As Arsenal and Tottenham have painfully learned over the past year, a successful team requires a world-class keeper. Name a successful team in world football, and you will find that their success begins with a capable, dependable goalkeeper playing for them in between the goal sticks.
However, despite their role in their team's success, goalkeepers tend to find themselves much less appreciated and unheralded in comparison with the team's star defenders, midfielders and strikers.
Today, we at Bleacher Report will go against the grain and spotlight the world's 50 best current goalkeepers, highlighting their career achievements, best moments and contributions to their team's success.
While I do have confidence in the keepers selected for this list and the order in which they were selected, a list of such size and magnitude is bound to raise disagreements from readers over order and exclusions from the list. So before I get torn to shreds here, please know that I did my best, and that I am open to suggestions on changes in the ordering and the possible additions.
At 40 years old, Brad Friedel is definitely in the final one or two years of his career, but even so still makes the cut as one of the top 50 world goalkeepers in the world today.
Brad Friedel's profession career got off to a late start due to work permit issues, but in 1995, at the age of 24, Friedel was finally able to move to Galatasaray, become the team's starter and win the Turkish Cup. After only one season, however, Friedel would return to the US to play with the Columbus Crew, with whom he won the MLS Goalkeeper of the Year award in 1997 and was selected for the MLS Best XI in the same year.
Friedel would complete a high-profile move to Liverpool in the summer of 1997, but never really established himself at the club in his three years there, with David James and Sander Westerveld above him in the pecking order. His lack of playing time at Liverpool would force him to move to Blackburn, where his career really took off.
At Blackburn, Friedel won the 2002 League Cup and was selected for the PFA Team of the Year and as US Soccer Athlete of the Year in the same year. His man-of-the-match performance in the League Cup final in 2002 was the greatest moment of his club career, as he allowed only one goal in off a deflected free kick.
Remarkably, Friedel has not missed an EPL league game in seven EPL seasons, earning him the Barclays Merit Award. Internationally, Friedel has picked 82 caps for the USMNT, highlighted by a quarterfinal exit for the USMNT in the 2002 World Cup.
It is expected that Friedel will take over for Heurelho Gomes as Tottenham's No. 1 keeper in the 2011-12 season in the EPL. Whether he will be able to keep up his good form from his Aston Villa and Blackburn days remains to be seen.
Estudiantes' new keeper Justo Villar comes in at 49th among the top 50 goalkeepers in the world today.
Justo Villar's club career has never been very impressive. Starting off at Paraguayan side Sol de America, he moved to one of the Paraguayan league's larger sides, Libertad, and won two first division titles with the club before moving to Newell's Old Boys.
At Old Boys, Villar won the 2004 Apertura and was selected as the 2004 Paraguayan Footballer of the Year. Four years later, he would move on to Real Valladolid, but never really established himself as the team's undisputed No. 1 goalkeeper in his three years with the club. He now begins a new adventure at Estudiantes.
What Villar is known for is his international career. The Paraguayan has picked up 93 caps for Paraguay in goal, and was highly impressive in the 2010 World Cup and 2011 Copa America. For the former, Villar conceded only two goals all tournament long and guided the team to a tight quarterfinal loss against Spain (eventual winners). He was selected as team captain for the tournament.
In the 2011 Copa America, Justo Villar practically single-handedly guided his team to the final, keeping three clean sheets and guiding his team to victory in two penalty shootouts. Despite conceding three goals to Uruguay in the final, Villar still won the Best Goalkeeper award for the tournament.
Like Justo Villar, Vincent Enyeama makes this list for his international career thus far, rather than his club career, although his growth in the latter has been rather impressive.
Starting out at Ibrom Stars, a team I can literally find absolutely no information on, Vincent Enyeama's good performances earned him a move to Enyimba, one of the biggest teams in the Nigerian Premier League, and it was there the player made his name.
In his three years with the club, Enyeama won the Nigerian Premier League three times, as well as the CAF Champions League twice, and his excellent performances got him called up to the Nigerian national team for the 2002 World Cup. Enyeama would go on to keep a clean sheet against England, and in doing so would convince the manager to make him the No. 1 goalkeeper of the Nigerian national team after the 2002 World Cup.
After a year at Heartland F.C., Enyeama would make the somewhat curious decision to move to Israel, joining minor club Bnei Yehuda before moving on to Hapoel Tel Aviv, the country's second-most successful club. With Hapoel, Enyeama won two Israel State Cups in 2010 and 2011, along with the league title in 2009-10. His excellent performances for Hapoel and Nigeria earned him a move to French champions Lille, where he will likely serve as Mickael Landreau's backup.
Internationally, since that 2002 World Cup clean sheet against England, Enyeama has been the undisputed No. 1 goalkeeper of the Nigerian national team, and has put in some spectacular performances.
He has been instrumental in Nigeria's three third-place finishes in the African Cup of Nations in 2004, 2006 and 2010, and more recently, was awarded the Man of the Match award in Nigeria's 2010 World Cup matchup with Argentina. Although Nigeria would lose that match, Diego Maradona would praise Enyeama afterwards for his terrific goalkeeping.
Essam, Essam, Essam. Let me tell you, as an Egyptian who regularly follows the Egyptian Premier League and the national team, I could easily write a book on how I feel about El Hadary. However, I will try to confine my thoughts on Essam El Hadary to this slide just for you guys.
El Hadary is, without a doubt, the best African goalkeeper to play the game. There is actually an African keeper above El Hadary on this list, but in terms of sheer, raw goalkeeping talent, El Hadary was and still is unrivaled among African goalkeepers, and probably would deserve a spot on the list of the best 50 keepers to ever play the beautiful game.
If you need evidence, you need only to look at Goal.com's Player Ratings for his match with Egypt against Italy in the 2009 Confederation Cup:
El Hadari - 10: This is one of the few 10's ever awarded on Goal.com. El Hadari single-handedly won the game for Egypt with countless world class saves. Of those that stood out, he denied Iaquinta three times, Montolivo and Rossi once - all of them stunning stops.
His saves from that game, and from other major games in his career, can be seen here (although you should know that after three minutes, the last minute is just repeat clips shown earlier in the video).
So, if Essam El Hadary is so great, why is he so low on this list?
Because he has ridiculously destroyed his club career and seriously hurt his last legacy. Up until 2008, El Hadary was well on his way to establishing himself as an Egyptian and Al Ahly (the biggest football club in Egypt) legend, having made over 500 appearances for the club, and picked up seven Egyptian League titles, four Egyptian Cups, four Egyptian Super Cups, three African Super Cups and one African Champions League title.
But in 2008, coming off the back of the 2008 African Cup of Nations title and winning the Best Goalkeeper award of the competition for the second consecutive time, El Hadary inexplicably ran off to join Swiss side FC Sion after Al Ahly refused to negotiate a transfer for him.
The insanity did not stop there. After FC Sion attempted to build a case for El Hadary's transfer's legitimacy, the Egyptian keeper ran back to Egypt with his tail between his legs and begging his old team, Al Ahly, to take him back. They instead reported the incident to FIFA, who banned the player from football for four months and fined him $1.2 million (a huge sum for an Egyptian player).
After El Hadary's contract was cancelled and the case referred to FIFA, El Hadary moved to Ismaily in an attempt to salvage his career. Yet, even though the club gave him the opportunity to be first-choice keeper ahead of their already-capable starting goalkeeper, Mohamed Sobhy, the player was unsatisfied with the poor performances of Ismaily and decided to leave.
His subsequent spell at Zamalek ended in less than a year, with El Hadary quarreling with management regularly and making only four league appearances. He was sold to Al Merreikh (of Sudan), and is reportedly already desperate to leave the club after only six months there.
