Creating a list of the best goalkeepers in the history of soccer is no easy task, even for the most knowledgeable soccer minds out there. So many goalkeepers out there have played in different leagues and different national teams.
How am I supposed to create a list depicting the greatest goalkeepers of all time with absolute impartiality? Everyone has their own opinion and making a definitive list will, of course, lead to some disagreement.
To craft this ranking, I have tried to study every great goalkeeper in soccer history, their stats, their impact on the game and how important they were to their respective teams.
Making this article surely was no easy task but I am taking you on a journey through the history of these 10 best soccer goalies of all time!
N° 10 - Fabien Barthez
“Le Divin Chauve” like some used to call him, is without a doubt the best French goalkeeper to ever play the beautiful game of soccer.
Winning his first major trophy in 1993: A champion’s league with the Olympique de Marseille, Barthez started to get some recognition and made his debut with the national team a year later.
In the late ’90s, there seems to be very little that can stop him as he shines under every jersey that he chooses to wear, from Monaco to Manchester United to the French national team.
Barthez will eventually become a national hero thanks to their win in the 1998 World Cup where he only conceded 2 goals (including one penalty) and the Euro 2000.
This incredible goalkeeper distinguished himself with spectacular saves and his dominance in the air despite his rather short size.
N° 9 - Manuel Neuer
Manuel Neuer revolutionized the goalkeeper’s role by positioning himself higher on the pitch and actively participating in the game. Thanks to his technical abilities and his ease with the ball, it isn’t rare to see him venture outside of his surface.
Amongst his numerous trophies, he has won the 2014 World Cup with Germany, the 2013 and 2020 European Champion’s League with the Bayern along with a ton of national titles.
At the time of writing, Manuel Neuer is still playing for both the German national team and the Bayern Munich. He is still building his own legacy amongst these legendary goalkeepers and could very well move up in these rankings in the years to come.
N°8 - Edwin Van Der Sar
For Edwin Van Der Sar, everything started with the Ajax Amsterdam where he collected numerous national titles and a champion’s league in 1995.
4 time elected best European goalkeeper, Van Der Sar’s career was nothing short of stellar.
After playing for Juventus and Fulham, he would go on to win another Champion’s league along with 4 Premier Leagues with Manchester United.
Throughout his 6 years with the Red Devils, “Van der Save” produced numerous goalkeeping prowess, especially during the penalty shootouts of the 2008 Champion’s League where he stopped the final penalty, taken by Anelka.
Despite Edwin’s huge career and various records, he never won a title with the national team. Perhaps his only regret as a professional soccer player.
N°7 - Peter Schmeichel
What is the deal with Manchester United and goalkeepers anyway? After VDS and Barthez, Peter Schmeichel makes an appearance in this top 10 best soccer goalies of all-time list.
The Danish legend spent 8 years in Manchester where he simply won everything: 5 premier leagues, 3 FA cups, a champion’s league and 2 goalkeeper of the year titles.
Discovered by the general public during the 1992 Euro in Sweden, Peter Schmeichel played a major part in Danemark’s surprise win thanks to his numerous saves. He also played marvelously in the 1998 world cup, reaching the quarter finals against Brazil.
His son, Kasper Schmeichel who plays for Leicester City, is also an amazing Goalkeeper.
N°6 - Sepp Maier
Another legendary goalkeeper from Germany, Sepp Maier has won pretty much everything there is to win with both his club and his country.
Sepp Maier played for the legendary FC Bayern Munich during 14 years, notably winning 3 Champions League in a row between 1974 and 1976 and countless national titles and honors.
With Germany, he played 95 games and consecutively won the Euro in 1972 and the World Cup in 1974. Nicknamed “The cat from Anzing” because of his agility and quickness, this true football legend mentored another great goalkeeper… Can you guess who? Check out N° 4 of this list!
N° 5 - Iker Casillas
Did you know that at only 31, Iker Casillas had won every single trophy a player can win with both his club and his national team? That fact alone places him in the conversation of who is the greatest goalkeeper of all times.
