They're the last line of defense, and so often, the man who is left with all the blame. Sometimes, they're the heroes of penalty shootouts; other times, they're not.
But throughout history of world football, many goalkeepers have become absolute legends of the game, etching their careers into the history books forever.
Fans in the past 100 years have seen some superb goalkeepers take their place between the sticks; this list seeks to bring the best 50 of those players together.
Note that this list isn't ranked: The players mentioned here are simply so talented in their own right, it would be unfair to them to try and split their achievements.
Let's take a look at the top 50 goalkeepers in history.
IFFHS World's Best Goalkeeper: 1992, 1993
One of the true greats in history, Peter Schmeichel was not only a legend at Manchester United but also on the international scene with Denmark, chalking up 129 caps.
Schmeichel had superb movement for a man of his stature and size—forced to wear specially made XXXL size shirts during the peak of his career—a true legend.
ESM Goalkeeper of the Year: 2012, 2013
With fantastic reflexes and shot-stopping ability, Manuel Neuer has become a consistent starter for both Bayern Munich and the German national team. The successes that both of those teams have had in recent history is hardly surprising when we see Neuer's talent on display.
Goalkeeper of the Century: fifth place
Voted as one of the greatest players in the 20th century, Ricardo Zamora was a legend throughout Spanish football, courtesy of his quick reflexes and vision.
The award for the best goalkeeper in La Liga is named in his honor.
First GK to Win Four Italian Championships in a Row
A legend throughout Juventus and Italian football, Giampiero Combi made over 360 appearances in total for the Old Lady between the First and Second World War.
One of the few to ever win the FIFA World Cup as captain, his 934 consecutive minutes without conceding a goal was also a record for Italian domestic football.
European Goalkeeper of the Year: 1969, 1976
Czechoslovakian football is inextricably mixed with the name Ivo Viktor—a legend at the back and one of the biggest reasons behind their success in European football.
Voted 24th in IFFHS' Century Elections for Goalkeeper of the Century.
IFFHS Goalkeeper of the Year: 1994
Michel Preud'homme made over 50 appearances for the Belgium national team and is considered one of the best shot-stoppers of all time, courtesy of his incredibly timing, reflexes and agility. He was awarded the inaugural Yashin Award for his performances at the 1994 World Cup.
IFFHS World's Best Goalkeeper: 1999, 2001, 2002
One of the best ever to don the German national jersey, Oliver Kahn certainly made his presence felt at the back and quickly showed why he is one of the best-ever shot-stoppers in the history of world football.
Kahn was named the Bundesliga's Best Goalkeeper seven times between 1994 and 2002 and was named Europe's best four years in a row from 1999 to 2002.
Hardly surprising to see his name in the FIFA 100 either.
IFFHS World's Best Goalkeeper: 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2013
He might not be able to get consistent minutes for Real Madrid at the moment, but looking back across his entire career, it's hard to say Iker Casillas hasn't been one of the best goalkeepers ever in world football.
The man they call "Saint Iker" has been fundamental to the rise of Spanish football on the international scene—one of the finest goalkeepers this generation has seen.
Casillas has made the UEFA Team of the Year every year for the past six seasons and was given a Gold Medal of the Royal Order of Sporting Merit in 2009 also.
PFA Players' Player of the Year: 1978
No player has made more appearances for the England national team in history than Peter Shilton, with his 30-year career one of the most illustrious in history.
His career stats are: 11 different clubs, two European finals and more than 1,000 career matches.
He still holds a joint record for most clean sheets in the FIFA World Cup and was rightly inducted into the English Football Hall of Fame in 2002.
Seven-Time Portuguese National Champion
There are few names in Portuguese football history with the same legacy as Alberto Costa Pereira.
A seven-time national champion, Pereira also won the Portuguese domestic cup five times and consecutive European Cups with S.L. Benfica in 1961 and 1962.
Goalkeeper of the Tournament: 1974 FIFA World Cup
Poland's emergence as a giant-killer at the 1974 World Cup and shockingly earning a bronze medal was heavily due to the outstanding performances of Jan Tomaszewski.
He also led Poland to a silver medal at the 1976 Summer Olympics.
He's known affectionately as "The Man That Stopped England."
First GK to be Named Argentina's Footballer of the Year (1977)
Ubaldo Matildo Fillol made over 50 appearances for Argentina throughout his career and appeared in three different World Cups—winning one of them in 1978.
Known as "The Duck," Fillol is, arguably, Argentina's greatest-ever GK.