El Hadary embodies the problems of the Egyptian footballer. Far too many Egyptian stars (think Mido, Amr Zaki and Emad Moteab) leave Egypt expecting the world to treat them as the kings they were back home, and are rudely awakened in Europe when they find out that they must act as professionals and work hard to make themselves into international stars. They do not think that contracts need to be respected, or that managers need to be respected; in the back of their minds, they believe their status as Egyptian internationals means they will always be wealthy and loved.
(Note: There are definitely exceptions to this, like Ahmed Elmohamady and Ahmed Hassan, but they are the exceptions, not the rule.)
Remarkably, Essam El Hadary continues to be the Egyptian national team's starting keeper, due to the lack of capable replacements for him (hence his inclusion on this list). Due to the fact that El Hadary was already easily the best African keeper in history prior to 2008, and still managed to pick up another Best Goalkeeper award and the title at the 2010 African Cup of Nations, his legacy will likely outlast all the controversy that has come upon him in the last three years, but he and Egyptian fans all over the world will have to live with the knowledge that he could've been so much greater.
Finally, we have a young goalkeeper to talk about on this list.
Simon Mignolet is the current No. 1 choice goalkeeper for Sunderland and the Belgian national team. At only the age of 23, the young Belgian has had a solid career, one that can only get better as time progresses.
Mignolet joined up with hometown team Sint-Truiden as a young child, and made his Belgian First Division debut in 2005, at the age of 17. After 104 league appearances for the club, Mignolet left for Sunderland in the summer of 2010, for a fee of £2 million.
At Sunderland, Mignolet initially faced tough competition from the starting keeper at the time, Craig Gordon. However, over the course of the season, Mignolet wrestled the position from Gordon and was able to record nine clean sheets in all competitions by the end of the season. Despite the signing of Republic of Ireland goalkeeper Kieran Westwood over the summer by Sunderland, Mignolet has retained his position in goal for Sunderland in the 2011-12 season thus far.
Moving right along, we have PSV and Swedish national team starting goalkeeper, Andreas Isaksson.
Andreas Isaksson's career arguably never hit the peaks it could've due to injuries, but the player has still had a very respectable playing career. Spells at Swedish sides Trelleborg and Djurgården, as well as a successful spell at Rennes, allowed the Swede to showcase his goalkeeping talents, and in turn, Juventus and Manchester City came calling.
However, his time at both clubs ended in failure. At Juventus, Isaksson was stuck behind Edwin van der Sar and wasn't able to make a single first-team appearance in two years at the club.
At Manchester City, injuries at the most inconvenient of times prevented him from becoming the team's regular No. 1 choice keeper. After finally getting fit in 2006-07 towards the end of the season, Isaksson started the last 10 games of season, recording four clean sheets and heading into the offseason as Manchester City's No. 1 keeper.
Unluckily, thumb and knee injuries once again hampered his start to the 2007-08 season, and after a run of starts was halted by another injury, Sven-Goran Eriksson's patience with the player ran out and Joe Hart was given the starting job, while Isaksson was relegated permanently to the bench.
Still, Isaksson made the best of his situation and agreed a transfer to PSV in January 2008, and has been the club's starting goalkeeper ever since.
Isaksson has picked up 84 caps for the Swedish national team since making his debut in 2002. He was first choice for Sweden in Euro 2004, the 2006 World Cup and Euro 2008.
We move from one injury-hit goalkeeper to another.
After learning the goalkeeping trade at Brescia and playing for the club for a period of four seasons, Viviano moved to Bologna, where he made his name as a goalkeeper. On the back of some excellent performances, Viviano was called up to the Italian national team on September 7th, 2010 and would pick up six caps through the 2010-11 season as Gianluigi Buffon struggled with injuries.
Viviano is a great goalkeeper and was well deserving of his place in the national team prior to his injury. However, with Buffon healthy again and Salvatore Sirigu and Federico Marchetti now at bigger clubs than they were playing at in the 2010-11 season, Viviano could easily find himself completely out of the picture for the Italian national team by the time he returns from injury, especially if he returns only to play second fiddle to Julio Cesar at Inter Milan.
There will be a long road to recovery for Viviano to return to the heights he was at with Bologna at the end of the 2010-11 season, but I fully hope he can overcome the difficulties in front of him and come back from injury stronger and hungrier for success than before.
At No. 43, we have Argentina's first-choice goalkeeper and new Sampdoria signing, Sergio Romero.
As has been the case with many of the names on this list thus far, Romero makes the list for his status as Argetina's first-choice goalkeeper. His club career, while not poor and still in its early stages, isn't very impressive.
Romero was brought from Racing Club in Argentina by AZ on the back of his performances in the 2008 Summer Olympics for Argentina, having previously represented Argentina at the 2007 South American Championship and the 2007 U-20 World Cup. At AZ, Romero quickly established himself as the team's first-choice keeper, and picked up 90 league appearances in four years, winning the Eredivisie and the Super Cup, before moving to newly relegated side Sampdoria this summer.
Romero's regular selection for the Argentinian national team is more due to the lack of quality goalkeepers around him, rather than his actual quality. He isn't world class, and will be playing in Serie B for the duration of the 2011-12 season, if not longer. However, Argentina's other options, Mariano Andujar and Juan Carrizo, don't inspire confidence and so Romero should continue as Argentina's starting keeper for the foreseeable future.
Carlos Kameni is the only other African goalkeeper to make this list, after Essam El Hadary.
Kameni began his career with Cameroon at the 2000 Summer Olympics, and his good performances there saw him earn a move to Le Havre. Unfortunately for Kameni, he was always a reserve at Le Havre in his four years with the club, and that did not change when he moved on loan to AS Saint-Etienne.
Kameni's move to Espanyol in 2004 kick-started the young Cameroonian's career, as he established himself as the undisputed starter in his second year at the club. Since then, Kameni has made 224 league appearances for the club, winning the Copa del Rey in 2005-06 with the club.
Somewhat remarkably, Kameni has only earned 60 caps with his country, despite easily being his country's best goalkeeper in the last century. He has been first choice for his country at the 2004, 2006 and 2008 African Cup of Nations, as well as the 2003 Confederations Cup. He was also selected for the 2002 African Cup of Nations and 2002 World Cup, but was only a reserve in both competitions.
Curiously, Kameni was called up for the 2010 World Cup, but was dropped for no apparent reason in favor of Souleymanou Hamidou, a keeper playing in the Turkish Super Lig. Now, under new coach Javier Clemente, Kameni has not yet been recalled, but one would think that it's only a matter of time before he is recalled to the national team.
The picture to the left is the only picture the database had of Cedric Carrasso. He's clearly not very well known. But don't let that fool you; Carrasso is a very capable keeper, and well deserving of his place on this list.
Carrasso started out his career in Marseille's youth system, and made his debut in the 2002-03 season. As he looked poised to become Marseille's first-choice keeper, he seriously injured himself in an exhibition game, ruling himself out for the entirety of the 2003-04 season.
To get back into form, Carrasso was sent on loan to Guingamp, where he played as first-choice keeper regularly for the first time in his career. Upon returning to Marseille, he became first choice in the absence of Fabien Barthez and remained first choice when Barthez returned from his suspension, forcing the French international keeper to leave.
Once again though, injury struck, ruling out Carrasso for six months. When Carrasso finally recovered from his injury, Steve Mandanda had emerged, leaving Carrasso as the second-choice keeper at the club.
Unwilling to play second fiddle in the prime of his career, Carrasso moved to Toulouse and helped Toulouse to the best defense of the league in 2008, conceding only 27 goals all season long. He also seemed to finally overcome his injury problems, playing 37 out of 38 league games for Toulouse. His good form earned him his first French national team call-up on February 11th, 2009.
