Iker Casillas, Gianluigi Buffon and Jens Lehmann Amongst Decade's Top 10 Keepers

Vijay MuraliAnalyst INovember 26, 2010

Iker Casillas, Gianluigi Buffon and Jens Lehmann in the Decade's Top 10 Keepers

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    JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA - JULY 11:  Iker Casillas, captain of Spain (C), and the Spain team celebrate victory with the World Cup trophy following the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa Final match between Netherlands and Spain at Soccer City Stadium on J
    Jasper Juinen/Getty Images

    The image of Iker Casillas crying, moments after Andres Iniesta scored the winner for Spain in the World Cup will stay forever, and the Spanish captain was emotional after the first World Championship triumph for Spain. But it was due to his brilliance that Arjen Robben was denied twice from point-blank range which led to the victory.

    Goalkeepers are amongst the most important players in a team, and a team without a good goalkeeper in their ranks have rarely achieved success in the world stage.

    They have the ability to change the course of the game by instilling confidence in the defense and inspiring the team through their amazing saves. A bad goalkeeper could cause a lot of problems for the defense, and does not bring stability to the team.

    Goalkeepers are not as active as the outfield players, and they may remain inactive for most of the match, when their team is dominating, but when they called into action, they need to be at their best to thwart the opposition.

    Their distribution is also extremely important and they have an important role to play in starting the attacks from the back.

    In this list, I have mentioned 10 keepers who have been outstanding in this decade, and this article does not rank the goalkeepers. However, I would like to name Gianluigi Buffon and Iker Casillas as the best keepers of the decade and they stand out amongst the rest of good goalkeepers.

Pepe Reina

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    LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 24:  Pepe Reina of Liverpool gestures during the Barclays Premier League match between Liverpool and Blackburn Rovers at Anfield on October 24, 2010 in Liverpool, England. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
    Michael Regan/Getty Images

    Country: Spain

    Current Club: Liverpool FC

    Former Clubs: FC Barcelona, Villareal

    Pepe Reina is one of the most consistent goalkeepers in the world, and is one of the more complete goalkeepers in recent history.

    He is a youth product of the Barcelona academy, the La Masia, but he could not cement his place in the Barcelona team, and moved to Villareal in 2002, where he established himself as the first-choice goalkeeper.

    Following the arrival of Rafael Benitez at Liverpool, Reina was brought to Anfield in the summer of 2005. Benitez hailed him as the "best keeper" in Spain, and it was not long before Reina displaced Jerzy Dudek to establish himself as the first-choice goalkeeper.

    He is a huge fan favourite at Liverpool, and despite the Reds having a poor 2009-10 season, he signed a new long-term contract. However, he is allegedly unhappy with the team currently and might move to greener pastures in the future.

    He has regularly been a part of the Spain squad, but it is his misfortune that he belongs to an era in which Iker Casillas has dominated. He is the No. 2 Spain goalkeeper and shares an excellent camaraderie with his compatriot as was exhibited in the World Championship, where Reina's advice to the Real Madrid goalkeeper led to Casillas saving an important penalty against Paraguay. 

Victor Valdes

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    BARCELONA, SPAIN - OCTOBER 16:  Goalkeeper Victor Valdes of Barcelona gestures during the La Liga match between Barcelona and Valencia at the Camp Nou stadium on October 16, 2010 in Barcelona, Spain. Barcelona won the match 2-1.  (Photo by Jasper Juinen/G
    Jasper Juinen/Getty Images

    Country: Spain

    Current Club: FC Barcelona

    Victor Valdes is one of the more under-rated players in the Barcelona's historic triumph in all competitions in 2008-09. He has been the No.1 goalkeeper for a long time, now and deserves the accolades he has received for his safe and impressive goalkeeping.

    Valdes is also a La Masia product and came up quickly through the ranks to make his mark at the senior level.

    In the 2003-04 season, he made a huge step in establishing himself as the future no.1 of Barcelona when he performed superbly when he was given opportunities. It was not long before he cemented his place in the team and has since, gone on to break many records fo his club. 

    He matched the impressive record set by Barcelona legend Andoni Zubizarreta's record of going all the 38 matches of the season without leaving the starting line-up or substituted.

    He has not been a regular at International level though and earned his first cap in the year 2010. He was also selected for the World Cup 2010 as the third-choice goalkeeper.