IFFHS Best Goalkeeper of the 20th Century: ninth place
One of the most honored players in Czechoslovakian history, Frantisek Planicka was a stalwart in goals for Slavia Prague and won a staggering eight domestic titles.
The shot-stopped embodied the very definition of courage and sportsmanship and was known for his outstanding reflexes and shot-stopping abilities.
Elected as the best Czech Goalkeeper of the 20th Century.
Won the 1980 European Championships with West Germany
Known more for his ugly tackle on French defender Patrick Battiston, Harald Schumacher was actually a very prolific goalkeeper in his own right for West Germany.
Never quite got the international success that he would have liked, however—losing both World Cup finals he made in 1982 and 1986, respectively.
PFA Players' Player of the Year: 1976
Few goalkeepers showed the same composure at the back that Patrick Jennings did—commanding his penalty box with nonchalance and, at times, unorthodox saves.
Played the most games for Northern Ireland in history, with 119, and made over 700 appearances for both Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal combined in his career.
IFFHS' Best Goalkeeper of the 20th Century: third place
The oldest ever winner of the World Cup, Dino Zoff is a legend of Italian football, having made over 110 appearances for the national team and 642 domestic appearances as well for a number of top clubs.
He holds the record for the longest time without conceding a goal in international tournaments and was named Italy's best player of the last 50 years in 2003.
IFFHS World's Best Goalkeeper: 2005
Chelsea fans know that they wouldn't have won the Champions League in 2012 without Petr Cech. Barcelona and Bayern Munich fans know it as well.
The Czech international has great timing and reflexes and has been named Czech Footballer of the Year in six of the past eight seasons. He has won nearly every club trophy there is to win, and staggeringly, could have several years ahead of him, given that he's only 31 years old.
IFFHS Best Goalkeeper of the 20th Century: second place
Gordon Banks was fundamental to England's success at the 1966 World Cup, with his incredible timing, making him one of the greatest goalkeepers of all time.
Named FIFA Goalkeeper of the Year for six consecutive years between 1966 and 1971, Banks was rightly given an OBE in 1970 and named in the FIFA 100 in 2004.
Starting GK for the Austrian "Wunderteam"
To play in one of the best international teams in history is no easy achievement, and Rudi Hiden was certainly deserving of his spot between the sticks.
One of the few players to play for more than one country, Hiden also made his debut for France in 1940—seven years after his final game for Austria (in 1933).
Which, given the political state of Europe in the late 1930s, is astounding.
Zamora Trophy (Top GK in La Liga): 1952, 1956, 1957, 1959, 1960
Making close to 300 appearances for La Blaugrana in his career, Antoni Ramallets won a staggering 17 major club honors between 1948 and 1960.
He was also named the best goalkeeper in La Liga five times (equals most).
European GK of the Year: 1998, 2000
Frenchman Fabien Barthez is somewhat of a forgotten man in world football circles, but he was still a very talented (and very successful) goalkeeper on many fronts—be that international or domestic circles.
He still holds the record for most World Cup appearances for France.
First GK to Use Gloves and Leave Penalty Area to Defend
Somewhat of a pioneer in goalkeeping circles, Amadeo Raúl Carrizo was the first goalkeeper (to be recognised, anyway) for using gloves, leaving his penalty area to defend and also using goal kicks as a method to start counterattacks—something which has become fundamental to the role of a goalkeeper today.
He played a staggering 513 games for River Plate throughout his career.
Starting GK for the 1950s Hungary Golden Team
Nicknamed "the Black Panther," Gyula Grosics played at three consecutive World Cups from 1954 to 1962 and chalked up close to 400 appearances in his domestic career.
He was thought to be the first goalkeeper to play as the "sweeper keeper," where the shot-stopper plays as an extra defender when needed. Rene Higuita would be proud.
IFFHS World's Best Goalkeeper of the Year: 1988
Rinat Dasaev was one of the best Russian goalkeepers of all time.
Nicknamed "the Iron Curtain," Dasaev was part of three consecutive World Cup campaigns and was named Soviet Footballer of the Year in 1982.
Dutch Goalkeeper of the Year: 1987, 1988, 1991, 1992
A treble-winning goalkeeper with Ajax and one of Dutch football's most illustrious players, Hans van Breukelen was, perhaps, better known for saving a penalty in the final of the 1988 European Championships, where his Netherlands team won, 2-0, courtesy of Marco van Basten's famous volley.