Carrasso would leave Toulouse in the summer of 2009 to join champions Bordeaux, and has been first choice ever since. His good form has seen him continue to receive call-ups to the national team, but he remains third choice in the national setup due the wealth of goalkeepers available to the French national team as well as the excellent form of Steve Mandanda and Hugo Lloris.
Returning to the first-choice international keepers, Eduardo Carvalho, Portugal's first-choice keeper, comes in 40th on the list of the world's top 50 current goalkeepers.
Eduardo Carvalho was produced by Sporting de Braga's youth system, joining the club as a youth and playing in the team's B side from 2001 to 2006. Upon his promotion to the first team, Eduardo, as he is more commonly known, was sent on loan to Beira-Mar and then subsequently Vitoria de Setubal, where he made his name as a goalkeeper.
Following the end of his loan at Vitoria de Setubal, Eduardo would become Braga's first-choice keeper for the next two seasons, as he helped the club to its highest-ever finish of second in the league. His performances would earn him a move to Genoa, where he was also first-choice keeper, and his continued good form at Genoa has earned him a loan move back to Portugal with Benfica.
Eduardo only very recently made his Portugal debut, on February 11th, 2009, but has been the country's first-choice keeper ever since, beating off competition from Sporting CP keeper Rui Patricio and veteran keeper Quim (now at Braga, ironically leaving Benfica to allow Eduardo to become the team's first-choice keeper).
At 39, Stephane Ruffier is the second Frenchman to make this list (as a hint, there are many more to come).
Ruffier started his career at local team Bayonne's academy, before being spotted by scouts from Monaco and asked to join Monaco's academy at the age of 16. At the age of 19, Ruffier got his first taste of first-team football with a loan move back his hometown team, Bayonne, and started every league game, but could not prevent the club from being relegated to the French fourth division.
The following season, Ruffier returned to Monaco, but the good form of Italian Flavio Roma prevented him from making a single league appearance. After Roma picked up an injury in the 2007-08 season, however, Ruffier finally got his opportunity to shine and took it with both hands, performing well in 12 appearances in goal.
His good appearances earned him the the starting job for the 2008-09 season, and Ruffier has been the starter ever since. He was captain for 2010-11 season, before moving on to AS Saint-Etienne this summer following Monaco's relegation.
Unfortunately, due to the numerous talented goalkeepers available for selection to the French national team, Ruffier was overlooked by Raymond Domenech till after the 2010 World Cup. However, his good form with Monaco finally paid off with a cap for the national team on August 5th, 2010.
Ruffier appears to still be behind Cedric Carrasso in the pecking order for the French national team, but at the age of 24 still has age on his side and should be able to move to a bigger club than Saint-Etienne later in his career.
Valencia's new signing is the first Brazilian to make this list, and deservedly so.
Alves started out at Brazilian club Atletico Miniero, and after three years at the club caught the eye of newly promoted La Liga side Almeria. At Almeria, Alves established his quality by helping a poor Almeria to team to an eighth-place finish in his first season with the club, and in his next two seasons was able to save the club from relegation with his repeated excellent performances.
Unfortunately, even Alves' performances in goal couldn't save an awful Almeria side from relegation in the 2010-11 season. In the summer of 2011, Alves' good work with Almeria was finally rewarded with the club earning a move to Valencia. He will have to compete with current starter Vicente Guaita for the starting job, but is expected to win the job by the end of the season, if not earlier.
Alves' work has thus far gone unnoticed by Brazilian national team managers, as managers have generally only looked at goalkeepers playing for the top clubs of Europe or promising goalkeepers in the domestic leagues. Now that Alves has found his way to a known European club, though, it should only be a matter of time before he earns his first caps for the national team.
Scotland and Rangers first-choice keeper Allan McGregor is the first "one-club man" to make this list; despite his two loan spells, McGregor has been contracted to Rangers for his entire career.
McGregor joined Rangers in 1998 at the age of 16, and made his first-team debut in the 2001-02 season, making two league starts and one Scottish Cup start. His career would move backwards after that season, however, as McGregor would make no appearances in 2002-03 and picked up only six appearances in 2003-04.
In order to get McGregor some regular playing time, the Scottish goalkeeper was loaned out to St. Johnstone, and performed admirably for the club, picking up six consecutive clean sheets and 11 total during his 24 appearances at the club. He looked set to take over as first choice at Rangers following two consecutive starts in January 2005 when he returned to the club, but Alan McLeish did not yet trust McGregor and signed a replacement, relegating McGregor to the bench once more.
Going into his fifth season with Rangers, McGregor remained third choice, and was loaned out to Dunfermline Athletic this time for the 2005-06 season. McGregor made 31 appearances in all competitions, keeping seven clean sheets and earning praise from his manager.
McGregor returned to Rangers once more as third-choice keeper, but a series of injuries to his competitors saw McGregor fortuitously given the opportunity to start and prove himself, and once Lionel Letzi, his competitor, picked up a second injury in the same season, McGregor was finally given the starting job on a regular basis. He was dropped temporarily from the Rangers squad during the Boozegate Scandal that took place late in the 2008-09 season, but was restored to the starting job by next season, and has had it ever since.
Due to the amount of time it took McGregor to break into the starting lineup at Rangers, McGregor only made his debut for Scotland in May 2007, and due to the presence of Craig Gordan, was prevented from becoming first choice until early 2009. The Boozegate Scandal also hurt McGregor's playing time for Scotland greatly, but he returned to the national team as first choice on August 2nd, 2010.
Guillermo Ochoa would be the second one-club man on this list were it not for his recent move to AC Ajaccio in Ligue 1 this summer. He is also Mexico's current first-choice keeper.
Unlike McGregor at Rangers, Ochoa was handed the starting job at Club America without much difficulty. In the 2004 Clausura, Ochoa made multiple appearances in goal in place of the injured first-choice keeper at the time, Adolfo Rios, and by the beginning of the 2004 Apertura had established himself as Club America's first-choice keeper.
Since then, Ochoa has won the Clausura, the Mexican Super Cup, the CONCACAF Champions Cup and and the InterLiga with Club America. He made 211 league appearances with the club prior to his move to France.
Ochoa has usually been first choice for Mexico when available, but was third choice at the 2006 World Cup, as well as second choice at the 2007 Gold Cup. He started all of Mexico's 2007 Copa America games, however, and was first choice at the 2009 Gold Cup, but was surprisingly relegated to the bench at the 2010 World Cup in favor of Oscar Perez.
He was back to first choice at the 2011 Gold Cup, before testing positive for a banned substance along with four of his teammates and being sent home. They were all pardoned, but could face further punishment from the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
Ochoa still remains a very young goalkeeper at the age of 26, but moving from one of the best, if not at least most historic clubs of Mexico, to a newly promoted Ligue 1 side sounds like a move down to me, not a move up. Ochoa has never struck me as the smartest fellow though, and we'll see if he'll be able to continue as Mexico's No. 1 while regularly conceding goals with AC Ajaccio in France.
Next up, as first choice for the Turkish national team as well as Turkey's most famous club, Fenerbahce, we have Volkan Demirel.
Joining Kartalspor, a small club in Istanbul, at the age of 18, Demirel quickly become the club's starting goalkeeper in the start of the 2000-01 season and would remain so for two seasons before moving to Fenerbahce at the start of the 2002-03 season.
Demirel would not become Fenerbahce's undisputed starting goalkeeper until 2008. Before that, Demirel had to contend with the presence of Rustu Recber, Turkey's most successful goalkeeper, and saw backup goalkeepers Serdar Kulbilge and Recep Biler eat into his playing time as well. The 2007-08 season saw Demirel start a majority of Fenerbahce's league matches for the first time in his career, and he has been consistently first choice at the club since then.
