Finding a reliable goalkeeper, let alone one content to be a backup, is one of the most important objectives a club can achieve. Modern football is so competitive, that it has become imperative for teams to have plan Bs for every scenario, and that includes goalkeepers.
There are a host of exceptional backup goalies out there, who have the quality despite not playing often.
Interestingly, Scott Carson won the UEFA Champions League for the second time this summer when Manchester City completed the treble after a 1-0 win over Inter in Istanbul, Turkey.
Interestingly, it’s the second time that the backup goalkeeper will be winning the competition in that same stadium, in the same competition without kicking a ball after Carson did it in 2005 with Liverpool as a backup goalkeeper.
Let’s find out who the best backup goalkeepers in world football are.
1. Dean Henderson – Manchester United
26-year-old Dean Henderson has been with Manchester United since 2015, two years before winning the FIFA under-20 World Cup with the English under-20 team in South Korea.
While he has not really been featuring as a backup goalkeeper at the Red Devils because of his several loan moves across several teams.
He has been on loan to teams such as Sheffield United and Nottingham Forest, and he might be forced to become Manchester United’s first-choice goalkeeper if he can usurp Andre Onana, who signed as replacement for David De Gea.
Dean Henderson knows how to use his arms and legs for proper distribution and is known for his imposing presence in the box, and can be comfortable with claiming crosses.
However, Erik Ten Hag’s relationship with Andre Onana and Ajax is the reason the Dutch coach favors the former Inter Milan goalkeeper rather than trusting Dean Henderson.
2. Zack Steffen – Manchester City
It was a hard choice to pick between American goalkeeper Zack Steffen and Germany goalkeeper Stefan Ortega.
However, the big deal breaker is in the fact that Steff is a big regular with the US national team and played for Middlesbrough in the last season with over 30 appearances.
The American seems to have a better chance at remaining at Manchester City than the 30-year-old former Arminia Bielefeld goalkeeper.
3. Andriy Lunin – Real Madrid
Real Madrid may have a long list of backup goalkeepers, but there isn’t any doubt when it comes to who comes in when Thibaut Courtois is unavailable or injured.
It is the highly-talented Ukrainian goalkeeper and 2019 FIFA under-20 World Cup winner, Andriy Lunin who joined Real Madrid immediately after the under-20 World Cup triumph.
He has been on several loan stints but last season, he played seven matches during an injury layoff for Belgian goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois.
Lunin has won everything available in club football and can only hope that one day he becomes the first-choice at Real Madrid.
4. Caoimhin Kelleher – Liverpool
It’s not easy being a backup goalkeeper to a world-class one in Alisson Becker, but it may be for the better for 24-year-old Caoimhin Kelleher, who understudies him at Liverpool.
The Irish goalkeeper may look back at the days he had to sit on the bench because of the Brazilian and appreciate them when he gets his time as the first choice even, even if it’s not at Liverpool.
Kelleher played just a single Premier League game for Liverpool last season but was their consistent choice in their cup games.
5. Keylor Navas – PSG
It is crazy that a world-class goalkeeper in his prime like Keylor Navas will be forced to go on loan deals and settle for the second-choice spots in a team.
That is what former Real Madrid goalkeeper Keylor Navas has had to deal with at Paris Saint-Germain, where Gianluigi Donnarumma remains their first choice.
Keylor Navas, despite being one of the shortest professional goalkeepers, is known for his great reflexes and can stand his own against the world’s best.
He is arguably one of the best goalkeepers in the world.
He played the whole of last season at Nottingham Forest in the Premier League and was also instrumental, just like Taiwo Awoniyi was in their survival.
6. Yann Sommer – Bayern Munich
Whether he stays or leaves Bayern Munich in the summer for Inter Milan, everyone knows the quality of Yann Sommer, especially when he was at Borussia Monchengladbach, as he was consistently one of the best goalkeepers in the Bundesliga.
Bayern Munich knew what they were getting in January when Manuel Neuer was unavailable due to injury.
He played 25 games in all competitions and is considered to replace Onana at Inter Milan. Furthermore, Swiss international is known for his agility, reflexes, and penalty-stopping abilities.
8. Martin Dúbravka – Newcastle United
Before becoming the backup goalkeeper, Martin Dúbravka was previously Newcastle United first choice goalkeeper until the 2021/2022 season before the Toona army started pumping finances into the club.
Last season, he was on loan at Manchester United but did not play any League matches.
In his prime, Martin Dúbravka was one of the top goalkeepers in the Premier League.
9. Alphonse Areola – West Ham
From Paris Saint-Germain to Real Madrid and now West Ham United, Alphonse Areola has been a great backup choice for some of the biggest clubs in Europe.
It makes you wonder what the French goalkeeper has to do to become the first choice not only at the national level but also at the London club West Ham United.
10. Iñaki Peña
Iñaki Peña is a Spanish professional footballer who plays as a backup goalkeeper for Marc Andre Ter Stegen in FC Barcelona.
At the age of 13 in 2012, he left Villarreal CF to join FC Barcelona’s La Masia.
However, on January 31, 2022, Peña signed a loan deal with Galatasaray for the remainder of the season.
When his loan deal expired, Peña made his official first team debut for Barcelona under Xavi’s in the UEFA Champions League on November 1, 2022.
He signed a contract extension with Barcelona on May 9, 2023, which will keep him at the club until 2026 and includes a buyout clause of 400 million euros.
Last season, Peña played in two matches against Real Valladolid and Celta Vigo, playing for a total of approximately 72 minutes after coming on for Marc-André ter Stegen at half time in Valladolid and coming on at 63 minutes in Celta. He conceded two goals in his two appearances.
Iñaki Peña has the potential to become one of the best goalkeepers in the Spanish La Liga.