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50 Best Goalkeepers of All Time Ranked From ‘Safe Hands’ to ‘Greatest Ever’

Written by on May 30, 2024

Highlights

  • We’ve ranked the best male and female goalkeepers of all time into six categories.
  • Legendary ‘keeper Lev Yashin has been ranked as the greatest of all time.
  • Other household names ranked include Gianluigi Buffon, Alisson, Hope Solo and Peter Schmeichel.



“I would say the keeper is the most important player on the team,” Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola once said. Indeed, while outfield players often steal most of the headlines, goalkeepers have the potential to be both the hero and the villain in the blink of an eye.

A great goalkeeper can thus make the difference in the biggest of matches and essentially turn a good team into a world-class side. From that famous Gordon Banks stop, to Alisson’s heroics in front of the Kop — there have been plenty of outstanding shot-stoppers, both past and present.


Ranking Factors

The list of players comprises both male and female stars, as we want to pay tribute to exceptional figures from across football. However, there is no attempt to directly compare the men on the list with the women — this is merely a celebration of supreme goalkeeping talent. We’ve acknowledged a number of criteria when it comes to ranking these individuals, including:

  • Longevity
  • Silverware
  • Moments of magic.


Safe Hands

Featuring Joe Hart, Marc-Andre ter Stegen and Jens Lehmann

What better way to start than with Jens Lehmann — a man who played an integral role in Arsenal’s ‘Invincibles’ campaign in 2003-04. Joe Hart was also a Premier League stalwart back in the day and arguably among the most underrated keepers to grace the league.


The Englishman helped Manchester City win five trophies during his time at the club. Julio Cesar is another to have spent time in the Premier League, though the Brazilian is best known for his seven-year spell at Inter Milan, which saw him nominated for the Ballon d’Or in 2009.

Similarly, Ivo Viktor was nominated for the Ballon d’Or in 1976, owing to his performances for the Czech Republic as they won the European Championship that year. Moving back a number of decades, Frank Swift made more than 500 appearances for Man City before tragically dying in the Munich air disaster of 1958.

Marc-Andre ter Stegen is the second German to be featured in this category. The Barcelona star has long been considered an exceptional goalkeeper, even if he has played second-fiddle to Manuel Neuer at international level. Spanish star Sandra Panos is another to have cemented herself in Barcelona folklore.


In terms of general shot-stopping, Michel Preud’homme was right up with the best ever and the Belgian won the inaugural Yashin Award for his heroics at the 1994 World Cup.

Greatest Goalkeepers – ‘Safe Hands’

Joe Hart

England

Jens Lehmann

Germany

Sandra Panos

Spain

Julio Cesar

Brazil

Marc-Andre ter Stegen

Germany

Frank Swift

England

Michel Preud’homme

Belgium

Ivo Viktor

Czechoslovakia


Serious Shot-Stoppers

Featuring Victor Valdes, Fabien Barthez and Andoni Zubizarreta

Victor Valdes Barcelona

Andoni Zubizarreta represented Spain at seven major tournaments and won six La Liga titles with Barcelona. Victor Valdes, though less prolific at international level, won the same number and even surpassed Zubizaretta in terms of league appearances for Barca

Ignore Fabien Barthez’s topsy-turvy spell at Man United — the Frenchman was once the world’s best goalkeeper and helped France win both the 1998 World Cup and Euro 2000. Speaking of World Cups, Rinat Dasayev featured for the Soviet Union at three successive tournaments and was nicknamed ‘the Iron Curtain’ for his incredible reflexes.


Though perhaps best remembered for his horrific tackle on France’s Patrick Battiston, Harald Schumacher was an superb goalkeeper and played a part in two World Cup finals for West Germany. Another to have enjoyed international success is Hedvig Lindahl, who made 189 appearances for Sweden between 2002 and 2022.

On the other hand, Ayumi Kaihori’s international career was relatively short but her heroics in the 2011 Women’s World Cup final for Japan will long be remembered, as she saved two penalties in the shootout against the USA. Meanwhile, Sari van Veenendaal is a Dutch legend and conceded just three goals at Euro 2017 as the Netherlands won the tournament.


