.
At Real Madrid, Casillas won all major club titles, including 5 La Liga titles, 4 Supercopa de Espana titles, 2 Copa del Rey titles, 3 UEFA Champions Leagues, 2 UEFA Super Cups, the Intercontinental Cup and the FIFA Club World Cup.
With the Spanish national team, Casillas was made captain in 2008 and went on to lead the team to the European Championship title that year. He also led Spain to their first ever FIFA World Cup title in 2010, where he kept a joint–record 5 clean sheets, winning the Golden Glove as the Best Goalkeeper of the Tournament.
Spain became the first nation to defend the European Championship as they won the title again in 2012, where Casillas set the record for most consecutive minutes without conceding a goal in the competition (509).
In 2014, he became one of 4 players to represent Spain at four World Cups.
Casillas holds the record for the most consecutive seasons played in the UEFA Champions League (20) and amassed the most appearances in the competition (177).
He ended his playing career in February 2020, after almost a year on the sidelines following a heart attack he suffered during a training session with Porto in May 2019.
4. Dino Zoff
Dino Zoff was a goalkeeper of outstanding ability who has a place in the history of football as one of the best ‘keepers ever seen.
He once went two full years (1972-1974) without conceding a goal at international level — a world record for the longest playing time without allowing goals in international tournaments (1,142 minutes).
He came second in the 1973 Ballon d’Or.
Dino Zoff is the oldest ever player to win the FIFA World Cup, which he won as captain of the Italian national team in 1982 aged 40.
He won the Golden Glove as the Best Goalkeeper of the Tournament and was elected to the team of the tournament for his performances as he kept two clean-sheets.
He also won the Golden Glove after helping Italy win the 1968 European Championship on home soil. Zoff is the only Italian player in history to have won both the FIFA World Cup and the European Championship.
He also achieved great success at club level with Juventus, winning six Serie A titles, two Coppa Italia titles, and a UEFA Cup.
5. Manuel Neuer
Manuel Neuer has been so good as a ‘sweeper keeper’ that he has changed all perceptions of football goalkeepers in the modern era.
There has been plenty of goalkeepers who have been good with the ball at their feet, but none can be compared with Manuel Neuer. A goalkeeper so good with the ball that while at Bayern Munich, Pep Guardiola contemplated the idea of playing him as a midfielder.
He was named the best goalkeeper of the decade from 2011 to 2020 by IFFHS.
Neuer started his career at Schalke 04 and moved to Bayern Munich in 2011. At Bayern, he cemented his place among the greatest goalkeepers of all time, winning 27 trophies — which included 10 Bundesliga titles and 2 UEFA Champions League titles (in 2013 and 2020) both as part of trebles.
He won the 2014 FIFA World Cup with Germany as well as the Golden Glove award for being the Best Goalkeeper of the Tournament.
In 2014, Neuer finished third for the Ballon d’Or award behind Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.
6. Sepp Maier
Sepp Maier is regarded as one of Germany’s greatest goalkeepers, he was famously nicknamed “Die Katze von Anzing” (“the cat from Anzing”) due to his fast reflexes, agility, flexibility, speed, and consistency.
In addition to his shot-stopping ability, Maier was also known for his ability to dominate his box, as well as his sense of humour and charming personality throughout his career, which made him a fan favourite.
He spent all his club career at Bayern Munich (between 1962-1980). During the 1970s, he was part of the legendary Bayern team which included the likes of Franz Beckenbauer and Gerd Müller which won 4 West German league titles, 3 German cups, and 3 consecutive European Cups (now UEFA Champions League).
Maier won the German Footballer of the Year 3 times (1975, 1977, and 1978).
Between 1966 and 1979 he played in 442 consecutive Bundesliga matches — a record that stands till date.
Sepp Maier won the FIFA World Cup with West Germany in 1974 and the UEFA European Championship in 1972.
7. Peter Schmeichel
Peter Schmeichel is widely regarded as one of the greatest goalkeepers of all time, and also unarguably as Denmark’s greatest goalkeeper ever.
