As we come towards the end of 2019, we also come towards the end of a significant decade in the history of mankind.
Given that we are approaching such a significant landmark, I’ve decided to launch a new, brief series looking back over the last decade. The plan is to do videos on the 7 best players in every position since 2010, building up to my best XI of the decade to be released on New Years’ Day or New Years’ Eve. If you have any other decade-based ideas, feel free to drop them below in the comments.
Just so that we’re all on the same page, the criteria for this seven and all the sevens in this series is a question of quality and quantity. That is to say, how good is or was the player, and for how much of the past decade have they been that good. For example, Edwin van der Sar was brilliant in 2010, and Alisson and Ederson are excellent right now, but neither come anywhere near this seven since they didn’t spend long enough at that level within the decade to be considered. So please don’t come in with he’s not as good as him, pointing out someone who only had three good years in the 2010’s, over someone who may well not be as talented, but featured for a much longer period of the last 10 years. Here are my views on the 7 best goalkeepers of the decade:
7. Iker Casillas
It was a tight call between Petr Cech, Keylor Navas and Iker Casillas to open this seven. Casillas was arguably the finest goalkeeper of the previous decade between 2000 and 2010, so it’s some indication of his class and longevity that he features in this seven as well. Of course, Casillas hasn’t been as brilliant in the 2010’s as he was in the 2000’s, but he has still been among the best goalkeepers in the world. He began the decade by becoming the first Spaniard to lift the World Cup, winning the Golden Glove at the finals in South Africa and making the Team of the Tournament.
He stayed with Real Madrid up until a pretty shameful departure from the club’s perspective in 2015, and he captained the club as they won the 2014 Champions League final. Casillas made the FIFPro World XI in 2010, 2011 and 2012, and he also made the Euro 2012 Team of the Tournament as Spain made it a hat-trick of consecutive major trophies. Even after leaving Real and moving to Porto, Casillas has made over 150 appearances, making the Primeira Liga Team of the Season and being named as the division’s best goalkeeper. He suffered a heart attack last season, but still didn’t hang up his gloves, and he returned to training this month with the aim of returning to the first team in February. Aged 38, Casillas has been capped 167 times by Spain, he’s one of the seven greatest goalkeepers to have ever lived and I think he’s the seventh greatest of this decade.
6. Marc-Andre ter Stegen
I put Marc-Andre ter Stegen in my shortlist for this seven thinking he hadn’t been around long enough to make the cut but was worthy of an honourable mention, which is how I always do these videos, brainstorming candidates before whittling down the order and top seven of them. Although Marc-Andre ter Stegen is only 27, he has actually been playing first team top flight football for virtually the entire decade. He broke through at Borussia Monchengladbach in the 2010-11 season, playing a key role in keeping his boyhood club in the Bundesliga, and he was never dropped following that.
He joined Barcelona in 2014, where he spent a couple of seasons jostling for a starting berth with Claudio Bravo before making the position his own. Since then, it is no exaggeration to say ter Stegen has been one of the best goalkeepers in the world. Frankly, he doesn’t get anywhere near the recognition that he deserves, and he is yet to make the FIFPro World XI. Were it not for the existence of Manuel Neuer, ter Stegen may be pushing 100 caps for Germany already. Instead, he’s stuck on 23, and has found it hard to dislodge Neuer even when the Bayern star came back from injuries and ter Stegen was in the form of his life. Nevertheless, ter Stegen is arguably the best goalkeeper in the world right now, and he’s my choice as the sixth best of the decade.
5. Jan Oblak
The youngest goalkeeper in this seven, Jan Oblak is a year younger than Marc-Andre ter Stegen at 26. He only started playing regular first team football in January 2012, and that has to be taken into account when ranking him in this seven. What also has to be taken into account, however, is Oblak’s form since signing for Atletico Madrid in 2014. For the second half of this decade, one could make a good case for no goalkeeper having been more consistent and dependable than Jan Oblak.
The Slovenia star has been a highly effective last line of defence in an Atletico Madrid defence which has been, for the most part, pretty formidable under Diego Simeone. Oblak has won the La Liga Zamora Trophy and the La Liga Best Goalkeeper awards four times, the latter of which is a record for the division. Pretty remarkably, Oblak is also yet to make a FIFPro World XI, but perhaps that’s a reflection of his unwavering consistency over other goalkeepers whose form has maybe been a bit more up and down over the years. Oblak would by my first choice from 2015 to 2020, but for 2010 to 2020, he comes in at fifth.
4. Samir Handanovic
The second Slovenian international in quick succession, Samir Handanovic is mightily unfortunate not to make the top three of this seven, and it was a very tight call between him and the man up next. Handanovic’s prime has coincided perfectly with this decade, unlike any of the others in this seven so far. The 35-year-old began the decade at Udinese, who he joined in 2004. He made the Serie A Team of the Year in the 2010-11 season, and in 2012, he was snapped up by Inter Milan as a replacement for Julio Cesar.
