Football's 20 greatest goalkeepers of all time

Nitin Fernandes

Here’s the list of the 20 greatest goalkeepers of all time.

20) Edwin van der Sar

Schalke 04 v Manchester United - UEFA Champions League Semi Final

Clubs: Ajax, Juventus, Fulham, Manchester United

Country: Netherlands

The Dutchman is considered to be one of the great goalkeepers of the 1990s and 2000s. He was instrumental in the emergence of a very fine Ajax team in the mid-nineties that went on to win the UEFA Champions League in 1995, beating a strong AC Milan team in the final, a Rossoneri side which consisted a majority of players who were responsible for the demolition of the Dream Team of Johan Cryuff’s Barcelona in the previous European Cup final.

After an uneventful spell in Italy with Juventus and a stint at Craven Cottage with Fulham, the 6’5″ goalkeeper made a move to Manchester United in the summer of 2005. During his time in Manchester, Van der Sar was a key component of the Red Devils team that won four Premier League titles and one Champions League crown. The Voorhout-born stopper was even named the man of the match in the Champions League final in 2008.

He was a highly consistent player with the Netherlands national team as well, retiring as the most capped Dutch footballer ever.

19) Rinat Dasayev

BT Sport, Football, pic: 1989, Rinat Dasaev, U,S,S,R, goalkeeper

Clubs: Volgar Astrakhan, Spartak Moscow, Sevilla

Country: USSR

It is often said that Rinat Dasayev was the equivalent of Diego Maradona in goal in the 1980s. A couple of Brits might have something to say about that, though.

Nicknamed The Iron Curtain, one of his biggest strengths was his command in the penalty box. Never afraid of putting his neck on the line, he would rise above the attacking players to latch on to the ball.

Another great strength of Dasayev was his magnificent distribution of the ball. His distributions would often lead to fine counter-attacking moves, which would leave the opposition bewildered.

18) Gilmar

Dos Santos Dives

Clubs: Corinthians, Santos

Country: Brazil

The great Santos team in the 1960s received an abundance of plaudits, and rightly so, for their tremendous success on the pitch. Most of the plaudits though seem to go to their attacking players, such as Pele and Pepe.

But every great team needs a backbone and that is exactly what Gilmar provided to the Os Santasticos. Gilmar enjoyed ample success with the Brazilian national team as well, starting in goal for La Selecao in both the 1958 and 1962 World Cups.

To date, he happens to be the only goalkeeper to have played in and won two successive World Cup finals.

17) Neville Southall

Sport. Football. pic: 9th April 1995. FA. Cup Semi-Final. Tottenham Hotspur 1 v Everton 4. Neville Southall, Everton goalkeeper 1981-1998, who also won 92 Wales international caps between 1982-1998.

Clubs: Bury, Everton, Port Vale, Southend United, Stoke City, Doncaster Rovers, Torquay United, Bradford City

Country: Wales

Everton enjoyed a glorious period in the 1980s and Neville Southall was the cornerstone of the club’s success. Southall’s greatest strength was undoubtedly his shot-stopping ability. He was very quick on his feet and developed newer skills by reading books and adding even the most minor details in his training sessions.

The Welsh international was tremendously unlucky to win just one piece of silverware in Europe because of the ban of English clubs from European Football after the Heysel Stadium disaster in 1985. It came as no surprise that Everton named him their greatest goalkeeper ever during the club’s 125th-anniversary celebration in 2003/04.

16) Gyula Grosics

Gyula Grosics

Clubs: Dorogi Bányász, Mateosz, Teherfuvar, Budapest Honved, Tatabanya Banyasz

Country: Hungary

Goalkeeper of the Magical Magyars, Gyula Grosics is credited with inventing the position of a sweeper-keeper. He was very quick off his line and very assured on the ball. He almost played like a defender who dropped back in the penalty area only to grab hold of the ball with his hands.

