Ranking the Top 10 Best Goalkeepers in Soccer History

The goalkeeping position is not something that comes to mind often when considering the best players in soccer. As a matter of fact, most awards given to the best players in the world usually go to offensive players and rarely to defensive players. It’s only recently that these awards have started to acknowledge the importance of goalkeepers in the sport.

While it remains the most underrated position in soccer, the goalkeeping department remains an important part of every team’s setup, especially recently when they help build up plays from the back. Over the course of history, the world has seen some legendary goalkeepers who have given true meaning to the existence of that position in soccer.

This article explores the top 10 best goalkeepers in soccer history, taking factors like longevity, the number of clean sheets, trophies, and many others into consideration.

#10. Sepp Maier

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Source: Bavarian Football Works

Anyone familiar with Bayern Munich and Germany knows how important Sepp Maier is to the history of German football. The West German was the first name on the clean sheet for West Germany and Bayern Munich, and it’s no surprise that he was present during the most successful periods in the histories of club and country.

Sepp Maier won the Bundesliga four times with Bayern Munich: 68/69, 71/72, 72/73, and 73/74. In addition, he won three successive European Cups from 1974 to 1976. The legendary goalkeeper also enjoyed success on the international stage with West Germany. With his national team, he won the 1972 European Championship and the 1974 World Cup.

Altogether, Maier kept 137 clean sheets, making him one of the best goalkeepers in soccer history, before a car accident in 1979 robbed him of his career at age 35.

#9. Edwin Van der Sar

Source: San Diego Union-Tribune

Edwin Van der Sar may be famous for his time with Manchester United, but the Dutchman was also a formidable goalkeeper at Ajax, where he won the 1995 UEFA Champions League. Although a move to Juventus did not go to plan, Van der Sar revived his career at Fulham, where he played until Sir Alex Ferguson and Manchester United came calling in 2005.

He became a true champion at United, winning four Premier League titles, two league cups, and one UEFA Champions League in 2008, which he helped decide by saving Nicholas Anelka’s penalty, among many other trophies.

Van der Sar also helped pioneer the use of feet by goalkeepers, with Bayern’s Manuel Neuer once citing the former United goalkeeper as his role model as a sweeper goalkeeper. The Dutchman played over 951 career games, keeping 440 clean sheets, thus becoming one of the best goalkeepers in soccer history.

#8. Gordon Banks

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Source: Channel 4

Remember that incredible save in the 1970 World Cup when Pele thought he had scored a header? Yes, that one; Gordon Banks pulled it off—the best goalkeeper in England’s rich history in the sport.

Banks was famous for his athleticism and agility, which are the perfect words to describe the six-time FIFA Goalkeeper of the Year award winner. The former England international pushed a goal-bound header from Pele over the bar, drawing the attention of the legendary Brazilian striker.

Sadly, the 1966 World Cup winner’s career was cut short by an injury he suffered to his right eye in a car accident, which ultimately led to his loss of sight. Despite his short career, Banks still played 73 games for England, keeping 35 clean sheets in the process and winning the 1966 Footballer of the Year award.

#7. Peter Schmeichel

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Source: Premier League Archive

Peter Schmeichel is considered by many to be one of the greatest goalkeepers of all time. He may not have won much in terms of silverware, but the Dane produced some of the best saves you’ll ever see on television.

Schmeichel’s long and accurate throws helped his team launch several counter-attacks, most of which led to important goals for his team, but another thing made him the best at his job: his organizational skills.

Schmeichel was a vocal goalkeeper who was not afraid to call out his defenders when necessary. This made him an excellent leader of his team, and he displayed just that by leading Manchester United to an unlikely treble in 1999, most famously the UEFA Champions League final against Bayern Munich, which United won by two late goals.

Apart from the total of 15 trophies he won at Manchester United, Schmeichel has claimed different times that his greatest trophy was the one he helped Denmark win in 1992, when his country claimed the European Championship in Sweden. He was the first goalkeeper to reach 100 clean sheets in the Premier League, and he went ahead to claim a league career of 128 clean sheets in the top flight.

#6. Iker Casillas

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Source: Managing Madrid

Iker Casillas benefited from kick-starting his professional career early, as he helped Real Madrid claim the 2000 UEFA Champions League title at the age of 19. The legendary goalkeeper won two more Champions League titles in 2002 and, infamously, the La Decima in 2014 after his mistake led to Atletico Madrid’s opening goal.