“The Saint” started his career with his beloved Real Madrid at the age of 16. Are you ready for his resume with Madrid? 5 Spanish Championships, 3 Champions League, 6 National Cups, 2 UEFA Super Cup, 1 FIFA Club World Cup. Transferred to Porto in 2015, he quickly became a leader, and a legend over there aswell.
Iker Casillas was also the captain of one of the greatest national teams in football history. Under his leadership, they won 2 Euros and a World Cup between 2008 and 2012. He also holds the record for the most appearances with the Spanish team: 143.
N° 4 - Oliver Kahn
Seems like Germany has its own magic formula to create the ultimate goalkeeper. Our third german goalkeeper is none other than the Vol-Kahn-o. The emblematic Bayern goalkeeper from 1994 to 2008 has upset countless strikers over the course of his career thanks to his unmatched talent.
The rather commanding goalie was without a doubt, one of the best in the world during his 14 years with Munich, a team he would go on to help win 9 national championships and 6 cups. The pinnacle of his career: a Champion’s League in 2001.
During the World Cup 2002, he was elected the best player of the competition (a title that was never before given to a goalkeeper) and lost to Ronaldo’s Brazil in the finals. The biggest regret of his career was to never have won any title with the German national squad as a starter.
N° 3 - Dino Zoff
Have you ever wondered who was the oldest player to ever win a World Cup? Well, here’s your answer: Dino Zoff. The goalkeeper was indeed 40 years old when he led the Italian Squadra Azzura to victory in the 1982 World Cup in Spain.
This Italian legend has had a crazy long career and unusual longevity for an athlete. He indeed played 22 seasons with a professional team, mainly with Napoli and Juventus.
With his different clubs, he won the Italian Calcio 6 times and the UEFA Cup once. He also won a European Championship with Italy in 1968 and still holds quite a record: 1142 minutes without conceding a goal during international tournaments.
Turned down by the Inter at the age of 14 because of his rather short figure, Dino Zoff is a true inspiration to anyone facing adversity. As history would have it, he turned out to be one of the greatest goalkeepers of all time.
N° 2 - Gianluigi Buffon
Have Italians found the fountain of youth? Because this guy is still currently playing at 42 and more importantly, he is still relevant!
Gianluigi Buffon started his career in Parma where he would win his first major trophies in 1999, a European UEFA Cup and an Italian cup.
2001 would become a turning point in his career as he was transferred for 53 million euro to the Juventus. This is where he became the mythical goalkeeper we all know. In 17 seasons with the Old Lady, he won 9 Calcios, 4 Italian Cup. However, he is unfortunately still on the hunt for a Champions League despite his three finals in 2003, 2015 and 2017.
With the national team, he played a record of 176 games, 4 Euros, 6 World Cups, one of which he won against France in 2006 thanks to a now-legendary save in the extra time against Zidane’s header.
Even if he still hasn’t retired, I think we can say without a shred of doubt that Gianluigi Buffon is going to go down in history as one of the best goalies of all times.
N°1 - Lev Yashin: World's best goalkeeper in history
This top 10 list wouldn’t have been complete without the player who to this day, is still the only goalkeeper to have won a Ballon d’Or: Lev Yashin.
Lev Yashin won the Olympic title in 1956 and the Euro 1960 with the URSS. He also piled on tons of national titles with his one and only club, the Dynamo Moscow.
“The Black Spider” is a nicknamed he earned because of his agility, reflexes, and capacity to easily catch the ball as if he had six hands. Over the course of his career, he stopped a record of 150 penalties and kept 270 clean sheets (over a total of 812 games).
Lev Yashin surely has left his mark on this beautiful sport, even giving his name to the trophy of the best world cup goalkeeper in 1994, years after his retirement.
I want to end this article with an apology if I left out your favorite goalkeeper. This list only reflects my personal opinion and analysis. I would be very glad to hear your thoughts on the matter if you think I have left out some important names.
If you’re a goalkeeper yourself, you might want to take a look at our guide of the best goalkeeper gloves currently available on the market.
Please let me know in the comments below who would have made the cut in your list of the best goalkeepers of all time. If you liked this article, please share it on social media!