The great Hungarian team came up short in the World Cup finals in 1954, losing to West Germany in the final, but Grosics’ contributions at the tournament didn’t go unnoticed as he was named the goalkeeper in the All-Star team of that World Cup. He was nicknamed The Black Panther because he always wore an all-black kit.

15) Patrick Jennings

1982 World Cup Finals. Zaragoza, Spain. 17th June, 1982. Yugoslavia 0 v N.Ireland 0. Northern Ireland's goalkeeper Pat Jennings.

Clubs: Watford, Tottenham Hotspur, Arsenal

Country: Northern Ireland

When Sol Campbell made the move from White Hart Lane to Highbury in 2001, he was met with a chorus of abhorrence from Tottenham fans. In that sense, Pat Jennings was one of a kind.

He played for two big clubs in North London and is still admired by both sets of fans. In fact, most Spurs fans will tell you that selling Jennings was one of the biggest mistakes that the club has ever made. Jennings had perfect positional sense and he read the game superbly, which meant he rarely had to pull out the spectacular.

14) Ladislao Mazurkiewicz

Football, 1970 World Cup Third Place Play-Off, Azteca Stadium, Mexico, 20th June 1970, West Germany 1 v Uruguay 0, Uruguayan goalkeeper Ladislao Mazurkiewicz saves at the feet of West German striker Gerd Muller watched by Atilio Ancheta (left) during the

Clubs: Racing Montevideo, Penarol, Sao Paulo, Atletico Mineiro, FC Granada, Penarol

Country: Uruguay

Ladislao Mazurkiewicz is, perhaps, most famous for his stupendous performances in the 1966 World Cup (notably against eventual champions England), and in the 1970 World Cup (where Uruguay richly benefited from Mazurkiewicz’s performances to reach the semi-finals).

In the 1970 semi-final, you might have seen Pele’s dummy on Mazurkiewicz and eventual miss. Although it was the most embarrassing moment of his career, Mazurkiewicz had the wit to later say that he did enough to put Pele off from scoring one of the easiest tap-ins in history.

He was nicknamed El Chiquito (the little one) by team mates and fans because at 5’10”, he was one of the shorter goalkeepers in the game.

13) Ubaldo Fillol

Sport. Football. pic: October 1985. European Cup Winners Cup 1st Round. Ubaldo Fillol, Athletico Madrid goalkeeper, an Argentina international who played in 3 World Cups 1974, 1978, 1982.

Clubs: Quilmes, Racing Club, River Plate, Argentinos Juniors, Flamengo, Atletico Madrid, Racing Club Velez Sarsfield

Country: Argentina

Ubaldo Fillol’s greatness in Argentina is such that the award for the best goalkeeper in the Argentine Primera Division is named after him. In 1978, he was instrumental in La Seleccion’s success as he was named the best goalkeeper in the tournament.

He was renowned for his penalty-saving abilities, saving six penalties in a single season whilst at River Plate. He still remains the most-capped goalkeeper for the Albicelestes.

12) Amadeo Carrizo


Clubs: River Plate, Millonarios

Country: Argentina

Amadeo Carrizo is arguably the greatest South American goalkeeper of all-time. Carrizo was a pioneer in the position and he was the first goalkeeper to start wearing gloves.

Before Carrizo, goalkeepers usually were stationed in the penalty-box all the time, mostly getting involved in the game only when the ball reached the six-yard box. Carrizo changed all that by getting himself involved in the game, getting out of his box to initiate counter-attacks, changing the dynamics of a goalkeeper’s role in a team.

11) Oliver Kahn

Bayern Muenchen v Germany - Oliver Kahn Farewell Match

Clubs: Karlsruher SC, Bayern Munich

Country: Germany

Most of the goalkeepers on this list have put in magnificent performances at the World Cup but none of them went on to win the tournament’s Golden Ball apart from a certain Oliver Rolf Kahn.

Kahn carried a German team who came into the tournament with low expectations into the final almost single-handedly. Despite an injury bothering him, Kahn played in the final which turned out to be a bad move as he spilt a Rivaldo shot that allowed Ronaldo to tap in an easy goal and break German hearts.