IFFHS World's Best Goalkeeper: 2003, 2004, 2006, 2007
Still plying his trade for Juventus, there's little doubting that Gianluigi Buffon will be recognised as a world-class goalkeeper the day he hangs up the gloves for good.
Named Serie A's Goalkeeper of the Year eight times since the turn of the millennium, Buffon was also awarded as IFFHS' GK of the Decade for 2000-2010.
10 Clean Sheets in 25 Appearances for England
Not the most well-known goalkeeper, Harry Hibbs was a regular starter for England throughout the 1930s and brought great stability in an unstable time for the Three Lions.
In the nine years leading up to his debut, England had tried over 20 different goalkeepers. However, once Hibbs found his way into the starting team, he didn't relinquish that spot. He would go on to become England's most capped goalkeeper at the time.
Last GK to win FWA Footballer of the Year (1985)
A legend throughout Wales, Southall was one of the best goalkeepers in his generation—making over 575 appearances for Everton and close to 100 caps for Wales.
Named as one of the Football League 100 Legends in 1998, Neville Southall never won the IFFHS Best Goalkeeper of the Year Award, but did finish inside the Top 10 in several separate years (1987, 1988, 1989, 1991).
IFFHS Best GK in South American History: eighth place
This list seemingly wouldn't be complete without Rene Higuita.
Not necessarily the most technical GK with his hands, Higuita was a phenomenal ball-playing shot-stopper, revolutionizing the way in which GKs operate at the back.
He might have been caught out a couple of times, but it still made for some pretty spectacular viewing. It's hardly surprising that his nickname was "The Madman."
Zamora Trophy: 1986-87
Andoni Zubizarreta represented Spain at seven major international tournaments (three European Championships, four World Cups) and played in over 600 La Liga games.
He was also awarded the Spanish Player of the Year in 1987 and is simply another world-class goalkeeper in the long history of Spanish international shot-stoppers.
IFFHS World's Best Goalkeeper: 1995, 1997, 1998
Jose Luis Felix Chilavert was not only a brilliant goalkeeper—he was also a top-notch penalty taker, netting over 60 penalties throughout his domestic and international career.
Known for his aggression and assertion in the penalty box, the Paraguay international was named South American Footballer of the Year in 1996.
FWA Footballer of the Year: 1956
After spending time in the Second World War, Bert Trautmann soon joined Manchester City in 1949—and went on to make over 500 appearances for the English club.
His most infamous moment came in the 1956 FA Cup—breaking his neck with 15 minutes remaining, but staying on to make several huge saves. Manchester City would go on to beat Birmingham City, 3-1, and Trautmann would go into world football folklore forever.
FIFA World Cup Goalkeeper of the Tournament: 1970
One of the best Uruguayan players of all time, Ladislao Mazurkiewicz was elected Goalkeeper of the Tournament in Brazil's eventual triumph at the 1970 World Cup, with his quick reflexes and composure at the back almost seeing Uruguay past their fierce rivals in the Selecao.
First GK to Keep 50 Clean Sheets in the UEFA Champions League
A regular at Manchester Untied throughout the latter part of his career, Edwin Van der Sar also made over 400 appearances in total for Ajax, Fulham and Juventus.
He is the most capped player in Netherlands history and is part of a rare list of footballers who have won the UEFA Champions League with two different teams.
His worldwide record for clean sheets (1,311 minutes) still stands.
Most Appearances by a GK for Belgium
Jean Marie Pfaff is an icon in Belgium, having made appearances at several World Cups and European Championships and over 300 games for K.S.K. Beveren.
In 2004, he was named by Pele as one of the top 125 living footballers.
Swedish Golden Ball: 1971, 1978
Arguably the best goalkeeper of the 1970s, Ronnie Hellstrom won the Swedish Golden Ball on two separate occasions and played in three separate World Cups.
He's one of the best players never to win a domestic or international title.
Over 500 Appearances for Manchester City
Frank Swift's career at Manchester City was heavily interrupted by the Second World War, but his legacy certainly isn't unnoticed by many Manchester faithful.
Swift was a monster in goals and one of the most physically imposing players of his generation. He tragically died at just 44 as part of the Munich air disaster.
Scored over 40 Goals from Penalties
The history of Hungarian football was one inextricably linked with the performances of Karoly Zsak throughout the pre and early First World War period.
He played over 30 games for the national team in his career (which, at that time, was quite an achievement) and took part in two Summer Olympic football squads.
