Who is the best goalkeeper in the world?
Is he Italian? Dutch? German? Spanish?
There is always great interest and discussion about declaring the top players at their position. Whether ranking goalkeepers or strikers, the world wants to know who is the best.
Although there are many lists ranking the top players, the criteria often changes and creates major controversy.
Reputation, past performance, injuries and current form have all been determining factors in player rankings.
This list is the first of an entire series. From goalkeepers to managers, it will rank the top 10 men at their positions.
Players will be ranked by their abilities and performances on the pitch, not by their team's performance. For example, Barcelona's Victor Valdés rarely lets in goals for the European and Spanish champions. Despite his impressive record, he finds himself behind Iker Casillas and Pepe Reina in Spain's pecking order. His individual abilities and displays do not warrant a top five spot on the goalkeeper list.
Players will not be judged by their special games or memorable moments, but by their consistent level of top form. For example, Manchester United's Wayne Rooney will be ranked according to his form over the latter stages of 2011's campaign. He will not be judged by his terrible form post-injury, which carried into the beginning of this season.
Injuries will have no impact on the list. For example, Arsenal's Robin van Persie will be ranked according to his performances for the Gunners this season. He has been plagued by injuries in recent years, but he will be judged by his level of play when fit.
*Note: Players who have just retired, such as Edwin Van der Sar and Paul Scholes, will not be included in this series.
This is the first installment of a series of football power rankings.
Here are the top 10 goalkeepers in the world.
Name: Victor Valdés
International Caps: 4
Barcelona's No. 1 has silenced critics over recent seasons and become a top-quality goalkeeper. Valdés has refined his game, cleaning up the mistakes that had previously plagued the Catalan shot-stoppe Along with two Champions League medals, Valdés is a four-time winner of the Zamora trophy for the best goalkeeper in Spain.
Although Valdésis not a physically imposing keeper, he has good athleticism and agility. The Barcelona stopper is quick to close down opponents and has good command of the area. As the last line of defense for La Blaugrana, Valdés organizes the backline well and provides a calming presence in goal.
While his inconsistency used to be a serious concern, the Catalan keeper has elevated his overall form over recent seasons. Valdés may not have the exceptional skills as others on this list, but he is still a solid, reliable and quality keeper.
Valdés could claim the No. 1 spot on this list with his exceptional resume. However, the Barcelona stopper claims the bottom spot due to his individual abilities.
The Catalan keeper has won every club honor as a key part of the world's best team, but he cannot be considered one of the top five stoppers in the world. Valdés has improved his consistency, but he still lacks the star quality and shot-stopping ability of the elite keepers.
As an individual, Valdés is solid in goal, but not a world-class keeper. He takes good control of the area and makes all the necessary saves. However, the Catalan stopper rarely makes the spectacular or unbelievable save.
Although he may not be a star player, Valdés is a great reliable keeper, and deserves to be on this list.
Name: Hugo Lloris
International Caps: 23
Although France's horrific display at the 2010 World Cup still looms over the players involved, Lloris is undoubtedly one of the best young goalkeepers in the world. The Lyon stopper has earned the France No. 1 jersey, edging out Marseille's Steve Mandanda.
Lloris boasts outstanding reflexes and athleticism. The Frenchman is lightning quick off the line, which allows him to capitalize on the slightest poor touch and close down angles for onrushing attackers. A talented shot-stopper, Lloris has great natural instincts and is difficult to beat in a one-on-one situation.
While he is not a physically imposing keeper, Lloris has good presence in the area and gets good distance on his punches. The Lyon and France No. 1 is still developing, and has the potential to be an elite stopper in the next few years.
Lloris lands at the bottom end of this list due to his physicality and his lesser club-level experience. Although the Frenchman has all the tools of a top keeper, he could be more assertive at the back.
The Lyon stopper has excelled wearing the colors of France, but he does not face the same level of domestic competition as some of the other names on the list.