Demirel has picked up 49 caps with the Turkish national team. Just as his time was limited at Fenerbahce prior to the departure of Rustu Recber, Demirel also saw his time in goal internationally limited by the good form of Rustu Recber, and it wasn't until Recber left for Besiktas that Demirel would receive regular playing time in goal for Turkey. He was Turkey's start at Euro 2008, helping take his team to the semifinals of the competition.
As the fourth keeper of five consecutive international and domestic first-choice keepers, we have Diego Benaglio, Switzerland and Wolfsburg first-choice keeper.
Benaglio began his career in Belgium with hometown team Grasshopper Club Zurich, joining the first team at the age of 16. At only the age of 19, Benaglio moved to Stuttgart, but appeared exclusively for the B team in his three years there.
Interestingly, a move to mid-table Portuguese club CD Nacional kick-started Benaglio's career, as he displaced current Chelsea keeper Henrique Hilario in the starting lineup and helped the club qualify for the UEFA Cup for the first time in its history. After three years at the club, Benaglio moved to his current club, VfL Wolfsburg.
In three years at VfL Wolfsburg, Benaglio has been the undisputed first-choice keeper since his move in January 2008. He was instrumental in the 2008-09 season, when the club were crowned league champions for the first time in their history.
Internationally, Benaglio has picked up 35 caps for the Swiss national team since his debut in 2006. Benaglio was the third-choice keeper for Switzerland in the 2006 World Cup, but was first choice at Euro 2008 and the 2010 World Cup.
Allan McGregor began a string of five consecutive keepers doing the club-international team double, and Andriy Pyatov marks No. 5 of the five as keeper of Shaktar Donetsk and the Ukrainian national team.
Pyatov played for Vorskla Poltava as a youth before joining the team's first team in 2002. Though he would make very few appearances at the club in his first four years with the first team, he was purchased by Shaktar Donetesk midway through his 2006-07 season at the club and played the entire season as Vorskla Poltava's starting goalkeeper (returning on loan for the second half of 2006-07).
Upon joining Shaktar, Pyatov immediately was installed as starting goalkeeper. Though he has faced strong competition throughout his tenure at Shaktar, he has generally been selected as Shaktar's starting goalkeeper when available. Pyatov has won two Ukrainian Premier League titles, two Ukrainian Super Cups, one Ukrainian Cup and one UEFA Cup in his four years with Shaktar.
Pyatov only received his first cap for the Ukrainian national team after joining Shaktar, and even then had to spend some time as second-choice keeper as Dynamo Kiev keeper Oleksandr Shovkovskiy was still in favor. However, since 2008 he has regularly recieved the bulk of starting berths in the national team, but has only accumulated a total of 22 senior caps due to Ukraine's absence from any major tournaments over that same time period.
Jussi Jaaskelainen may be getting on in his years and is likely nearing the end of his career—but don't be fooled. Jaaskelainen, though more error-prone nowadays than earlier in his career, is still one of the best keepers in the game.
Jaaskelainen spent the first five years of his professional career in Finland, before being bought by Bolton in 1997. Though he would make no appearances in his first year at the club, he would become the club's No. 1 keeper in the 1998-99 season and has remained so ever since.
In his prime, Jaasekelainen was one of the most sought-after keepers of Europe, reportedly being tracked by Arsenal, Celtic, Real Madrid, Manchester United and AC Milan. He was voted Best Goalkeeper in the Premiership in the 2001-02 season and won Bolton's Player of the Year and Players' Player of the Year awards for his performances in goal for the 2006-07 season. Last season, he made his 500th appearance for the club on March 12th, 2011 against Birmingham City.
Remarkably, Jaasekelainen has only picked up 56 caps for Finland, having been stuck behind Antti Niemi for years in the pecking order. The bulk of his caps have come from 2005 onward, since Niemi's retirement from international football.
Federico Marchetti becomes the second Italian to make this list, as both an Italian international keeper and Lazio's replacement for Fernando Muslera.
Marchetti has spent the large majority of his career thus far bouncing around Serie B clubs, and in the beginning of his career could not even get games as Serie C1 or C2 clubs. However, it was at one of those Serie B clubs, AlbinoLeffe, where Marchetti began to make a name for himself. He won the best goalkeeper of Serie B award in 2007-08 with the club and earned himself a move to Calgiari is Serie A.
His impressive performances continued the following year with Calgiari, as he played in 35 out of 38 Serie A games and earned himself a national team call-up in May 2009. His good performances continued in the 2009-10 season, as the call-ups continued to come and he even earned praise from Buffon as his "favorite young goalkeeper," according to La Gazzetta dello Sport.
At the end of the season, Marchetti traveled with Italy to the World Cup and kept a clean sheet in the final group stage game as he replaced an injured Buffon at halftime.
The 2010-11 season saw Marchetti's career come to a complete standstill however. Eager to capitalize on his growing reputation, Marchetti asked for a move away from Calgiari, but was instead punished by being frozen out of the squad for most of the year. In the summer, his self-described "nightmare" came to an end as he moved to Lazio.
Marchetti's year off of action has seen him fall out of the national squad, but now at one of the largest clubs in Italy, Marchetti should have the opportunity to stake his claim to be reintegrated into the squad. He faces competition from a multitude of other competent Italian keepers, however, four of which feature higher on this list.
Even at 38 years old, there was no way the goalkeeper to score the most goals in the history of football was not going to make this list.
The goal-scoring goalkeeper is a dying breed, with only Hans-Jorg Butt being the other major goal-scoring goalkeeper still active, although as backup to Manuel Neuer at Bayern Munich. Butt has scored 29 goals in his career, all from the penalty spot, which pales in comparison to Ceni who has scored 102 goals, the majority of which have come from free kicks, not penalties.
Ceni is also the second one-club man on this list after McGregor, but his record for Sao Paolo dwarfs McGregor's record. Ceni has made a total of 993 appearances in goal for Sao Paolo since making his debut in 1992, winning an endless list of individual accolades (which can be found here) as well as a trophy in practically every single major competition Sao Paolo has competed in.
Rogerio Ceni has never been the first-choice keeper of the Brazilian national team, since Brazil have always possessed world-class free-kick takers in the shape of Roberto Carlos, Ronaldinho, etc. throughout Ceni's career. Additionally, Brazilian managers have always shown a preference for European-based Brazilian keepers, like Dida, Julio Cesar, Doni, Heurelho Gomes and Helton.
Nevertheless, Ceni has picked up 17 caps for the Brazilian national team, was regularly in the international squad until his international retirement in 2006 and won the 1997 Confederations Cup and 2002 World Cup as a backup goalkeeper with Brazil.
Salvatore Sirigu becomes the third Italian to make this list (and as a hint, there's many more to come).
Sirigu, like the Italian keepers on this list before him, began his career in the lower leagues of Italian football, with Venezia, who currently find themselves in Serie D. In 2005, he was noticed by Palermo and joined at only the age of 18. He would make his first team debut in 2006-07 in a Coppa Italia match against Sampdoria.
For the next two years of his career, Sirigu would be loaned back down to the lower levels of Italian football, first to Cremonese, who played in Serie C1 at the time, then to Ancona, who played in Serie B. He could not establish himself as first-choice keeper at Ancona, however, and so he returned to Palermo as backup to then-first-choice keeper Rubinho.
After a string of unimpressive performances by Rubinho, Sirigu, who started the 2009-10 season as Palermo's backup keeper, was given the opportunity to start against Lazio and Juventus, winning the Man of the Match award for both games and keeping a clean sheet in the latter. His efforts were rewarded with his permanent confirmation as Palermo's starting goalkeeper.