He was a modern, talented, world-class, and complete goalkeeper, who also stood out for the longevity of his career.
He was a tall, strong and physically imposing goalkeeper, with a large physique and long reach, as well as excellent reflexes, he was also extremely athletic and surprisingly agile for a player of his size.
The Dane was also known for his ability to cover the goal with his trademark “star jump” saves, a technique he developed from playing handball.
Schmeichel was also famous for his loud and stinging criticism of his defenders whenever they made errors.
He is best remembered for his most successful years at English giants, Manchester United, where he won 15 trophies. He captained the Red Devils to victory in the 1999 UEFA Champions League final to complete an historic treble — the greatest moment in the club’s history.
Schmeichel was also a member of the Danish team that shocked the world by winning the UEFA Euro 1992.
Unusually for a goalkeeper, Schmeichel would often go up for corner kicks in the opposition’s area when his team were trailing and remarkably, he scored 11 goals during his career — including one for his national team, Denmark.
8. Oliver Kahn
The 3rd German goalkeeper on this list, Germany is renowned for producing world-class goalies.
Oliver Kahn is one of the most successful goalkeepers of all-time having won 8 German Bundesliga titles, 6 DFB-Pokals, the UEFA Champions League, the UEFA Cup and the Intercontinental Cup.
His commanding presence in goal and aggressive style earned him nicknames such as Der Titan (“The Titan”) and “Vol-kahn-o” (“volcano”).
He was part of the German squad that won the UEFA Euros Championship in 1996.
At the 2002 FIFA World Cup co-hosted by South Korea and Japan, Kahn’s prowess in goal was key to Germany reaching the final, where they lost 2–0 to Brazil.
So good were his performances at the tournament that Oliver Kahn made history by becoming the only goalkeeper in FIFA World Cup history to win the Golden Ball as the Best Player of the Tournament.
9. Petr Cech
Petr Cech is regarded as one of the greatest goalkeepers of all time and arguably the greatest goalkeeper in English Premier League history. He holds numerous Premier League records; including the record for the fewest appearances required to reach 100 clean sheets — having done so in 180 appearances. The most clean sheets in a single season (24), as well as the record for the most clean sheets in Premier League history (202).
Cech is also the only goalkeeper to have won the Premier League Golden Glove with two separate clubs and has won the award a joint record four times (2004/05, 2009/10, 2013/14 and 2015/16).
He also went 1,025 minutes without conceding a goal in the 2004/05 season — a league record.
He has the third-most clean sheets since 2000 among all goalkeepers.
Petr Cech joined Chelsea from Rennes in 2004 and would go on to represent the Blues for 11 years, the most successful era in the club’s history.
During his eleven years at Chelsea, Cech made 494 appearances — making him the club’s highest overseas appearance maker, and sixth of all-time. He also holds Chelsea’s all-time club record for most clean sheets (228).
He helped the Blues win 4 Premier League titles, 4 FA Cups, 3 League Cups, one UEFA Champions League title, and one UEFA Europa League title.
He departed Chelsea in 2015 to join city rivals, Arsenal, where he won another FA Cup before retiring in 2019.
Cech is the most capped player in the history of the Czech national team, with 124 caps. He represented his country at the 2006 World Cup, as well as the 2004, 2008, 2012, and 2016 European Championships.
He was voted into the Euro 2004 All-Star team after helping the Czechs reach the semi-finals.
He also holds the record for the most Czech Footballer of the Year (9) and Czech Golden Ball (12) wins.
10. Gordon Banks
Gordon Banks played for over 20 years, winning the FIFA World Cup with England in 1966.
Banks had an excellent positional sense which was one of his best assets and was also known for his handling, awareness, composure, and mental strength.
He also possessed agility, speed, and quick reflexes, which enabled him to produce acrobatic saves, such as his famous stop from Pelé’s header against Brazil at the 1970 World Cup in Mexico.
The extraordinary save against Pelé was dubbed as “the save of the century”, and to some observers, it is the greatest save ever.
¶Edwin Van der Sar