The Frenchman beats out Barcelona's Victor Valdés for the No. 9 spot because he is the more skilled and dynamic keeper. Although the Spaniard has improved his consistency over recent years, Lloris has emerged as a top-quality keeper and natural shot-stopper for both club and country.
Name: Maarten Stekelenburg
International Caps: 40
Ajax's 6'5'' keeper is highly regarded as one of the best stoppers in Europe. After an impressive display for the Netherlands at the 2010 World Cup, teams such as Manchester United expressed serious interest in the Dutch No. 1.
Stekelenburg combines great size with exceptional shot-stopping ability. The Dutchman has strong hands and good lateral movement for a keeper his size.
Stekelenburg has excellent command of his box and rarely struggles with set-pieces. Although he prefers to punch rather than catch, the Ajax star makes good contact and clears his lines well.
The Dutchman's main weakness is his distribution from the back. While decent with the ball at his feet, Stekelenburg has been shaky at times dealing with back-passes and left-footed clearances. Although the Dutch international can improve his composure on the ball, his shot-stopping and imposing presence make him a world-class keeper.
The Ajax and Dutch stopper lands at the No. 8 spot due to his physicality in the box and ability to make the spectacular save. With his height, Stekelenburg has great control of his area from set-pieces and crosses.
The Dutchman had an outstanding tournament at the World Cup, with fantastic finger-tip saves against the likes of Brazil's Kaka and others. At Ajax, he has developed into one of the best shot-stoppers in Europe.
Stekelenburg climbs above Victor Valdés and Hugo Lloris with his consistency and command of the box. Since regaining the No. 1 jersey at Ajax in 2009, he has been outstanding for club and country. He could arguably climb one spot higher, but he has yet to show his talents against elite club competition.
Name: Petr Cech
International Caps: 81
The Czech stopper has been a top goalkeeper for several years. Preceding the fractured skull he suffered in 2006, Cech was arguably the best keeper on the planet. Although that injury only set him out three months, the Chelsea stopper endured a large dip in form for a much longer period of time. Recently, the Czech keeper has started to regain that top level of five years ago.
Cech has been a stalwart for the Blues, providing solid and consistent play in the back. The Czech keeper towers over most players with his 6'5'' frame. In addition to his height, Cech boasts a tremendous reach. With his size and length, the Chelsea star is one of the hardest keepers to beat in the world.
Cech has excellent positional awareness in the box, closing down opponents and angles. The Chelsea keeper is an elite shot-stopper. He uses his body well, staying big and wide in one-on-one situations.
After the injury, Cech has struggled with flighted balls into the box. The Czech has understandably been hesitant to claim crosses and set-pieces. Although he has not recovered his best pre-injury form, the Chelsea stopper is still a top keeper.
Had it not been for the horrific head injury, Cech would have been a lock for top three spot in this list. Unfortunately, he drops to the No. 7 spot due to his hesitancy when dealing with crosses.
Cech has improved this season with Chelsea, and shown glimpses of his pre-injury form. However, his form has still fallen below some of the higher-ranking players.
The Chelsea stopper is still unquestionably a world-class keeper. His stellar track-record in the EPL and impressive year with the Blues put him above the the likes of Lloris and Stekelenburg. Cech has pulled off fantastic saves for Chelsea this year, and is once again a serious contender for the title of EPL's best keeper.
Name: Pepe Reina
International Caps: 21
Liverpool's Spanish stopper has emerged as one of the best goalkeepers in England, and in Europe as well. If it were not for Spain's captain and No. 1 keeper Iker Casillas, Reina would have amassed almost triple the number of caps he has now. Although he is the backup for Spain, the stopper has become a standout player and star-performer for Liverpool.
Without question, Reina is a world-class keeper. The Spaniard is a dynamic force in the net, combining outstanding agility and quickness with exceptional instincts and shot-stopping ability. Reina has unbelievable athleticism for a player at his position. His explosiveness off the line allows him to quickly cut off angles and capitalize on any mistake made by opposing strikers.
