Between October 2017 and January 2018, and I really can’t believe that was more than a year ago, I did videos looking at the 7 greatest footballers of all time in every position, which culminated in our own HITC Sevens all time 23 man squad and starting XI. Of all those videos, including the final XI, by far the most viewed was the goalkeepers seven.
So today we wanted to do a video on the seven best goalkeepers in world football right now, and depending on how many people watch it and what kind of response we get in the comments and on Twitter, we may do a similar format to the one we did over a year ago, going through every position before ending up with our own current world XI.
That’s if it’s a roaring success though, today we’re just interested in goalkeepers, who are arguably the most important players on the pitch. To clarify, our seven is based on current ability. That isn’t current form, so we’re not going to discount a ‘keeper who has had a recent injury or a few bad games, but nor is it a look at their entire careers, so someone like Iker Casillas gets no bonus points for once being the finest shot stopper on the planet.
Here are our 7 best goalkeepers in world football:
7. Samir Handanovic
We have often sung the praises of Samir Handanovic on this channel as one of the most underrated players, nevermind goalkeepers, in world football at the moment. That shouldn’t be the case, since Handanovic is 34 now, he’s made over 420 appearances in Serie A, and he is two-time Serie A Goalkeeper of the Year.
In fairness, Handanovic is only really underrated outside of Italy, and that probably has something to do with Inter Milan only qualifying for the Champions League in one of his seven seasons with the club - this season - when they went out in the group stages, along with the fact that he retired from international football in 2015, so his exploits haven’t been broadcast as widely as other top goalkeepers.
Handanovic has outstanding reflexes, and a powerful but agile 6’4” frame that presents a daunting prospect for any forward facing a one-on-one situation against him. Between 2013 and 2015, Handanovic set an Italian record of six consecutive saved penalties, and he has saved 23 in total, which is more than Gianluigi Buffon in far fewer games. Handanovic will soon become the all time record penalty saver in the history of Italian football.
6. Alisson Becker
(THE SUN OUT, THE SUN ON SUNDAY OUT) Alisson Becker of Liverpool during a training session on February 14, 2019 in Marbella, Spain.
The average age in this seven is actually fairly low in comparison to if this video had been made in previous years, since goalkeepers tend to break into first teams and peak much later than outfield players. Alisson is one of a number of early developers in this seven though, having broken into the Internacional side at the age of 20 and having won his first cap for Brazil in the same month that he turned 23.
Now aged 26, Alisson is Brazil’s number one, one of the most highly-regarded goalkeepers in the world and he was briefly the most expensive player in the history of his position. Alisson is part of a growing movement of so-called sweeper ‘keepers who are comfortable with the ball at their feet and help instigate attacks for their team right from the back as well as keeping the ball out of their net.
The Liverpool shot stopper is certainly very good at that, but he’s also got smart reflexes and some accomplished typical goalkeeping attributes. We think Alisson is still improving, but he’s already among the best goalkeepers in the world and well worth a place in our seven.
There was a time when Brazil had the front end of a Ferrari and the back end of Morris Minor, with all the attacking flair in the world but no one of a similar calibre to keep the opposition out at the other end. They’ve somehow done a full 180 degree turn in recent years, now having two exceptional goalkeepers at their disposal and rather less firepower at the other end.
Now, there will be those in the comments who say Alisson must be better than Ederson since Alisson is Brazil’s first choice, but that’s a rather warped view. Those people must also consider Gabriel Jesus to be better than Roberto Firmino, Willian to be better than Douglas Costa and both Paulinho and Casemiro to be better footballers than Fernandinho, since they obviously think Tite’s views are gospel, which is a little odd considering Brazil’s underwhelming showing at the World Cup.
Anyhow, in truth, we don’t think there’s an awful lot between Alisson and Ederson, except Ederson is even more nuts and even better with a ball at his feet. The youngest ‘keeper in this seven, the 25-year-old is a better passer of the ball than most Premier League midfielders. His reflexes and handling are good, albeit not as good as those ahead of him in this seven, but Ederson still has the most room to improve, and we are already big fans of his.
4. Marc-Andre ter Stegen
ter Stegen of Barcelonaduring the warm-up before the week 23 of La Liga between Athletic Club and FC Barcelona at San Mames stadium on February 10 2019 in Bilbao, Spain.
It took a while for Marc-Andre ter Stegen to really be appreciated at Barcelona, and one could argue he still doesn’t get the recognition he deserves outside of Spain. We think the 26-year-old should have started for Germany at the World Cup, and he’d be the first name on the team sheet for just about any other national team.
Ter Stegen broke into the Borussia Monchengladbach side when the team were fighting relegation from the Bundesliga at the age of 19. He played a pivotal role in their survival and earnt plaudits for his outstanding individual display against Borussia Dortmund. He made over 125 appearances for the club over the next three seasons, before Barcelona brought him to the Camp Nou as a long-term replacement for Victor Valdes.
He had to fight with Claudio Bravo for the number one shirt, but that was a battle he eventually won. Now in his third season as Barca’s undisputed first choice, ter Stegen has gone from strength to strength. Also a talented ball-player and accurate passer of a football, ter Stegen’s reflexes are very good, and he’s become a really calming presence in behind Barca’s back four.