Sirigu continued his good form into the 2010-11 season and left for Paris Saint-Germain along with Javier Pastore this summer. He is expected to be the starting keeper for PSG, but first must wrestle with experienced keeper Nicholas Douchez for the starting position.
Internationally, Sirigu was noticed by Marcello Lippi prior to the 2010 World Cup and was even called up to the national team, but did not make a single appearance for the team and was cut from the final roster to travel to the World Cup. However, under Cesare Prandelli, Sirigu has made two appearances for Italy and has regularly been called up, and with his move to up-and-coming PSG, should have an increased role in the Italian national team setup in the future.
As the 28th-best goalkeeper in the world, we have Mark Schwarzer, currently 38 years young.
Like almost all Australian footballers, Schwarzer began his career in Australia with the Marconi Stallions in the National Soccer League. He made 58 appearances for the team in four years, before leaving for Europe.
His European career did not get off to a good start, with Schwarzer making only six total appearances in two years in Germany. A move to England's Bradford City did not improve Schwarzer's playing record by much; Schwarzer made 13 appearances for the club and failed to establish himself as the club's first-choice goalkeeper.
A move to Middlesbrough allowed Schwarzer to finally establish himself with a team. Schwarzer was quickly thrust into a League Cup semifinal game for Boro, and would make nine more appearances for the club in his first half-season with Boro. From then on, he would be the undisputed No. 1 keeper and played 30-plus games in nine of his 11-and-a-half seasons with Boro, before moving to Fulham.
Schwarzer picked up four caps with Australian national team while playing professionally in Australia, but his limbo years in Europe resulted in him being overlooked by the national team until 2000. He performed admirably for Australia upon his return to the national fold, and has played in the 2004 OFC Nations Cup, the 2006 World Cup, the 2007 Asian Cup, the 2010 World Cup and the 2011 Asian Cup and picked up a total of 90 caps since then.
Schwarzer has stated that it is his hope to continue playing until the 2014 World Cup, and if he continues to show his good form for Fulham and Australia, it is conceivable that he may actually continue to be Australia's first-choice goalkeeper when they enter the tournament.
At long last, we have a German on the list.
Tim Wiese, Werder Bremen's current first-choice goalkeeper, began his career at the age of eight in Bayer Leverkusen's youth system. After 10 years with the club, he moved to Fortuna Koln in Germany's third division. Two years later, he was on the move once again, to Kaiserslautern.
At Kaiserslautern, Wiese initially had to compete with Georg Koch, but established himself as first choice midway though the 2002-03 season, a full year since he moved from Fortuna Koln. He remained first choice for the next two years, but lost his place in the team to Thomas Ernst in November 2004, leading to his subsequent move to Werder Bremen.
Signed to replace Bremen's aging keeper Andreas Reinke, Wiese tore his cruciate ligaments and missed the first half of the 2005-06 season. Upon his return in February 2006, however, a fortuitous (for Wiese) injury to Reinke resulted in Wiese making his debut for Bremen and he has been the club's first-choice keeper ever since.
Wiese, though very talented, has seen limited game time with Germany. He has three caps to his name, one as a substitute, and traveled to the 2010 World Cup as third choice behind Hans-Jorg Butt and Manuel Neuer.
It is unlikely that Tim Wiese will ever become Germany's first or even second-choice goalkeeper during the remainder of his career, but he has been a crucial part of Werder Bremen's success in previous seasons and will likely continue to contribute once the team stabilizes itself and starts winning once again.
Mickael Landreau evens it up for the French with the Italians; both now have three keepers on this list. Additionally, Landreau's entrance to the list of the greatest goalkeepers current playing in world football makes Lille the first and only club to have two keepers from this list (Vincent Enyeama is the other).
Landreau spent just one season in Nantes' youth academy before making his debut for the club's first team, and remarkably established himself at first-choice goalkeeper at the club at the age of 17. He would spend the next 10 years of his career at the club, making 335 league appearances and winning the Coupe de France twice, the Trophee De Champions twice and the Ligue 1 title once.
After leaving Nantes, Landreau moved on to Paris Saint-Germain and spent three years at the club, winning the Coupe de France for the third time in his career in 2008. His move to Lille would come in 2009 and last season he achieved the domestic double with Lille for the first time in his career, winning the Coupe de France for the fourth time in his career and picking up another Ligue 1 title as well.
Despite being a first-choice keeper for practically his entire career and winning a considerable amount of club silverware, Landreau has only made 11 appearances for the French national team. The bulk of his appearances came during Euro 2008 qualification, but surprisingly, Landreau was omitted when it was time to finally select the final squad for Euro 2008. Landreau also travelled to the 2006 World Cup as third choice behind Fabien Barthez and Gregory Coupet.
At 32 years old, Landreau is unlikely to be recalled to a young French national team still trying to establish its identity, but should remain as Lille's first-choice keeper as long as he can keep up his good form and outperform up-and-coming goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama.
Coming in at No. 25, Samir Handanovic is first choice for both Udinese and the Slovenian national team.
Starting out at Slovenian club Domzale, and was signed by Udinese at the age of 20 - after making only seven appearances for the club. His first year at the club saw him loaned to two clubs, Trevisio and Lazio, over the span of the season, but unfortunately, Handanovic only made a combined four league appearances for both sides that season.
The 2006-07 season was Handanovic's breakthrough season. Handanovic made 39 total appearances for Rimini, helping the club to an impressive fifth-place finish in Serie B. The 2007-08 saw him displace Morgan De Sanctis in the starting lineup, and he has been first choice since then.
Handanovic's 2010-11 season was particularly impressive as Handanovic kept out six penalties, tying the league record, and helping Udinese impressively qualify for the Champions League. His work was rewarded with a new five-year contract in August 2011.
Handanovic has played in 52 games for the Slovenian national team, and was in goal when Slovenia shocked Russia to qualify for the 2010 World Cup. At only 26, Handanovic shows no signs of slowing down and will likely only get better for the next couple years, if not longer, before his skill level begins to level out.
A goalkeeper with quite the up-and-down career, Sebastian Frey becomes the fourth Frenchman to make the list, tipping the balance back in favor of the French in the French-Italian goalkeeping war.
Frey began his career at AS Cannes and after one promising season was snatched up by Internazionale. He spent his first season as the club's backup keeper and was sent on loan to Verona in the following season, before returning to Inter Milan and taking up the starting goalkeeper job. His good performances earned him a move to Parma.
At Parma, Frey was the club's No. 1 keeper for four years, winning the 2001-02 Copa Italia along the way. He would move to Fiorentina on loan first before signing permanently for the club in 2006. Frey would remain the club's starting goalkeeper until an injury-shortened 2010-11 season saw him lose his starting spot to Artur Boruc, and led to him signing a new five-year contract with Genoa. Frey would make sure to express his displeasure at the way his time in Florence ended after departing.
Despite Frey's excellent form for Fiorentina, and worldwide recognition as one of the world's best keepers during his best days in Florence, Frey angrily announced his retirement from international football, after picking up only two caps.
Like Landreau, Frey's best days, as well as his international days, are likely behind him, but he still remains a very talented goalkeeper in world football.
FC Porto's treble-winning goalkeeper, Helton Arruda, makes it all the way up to 23rd on our list of the world's best goalkeepers.
Helton, as he is more commonly known, came through Vasco de Gama's youth system at a time when Vasco were a strong force in Brazilian football. He made his debut for the team in 2000 at the age of 22, and in a little over two years won the Brazilian Serie A, the Copa Mercosur, the Taça Guanabara and the Taça Rio.