He was also vital in Bayern Munich’s European triumph in 2001 as he saved three penalties in the shoot-out to consign Valencia to their second consecutive loss in a Champions League final.

10) Frantisek Planicka

Portrait taken in the 1930's of Czechoslovakian go

Club: Slavia Prague

Country: Czechoslovakia

Along with Ricardo Zamora and Giampiero Combi, Frantisek Planicka was one of the great goalkeepers of the pre-war era. He captained Czechoslovakia to the final of the 1934 World Cup, where they were beaten by an Italian team captained by Giampiero Combi.

Despite that, Planicka ended the tournament with his reputation enhanced. He was a one-club man who spent his entire career with Slavia Prague, winning seven league titles. Along with being a great player, Planicka was renowned for his fair play and he was never cautioned or sent off in his entire career.

9) Peter Shilton

Peter Shilton of Southampton in action

Clubs: Leicester City, Stoke City, Nottingham Forest, Derby County, Plymouth, Bolton Wanderers, Leyton Orient

Country: England

Peter Shilton had a much-decorated career, especially at Nottingham Forest where he won one league title and two European Cups in Brian Clough’s regime. Shilton is perhaps most famous for being the goalkeeper at the receiving end of Diego Maradona’s Hand of God, where El Diego leapt and scored with his hand.

Shilton had a fabulous international career, especially at Italia ’90 where, at the age of 40, he performed heroics to help England to their best performance in a World Cup since 1966. He called time on his international career after the tournament, finishing with 125 caps, a record for an English footballer.

8) Iker Casillas

Real Madrid v Manchester City FC - UEFA Champions League

Clubs: Real Madrid, Porto

Country: Spain

The youngest goalkeeper on this list, Real Madrid fans refer to Casillas as a Saint. He’s performed many-a-miracle during his distinguished career with Los Blancos and the Spanish national team.

Since making his debut for the Madrid outfit in 1999, the Mostoles-born shot-stopper was in and out of the starting lineup until the Champions League Final in 2002. The final in Glasgow is mainly remembered for Zinedine Zidane’s amazing goal, considered by many to be the greatest goal in the European Cup’s history. But at the other end, there was 20-year-old Casillas who produced save after save to deny a dominant Bayer Leverkusen side.

Since then, Casillas has gone from strength to strength. He captained Spain to back-to-back European Champions in 2008 and 2012, and the most prestigious competition in football – the World Cup – in 2010. He would eventually leave for Porto in 2015.

7) Sepp Maier

BT Sport, Football, pic: circa 1970's, Sepp Maier, West Germany international goalkeeper

Club: Bayern Munich

Country: West Germany

Another member of the one-club band, Sepp Maier was the backbone of the legendary Bayern Munich side that won three consecutive European Cups in the mid-1970s. Maier was also part of West Germany’s national team that defeated the famous Dutch side, which consisted of Johann Cruyff, in the final of the 1974 World Cup.

He had an outstanding tournament, keeping four clean sheets. He was named the German player of the year thrice in the 1970s which is truly an unbelievable achievement, considering a goalkeeper winning such awards is usually uncommon. Maier retired at the age of 35, younger than most goalkeepers, because of a car accident.

6) Ricardo Zamora

Ricardo Zamora

Clubs: Espanyol, Barcelona, Real Madrid, Nice

Country: Spain

Nicknamed El Divino, Ricardo Zamora is the oldest footballer on this list. He played with great distinction for Espanyol, Barcelona, and Real Madrid. Zamora was part of a fabulous Barcelona team that won three back-to-back Catalan league titles between 1919 and 1922.

He then moved on to Espanyol where he enjoyed success in the 1928/29 season, inspiring the Periquitos to a Catalan league title and a Copa del Rey triumph. Despite his Catalan roots, he moved to Real Madrid and guided them to their first two La Liga titles.