Greatest Goalkeepers – ‘Serious Shot Stoppers’

Victor Valdes

Spain

Fabien Barthez

France

Sari van Veenendaal

Netherlands

Harald Schumacher

West Germany

Hedvig Lindahl

Sweden

Rinat Dasayev

Soviet Union

Ayumi Kaihori

Japan

Andoni Zubizarreta

Spain

Future Legends

Featuring Gianluigi Donnarumma, Thibaut Courtois and Alisson

Gianluigi Donnarumma is arguably overrated

You could make the case that many of these names are already legends. However, they certainly will be once they’ve retired. Hugo Lloris and David de Gea have both come under fire for making high-profile mistakes in recent years, yet you cannot ignore their career success as a whole.


De Gea was named Man United’s Player of the Season on four occasions. Lloris, on the other hand, captained France to victory at the 2018 World Cup and is their most-capped goalkeeper in history.

As for the Alisson vs Ederson debate, we’ve decided to sit on the fence and put both of the impressive Brazilian shot-stoppers in the same category. It’s a similar story with Gianluigi Donnarumma and Jan Oblak, who are two of the finest goalkeepers in the world right now.

Sticking with the present, Thibaut Courtois is widely considered the best keeper on the planet at this time and his heroics in the 2022 Champions League final will no doubt see him retire as a Real Madrid legend. Christiane Endler is likewise considered the best women’s keeper on the planet and helped Lyon win a record-extending eighth Champions League title in 2022.


Sarah Bouhaddi, meanwhile, was Lyon’s first-choice keeper for 13 years before Endler, and made almost 150 appearances for France. USA star Alyssa Naeher had to wait her turn between the sticks, but having made her international debut in 2014, she is now a two-time World Cup winner.

Greatest Goalkeepers – ‘Future Legends’

Gianluigi Donnarumma

Italy

Alyssa Naeher

United States

David de Gea

Spain

Thibaut Courtois

Belgium

Christiane Endler

Chile

Sarah Bouhaddi

France

Ederson

Brazil

Alisson

Brazil

Hugo Lloris

France

Jan Oblak

Slovenia


World Class

Featuring Edwin van der Sar, Neville Southall and Claudio Taffarel

Edwin van der Sar

Alisson and Ederson may be legends in waiting but Claudio Taffarel and Dida are already Brazilian icons. The former made 101 international appearances and won the 1994 World Cup, while Dida achieved the same feat in 2002.

However, it was Gilmar who was voted the best Brazilian keeper of the 20th century, having helped his country win back-to-back World Cups in 1958 and 1962. Despite allegedly smoking up to three packs of cigarettes per day, Ricardo Zamora was a legend of Spanish football between 1916 and 1936 and played for both Real Madrid and Barcelona.


The Spaniard was regarded as one of the best keepers of his generation, along with Gianpiero Combi, who won the World Cup as captain of Italy in 1934 and five league titles with Juventus. Combi was voted Italy’s second-best keeper of the 20th century, behind only Dino Zoff — the oldest ever winner of the World Cup, aged 40 years, four months and 13 days.

Walter Zenga never won the World Cup but is nonetheless another Italian legend. Indeed, the former Inter Milan star is a three-time winner of the IFFHS World’s Best Goalkeeper award and played almost 700 career matches. Nicknamed ‘the cat from Anzing’, Sepp Maier was known for his fast reflexes and won the German Player of the Year award on three occasions.

Nadine Angerer is another German hero, having helped Germany win three Women’s European Championships and two World Cups. The 44-year-old also became the first ever keeper to win the FIFA World Player of the Year in 2014.


When it comes to longevity, however, few can match Northern Irish legend Pat Jennings, who enjoyed an international career which lasted 22 years and saw him play more than 1,000 top-level matches. While all these keepers were famously good shot-stoppers, Jose Luis Chilavert was also a master at scoring goals — converting more than 60 penalties across the course of his career.