When Helton's Vasco de Gama contract expired, Helton decided to start his European career, starting off at União Leiria. He won no silverware with the club, but his performances were noticed by FC Porto and after a little over two years at the club, Helton was on the move once again.
Though he began his time at FC Porto on the bench, Helton pounced on the chance he was given when his competitor for the starting spot, Vitor Baia, was dropped for a mistake made in January 2006 in a league game. He performed assuredly, and has been the starter ever since. With Porto, Helton has won the Portuguese League title five times, the Portuguese Cup four times, the Portuguese Super Cup four times and the Europa League once (last year).
As is typical for Brazilians who do not play in the Italian Serie A, or at least one of the three major leagues of Europe prior to the emergence of the Bundesliga (meaning the EPL and La Liga), Helton has been largely overlooked by the national team for the majority of his career, picking up only three caps. He travelled with Brazil to the 2007 Copa America, but was second choice to starter Doni.
If you've been keeping track, we currently have four Frenchmen and three Italians on this list. Morgan De Sanctis' inclusion brings things back on level terms—four Frenchman, and four Italians.
Morgan De Sanctis began his career at Pescara, before moving on to Juventus after three years as the club's first-choice keeper in Serie B. At Juventus, De Sanctis spent two years as the club's backup keeper before moving to Udinese, where he remained largely on the bench for another three seasons.
In the 2002-03 season, De Sanctis finally established himself as Udinese's first-choice keeper and earned himself his first Italy caps in the process. For the next five seasons (including 2002-03), De Sanctis was Udinese's starting goalkeeper.
De Sanctis' career took an unfortunate detour when he cancelled his contract unilaterally to move to Sevilla. He failed to establish himself as first choice at Sevilla, and was forced to pay (with Sevilla) about €6 million in compensation to Udinese. His move to Galatasaray in the following season allowed De Sanctis to start playing regularly again, but was a move behind in his career given that he was Udinese's starting goalkeeper in the UEFA Champions League only a few seasons earlier.
In July 2009, Napoli rescued De Sanctis and helped him revive his career. Since his move, De Sanctis has not missed a single league game for Napoli, and most recently helped the club qualify for the Champions League in the 2010-11 season.
Although the Italian national team squad has plenty of young talented goalkeepers to choose from, De Sanctis' excellent form for Napoli has resulted in his recall to the national team as a backup keeper for Gianluigi Buffon. Due to being practically the same age as Buffon, De Sanctis has only picked up three caps for the Italian national team, but should be eligible for more as long as he keeps his good form up with Napoli.
At No. 21, we have the much-loved Irishman Shay Given, first-choice keeper for Aston Villa and Ireland.
Given made his name at Newcastle United, immediately establishing himself as the club's first-choice keeper under manager Kenny Dalglish. Though he spent most his time at Newcastle in constant competition with Steve Harper, Given was the starter for most of his career at Newcastle and never found himself out of the team for long. He made a total of 354 league appearances for Newcastle, winning the Intertoto Cup in 2006-07 and finishing as runner-up with Newcastle in the FA Cup in 1998 and 1999.
In 2008-09, Shay Given moved to Manchester City. He was the club's starter for a year-and-a-half before being dropped in the 2010-11 season for Joe Hart by Roberto Mancini. After not making a single league appearance for Manchester City, Given moved to Aston Villa.
Since making his breakthrough with Sunderland in 1996, Given has been regularly selected for the Ireland national team and to date has earned 114 caps for the team. He is the Ireland national team's all-time cap leader, and played with Ireland in the 2002 World Cup, as well as the 2011 Nations Cup.
Tim Howard, the United States national team and Everton first-choice keeper, starts our countdown of the top 20 goalkeepers in world football.
Starting his career at North Jersey Imperials, Howard made the move to MetroStars in 1998 and would make his name at the club. It took him three seasons to establish himself as the club's first choice keeper, but it would pay off in the end when Manchester United came calling midway through the 2003 season.
In his first season at Manchester United, Howard made only one major error, conceding the goal that eliminated Manchester United from the Champions League, but otherwise was an assured presence in goal and helped the club win the FA Cup that season. He would remain at Manchester United for two more years, but made several mistakes in his second season at the club and by the third season was replaced by Edwin van der Sar.
In 2006, Howard would move to Everton on loan and halfway through the league, he was signed permanently by the team. Since then, Howard has been the team's No. 1 choice in goal, missing only four league games total in his five-year Everton career.
Due to the presence of excellent goalkeepers (Kasey Keller and Brad Friedel) in the United States national team during the early part of Howard's career, Howard found himself regularly in the position of backup or third-choice keeper with the national team till after the 2006 World Cup, after which Bob Bradley made him the country's first-choice keeper. Since then, Howard has been the United States starter in the 2007 Gold Cup, the 2009 Confederations Cup, the 2010 World Cup and the 2011 Gold Cup. He has earned 65 caps with the United States national team.
Our third one-club man on this list and current CSKA Moscow and Russia national team first-choice goalkeeper, Igor Akinfeev enters the list at 19th.
Akinfeev has had as great a career as a goalkeeper from outside the biggest European football countries (Germany, Italy, France, Spain, England) can hope to have. He made his debut for CSKA Moscow at the age of 17, and remarkably has been first choice ever since. In eight seasons in the club's first team, Akinfeev has become the club's captain and won a huge amount of silverware, namely three Russian Premier League titles, five Russian Cups, four Russian Super Cups and one UEFA Cup.
Akinfeev's good performances for CSKA Moscow led to him being called up in 2004 at the age of only 18 years and 20 days. Though he has not been able to participate in a World Cup with Russia, he was Russia's third-choice keeper at Euro 2004 and first-choice at Euro 2008. He has already earned 50 caps for his country, and at only 25 years old, still has many to come.
The tale of Fernando Muslera is a curious one. The International Federation of Football History and Statistics ranked him the seventh-best goalkeeper in the world in 2010, but I simply could not agree with that rating for the Uruguay national team first-choice keeper.
Muslera spent the first three years of his professional career in Uruguay, before making the move to Lazio in 2007. Muslera was given the opportunity to stake his claim for a starting berth at Lazio, but an awful performance at home to Milan convinced Lazio's coach at the time to play 44-year-old Marco Ballotta over him. It would take Muslera until midway through the 2008-09 season to reclaim his spot in the starting lineup at Lazio.
Since then, Muslera has been Lazio's starting goalkeeper and has been successful for club and country. In 2009, Muslera won the Coppa Italia and Supercoppa Italia with Lazio, while also making his international debut with Uruguay on October 10th, 2009.
Though he has only played for the Uruguayan national team for a little under two years, Muslera has already picked up 26 caps and was an instrumental part of Uruguay's success in the 2010 World Cup and its claiming of the title at the 2011 Copa America.
The reason why Muslera is placed at 18th, and not closer to the top 10 or even in the top 10, is because his move to Galatasaray represents a move backwards in his career. Galatasaray are a struggling team (though they are historically big) in a struggling league, and though Muslera will likely continue to start games and earn caps with the Uruguayan national team, it's unlikely Muslera will be able to enhance his reputation as a shot-stopper further in Turkey.
And so, with Steve Mandanda, we've returned to the tally of French and Italian keepers on this list; Mandanda puts France back in the lead, five to four.
Starting out in Le Havre's youth system, Mandanda made his debut for the first team at age 20 and was immediately made the club's first-choice keeper for the next two seasons. Impressed by his performances, Marseille snatched him up. Though he initially started out at Cedric Carrasso's backup, a bad injury in preseason ruled Carrasso out for six months and Mandanda took the opportunity to establish himself as the club's first-choice keeper.
Since then, Mandanda has been Marseille's first-choice keeper for four years, picking up 146 league appearances in the process. He has won Ligue 1 once and the Copa de la Ligue twice in those four years.