Casillas also became a world champion in 2010 after an incredible display by Spain in South Africa to triumph over the Netherlands in the final. The goalkeeper claimed 19 trophies for Real Madrid before leaving the club for Porto in 2015, where he also won the league title. He is one of the goalkeepers with the most clean sheets in the history of the sport, recording 440 clean sheets for club and country.

#5. Dino Zoff

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Source: Football Whispers

Dino Zoff won the 1982 World Cup in Spain to become the oldest man to have ever won the tournament. He was 40 when he achieved the feat as the captain of the Italian national team.

Zoff had one of the most illustrious careers as a goalkeeper, leading Italy to the 1968 European Championship triumph on home soil. In terms of club football, Dino Zoff won six Serie A titles with Juventus.

Now 79 years old, Zoff still manages to have the record for having the longest clean sheet in the history of the sport, from September 1972 to June 1972. He kept a clean sheet for 1,142 minutes and a total of 360 clean sheets in 720 games in his club career, which saw him play for Napoli as well.

#4. Gianluigi Buffon

Source: Blackwhitereadallover

For anyone to be rated above Dino Zoff, they must have had an outstanding career as a goalkeeper, and that’s the story of Buffon. The former Juventus and Parma goalkeeper is regarded by many as the greatest Italian goalkeeper ever, and rightly so.

Buffon became the most expensive goalkeeper when he transferred from Parma to Juventus in 2001, and he repaid the hefty sum by leading the club to many titles, including 10 Serie A titles. Despite the club’s relegation to Serie B in 2006, Buffon remained loyal and helped rebuild the club to the pinnacle of Italian football.

The legendary goalkeeper won the World Cup with Italy in 2006 in a historic final between France and Italy, which saw Zidane infamously headbutt Materazzi.

He remains the goalkeeper with the most clean sheets, with 501 clean sheets during his illustrious career, making him one of the best goalkeepers in soccer history.

#3. Oliver Kahn

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Source: Bavarian Football Works

Remember how fierce Sergio Ramos was during his time at Real Madrid, when he ruled with terror? Well, Oliver Kahn pioneered that attitude and succeeded at Bayern Munich in the process.

Oliver Kahn was a great goalkeeper, as he was fearless, but his greatness is not just measured by how many saves he made. The German had a 14-year spell with Bayern Munich, winning eight Bundesliga titles, six DFB-Pokals, one UEFA Cup and one UEFA Champions League during his time at Bayern Munich.

He finished third in the Ballon d’Or rankings for 2001 and 2002, in a period where attackers gained more attention than defensive players.

The legendary goalkeeper kept a career of 322 clean sheets, staking his place on the list of the greatest goalkeepers in soccer history.

#2. Manuel Neuer

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Source: Bavarian Football Works

Manuel Neuer is the best modern goalkeeper. The German gave the role ‘sweeper-keeper’ more meaning. Bayern Munich fans may always have their hearts in their mouths whenever Neuer steps into the middle of the park when his team is attacking, but the Bavarian legend knows all about ball-playing.

His ball-playing abilities have not had any effect on his shot-stopping, as the German goalkeeper is regarded as one of the best shot-stoppers around. The 37-year-old has 353 career clean sheets. Since signing for Bayern Munich in 2011, Neuer has won 28 trophies, including two trebles in 2013 and 2020.

At 37, Neuer is still going, having recently recovered from a long-term injury to be a part of the in-form Bayern Munich.

#1. Lev Yashin

Source: Wallpapers.com

For a top global soccer award to be named after a goalkeeper, they must have truly changed the game. The Yashin Award is given to the world’s best goalkeeper these days, and this was born from the legacy of the legendary Russian goalkeeper Lev Yashin.

He remains the only goalkeeper to have won the Ballon d’Or, and the most amazing thing about it is that he won it in an era when goalkeepers were largely overlooked.

Yashin did not just make saves; he usually wowed the crowd with his acrobatic shot-stopping. He was so consistent that even England legend Gordon Banks, another goalkeeper on this list, admitted he learned a lot from him.

Yashin is now famous for saving over 150 spot kicks, the most by any professional goalkeeper. He also kept over 270 clean sheets in his professional career.

This wraps up our list of the top 10 best goalkeepers in soccer history. What they achieved in their illustrious careers will forever be remembered for as long as soccer is played, and that’s what makes them legendary.

Do you think anyone should have made the list that we didn’t include? Let us know in the comment section.


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