Appeared in Seven Consecutive South American Championships
Known as "The Toad" for his posture in goals, Sergio Livingstone was a regular in Chile's goal throughout the 1940s and '50s and a legend in his home nation. His performances at the South American Championships during his career—where Chile took it to some of the best nations in the world on many occasions—made him a legend in South America.
First Footballer to Appear in Five World Cup Tournaments
Only made 48 appearances for Mexico (which pales in comparison to others), but there were few footballers who have had the same impact for El Tri that Antonio Carbajal did.
He was the first footballer to play in four World Cups and better that record four years later when he appeared in his fifth Cup (1950 to 1966).
Widely Considered the Greatest Goalkeeper Africa Has Produced
A two-time African Footballer of the Year, Thomas N'Kono certainly made his presence known on both the international stage for Cameron and the domestic one for Espanyol, whom he played for for nine years.
Italian legend Buffon once declared that he decided to play goalkeeper having watched N'Kono play—a legacy that still continues to take effect to this day.
Campeonato Carioca Winner: 1945, 1947, 1949, 1950, 1952, 1958
Known for not wearing gloves (so he could feel the ball better), Barbosa was a legend throughout Brazil and, perhaps, the best goalkeeper of the 1940s and '50s—even if he was bitterly blamed for the loss to Uruguay in 1950.
1952 Summer Olympics Games: silver medal
Nicknamed "Big Vlad," Vladimir Beara played 60 games for Yugoslavia in the 1950s and delivered several memorable performances against England in his time.
He played in three World Cups from 1950 to 1958 and managed to pick up a silver medal when he played a key role in Croatia's 1952 Summer Olympics campaign.
Over 350 Appearances for Boca Juniors and Argentina
Few footballers at Boca Juniors have the legacy of Antonio Roma—who played 323 matches for the club in all competitions and won several domestic trophies.
He also picked up a silver medal with Argentina at the 1967 South American Championships.
Serie A Goalkeeper of the Year: 1997, 1998, 2007
Over 200 appearances for Juventus and close to 200 more for Lazio, Angelo Peruzzi was a stalwart in Serie A and one of the league's best-ever goalkeeping products.
An abundance of riches in Italy meant that he only made 31 appearances for the national team, but he still managed to grab a World Cup gold medal in 2006.
One of the few players to have won it all.
- Serie A: 1995, 1997, 1998
- Coppa Italia: 1995, 2004
- SuperCoppa Italiana: 1995, 1997, 2000
- UEFA Cup: 1993
- UEFA Champions League: 1996
- UEFA Super Cup: 1996
- Intercontinental Cup: 1996
- FIFA World Cup: 2006
Medals at Multiple FIFA World Cups and Summer Olympic Games
Kalle Svensson played over 70 games for Sweden throughout the 1940s and '50s and was fundamental to the nation's success and growth as a footballing country in that time.
He won gold at the 1948 Summer Olympics and bronze in 1952; he won bronze at the 1950 World Cup and followed that up with a silver medal in his 1958 swan song.
Starting GK for Germany's Famous "Breslau-Elf" Team
Part of two World Cups for Germany in 1934 and 1938, Hans Jakob earned 38 caps for his country and famously helped the Germans defeat Denmark, 8-0, in 1937.
In his 38 international games, Germany only suffered eight losses, with his size, athletic physique and strength in the air making him very tough to beat.
Played in Four World Cup Tournaments (1950-1962)
Carlos Jose Castilho was the man of the improbable save, and he did it time and time again for both Brazil and Fluminese throughout his 17-year football career.
He played a club-record 696 games for Fluminese.
German Footballer of the Year: 1975, 1977, 1978
Nicknamed "the Cat From Anzing" due to his incredible reflexes, Sepp Maier is, arguably, the greatest goalkeeping product ever to take the field for Germany.
He played 95 games for West Germany from 1966 to 1979, and he also made over 500 appearances for Bayern Munich—leading to great domestic success in that time.
With him in goals, the Bavarians won 13 trophies in 10 years.
IFFHS Best Goalkeeper of the 20th Century: first place
There isn't a No. 1 goalkeeper on this list, but if there were to be a No. 1, it would be Lev Yashin.
Nicknamed "the Black Spider," Yashin was known for his incredible reflex saves and stature in goals—becoming the only goalkeeper to win the FIFA Ballon d'Or.
Named as the starting GK in the World Team of the 20th Century, he was also considered FIFA's World Keeper of the Century. His 800-plus-game career is thought to include over 150 penalty saves and over 250 clean sheets—both of which are simply staggering numbers.
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