Edwin van der Sar remains the most capped player in Netherlands history and won the Champions League with both Man United and Ajax. The last name to be featured in this category is David Seaman. The former Arsenal star won three Premier League titles with the Gunners and is England’s second-most capped keeper ever.


Greatest Goalkeepers – ‘World Class’

Claudio Taffarel

Brazil

Gilmar

Brazil

Nadine Angerer

Germany

Gianpiero Combi

Italy

Jose Luis Chilavert

Paraguay

Sepp Maier

West Germany

Dida

Brazil

Walter Zenga

Italy

Ricardo Zamora

Spain

Dino Zoff

Italy

Pat Jennings

Northern Ireland

Neville Southall

Wales

Edwin van der Sar

Netherlands

David Seaman

England


All-Time Great

Featuring Manuel Neuer, Gordan Banks and Gianluigi Buffon

Manuel Neuer

Peter Shilton may have been in goal for Diego Maradona’s double against England in 1986 but he has kept the joint-most clean sheets of any keeper in World Cup history with 10. He also holds the record for the most competitive appearances in world football with 1,390.

Shilton also boasts the most appearances (125) for England, but Gordan Banks’ England legacy is just as strong. To this day, his save to deny Pele at the 1970 World Cup is considered one of the greatest ever. Peter Schmeichel and Petr Cech are often hailed as the best Premier League keepers of all time, though it would take a brave person to determine who was better.


Cech holds the record for most Premier League clean sheets, while Schmeichel won 11 major trophies with United and captained the side to victory in the 1999 Champions League final. Germany have been blessed with outstanding keepers over the years but Oliver Kahn and Manuel Neuer are no doubt the best to represent the nation.

Both have become Bayern Munich icons, with Kahn winning the Best European Goalkeeper award four times on the bounce and Neuer being part of 10 Bundesliga title-winning campaigns. Meanwhile, Hope Solo’s stats speak for themselves. The USA star is a World Cup winner, two-time Olympic champion and earned more than 200 caps for the national team.

Iker Casillas and Gianluigi Buffon were the two dominant goalkeepers for much of the 2000s and it’s hard to separate them. Both won the World Cup with Spain and Italy respectively. Both earned more than 150 caps for their country and both won numerous domestic honours.


While both won the IFFHS World’s Best Goalkeeper of the year award on five occasions. They are unequivocally legends of the game, however, neither has quite done enough to claim the top spot on our list.

Greatest Goalkeepers – ‘All-Time Great’

Peter Shilton

England

Oliver Kahn

Germany

Peter Schmeichel

Denmark

Petr Cech

Czech Republic

Hope Solo

United States

Manuel Neuer

Germany

Gordan Banks

England

Iker Casillas

Spain

Gianluigi Buffon

Italy


Greatest Goalkeeper Ever

Lev Yashin

Lev Yashin

Yashin is regarded by many as the greatest ‘keeper in history and it’s hard to disagree. The Soviet professional footballer is responsible for revolutionising the goalkeeping position — becoming an imposing and vocal presence on the pitch.

He appeared at four World Cups between 1958 and 1970 — capturing the hearts of the world in 1958 as the tournament was broadcast internationally for the first time. Over the course of his career, he saved more than 150 penalties and remains the only keeper to win the Ballon d’Or.


Lev Yashin Career Stats

Soviet Top League Titles

5x (1954, 1955, 1957, 1959, 1963)

Ballon d’Or

1x (1963)

Soviet Union Caps

74

UEFA European Football Championship

1x (1960)

European Goalkeeper of the Year

9x (1956, 1957, 1959, 1960, 1961, 1963, 1964, 1965, 1966)

Indeed, the Ballon d’Or individual goalkeeper award is now named in his honour. Yashin also won gold at the 1956 Olympics and at the 1960 European Championships. Nicknamed the “Black Spider” due to his all-black outfits, he was, quite simply, the greatest ‘keeper to ever live.

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