That has proved to be a sensational piece of business by the Nerazzurri, and I would argue Handanovic has been their best player of the last decade. Handanovic has made over 300 appearances for the club, and he saved a record six consecutive penalties between 2013 and 2015. Nicknamed Batman, Handanovic is one of only four non-Italians to have been named Serie A Goalkeeper of the Year, and he was handed the Inter captaincy for the final campaign of the decade. A brilliant goalkeeper who has rarely made international headlines due to Inter’s lack of presence in European competition for much of this decade and the fact that he is Slovenian, there’s no doubt in my mind that Handanovic deserves fourth place at a minimum.
3. Gianluigi Buffon
The primary reason why Samir Handanovic has only been Serie A Goalkeeper of the Year twice, Gianluigi Buffon has won the accolade 12 times, which is four times as many as any other goalkeeper. Aged 41, Buffon began his career in 1995, and the 2000’s were probably his finest decade. Even more so than Casillas, Buffon has displayed magnificent longevity during the 2010’s though. He was already older than Jan Oblak and Marc-Andre ter Stegen when this decade began, and yet he has maintained his place at the apex of the world game throughout the period.
The Juve legend has been Serie A Goalkeeper of the Year five times this decade, as his club dominated the top flight of Italian football. Buffon spent a season away at PSG last season, where he made 25 appearances, before returning for Turin for what one suspects will be one last hurrah this season. In this decade alone, Buffon has twice made the top ten of Ballon d’Or voting, with only one other goalkeeper who can match that feat since 2010. He played his 176th and last game for Italy in March 2018, making him the most capped European footballer of all time. The greatest goalkeeper in this seven as far as I’m concerned, but not quite the best of the decade.
2. David de Gea
If David de Gea had been at his finest 2014 to 2017 vintage for the entirety of this decade, there’s no doubt in my mind that he would take top spot. The fact of the matter is that he hasn’t been, having had wobbles both when he first arrived in the Premier League as a very young goalkeeper, and more recently following the 2018 World Cup where he made a couple of high-profile errors which he carried into his club career. That’s why de Gea isn’t top, but we should really talk more about why he comes close.
The 29-year-old has been a first team regular for the entire decade, firstly with Atletico Madrid where he earned rave reviews, and then at Manchester United having been snapped up by Sir Alex Ferguson in 2011. Following initial struggles with the physicality of the Premier League and balls into the box, de Gea proved his class and became a Premier League winner in his second and Sir Alex’s last season at Old Trafford.
Manchester United haven’t been genuine title challengers since then, with few of their players covering themselves in glory, but de Gea is one of the few. A five-time PFA Team of the Year inclusion and four-time Sir Matt Busby Player of the Year winner, de Gea has picked up that award more times than Bobby Charlton, Ryan Giggs or any player in United history. In truth, de Gea hasn’t had a flawless decade, but the mistakes have been few and far between in the grand scheme of things, and I would suggest no goalkeeper has won their team more points this decade than the agile Spaniard.
1. Manuel Neuer
In top spot, and you had probably gathered this by a process of elimination, it is Manuel Neuer. My views on Manuel Neuer over the years could fool you into thinking I’m something of a contrarian, since I was a big fan of his when he broke through at Schalke, I thought people went a little too far in their praise of him during his peak between 2013 and 2016, and I now think people’s suggestion that he’s past it or finished are absurd. At the end of that rollercoaster though, I think it would be difficult to argue that Manuel Neuer hasn’t been the best goalkeeper in the world between the years 2010 and 2020.
Aged 23 and starring for Schalke at the start of the decade, Neuer joined Bayern Munich in 2011. He already had a big club mentality, and there would be no adjustment period required for the ‘keeper, who wasn’t even phased by the initial displeasure voiced by some Bayern fans about the club buying a player from Schalke. In his debut campaign, Neuer saved penalties from Cristiano Ronaldo and Kaka in the Champions League semi-finals, although he was powerless to prevent Chelsea lifting the trophy in Bavaria. Bayern bounced back the following season, with Neuer keeping back-to-back clean sheets against both Barcelona and Juventus en-route to a final win over Borussia Dortmund.
His crowning moment of the decade surely came in 2014 when Germany won the World Cup. Neuer won the Golden Glove at the finals, and he came third in 2014 Ballon d’Or voting. A huge presence between the sticks, Neuer is a daunting figure for any forward bearing down on the goal. He stands tall and he has sharp reflexes, but it’s his talents as a sweeper-keeper that will colour much of Neuer’s legacy. He was far from the first sweeper-keeper in the world game, but he has certainly brought the role back into prominence and now to a height never previously seen. Neuer is the most influential goalkeeper for a generation and the best this decade.