Despite the fact some people consider the goalkeeper position the “easiest” one in football as anybody can stop a ball, that is completely false; in fact, being a keeper is as hard or harder than the other position on the pitch. However, there are certain players who make it look like it is really easy, but that’s far away from reality.
Throughout history, football has introduced us very impressive guys who were nothing but great at the goalie position, creating legends that last until today. Some of them are a reference for some of the current best keepers in football right now, even though they retired from the game decades ago; that must tell you how good these men were.
So now it’s time to rank the best 10 goalkeepers in football history, players that led teams, took them to win championships and more when they were “only” under the goal.
Honorable Mention: Amadeo Carrizo
10. Edwin van der Sar
The evolution of goalkeepers is slower than the one field players experience and players like Gianluigi Buffon and our first pick of the list, Edwin van der Sar, are a big example of that. The Dutch keeper was good ever since his first days in Ajax, but he reached his peak after his 30s, getting better and better every season. He went to play for four squads, Ajax, Juventus, Fulham and Manchester United.
Edwin is regarded by many people as the best goaltender with the ball on his feet, as he knew how to use it in his teams’ favor in more than occasion. Albeit he never won anything with his national side, van der Sar collected plenty of silverware at a club level, winning the Champions League with two different clubs (Ajax in 1994/95 and Manchester United in 2007/08); besides, he won the Premier League with the Red Devils and, in doing so, he became the oldest goalie to win the league.
He racked up a lot of records during his career and earned the respect of everybody, even people who weren’t fans of his team. His shot-stopping abilities, positional sense, reflexes and the way he used to went to fight crosses make Edwin one of the best in his position in history.
9. Peter Shilton
We start off this list with Peter Shilton, considered by many the best English goalkeeper of all time, surpassing other monsters like David Seaman. Shilton was great playing at a club and a national level, where he took all the shootouts. For instance, Shilton was the biggest leader of that Nottingham Forest team that won not one but two European Cup titles, as Shilton was the wall the Reds needed to achieve one of the most impressive feats in the tournament’s history.
Besides, he was great for the English national side, as set a record 125 appearances for his national team, going to play in the finals of five tournaments. Consistency, positional sense, composure, concentration and more are the reasons why this guy is considered one of the best in his position in history. And, if you want more, Shilton has the most official appearances among association football players with 1390.
8. Ricardo Zamora
Maybe the fact some stats about this player are lost or unknown makes this a low pick on this list, but Ricardo Zamora has earned the right to be here and to be considered one of the best goaltenders in football history alongside the likes of Andoni Zubizarreta and Iker Casillas. Zamora was great at his job, playing in the two most important teams in Spain and also the national squad, earning recognition around the world in a time where that was not easy.
The Divine played for Barcelona and Real Madrid where he racked up several awards and made himself a huge name in the football world. Right now the prize for the best goalkeeper in Spanish first division is called the “Zamora Award”, so you know how great and significant this guy was.
7. Gianluigi Buffon
For many people, the Italian giant is the best goalkeeper this in history; for us, he’s one of the best and more loved goalkeepers in recent times, making history wherever he goes. Whether it is Parma, Juventus or the Italian national squad, Gigi is recognized as one of the best goalies this game has seen.
Ever since he made his debut with the Azzurri replacing Gianluca Pagliuca at the end of 19, Buffon has been in everybody’s mouth, succeeding in any team and having outstanding performances. He was great with Parma, kept the same way with Juventus, where he won everything he could except the Champions League and even now that he’s over his 40s, Buffon is still considered one of the best and keeps displaying his good game with French side PSG.
6. Iker Casillas
Iker has had a similar career than our prior pick, Buffon, and they starred some of the fiercest duels we have witnessed in recent years. Sure, now we have the likes of De Gea, Courtois and more, but about a decade ago, Casillas, Buffon, and Petr Cech were always on the fight to be called the best goaltender in Europe. Unfortunately for the Czech and the Italian, Casillas pretty much always was praised for his game and earned the awards, being called the best of all time at some point.
He started his career at a very young age with Real Madrid and despite the fact he was just 18, he didn’t display any doubt during that time and thanks to his performances was quickly considered the best in his position. With Real Madrid he won several trophies including Champions Leagues, La Liga, Copa del Rey and more; it was the same with Spain, where Iker won the FIFA World Cup in 2010 and back-to-back UEFA Euro titles in 2008 and 2012.