Although Reina boasts great physical attributes, he is an excellent distributor of the ball as well. The Liverpool star is calm and composed on the ball, and can pick out a pass from the back.
In addition to his ability to make top-quality saves, Reina has developed into an elite penalty-stopper. The Spaniard's reflexes, instincts and strong hands make him one of the toughest keepers to beat from the spot. The stopper has been excellent for Liverpool, at times single-handedly keeping the team in contention.
Although Reina may not be the No. 1 keeper for his country, he is one of the most talented stoppers in the world. The Liverpool star has all the tools to challenge for a top spot on the list.
The Spaniard could fight for a spot in the top three with his combination of physical qualities and goalkeeping abilities. Reina has great athleticism and quickness, which allow him to make some breathtaking diving stops. He has the reactions of a solid shot-stopper and exceptional distribution skills as well.
While Reina has the skill-set to climb in the rankings, the Liverpool stopper claims the No. 6 because he is prone to the absolute howler. The Spaniard is good for roughly two to three terrible mistakes per season. Reina is undoubtedly an elite keeper from a talent perspective, but his frequency of major mistakes keeps him out of the top five.
Name: Joe Hart
Club: Manchester City
International Caps: 11
Hart's meteoric rise in English football has seen the young stopper supplant Shay Given as Manchester City's No. 1. The City star was spectacular on loan at Birmingham during the 2009-10 season, and he has continued to impress this year. Hart has been outstanding in the EPL as the only keeper with a save rate over 75 percent.
The City stopper has emerged as one of the brightest English talents of the generation. For a nation that has seen a revolving door at keeper since the retirement of David Seaman, Hart has brought much-needed stability.
England's No. 1 is an exceptional shot-stopper. Hart boasts good athleticism and great reflexes. The City stopper has made some unbelievable saves this season, consistently performing at a world-class level.
In addition to his natural instincts, the young keeper is a commanding presence in the box. Although he prefers to punch rather than catch flighted balls, he has good awareness and clears his lines well.
While he has been criticized for dwelling on the ball at the back, Hart shows good composure on the ball. The Englishman's consistency and shot-stopping ability make him the top goalkeeper in the EPL. Although he occasionally makes a poor decision, he has proven to be one of the most reliable and talented keepers in football.
The City and England No. 1 sneaks into the top five due to his ability to make remarkable stops and keep his world-class form over the past two seasons. Hart's form pushes him past the likes of Cech and Reina. Although the Chelsea and Liverpool stoppers have the tools to jump up the list, Hart has shown unbelievable consistency for consecutive years in England's top-flight.
While he might be a shock inclusion at the No. 5 spot, Hart's body of work speaks for itself. It takes a world-class stopper to keep a top-quality keeper like Shay Given out of the first-team at City. The England international has proven to be a spectacular shot-stopper and athletic presence at the back.
Although he has the potential to become the world's top goalkeeper, Hart is still developing and refining his game. While the City star may be equally talented, the stoppers ahead of him are more polished keepers. The Englishman will improve his decision making with experience, and he will soon be fighting for a spot in the top three.
Name: Júlio César
International Caps: 55
For a nation known for producing skillful, creative outfield players, Brazil has been blessed with one of the top goalkeepers in world football. César has been in top form for Internazionale over the past few seasons, especially in the club's treble-winning season under former manager Jose Mourinho.
The Brazilian has all the tools of an complete keeper. César is an exceptional shot-stopper with great reflexes. He regularly comes up with unbelievable saves, using his quickness and lateral movement to make fantastic finger-tip saves.
In addition to his natural instincts, the Inter No. 1 has developed into a solid aerial presence. At 6'1'', César is not the tallest of keepers. However, he has good positional sense and gets impressive reads on crosses. The Brazilian shows a willingness to catch the ball in flight, but he is equally adept at punching clear.