Julio Cesar

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    MILAN, ITALY - SEPTEMBER 29:  Julio Cesar of FC Internazionale Milano looks on during the UEFA Champions League group A match between FC Internazionale Milano and SV Werder Bremen at Stadio Giuseppe Meazza on September 29, 2010 in Milan, Italy.  (Photo by
    Valerio Pennicino/Getty Images

    Country: Brazil

    Current Club: Inter Milan

    Former Clubs: Flamengo

    Julio Cesar has established himself as one of the world's best keepers after his consistent performances in the last few seasons. The Brazilian keeper was an integral part of the treble-winning Inter Milan side, managed by Jose Mourinho, who was impressed by the stability provided by Cesar. He started off his career in Brazil playing for Flamengo and moved to Italy in 2005.

    He was expected to be the second-choice keeper behind Francesco Toldo, but he quickly established himself as a safe and consistent keeper and cemented his place in the starting eleven with some consistent performances.

    Cesar has good control of the penalty area, and though he has a good build, is quite agile and has sharp reflexes.

    He is also Brazil's first-choice goalkeeper at present and has made numerous appearances for his country. He was selected as the first-choice goalkeeper for the World Championship in South Africa but he was at mistake for conceding the crucial equaliser against Netherlands when he failed to deal with a Wesley Sneijder shot.

    Nevertheless, he still remains as one of the most consistent keepers in the world and is an important player for Inter Milan and Brazil.

Oliver Kahn

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    GELSENKIRCHEN- NOVEMBER 20:  Oliver Kahn of Germany with the ball in his hand preparing to kick it during the international friendly between Germany and Holland held on November 20, 2002 at The Auf Schalke Arena, Gelsenkirchen, Germany.  Holland won the m
    Stuart Franklin/Getty Images

    Country: Germany

    Former Clubs: Karlsruher SC, Bayern Munich

    Oliver Kahn is one of the best keepers of the decade and is the only goalkeeper to have won the "Golden Ball" award in the FIFA World Cup, which he won in 2002 for his sensational performances for Germany.

    The tough goalkeeper is known for his aggressive attitude, amazing reflexes and superb command in the penalty area. He started his professional career at a young age with Karlsruher with whom he spent a number of seasons.

    He then moved to Bayern Munich in 1994 and spent the rest of his career till 2008 with the club. Kahn commanded huge respect within the squad as well as others and he established himself as one of the best in the world.

    He broke many records along the way, as he made more than 500 appearances for the German based club. He is also the Bundesliga's leading clean-sheet holder with 197 to his name.

    Kahn had a relatively slow start to his International career but managed to make 86 appearances in his career. The highlight of his career is his sensational performances at the World Cup in 2002, which contributed largely to Germany exceeding expectations and reaching the final.

    However, Kahn could not prevent Brazil from lifting the coveted cup, but he was rewarded for his performances with the award for the best player of the tournament.

Edwin Van Der Sar

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    MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 10:  Edwin van der Sar of Manchester United gestures during the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester City and Manchester United at the City of Manchester Stadium on November 10, 2010 in Manchester, England.  (Pho
    Alex Livesey/Getty Images

    Country: Netherlands

    Current Club: Manchester United

    Former Clubs: Ajax, Juventus, Fulham

    Edwin Van Der Sar has had a long and successful career in this decade and the fact that he still remains one of the best goalkeepers in the world at the age of 40 is testament to his determination and longevity.

    He is blessed with good reflexes and possesses agility that belies his age. He is also comfortable with the physical aspects of the game and is a good distributor of the ball.

    Van der Sar started his career with Ajax at a young age with whom he played for nine years, in which he won the Champions League and the award for the best European goalkeeper, an award he would win again after 14 years playing for Manchester United in 2009.

    He then moved to Juventus, for whom he played for two years before losing his place to the impressive Gianluigi Buffon.

    He moved to England, where he represented Fulham for four years, making over 150 appearances for the club and was signed by Sir Alex Ferguson in 2005. He has been a regular for United and is an integral part of the Red Devils team.

    Van Der Sar was also an experienced campaigner at International level and has represented the Netherlands in a number of international competitions. He has made 130 appearances for the Netherlands.

    He has also captained the team on a number of occasions including the FIFA World Cup in 2006. His only disappointment at International level is that he has never won an International competition (European Championship and World Cup).

