10 Greatest Soccer Goalies Of All Time
Often underrated, goalkeepers play crucial roles in the success of a team. But their contribution is not always celebrated like that of the goal scorers.
However, It is one of the most difficult positions on the field that requires huge mental strength, concentration as well as readiness to pull off great saves when called to action.
Furthermore, a single mistake from a goalie could cost the whole team a match or even a tournament. Thus, it is of utmost importance to have safe hands between the sticks.
Throughout history, we’ve seen some exceptional ‘keepers take to the field. In this article, TOP SOCCER BLOG brings you the 10 greatest soccer goalies of all time.
1. Lev Yashin
Nicknamed the “Black Spider” or the “Black Panther,” Lev Yashin is regarded by many as the greatest goalkeeper in soccer history.
He was known for his athleticism, positioning, stature, bravery, imposing presence in goal, and acrobatic reflex saves
Furthermore, he was credited for revolutionizing the goalkeeping position by imposing his authority on the entire defense.
He was a vocal presence in goal, shouted orders at his defenders, came off his line to intercept crosses, and also ran out to meet onrushing attackers. This was done at a time when goalkeepers spent the 90 minutes standing in the goal, waiting to be called into action.
He appeared in 4 FIFA World Cups from 1958 to 1970.
According to FIFA, Yashin saved over 150 penalty kicks in professional football — more than any other goalkeeper ever.
He also kept over 270 clean sheets in his career, winning a gold medal at the 1956 Olympic football tournament and the 1960 European Championships.
In 1963, Yashin received the Ballon d’Or — the only goalkeeper to win the award in history.
He won the European Goalkeeper of the Year award 8 times between 1956 and 1966.
One of the most prestigious awards in football introduced with the name Lev Yashin Award in 1994 in honour of legendary Soviet goalkeeper Lev Yashin.
2. Gianluigi Buffon
Gianluigi Buffon is one of the few players to have officially made over 1,100 professional career appearances.
He joined Juventus in 2001 for €52 million, a then-world record fee for a goalkeeper.
At Juventus, he won 10 Serie A titles, 5 Coppa Italia, 6 Supercoppa Italiana, and reached 3 UEFA Champions League finals.
Buffon was the first goalkeeper to win the Serie A Footballer of the Year award and was named Serie A Goalkeeper of the Year a record 12 times.
Furthermore, he holds the record for the all-time most Serie A appearances.
With 176 international caps, Buffon is the most-capped player in the history of the Italy national team.
He played at 5 FIFA World Cups and won the tournament in 2006 — where he won the Golden Glove as the competition’s Best goalkeeper.
There is no doubt that Buffon is not just one of best soccer goalies of all time, but also one of the greatest soccer players of all time.
Gianluigi Buffon is the only goalkeeper to win the UEFA Club Footballer of the Year and was runner-up for the Ballon d’Or in 2006.
3. Peter Schmeichel
Peter Schmeichel was renowned for loudly criticizing mistakes made by his defenders.
He spent the best part of his club career at Manchester United, where he won 5 Premier League titles and famously captained the Red Devils to victory in the 1999 UEFA Champions League Final to complete a historic Treble.
He is also the most capped player for the Denmark national team, with 129 games between 1987 and 2001.
He was integral as Denmark shockingly won Euro ’92 — one of the greatest upsets in soccer history.
Peter Schmeichel scored 11 goals during his career, including one for the Danish
national team. He is regarded as one of the greatest Danish soccer players ever.
4. Dino Zoff
Dino Zoff is the oldest-ever winner of the FIFA World Cup, which he won as captain of Italy in 1982 — at the age of 40 years, 4 months, and 13 days.
His remarkable longevity and success at both club and international level makes him one of the best soccer goalies of all time.
He also won the award for Best Goalkeeper of the Tournament.
He had earlier won Euro 1968. Thus, he is the only Italian player to have won both the FIFA World Cup and the European Championship.
He also achieved great success at club level with Juventus, winning 6 Serie A titles, 2 Coppa Italia titles, and a UEFA Cup.
Zoff holds the record for the longest playing time without conceding goals in international tournaments (1,142 minutes) set between 1972 and 1974.
He was known for his excellent shot-stopping, commanding presence, and leadership skills, making him one of the most respected and successful goalkeepers in the history of the sport.
Dino Zoff came 2nd in the 1973 Ballon d’Or.
5. Gordon Banks
During his 20-year professional career, Gordon Banks made 679 appearances and won 73 caps for England.
He started every game as England won their only FIFA World Cup in 1966.
At the 1970 FIFA World Cup, he made one of the best saves in history to prevent Pele from scoring.
Jairzinho crossed the ball into the six-yard box, and Pele connected with a powerful header to send the ball low toward the right-hand corner of the goal.
Sure that the ball was going in, Pele immediately shouted, “Gol!”
But Banks astonishingly managed to make contact with the ball with the fingers of his right hand and rolled his hand slightly to angle the ball over the crossbar!