Although his distribution is average at best, César has an outstanding skill-set and balanced game for a keeper. He exudes confidence at the back, and exemplifies a winner's mentality. The Inter and Brazil first-choice keeper had a tough year compared to the historic 2009-10 season. However, when fit and healthy, his consistent form reflects that of a world-class stopper.
César would undoubtedly break into the top three based on his impressive display during Inter's treble-winning season. However, his form has slightly dipped in the 2010-11 campaign. The Brazilian claims the No. 4 ranking because the blunders have started to appear in his play.
The Inter stopper has not been terribly inconsistent, but he did make the occasional mistake this year. The argument could be made that his dip in form should drop him down the rankings. However, the top form that he has consistently shown this season is still at an unbelievably high level.
César's shot-stopping ability and command of the box pushes the Inter stopper above the likes of Reina and Hart. While the two English-based keepers make great saves, the Brazilian seems to make the spectacular save more consistently and on the biggest of stages. As an individual, Cesar is an immensely talented keeper and one of the best players at his position.
Name: Gianluigi Buffon
International Caps: 105
Buffon has been an elite goalkeeper for nearly a decade, making him one of the best players of his generation. The Juventus stopper has amassed an unbelievable 105 international caps, and played a key role in Italy's 2006 World Cup triumph. The Italian has been named the Serie A Goalkeeper of the Year a record eight times and the IFFHS World's Best Goalkeeper a record four times.
Although Buffon has slightly regressed from his legendary form during the mid 2000s, when fit he is still an elite keeper. The 33-year-old has lost some of his quickness over recent seasons.
Even if he may not be the most mobile stopper, Buffon is a complete keeper. The Italian boasts exceptional instincts and shot-stopping ability, making him a difficult opponent to beat in a one-on-one situation.
The Italy and Juventus No. 1 is a commanding presence in the area. He closes down angles well, and is fearless when lunging for the ball after a poor touch from the opposition. Buffon provides a calming presence at the back, and his experience lends a quiet confidence to the defense.
While Buffon may not be the world's top goalkeeper anymore, he still has the ability to deliver the fantastic and timely save. The Italian's skills, instincts and intangibles make him a world-class keeper whenever he steps on the pitch.
Buffon's No. 3 ranking could be the most controversial aspect of this list. He only made 16 appearances for Juventus this season, keeping four clean sheets. Although he has battled with injuries and the team has struggled in Serie A, Buffon still has the physical tools of an elite keeper.
Age may have hampered his mobility, but the Italian is still a big, talented and dynamic shot-stopper. While he did struggle with reading set-pieces at times this year, Buffon has an excellent presence in the box.
When he is 100 percent healthy, the Juventus star is one of the top three goalkeepers in the world. He has been a consistent performer on the world's biggest stages, and he still has the abilities of a top-quality stopper. While he may not be the world No. 1 like in previous years, he edges out Reina, Hart and Cesar with his complete skill-set and outstanding intangibles.
The aforementioned keepers are all excellent shot-stoppers and good organizers at the back, but Buffon's level of top form combined with his leadership qualities push him into the top three. The Italian could easily drop down in this list with his sporadic and injury-plagued season with Juventus. However, when he started to find his feet again in goal, the Italian No.1 showed the world-class goalkeeping talent of previous seasons.
Name: Manuel Neuer
Club: Bayern Munchen
International Caps: 20
Germany's No. 1 and Bayern Munchen's latest signing has quickly become an elite keeper in world football. Competing with the likes of Lloris and Hart, Neuer has distinguished himself as the top young goalkeeper on the planet.
At 25 years old, the German is still young for his position. However, Neuer's meteoric rise over the past two seasons has shown that regardless of age, he is in the conversation for the world's best keeper.
The German international is the archetypal modern stopper. Neuer stands at 6'4'', and boasts surprising athleticism, quickness and reactions for a keeper his size. The newest Bayern star is a dynamic shot-stopper, and has the ability to make remarkable saves. Neuer uses his big frame well, staying tall and wide against an onrushing opponent. The German's exceptional reflexes make him one of the most feared keepers in one-on-one situations.