Jens Lehmann

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    LONDON - DECEMBER 10:  Jens Lehmann of Arsenal in action during the Barclays Premiership match between Chelsea and Arsenal at Stamford Bridge on December 10, 2006 in London, England.  (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
    Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

    Country: Germany

    Former Clubs: Schalke, AC Milan, Borussia Dortmund, Arsenal, Stuttgart

    Jens Lehmann was undeniably one of the most talented goalkeepers in this decade and had a long and successful career. He was eccentric at times, but he was a keeper who had high quality and could prove to be a difference with his superb reflexes.

    Lehmann started his career with Schalke for whom he played over 250 games and established himself as one of the best keepers in Europe.

    He had an unsuccessful spell with AC Milan after which he returned to Germany where he signed for Borussia Dortmund in 1999. He stayed for four years with the club, before he was signed by Arsenal FC, who was looking for a quality replacement for David Seaman.

    Lehmann was the first-choice goalkeeper for Arsenal in the incredible "Invincibles" season of 2003-04. Though he did make mistakes at times, he was extremely good with his reflex saves and he continued to impress at Arsenal.

    He set a record by not conceding in the Champions League for 853 minutes, breaking Edwin van der Sar's record. His form dwindled in the 2007-08 season after which he moved to Stuttgart. He retired from professional football in August 2009 ending what has been a long and successful career.

    Jens Lehmann had to face stiff competition from compatriot and rival Oliver Kahn for a starting place in the Germany national team. He was the No. 2 goalkeeper for some major tournaments, but was appointed the No. 1 goalkeeper for the 2006 World Cup ahead of Kahn.

    The highlight of his International career was the penalty saves he made against Argentina after reading a paper brought out by the Argentina deputy coach. His heroics drew praise from Kahn but Germany could not beat Italy in the Semifinals.

    Lehamnn offered the retiring Kahn a place in the team for the third place play-off game, in which he captained Germany. Lehmann managed to make 61 appearances for his country in his career.

Petr Cech

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    LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 14:  Petr Cech of Chelsea in action during the Barclays Premier League match between Chelsea and Sunderland at Stamford Bridge on November 14, 2010 in London, England.  (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
    Michael Regan/Getty Images

    Country: Czech Republic

    Current Club: Chelsea FC

    Former Clubs: Blsany, Sparta Prague, Rennes

    Petr Cech is one of the best keepers in the Premier League as will be attested by all Chelsea supporters who are extremely satisfied to have a quality keeper like Cech in their goal.

    Cech started his career in his native country playing for Blsany and Sparta Prague before he was linked to a number of big clubs after his scintillating performances in the U-21 European Championship.

    Though many clubs in England tried to sign him, the move fell through because of the problems with the work permit and he moved to play in France for Rennes.

    He excelled for Rennes in a number of matches but the club was not very successful at that time and had to endure a tough time. Claudio Ranieri, then coach of Chelsea, signed the tall goalkeeper to play for the Blues for a figure close to £7 million.

    Carlo Cudicini was injured at the start of the season and Jose Mourinho promoted Cech to be the first choice goalkeeper and he has not looked back since then.

    He suffered a horrible skull fracture in 2006 after a challenge by Stephen Hunt which left him dazed. He returned to full fitness after a few months and has since played with a protective head gear to protect him from any accidental damage.

    Cech has also been a regular for his country representing the Czech national team on 72 occasions. He has been an integral member in the side and has captained the Czech team on many occasions.

David Seaman

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    CARDIFF - MAY 17:  David Seaman of Arsenal celebrates with the FA Cup after winning the FA Cup Final match between Arsenal and Southampton on May 17, 2003 at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff, Wales. David Seaman, who was capped 75 times for England, anno
    Clive Mason/Getty Images

    Country: England

    Former Clubs: Birmingham City, Queens Park Rangers, Arsenal, Manchester City

    David Seaman was one of the best goalkeepers for England and Arsenal and had a hugely successful career.

    The Englishman was one of the most complete goalkeeper and had fine reflexes which were integral to Arsenal winning many trophies in the late 90s. Though he was not as effective in this decade, he was still consistent till he retired from the game in 2004.

    He started off his professional playing for a number of clubs before joining Queens Park Rangers on a deal alleged to be worth £225,000. He made over 150 appearances for the club before joining Arsenal in 1990.

    He went on to be an integral part of the team and helped the team acquire numerous titles to their cabinet. Seaman continued to be the first choice goalkeeper after the arrival of Arsene Wenger and he excelled under the Frenchman.

    The England International was known for his superb saves and his commanding presence at the back. He endured fitness problems in the 2002-03 season and departed Arsenal to join Manchester City where he played for only one year.