Right now he plays in Portuguese side Porto after his controversial departure from Real Madrid. Iker has known how to be good again in Portugal and even though he’s not the same he used to be, Casillas is showing he still has what it takes to be relevant in European football.
5. Gordon Banks
Peter Shilton was a complete monster, but now we are in front of the best goalie England has provided in history. Albeit he didn’t win as many trophies as others keepers, Gordon Banks is seen by most people as the best goalkeeper the Island has given to the world. Banks is a guy mostly known for that save he made against Pele at the 1970 FIFA World Cup, one that is considered the best save of all time.
He also was an important player in the 1966 FIFA World Cup held and won by his national side, where he managed to receive only two goals through the tournaments; goals that were scored in the final. Back in his prime, nobody could tie his agility, his reflexes and let’s not talk about his pure shot-stopping abilities.
4. Peter Schmeichel
This Danish goalie was a total beast under the posts, being considered a revolutionary and a keeper ahead of his time since his style of play inspired some of the best goaltenders in current moments. His worldly-known “starfish” saves made him gain a lot of recognition, but Peter Schmeichel was more than that, becoming the best keeper that ever played for both Manchester United and the Denmark national squad.
Schmeichel collected 292 caps for United through 1991 and 1999, winning five league titles. He lived his best moment at Old Trafford in his last game for the club, where he captained the Red Devils to victory in the 1999 Champions League final that Man. Utd. won within the last minutes of the game thanks to his man-of-the-match performance that helped Sir Alex Ferguson’s side win the Treble.
With Denmark, he also knew how to give dramatic victories to fans, as he was one of the leaders of that Danish team that won the UEFA Euro 1992 defeating some of the best European squads at the time.
3. Dino Zoff
The only thing that prevents Gianluigi Buffon to be called the best Italian goaltender of all time is this guy, Dino Zoff, who was considered the best goalkeepers of all time when he was getting close to his retirement. He is a Juventus and Italy national side legend, setting records with both teams that lost until our days.
He won six Italian leagues with the Bianconeri, captained the Azzurri to win the World Cup in Spain in 1982 when he was 40 years old, becoming the oldest player ever to win the tournament. Dino also became the second-ever captain/keeper to lift the trophy. However, his most impressive record might be the one about the most minutes in international football without conceding a goal, setting it with 1,142 minutes shared between 1972 and 1974.
2. Oliver Kahn
The Titan is not only the best German goalkeeper of all time, surpassing guys like Sepp Meier or Manuel Neuer; if it wasn’t for our first pick, Kahn would be sitting on that spot. Both Bayern Munich and Germany enjoyed the best of his game, his skill set and even the angry moments he had when his defense didn’t deliver as expected.
He won anything he could win at a club level with Bayern and also was very successful with the German squad. He was great in one-on-one duels and is considered the best in history on that matter; plus, he was a great penalty-saver; for instance, his heroics saves in the penalty shootout of the 2001 Champions League final against Valencia took Bayern to win their first European Cup in 25 years.
As for his performances for Die Mannschaft, he almost single-handedly took Germany to the 2002 World Cup finals in South Korea/Japan. Unfortunately, the Titan met the Phenomenon Ronaldo and couldn’t do much against the Brazilian. However, he managed to make history becoming the first keeper to be named the player of the tournament when he won the Golden Ball.
1. Lev Yashin
It’s time to talk about our pick as the greatest goaltender of all time and albeit this game wasn’t as famous as others on this list, he still played at a great level and was considered the best keeper of his time and is still considered like that nowadays, almost 50 years after his retirement as a professional footballer. The Black Spider was known for his athleticism, positioning, for using his tall on his favor, the bravery he showed every match, and his impressive acrobatic reflex saves.
He revolutionized his position when he decided to tell order to his defense and the rest of his team, realizing that goalies have a better vision of the pitch. He didn’t hesitate to go clash with rivals even if he had to get out of his area, something unthinkable at the time he played.
Throughout his career, Yashin accoladed plenty and plenty of honors, being the first and only goalkeeper to ever win the Ballon d’Or, he was named to the FIFA World Cup Dream Team in 2002 and was named the best goalkeeper of the 20th century by IFFHS. He racked up 270 clean sheets during his career, stating why he was and still is the best goalie in the history of this sport.