He landed in the inner netting of the goal and knew he had saved the ball after seeing Pele’s reaction.
Gordon Banks was named FWA Footballer of the Year in 1972 and won the FIFA Goalkeeper of the Year award 6 times.
His book Banksy by Gordon Banks is among the best soccer autobiographies you must read.
6. Sepp Maier
Sepp Maier was nicknamed “Die Katze von Anzing” (“the cat from Anzing”) for his fast reflexes, agility, flexibility, speed, consistency, and ability to dominate his box.
He spent his entire club career at Bayern Munich.
In the 1970s, he was part of the legendary Bayern team (which included the likes of Franz Beckenbauer and Gerd Müller) that won 4 league titles, 3 German cups, and 3 consecutive European Cups.
Maier won the German Footballer of the Year award in 1975, 1977, and 1978.
Between 1966 and 1979, he played in 442 consecutive Bundesliga matches — still a German national record.
With West Germany, Sepp Maier won the FIFA World Cup in 1974 and Euro 1972.
Notably, he was the victim of the famous Panenka Penalty in the final of Euro 1976 against Czechoslovakia.
7. Iker Casillas
Popularly dubbed “San Iker” (“Saint Iker”) for his ability to produce spectacular saves, Iker Casillas was famous for his athleticism, quick reactions, and outstanding shot-stopping ability.
He spent the majority of his career at Real Madrid, where he won 5 La Liga, 4 Supercopa de Espana, 2 Copa del Rey, 3 UEFA Champions Leagues, 2 UEFA Super Cups, 2 Intercontinental Cups, and the FIFA Club World Cup.
He was captain as Spain won Euro 2008, the 2010 FIFA World Cup, and Euro 2012.
Casillas is one of the few players to have officially made over 1000 professional career matches and holds the record for the most clean sheets in the UEFA Champions League, as well as for the Spain national team.
8. Manuel Neuer
Manuel Neuer made a reputation as a modern “sweeper-keeper” that quickly rushes out of goal to anticipate opponents and clear the ball. This unique ability enables his teams to maintain a high defensive line.
Furthermore, he has exceptional reflexes and shot-stopping abilities. He is also one of the best ball-playing goalkeepers in football.
Neuer started his career at Schalke 04, where he won the DFB-Pokal and DFL-Ligapokal.
In 2011, he joined Bayern Munich and has won 28 trophies, including 10 Bundesliga titles and 2 UEFA Champions League crowns in 2013 and 2020 (both as part of trebles).
Neuer won the 2014 FIFA World Cup with Germany as well as the Golden Glove award for being the Best Goalkeeper in the tournament.
In 2014, he came 3rd for the FIFA Ballon d’Or award behind Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.
Manuel Neuer was awarded the UEFA Goalkeeper of the Year and the IFFHS World’s Best Goalkeeper 5 times each.
9. Edwin van der Sar
Edwin van der Sar was part of the Ajax team that famously won the UEFA Champions League in 1995.
He is also one of the most successful footballers ever, having won 26 major trophies in his career.
During the 2008/09 season, Van der Sar set a world record by not conceding a league goal for 1,311 minutes.
The Dutchman is the oldest player to win the Premier League, having done so in 2011 at the age of 40 years and 205 days.
Moreso, he won several individual awards, including Best European Goalkeeper in 1995 and 2009 and the UEFA Club Goalkeeper of the Year in 2009.
He was known for his reflexes, excellent positional sense, shot-stopping abilities, calmness, and ability to organize his defense.
Furthermore, he was also effective at stopping penalties.
However, Van der Sar was known in particular for being good with the ball at his feet, as well as his accurate distribution with either foot, which gave him the ability to launch counter-attacks from his area with long balls or build attacking plays by playing the ball out from the back.
10. Oliver Kahn
Oliver Khan’s commanding presence in goal and aggressive goalkeeping style earned him the nicknames Der Titan ( “The Titan”) and Vol-kahn-o (“volcano”).
He is one of the most successful German players in history, winning 8 Bundesliga titles, 6 DFB-Pokals, the UEFA Cup, UEFA Champions League, and the Intercontinental Cup.
Kahn was an unused member of the German squad that won Euro ’96.
He was integral as Germany reached the final of the 2002 World Cup, losing to Brazil.
Oliver Khan won a record 4 consecutive UEFA Best European Goalkeeper awards, as well as 3 IFFHS World’s Best Goalkeeper awards and 2 German Footballer of the Year trophies.
At the 2002 FIFA World Cup, Kahn became the only goalkeeper in history to win the Golden Ball as the Best Player of the Tournament.
Other notable names who are among the best soccer goalies of all time include:
- Michel Preud’homme
- Nasser Hejazi
- Petr Cech
- Vincent Enyeama
- Jose Luis Chilavert
- Peter Shilton
- Claudio Bravo
- Harald Schumacher
- Victor Valdes
- Thomas N’Kono
- Essam El-Hadary.