Mandanda made his full debut for France on May 27th, 2008 and has since travelled to Euro 2008 as France's third-choice keeper and the 2010 World Cup as France's second-choice keeper. In recent years, he has wrestled back and forth with Hugo Lloris for the starting berth in the French national team, with Lloris winning on most occasions.
At the age of only 20, David de Gea, Manchester United's new recruit, makes this list as the 16th-best goalkeeper in world football today.
Prior to his move to Manchester United, de Gea had spent the last 10 years of his life at Atletico Madrid. He spent eight years in the club's youth system, then established himself as first-choice keeper in his first season in the first team, then played every game of the subsequent league season. De Gea won the UEFA Europa League and UEFA Super Cup in 2009-10 and 2010, respectively.
Internationally, de Gea has yet to make his international debut for Spain, and likely won't anytime soon given the immense competition for the spot at the national level (hint: there are four more Spanish goalkeepers yet to come on this list). Still, he has made 46 appearances at the various youth levels for Spain, and won the European U-17 and U-21 Football Championships with Spain.
De Gea's time at Manchester United has started out a bit shaky, and has led to critics already criticizing the goalkeeper's performance after only two games, forgetting that he is only 20 years old and playing in a foreign country for a foreign club for the first time after being with the same club for 10 years. In due time, de Gea's confidence and form will improve dramatically, but until then, Manchester United must be patient and trust in his abilities.
Arsenal's young Polish goalkeeper makes this list at No. 15.
Wojciech Szczesny joined Arsenal in 2006 at the age of 16, after training with Agrykola Warszawa as a kid and Legia Warszawa at the age of 15. On September 22nd, 2009, Szczesny made his first-team debut in the League Cup against West Bromwich Albion, keeping a clean sheet.
In the 2010-11 season, a string of excellent performances confirmed his status as Arsenal's first-choice keeper.
A well-earned clean sheet in the League Cup against Newcastle was followed by an impressive Premier League debut against Manchester United. A series of solid Premier League performances led Wenger to announce him as Arsenal's first-choice keeper for the rest of the season.
His performance against Barcelona in the first leg of their Champions League tie confirmed that Szczesny was an excellent goalkeeper for Arsenal to rely on going forward.
Already the undisputed starter in goal for Arsenal and the Polish national team, there is no doubt that Szczesny is off to an excellent start with his career. If Arsenal can start winning again, Szczesny could easily become the club's next David Seaman or better.
And just like that, it's tied up again—five Frenchmen, five Italians.
Bouncing around the lower league clubs in his youth and early professional career, Cristian Abbiati wound up at AC Milan in 1998 and has been contracted to the club ever since. After making his debut on January 17th, 1999, Abbiati would be the club's first-choice keeper for the next three-and-a-half seasons, before being displaced by Nelson Dida in 2002-03.
Abbiati found himself on the AC Milan bench for the next three seasons, and would be sent on loan to Juventus, Torino and Atletico Madrid in the three seasons after that. Though he was able to start regularly in goal for each team and expressed a desire to stay with each of the last two teams, he was unable to agree a deal with any of the three teams and returned to AC Milan in 2008-09.
In 2008-09, for the first time in a long time, Abbiati found himself first choice at AC Milan, but an injury in March ruled him out for the rest of the season and forced him back to third choice when he returned in 2009-10. In 2010-11, however, Abbiati was first choice at AC Milan once again and was able to feature regularly in goal for AC Milan as they won the Serie A title for the first time in seven years.
At AC Milan, Abbiati has won the Serie A title three times, the Coppa Italia once, the UEFA Champions League once, the European Super Cup once and the Supercopa Italia twice. As with Morgan De Sanctis, his closeness in age to Gianluigi Buffon has limited Abbiati from making many appearances for the Italian national team and he has picked up four caps in his career.
The greatly underrated and undervalued Roman Weidenfeller makes the list at No. 13.
Roman Weidenfeller started his career out at Kaiserslautern before moving to Borussia Dortmund in 2002. At Borussia Dortmund, Weidenfeller has largely been the club's starting goalkeeper since making his debut on December 17th, 2003.
In recent seasons, as Borussia Dortmund have gotten better and finished higher in the Bundesliga—and especially last season, as Dortmund won the Bundesliga title—Weidenfeller has put in much-improved performances and seen his stock rise dramatically.
Despite this, however, Weidenfeller still has yet to make his debut for the German national team, and at the age of 28, looks unlikely to do so.
Diego who? Believe it or not, Spain's fourth-choice goalkeeper makes this list at No. 12.
Diego Lopez's professional career got off to a late start. Despite spending six years at hometown club CD Lugo from age 12, Lopez was forced to practically start all over when he moved to Real Madrid C in 2000, but was in Real Madrid's first-team squad by 2005. After spending two seasons as Iker Casillas' backup, Lopez decided to move to Villarreal and made his name at the club.
At Villarreal, Lopez started as backup to Sebastián Viera, but established himself as first-choice goalkeeper midway through his first season and has been first choice ever since.
At 6'5", Lopez has an enormous frame and has been excellent in goal for Villarreal in recent years. Despite this, however, his one appearance for Spain has come as a substitute for Pepe Reina in a friendly on August 12th, 2009. Lopez used to be regularly called up as the third-choice keeper for Spain, but the continued excellence of Victor Valdes has seen him fall out of the squad.
Rene Adler barely misses the cut to make the top 10 list of the best goalkeepers in world football today, as Germany's second-choice goalkeeper and Bayer Leverkusen's first choice.
Ignoring his youth days, when he played for VfB Leipzig from the age of six to 15, Adler has been at Bayer Leverkusen for his entire professional career, making him the fourth one-club man on this list. He played for Bayer Levekusen's youth teams until 2002, played with Bayer Levekusen II for the next five years and finally made his debut for Bayer Levekusen on February 25th, 2007.
On that day, starting goalkeeper Hans-Jorg Butt was serving a suspension and Adler would grasp the opportunity to stake his claim for the starting spot in goal. His performance would lead to him making 14 more appearances that season, and he would be the starting goalkeeper for Bayer Leverkusen from then on.
Ironically, just as Hans-Jorg Butt's absence allowed Adler to break into the Bayer Leverkusen starting lineup, Adler's injury prevented him from becoming Germany's first-choice goalkeeper. Adler had already captained all the Germany youth teams he'd played in, and when Jens Lehmann retired and Robert Enke passed away, Adler suddenly become the country's first-choice keeper.
Unfortunately, Adler would soon pick up a rib injury and his injury would allow Manuel Neuer to swoop in and take the starting goalkeeper spot in the Germany's lineup at the 2010 World Cup. Adler has been Neuer's backup ever since, picking up a total of 10 caps.
At long last, we've reached the top 10 and we kick things off with the Netherlands' first-choice keeper, Maarten Stekelenburg.
Prior to his move to Roma this summer, Stekelenburg had been a one-club man, playing all his club games for Ajax. Stekelenburg made 282 appearances for Ajax's first team during his time at Ajax and picked up two Eredivisie titles, three KNVB cups and four Johan Cruyff Shields in the process.
Internationally, Stekelenburg has only ever faced competition from Edwin van der Sar, who prevented him from starting in the 2006 World Cup and Euro 2008. Van der Sar retired after Euro 2008, however, and Stekelenburg has been the starter for the Netherlands ever since, picking up 40 total caps and 25 since 2009.
Hugo Lloris is often referred to as the most talented young goalie in world football today. Such an assertion isn't far from the truth, and so Lloris makes the list as the ninth-best goalkeeper in world football today.
