This article ranks the five finest goalkeepers in the French top flight, Ligue 1.
The influx of money into the league, via Paris Saint-Germain and AS Monaco, has increased the profile of the French division and drawn greater focus upon its narratives, subplots and stars.
This piece focuses on the division’s goalkeepers, the men charged with providing a final line of defence for their sides and protecting the sanctity of their goallines.
This is an area where Ligue 1 excels, with many of the league’s 20 teams possessing excellent stoppers. Some may bemoan the lack of goalmouth action in the division, but it is important to remember that 12 of the league’s teams enjoyed better defensive records than their Premier League counterparts last term.
Such is the French top flight’s strength in this area, that some established stoppers have missed out on making this list.
International keepers Mickael Landreau and Steve Mandanda—a personal favourite of mine—were unlucky to miss out, while Memo Ochoa of Ajaccio and David Ospina of Nice could easily force their way into this list following strong seasons.
It’s fair to say that things haven’t gone quite to plan for Vincent Enyeama since his arrival at Lille in June 2011. Only now, two years on, is he able to call himself the side’s No. 1, finally imposing himself on the team following a season away at Maccabi Tel Aviv.
So far so good, as Lille have kept two clean sheets in their opening three Ligue 1 fixtures and Enyeama has had a comfortable start—finally—to life in France.
As his club career begins to flourish, however, his international future has started to come under tremendous scrutiny.
Once the undisputed gardien for Nigeria, some recent, shoddy performances have opened the door for Enyeama’s long-term understudy, Austin Ejide, to break into the team. He possibly would have done so ahead of the triumphant Cup of Nations victory had it not been for injury, and Enyeama now faces a fight to prove himself once more as Nigeria’s go-to ‘keeper.
A World Cup on the horizon will surely be incentive enough.
Stade de Reims were tipped to struggle when they finally returned to Ligue 1 last season.
Their triumphant comeback certainly wasn’t easy, and while they managed to finish in a respectable 14th position, they were only five points from relegation.
Their saving grace was surely their impressive defensive record. Only conceding 42 in 38 games was the best record in the bottom half of the league and was bettered only by six sides in the top 10.
The Togolese keeper was a hugely influential figure, and his athletic displays often made the difference between securing valuable points and ending a contest empty-handed.
Agassa will need to be at his absolute best once again to ensure Reims’ sustained stay in the top flight. This stint in champagne country must surely rank as the finest achievement in Magic Hands’ nomadic, unexceptional career—hopefully it will have a happy ending.
The goalscoring exploits of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang may have been the most publicised factor in Saint-Etienne’s wonderful 2012-13 season, but goalkeeper Stephane Ruffier also deserves immense credit for some excellent performances.
The 26-year-old finally began to look like he was the man to end the long-term search for a replacement for Jeremie Janot, ASSE’s custodian for 16 years.
It looks unlikely, however, that Ruffier will enjoy such a long stint in the Loire. Arsenal have been circling this summer as they seek competition for Wojciech Szczesny, according to Jack Wilson of the Express, and while the Gunners may seal the deal in this window, it may not be long before Ruffier makes the move to the EPL.
According to Soccer News, Fiorentina and Roma have also had reported interest in the talented ‘keeper.
While Monaco have splashed the cash extravagantly this summer in order to acquire some elite superstars, the perception is that their squad, who recently emerged from Ligue 2, lack the depth to prosper at the business end of the table.
The loan signing of Argentina goalkeeper Sergio Romero, then, should be of great reassurance to Monegasque fans.
The 26-year-old arrived in Sampdoria after an impressive time with AZ Alkmaar and helped the Italian side both achieve promotion back to Serie A and remain in the division last term.
He will be playing alongside a different calibre of player this term and should prove himself to be one of the French league’s finest ‘keepers. An exciting season is likely to culminate at the World Cup in Brazil, where Romero will be looking to guide Argentina to victory and to cement his name among the globe’s finest in his position.
Over the last few seasons of change and revolution in the French top flight, Salvatore Sirigu has confirmed his place as Ligue 1’s finest goalkeeper and announced himself as one of the world’s best.
He may enjoy the security of a spot behind the likes of Thiago Silva and Alex, but when called upon, Sirigu has demonstrated his class time and time again.
Since arriving at the club in 2011 and soon ousting Nicky Douchez to claim the starting spot, he hasn’t looked back.
He shall be the cornerstone upon which PSG build their dominion moving forward, and don’t be surprised to see Sirigu command Italy’s No. 1 shirt following next summer’s World Cup.