A great goalkeeper on the pitch, Zamora’s life off it was a little dodgy to say the least. Allegedly a brandy-lover and a chain smoker, he missed many matches in his career due to suspensions. But the award given to the best goalkeeper in Spain’s La Liga every season is named after Zamora.

5) Dino Zoff

1982 World Cup Final. Madrid, Spain. 11th July, 1982. Italy 3 v West Germany 1. Italian goalkeeper Dino Zoff shouts instructions to his defenders.

Clubs: Udinese, Mantova, Napoli, Juventus

Country: Italy

Dino Zoff was the finest goalkeeper in the 1970s. He didn’t concede a goal for 1142 minutes between 1972 and 1974 in international tournaments, which is a record that stands to date.

He also has the distinction of becoming the oldest ever player to win the World Cup. At the age of 40, Zoff captained Italy to the pinnacle of footballing glory in 1982, showing great character after a massive match-fixing scandal had broken out in Italy. He won the award for the best goalkeeper of the tournament as well.

He had a successful club career too, winning six league titles with Juventus.

4) Peter Schmeichel

Peter Schmeichel

Clubs: Hvidovre, Brondby, Manchester United, Sporting Lisbon, Aston Villa, Manchester City

Country: Denmark

The Great Dane was unquestionably the best goalkeeper in the 1990s and was part of Sir Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United that began an era of dominance in English football. Ferguson bought Schmeichel for a small fee of £505,000 which the Scot later called “bargain of the century”.

Schmeichel was an intimidating figure in goal and his mere presence in goal usually put off the opposition’s attackers. The Dane has a terrific European Championship in 1992, where he inspired underdogs Denmark to win the competition. His save of Marco van Basten’s penalty in the semi-final shootout guided the Danes to their first-ever major international final.

Schmeichel also scored 11 goals in his career, a rather high amount for a goalkeeper.

3) Gianluigi Buffon

Germany v Italy - UEFA EURO 2012 Semi Final

Clubs: Parma, Juventus

Country: Italy

If you have watched Gigi Buffon in action, it’s not very difficult to see why he is nicknamed Superman by the fans. Buffon is known for miraculous moments at the most important of times. Take, for example, his superb one-handed save to keep out Fillipo Inzaghi in the 2003 Champions League final, or the blinder to deny Zinedine Zidane in the 2006 World Cup.

The significance of the latter save was such that it not only helped Italy win their fourth World Cup but, in all probability, if he hadn’t made that save, Zidane wouldn’t have ended his career in disgrace. His excellent form in the 2006 World Cup also saw him finish second in the 2006 Ballon d`Or, losing out to teammate Fabio Cannavaro.

Buffon’s transfer from Parma to Juventus in 2001 for €51 million is still a record fee for a goalkeeper.

2) Gordon Banks

England Training At Stamford Bridge

Clubs: Chesterfield, Leicester City, Stoke City, Fort Lauderdale Strikers

Country: England

Gordon Banks played a pivotal role in the 1966 World Cup where he played every single minute in England’s victorious campaign. When you think of Banks, you tend to think of his save against Pele at the 1970 World Cup in Mexico. Most analysts, commentators, historians, and fans consider it to be the greatest save ever made. Pele and Banks even had a hilarious conversation just after the save:

Pele – “I thought that was a goal.

Banks – “You and me both.

Pele – “You’re getting old, Banksy, you used to hold on to them.”

1) Lev Yashin

1966 World Cup

Club: Dynamo Moscow

Country: USSR

While making up this list, there were a lot of names that I thought long and hard about and where I’d place them. But that wasn’t the case with Lev Yashin. The moment I started working on the list, I always knew that Yashin was going to be number one.

Simply put, there are two kinds of goalkeepers on this list: there’s Lev Yashin, and then there’s the rest. He had stunning reflexes which helped him save around 150 penalties during his career – a truly astounding stat.

To date, The Black Spider is still the only goalkeeper to win the Ballon d`Or. The best goalkeeper in the World Cup is given the Lev Yashin Award, which speaks volumes about the former Soviet keeper’s abilities.

Edited by Staff Editor
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