    Seaman is the second-most capped goalkeeper for England after Peter Shilton with 75 caps to his name. He was a regular for England and was the first-choice goalkeeper for a number of major International tournaments including the World Championships and Euro Championships.

    The most disappointing moment of his International career came when he conceded a goal to a brilliant Ronaldinho free kick in the World Cup in 2002 which led to the elimination of England.

Gianluigi Buffon

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    DORTMUND, GERMANY - JULY 04: Gianluigi Buffon of Italy gestures during the FIFA World Cup Germany 2006 Semi-final match between Germany and Italy played at the Stadium Dortmund on July 04, 2006 in Dortmund, Germany.  (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images
    Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

    Country: Italy

    Current Club: Juventus

    Former Clubs: Parma

    Gianluigi Buffon is one of the best goalkeepers of this generation and currently plies his trade with Juventus. He has been awarded the Serie A goalkeeper of the year award a record eight times and is one of the most complete and dominant keepers in the last decade.

    Buffon started off his career with Parma, emerging through the youth academy to establish his place in the senior team, for whom he made his Serie A debut at the age of 17.

    His superb displays with Parma led some of the biggest clubs to track his progress. He eventually moved to Juventus in 2001 and he has been with the Turin based club since then. He has won numerous titles with the Italian club and is an integral member of the team.

    After the Calciopoli scandal in which Juventus were found guilty and relegated, it was rumoured that Buffon would leave the club.

    However, Buffon stayed with the club and helped the club achieve promotion with ease. Buffon has been one of the best keepers that Juventus have ever had and he recently signed a contract extension until 2013.

    Buffon has had a successful International career for the Azzurri and has been an integral member of the side from a very young age.

    He has been the first-choice goalkeeper for several major tournaments but the highlight of his career, so far, was his impressive performance in the 2006 World Cup where he conceded only two goals in the whole of the tournament. He was subsequently awarded with the Lev Yashin award for his impressive efforts during the tournament.

Iker Casillas

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    LISBON, PORTUGAL - NOVEMBER 17:  Goalkeeper Iker Casillas of Spain looks on during the International Friendly match between Portugal and Spain at the Estadio da Luz on November 17, 2010 in Lisbon, Portugal.  (Photo by Jasper Juinen/Getty Images)
    Jasper Juinen/Getty Images

    Country: Spain

    Current Club: Real Madrid

    Iker Casillas is one of the best goalkeepers in the history of the game and is one among the two best goalkeepers of this generation. Casillas possesses stunning reflexes and his outstanding saves have led to Real Madrid and Spain win many trophies along the way.

    He is also the regular captain of both his club and country and has a calm demeanour in addition to his amazing talent. He is an inspirational leader and has been an excellent captain.

    Casillas came through the real Madrid academy and broke into the senior team at a very young age. It did not take him too much time before he established himself as the first-choice goalkeeper for Los Blancos.

    He is a huge fan favourite at the Santiago Bernabeu and  has enthralled Real Madrid supporters with his incredible saves. He has helped Real Madrid and Spain win numerous major titles with his wonderful abilities and has won all major Club and National Championship titles.

    Casillas has also had a major role to play in the Spain national team after breaking into the team at a young age and has made 116 appearances for La Roja. After enduring some disappointments in major competitions, he captained the team for the Euro 2008 following the exclusion of Raul Gonzalez.

    He made two vital penalty saves against Italy in the penalty shoot-out against Italy as Spain progressed into the last four and eventually won the competition. Their success was repeated at the world stage as Spain won the World Championship in 2010 under the captaincy of Iker Casillas. 

    The Real Madrid man was in scintillating form in the final making two brilliant point blank saves off Arjen Robben which was crucial in the context of the game. An emotional Iker Casillas lifted the World Cup trophy and was also awarded the "Golden Glove" award for the best goalkeeper of the tournament. 

Honourable Mentions

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    VALENCIA, SPAIN - NOVEMBER 26: Santiago Canizares of Valencia reacts after his side lost 1-0 to Real Madrid during their La Liga match between Valencia and Real Madrid at the Mestalla stadium on November 26, 2006 in Valencia, Spain.  (Photo by Denis Doyle
    Denis Doyle/Getty Images

    1. Santiago Canizares

    2. Roberto Abbondanzieri

    3. Dida

    4. Jerzy Dudek

    5. Igor Akinfeev

    6. Vitor Baia

    7. Francesco Toldo

    8. Oscar Cordoba

    9. Shay Given

    10. Fabien Barthez