3. Manuel Neuer
By far the hardest decision in this seven was deciding where to put Manuel Neuer. On his day, he is undoubtedly the best goalkeeper on the planet, but the German giant went almost a year without registering a Bundesliga appearance up until August 2018. He’s now back as Bayern’s number one though, and the rumours of his demise have been greatly exaggerated.
Neuer is still a world class goalkeeper, and you could make a case for any of our top three being worthy of top spot. The likes of Alisson and Ederson may be very good exponents of the modern sweeper ‘keeper approach, but it was Neuer who brought the role into fashion. Few players have a genuine impact upon the way in which their position is played, and Neuer has done that.
Neuer absolutely dominates his penalty area, he has supreme confidence in his own ability and his awareness is superb. Neuer may not quite be at the level that he was between 2013 and 2016, but he’s not as far off as people who don’t watch him claim, and he could easily return to top spot in this seven before long.
2. Jan Oblak
Jan Oblak of Atletico Madrid during the La Liga Santander match between Rayo Vallecano v Atletico Madrid at the Campo de Fútbol de Vallecas on February 16, 2019 in Madrid Spain
Manuel Neuer is a better goalkeeper than Jan Oblak. Now, that’s likely to be an unpopular statement, but I think it’s a truthful one. However, this video is all about the here and now, and at this moment in time, I think Oblak is probably slightly more dependable than the world class German.
Having been signed by Atletico Madrid basically after just half a season of first team football at Benfica as a replacement for Thibaut Courtois, I don’t think anyone could have anticipated both how quickly Oblak would hit the ground running and how good he would be.
Oblak is the last line of a formidable Atletico defence that has become renowned for it’s strength under Diego Simeone. In three full seasons of La Liga football, Oblak has won the Zamora Trophy as the competition’s best goalkeeper on all three occasions, as well as making the Champions League Team of the Season twice.
Oblak isn’t as accomplished with the ball at his feet as some of the others in this seven, although he’s still fairly assured in that respect, but in key goalkeeping terms he is superb. His reflexes are very sharp and his handling is second to none. Oblak was nominated for both the 2017 and 2018 Ballon d’Ors.
0. Honourable Mentions
As usual, we’re going to have a quick look at some honourable mentions between first and second place, and there’s a fair bit to get through here. Of all the honourable mentions, I suspect Thibaut Courtois is the one who will attract the most attention.
Courtois is an accomplished goalkeeper who earnt rave reviews during his three seasons on-loan at Atletico Madrid, and was so highly thought of by Chelsea that the club ousted Petr Cech to make him their number one.
However, I would describe Courtois four seasons with the Blues as good rather than spectacular. He was never the best goalkeeper in the Premier League and he never made the PFA Team of the Year. Then this summer, Courtois had a very impressive World Cup and all of a sudden lots of people started to claim he was the best goalkeeper in the world.
He is a very good ‘keeper, but the best in the world he is not, and he just missed out on our top seven. In truth, I don’t think Real Madrid look any stronger defensively with him between the sticks than Keylor Navas, and I don’t think Chelsea look any poorer with Kepa between the sticks than they would if they still had the big Belgian.
Both Kepa and Navas deserve to feature in our honourable mentions, along with the likes of Hugo Lloris, Wojciech Szczesny, Gianluigi Buffon, Gianluigi Donnarumma, Fernando Muslera and Rui Patricio.
Feel free to let us know your views in the comments, which goalkeepers do you feel are under or overrated, your own personal top sevens and whether you’d like to see us turn this into a series and look at all the other positions as well. Obviously also make sure to subscribe to the fountain of footballing knowledge that is HITC Sevens, but before you head over to the search button to watch or re-watch our all time positional series, there is the small matter of top spot…
1. David de Gea
Goalkeeper of Manchester United David de Gea during the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 First Leg match between Manchester United (Man U) and Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) at Old Trafford...
Given the honourable mentions and the players who have featured in our seven so far, I would be surprised if most of you weren’t able to guess who was going to take top spot by this stage. As we said, I think good arguments can be made for Neuer, Oblak and de Gea being the best ‘keepers on the planet right now, but we’ll try to explain why we edged towards de Gea at the last.
The Manchester United man has the best reflexes of any goalkeeper on the planet, his handling is superb and I’ve never seen a goalkeeper so adept at saving shots with their feet. In complete contrast to Courtious, de Gea has been the best goalkeeper in the Premier League for six years, but his reputation took a hit when he had a subpar World Cup with Spain.
Taking that tournament in isolation as a mark of de Gea’s ability would be patently absurd though, and I wouldn’t want to be patently absurd, so we won’t. De Gea has won the Sir Matt Busby Player of the Year award four times now, which is more than any other player, and he could easily win it once again this season.
When one thinks of the list of players to have turned out for Manchester United over the years, albeit de Gea has had slightly less formidable competition, that is a truly remarkable achievement. What’s more, unlike Oblak, Neuer and just about every other player in this seven, de Gea hasn’t had a formidable back three or four in front of him in recent years.
The Manchester United defence has often been all over the place since Sir Alex Ferguson retired, and de Gea has proved to be the club’s get out of jail free card time and time again. No other goalkeeper wins his team as many points, no other goalkeeper puts in as many man of the match performances, and we think no goalkeeper is quite as good at their job as David de Gea right at this moment in time. It’s a close call though.
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