Neuer has emerged as the most complete keeper in football. In addition to his physical attributes and great instincts, the German is a prodigious distributor of the ball. The Germany No. 1 shows great composure with the ball at his feet, and his ability to pick out passes and spread the ball makes him a weapon in transition.
The Bayern star's main weakness used to be his control of the area, however he has greatly improved in that respect and deals with flighted balls much better. Neuer is a special talent in goal. There are no major areas of concern in his game.
Neuer's display in the first-leg in Schalke's Champions League encounter with Manchester United was a prime example of the German's exceptional form. He has been playing at an unbelievable level for two years now, consistently turning in top-quality performances in goal—and has yet has yet to enter his prime years as a keeper.
Neuer claims the No. 2 spot because he has consistently played at a world-class level for both club and country. The German has been impressive for Schalke over recent years, and was fantastic at the 2010 World Cup. The Bayern star has been in outstanding form and deserves a top spot in this list.
Although he may not have the club-level experience of Cesar and Buffon, Neuer's talents are off the charts. His physical attributes and goalkeeping skills are exceptional. The German's consistency has been outstanding, and he deserves to be considered the second best goalkeeper in the world.
Neuer will be the No. 1 for Germany and Bayern for many years to come. Without question, he has all the tools to challenge for the title of best keeper in the world. However, at this point in time, there is only one man who can claim the top spot.
Name: Iker Casillas
Club: Real Madrid
International Caps: 121
The Spain and Real Madrid captain is the No. 1 goalkeeper in the world. Casillas' stellar performances for club and country have earned him the nickname "Saint Iker." He has recently added a World Cup trophy to his long list of awards and honors. The Spaniard is a living legend, and will go down as one of the best keepers ever to play the game.
Casillas boasts an excellent combination of agility and shot-stopping ability. The Spain captain is quick off his line, and has outstanding reflexes in goal. Although the Spaniard's mobility has been part of his success, Casillas' ability to make the spectacular save makes him an elite stopper.
The Madrid No.1 has put on miraculous displays in goal, seemingly playing as the last and only line of defense for Los Merengues. At times, Casillas keeps games close and protects leads on his own.
It is not only the ability to make great saves, but it is the frequency of unbelievable stops that separates the Spanish No. 1 from the rest of the world's great keepers. The talismanic captain puts together strings of fantastic saves, carrying his team to victory from the back.
Although Casillas' shot-stopping ability makes him one of the top keepers in the world, his intangibles distinguish him as the best. The Spain and Madrid captain is widely regarded as one of the best leaders in football. Casillas is the embodiment of a true captain both on and off the field.
The Spaniard is a commanding presence and excellent communicator at the back. He holds himself and all his teammates responsible for mistakes, demanding full concentration and effort at all times. Casillas brings out the best of the players around him, which is the sign of a great leader.
While he may not be the most complete stopper in the world, Casillas has been playing at an unbelievable level for years.
Casillas claims the top spot because he has consistently performed as the highest level, showed a natural shot-stopping ability and provided rare intangibles at the keeper position.
The Spaniard has seen and won it all. Although Buffon used to be the world's best keeper, Casillas has clearly emerged as the top stopper in recent years. His consistent level of form has been a cut above the rest of the players on this list.
Neuer has the potential to supplant Casillas in the next few years, but the Spain and Madrid No. 1 has been the world's best keeper for the past three years. The Spaniard has reached a level of his own.
Right now, Casillas is the No. 1 goalkeeper in the world.
Previous Power Rankings: The Top 10 (position) in the World:
- The Top 10 Wingers
- The Top 10 Attacking Midfielders
- The Top 10 Central Midfielders
- The Top 10 Defensive Midfielders
- The Top 10 Left-Backs
- The Top 10 Centre-Backs
- The Top 10 Right-Backs
From goalkeepers to strikers, a new Top 10 list will be published every week.