Though many may be led to belief that Lloris has always been at Lyon due to his young age, he actually made his debut at Nice and played there for three full seasons before moving to Lyon. Since his move to Lyon, Lloris has been the club's first choice from his very first game with the club and was selected as Ligue 1's Goalkeeper of the Year in his first two seasons with the club.
Boasting lightning reflexes and good decision-making, Lloris is capable of the spectacular and is also a formidable opponent in one-on-one situations. He is vice-captain for Lyon and the French national team and already picked up 24 caps since making his France debut in 2008, winning his battle for the No. 1 spot with Steve Mandanda.
The one and only English goalkeeper on this list, Joe Hart makes the top 10 at No. 8.
Hart made his breakthrough at Shrewbury Town in League Two in 2005-06, before moving to Manchester City in 2006-07. In the same season, he was sent on two short-term loans to Tranmere Rovers and Blackpool.
Upon his return to Manchester City, Hart was made Manchester City's starting goalkeeper ahead of Andreas Isaksson, but was displaced by Shay Given when the Irishman was bought in January 2009. Hart would have the last laugh though, as he returned from an excellent season on loan at Birmingham City, and was given the starting position for the entirety of the 2010-11 season ahead of Given, while Given sat on the bench for 38 consecutive league games.
Hart's excellent 2010-11 season has seen him become England's undisputed first-choice keeper, and though he only has 11 caps currently, that number will be increasing for a very long time.
Germany's No. 1 choice keeper and Bayern Munich's new goalkeeper makes the list of the world's best goalkeepers at No. 7.
Like Maarten Stekelenburg a couple of slides earlier, Neuer was a one-club man before making the switch from FC Schalke to Bayern Munich this summer. He joined Schalke at the age of only five, was the club's starting goalkeeper since 2006-07 and left for Bayern Munich after 20 years with the club.
As explained earlier, Neuer was Germany's fourth-choice goalkeeper prior to Jens Lehmann's retirement in 2008. Robert Enke's death and Adler's rib injury, however, resulted in Neuer's making the incredible rise from fourth-choice to first-choice goalkeeper for Germany, and Neuer was selected to be Germany's goalkeeper at the 2010 World Cup. He performed excellently, conceding only three goals all tournament long and never more than one in a game. Since then, he has been Germany's first-choice keeper, winning 21 caps since 2009.
Pepe Reina barely missed the cut for the top five goalkeepers in the world, coming in at No. 6.
Brought in as part of Rafa Benitez's Spanish revolution at Liverpool, Reina had already risen to fame with six impressive years in Spain, split between Barcelona and Villarreal. He spent some time as first-choice goalkeeper at Barcelona, but was eventually demoted to the bench before moving to Villarreal to establish himself as a starting goalkeeper.
At Liverpool, Reina has had incredible consistency in goal, regularly being one of the best keepers, if not the best, of the English Premier League (he won the Barclays Golden Glove for three consecutive years from 2005 to 2008). He has not missed a league game since 2006-07, and has missed a total of eight league games in his entire seven-year Liverpool career.
Internationally, Reina has found Spanish caps hard to come by, but has been called up to practically every single Spanish squad from 2005 and has picked up 22 caps in the process. He won the 2010 World Cup with Spain as an unused substitute, sitting on the bench as Iker Casillas' backup.
Starting off the top five is Julio Cesar, first-choice goalkeeper for Internazionale and the Brazilian national team.
Since I'm officially tired of typing, I will just link you to Cesar's honors and achievements. As a goalkeeper, Cesar has won won every club trophy there is to win, and then some. Internationally, he is only missing the World Cup from his resume, having emerged at Flamengo too late to be considered for the 2002 World Cup.
Cesar finds himself down at fifth due his somewhat sub-par performances at the 2010 World Cup, as well an injury-hit 2010-11 season in which he made only 24 league appearances for Inter. There is no doubt that he is among the best though, and should continue to be among the best for a good number of years to come.
Gianluigi Buffon brings the French-Italian war of the goalkeepers to tie once more (six to six), and the war ends as a stalemate as neither nation has a goalkeeper who features higher on this list.
Focusing on Buffon though: There's not much that can be said that hasn't already been said. Undoubtedly one of the greatest goalkeepers of all time, Buffon has been named Serie A Goalkeeper of the Year a record eight times, and of course is best remembered for his amazing 2006 World Cup performance, in which he conceded only twice and kept five clean sheets.
Like Julio Cesar, Buffon has an endless amount of individual accolades which can be found here. Buffon is also like Cesar in that an injury-plagued season with Juventus prevents him from finishing higher on this list. There are serious doubts at the moment about whether or not Buffon will be able to return in 2011-12 as his old self, but with a revitalized Juventus, my money's on Buffon getting back to his best and helping Juventus challenge for the title once again.
I know of a lot of people who refuse to include Victor Valdes even among the top 20 goalkeepers in the world. For me though, that's madness—the guy definitely deserves his inclusion as the third-best goalkeeper in the world today.
Valdes' resume speaks for itself. Aside from his massive haul of trophies under Frank Rijkaard and Pep Guardiola (mostly Guardiola), Valdes has also won four Zamora trophies, including the last three consecutive ones. Zamora trophies are given to the goalkeeper in La Liga with the lowest goals-to-games ratio.
An incredibly underrated aspect of Valdes' game is his ability to dribble and pass with his feet. His ability with his feet has made him a crucial aspect of Barcelona's possession-style play in recent years, particularly under Guardiola.
Remarkably, Valdes did not recieve his first call-up for the Spanish national team until the 2010 World Cup, due to the presence of Iker Casillas, Pepe Reina and Diego Lopez in the national team. Valdes has since earned four caps for the Spanish national team.
Petr Cech, first-choice goalkeeper for Chelsea and the Czech Republic, makes the list as the second-best goalkeeper in the world today.
As an opening disclaimer, Cech makes the list as the second-best goalkeeper in the world more due to the poor form of those around him than his excellent form. Julio Cesar and Gianluigi Buffon probably would've taken this spot had they preformed well during the 2010-11 season, but both goalkeepers were poor or repeatedly injured during that season.
Still, make no mistake, Cech is well deserving of his place on this list. After making a name for himself at Rennes and being named as the Best Goalkeeper of Euro 2004, Cech benefitted from an injury to then-No. 1 goalkeeper Carlo Cudicini, and has been Chelsea's first-choice goalkeeper ever since. With Chelsea, Cech has won three Premier League titles, three FA Cups, two League Cups and two Community Shields. His individual awards can be found here.
Internationally, Cech has started in goal for the Czech Republic at Euro 2004, the 2006 World Cup and Euro 2008. He has earned 81 caps with the national team.
Cech currently holds a number of goalkeeping records, arguably the most impressive being the Premier League record for fewest appearances required to reach 100 clean sheets, having done so in 180 league appearances.
Was there ever any doubt that Iker Casillas would be No. 1 on this list?
Along with Buffon and Oliver Kahn, Casillas is easily one of the three best goalkeepers of the past decade. He has won every single trophy there is to win in Spanish club football, as well as the two biggest trophies available to him in international football, and remarkably, is still only 30 years young, considering that most good goalkeepers continue playing well until 35 or older.
Again, like every other goalkeeper in the top five, Casillas has a book-worth of individual accolades, so once again they are available here. In addition to those, Casillas is also the most capped goalkeeper in the history of the Champions League, and is only four caps away from being the most capped player in Spain's national team history.
After hours upon hours of typing, the list is finally complete. As a note to myself, maybe next time I should just recap a major fact or two about each goalkeeper than try to tell each goalkeeper's story in each slide.
Anyway, hope you enjoyed the list! I look forward to hearing your feedback and opinions, but as stated in the beginning, please do remember to be constructive and not destructive in your criticisms.