Once upon a time, the goalkeeper position was one that managers and football clubs paid little attention to. While it was important to have a good goalkeeper in your ranks, there were always more pressing matters to address.
Goalkeepers simply weren’t box office enough. Star strikers, skilful wingers, creative midfielders and every position in-between always stole the limelight. There have been world-class goalkeepers, of course, but for every one of them, there were ten in every other position.
Though these days, that’s not the case. Goalkeepers are having somewhat of a revival. Last summer alone, the Premier League broke the world-record fee for a goalkeeper twice in the space of a week.
10. Manuel Neuer
Okay, Manuel Neuer is not the same player he was three years ago. That, though, is more of a testament to how good he was during his prime.
Neuer practically reinvented goalkeeping at his best and paved the way for the sweeper-keepers such as Ederson and Alisson to play as they do today. At his best, Neuer is akin to a wall. It takes something special to get past this guy when he’s in form.
The German absolutely dominates the penalty area, has the best awareness of any goalkeeper out there and does all of this with the type of confidence most players could only dream of. The past year has not been kind on Neuer, and it will be interesting to see if he can rediscover his form for his club and country.
9. Thibaut Courtois
There is no denying that Thibaut Courtois’ first year at Real Madrid didn’t go as planned. The Belgian, though, has suffered because of the circumstances around him.
Madrid has been a circus this season, to say the least, and Courtois has suffered from the depths this side have plummeted to this year. However, on his day, there is no denying that the Belgian is a top-class goalkeeper. When he hits a run of form, Courtois is one of the most consistent goalkeepers around.
His best attribute is his commanding presence. He puts his big frame to good use, terrifying opposition forwards and putting his centre-backs at ease. Expect him to bounce back with Madrid under Zinedine Zidane next season.
8. Samir Handanovic
At 34 years old, Samir Handanovic is the oldest player on that list, but that doesn’t mean he’s a granddad by any means.
Handanovic has spent his career in Buffon’s shadow, but that doesn’t mean he has failed to develop. The Slovenian is arguably the best keeper in Italy and has been for some time. He’s as reliable as they come and has surprisingly good reflexes for a man who stands at a giant six-foot-four inches. The fact that Inter Milan have him contracted until 2021 shows how good he is.
If Handanovic had ever played outside of Italy, there’s no escaping he’d be held in higher regard. Ask Serie A fans what they think of him, though, and they’ll tell you he’s among the best around.
7. Wojciech Szczesny
Forget the goalkeeper that you saw at Arsenal, Wojciech Szczesny is among the best out there these days.
The Polish goalkeeper has matured drastically since leaving the Emirates and become far more consistent from it as a result. He has always had good reflexes and been a good shot stopper, but now, he puts in top-notch performances week in week out.
There’s a reason Juventus tapped him as the long-term replacement for Gianluigi Buffon, and anyone who watched the recent defeat to Ajax will have seen just how improved Szczesny is, from the young goalkeeper who flattered to deceive at Arsenal.
6. Hugo Lloris
His kicking isn’t great, and he’s got more than one mistake in him, as we saw in the World Cup final, but Hugo Lloris is a top-level goalkeeper. That cannot be denied.
When it comes to keeping the ball out of the net, Lloris is very, very good. He has got excellent reflexes and has an uncanny ability to pull off world-class saves. Put it this way, ask Mauricio Pochettino if you think he’s a top-class goalkeeper and he’ll answer in an affirmative tone. His national team manager will do the same.
In fact, go back and watch France’s World Cup success and you’ll see that Lloris was magnificent throughout the summer in Russia. He’s a big player and well worthy of his spot in this list.
Pep Guardiola did not hesitate to spend big money to secure Ederson for Manchester City, and it’s proven to be money well spent.
The Brazilian has been a massive hit at the Etihad, solving their goalkeeping problems and proving to be the perfect stopper for Guardiola’s team. Ederson is a good all-round goalkeeper as it is, but it’s his ability with the ball that sets him apart. No goalkeeper in history has been able to pass a ball as well as he does. In fact, you could extend that to most midfielders.
At 25 years old, he has already established himself as a top keeper and only has his best years ahead of him. Last year, he managed 17 clean sheets in the Premier League and has already beaten that total with three games to spare this season.
4. Alisson Becker
Brazil’s number one goalkeeper and the second most expensive goalkeeper in the history of football, there’s plenty to like about Liverpool’s Alisson Becker.
The Brazilian is reliable, a superb shot-stopper and can ping passes into midfield with ease. He’s also extremely comfortable with the ball at his feet, preferring a Cruyff turn to lumping it into Row Z. His first season in the Premier League has been awe-inspiring. He has not only improved Liverpool’s defence exponentially but kept 19 clean sheets, the most in the division.
The near £70 million the Reds paid for him has been well spent. It takes a particularly special player to keep Ederson out of goal for Brazil and Alisson is undoubtedly that.
3. David de Gea
Okay, it has not been a great year for David de Gea. He was poor at the World Cup and has made numerous high-profile mistakes in the Premier League.
This is just a downturn in form for the Spaniard, though. His form has suffered because of the chaos at Manchester United, and it won’t be long before he’s back at his best. And when he is, football fans will be reminded of what they have been missing. When he’s at his best, he’s arguably the best goalkeeper in world football.
De Gea has better reflexes than anyone around; he can pull off gravity-defying saves at will, and is even good at making saves with his feet. He has got the full package, as he showed in that spectacular display against Tottenham Hotspur earlier this season.
2. Marc Andre Ter Stegen
It seems ridiculous to think that Andre Ter Stegen once couldn’t get a game outside of the Champions League for Barcelona.
The German had to fight for his place as Barca number one, but that status is well and truly his now. After some early blunders in his career, he’s bounced back to become one of the most consistent goalkeepers in world football. Ter Stegen’s best attribute is his ability with the ball at his feet, but he’s also got excellent reflexes and provides a calming influence behind Barca’s back four.
If not for Oblak in Madrid, he’d have been the best goalkeeper in La Liga as at now. He has already overtaken Manuel Neuer as the best in Germany and should have started ahead of him at the World Cup last summer.
1. Jan Oblak
Atletico Madrid’s ability to continually replace quality with quality under Diego Simeone has kept them competing at the top, and they certainly did that with Jan Oblak.
The Slovenian goalkeeper arrived as a replacement for Thibaut Courtois but has far surpassed the Real Madrid man these days. While not as good with the ball at his feet as some modern goalkeepers, there are few who are as effective at keeping the ball out of the net.
Oblak has superb reflexes, a sensational shot stopper and is commanding in the air. In 205 games for Atletico, he has kept 134 clean sheets and conceded just 116 goals.