There was a time when YouTube was a simple place. Make a video about goalkeepers, and the views will come flooding in. This was my first video about goalkeepers, and it has racked up more than 300,000 views, which was an enormous number for me at the time. Then there was this one, this one, and this one, which all raked in the views. Those were simpler times, happier times I suppose, before the YouTube community fell out of love with the people who bravely guard our goals.
More recently, my goalkeeper videos don’t seem to have captured your imagination, but I did recently see a comment asking me to rank the world’s seven best third choice goalkeepers. Although that’s a decent idea, as far as I know no-one has taken a look at second choices, so I thought why not do that instead.
To be clear, these are seven goalkeepers who are backup goalkeepers at club level, not international level. Were I to include both, Marc-Andre ter Stegen would of course come out comfortably on top.
Here are my views on the 7 best backup goalkeepers in world football:
7. David Ospina
Italy have three or four really talented young goalkeepers available to them right now, and one of them is 22-year-old Napoli star Alex Meret. He is the man who restricts former Arsenal goalkeeper David Ospina to the role of deputy, one which the Colombian has become pretty familiar with since 2014. The agile 31-year-old joined Arsenal having been very impressive at Nice, but he made just 70 appearances in four seasons under Arsene Wenger. He spent his final season contracted to the Gunners on-loan with Napoli, where he played 24 games, but he has made just six appearances since arriving in Naples on a permanent deal in the summer.
6. Antonio Adan
An experienced goalkeeper who was born in Madrid and came through the youth ranks at Real Madrid, Antonio Adan made 18 appearances in the Real first team. He left Real Madrid in 2013, but has been back in the Spanish capital since 2018, when he joined Atletico Madrid. Adan linked up with Diego Simeone off the back of an impressive fifth and final campaign with Real Betis, but he was never likely to dislodge Jan Oblak. The uncapped Spaniard has made just five appearances at the Wanda Metropolitano playing second fiddle to one of the best goalkeepers in the world, but he’s still a very capable goalkeeper in his own right and good value for inclusion in sixth place.
5. Alphonse Areola
Alphonse Areola seems to have been around forever now, but the Frenchman is still only 26. Despite having played for five different clubs, Areola has only ever been permanently contracted to PSG. He established himself as the Parisians undisputed number one during the 2017-18 campaign, but was rotated with Gianluigi Buffon last season and replaced by Keylor Navas in the summer just gone. Navas arrived from Real Madrid, and Areola joined Real on-loan as part of the deal, meaning he now plays second fiddle to Thibaut Courtois. Capped 3 times by France, Areola has smart reflexes and accurate distribution; he deserves fifth place in this seven, but he ought to be pushing to play regular football at this stage in his career.
4. Claudio Bravo
It’s difficult to rank Claudio Bravo in this seven since the Chilean goalkeeper has been so hit and miss since his move to Manchester City, and given that consistency and a safe pair of hands are pretty key attributes for a goalkeeper, that’s why I can only put him in fifth. Bravo joined Man City from Barcelona for £17 million in 2016, but the veteran number one experienced a difficult debut campaign in the Premier League. He was replaced by Ederson the following summer who has been outstanding at the Etihad, restricting Bravo to only cup appearances here and there. Bravo can pick a pass and is comfortable with the ball at his feet, hence why Guardiola signed him, but he can be a little unpredictable when it comes to using his hands. He has put in some excellent cup performances for the reigning Premier League champions, so he takes fourth place in this seven.
3. Gianluigi Buffon
The first choice in my recent video pondering a best XI made up of footballers reportedly earning less than £50,000 a week, Gianluigi Buffon has to settle for a role as number two in real life. It’s a position Buffon isn’t particularly familiar with, having spent a quarter of a century as a first choice goalkeeper, but he knew the score upon returning to Turin. Now aged 41, Buffon obviously has declined from his absolute peak, but he’s still an excellent goalkeeper who is worthy of a bronze medal here. Buffon has made eight appearances for Juventus so far this season, serving as Wojciech Szczęsny’s more than capable deputy.
2. Sergio Romero
Undoubtedly one of the finest backup goalkeepers in the world, there aren’t many clubs that wouldn’t have Sergio Romero as their first choice goalkeeper. Unfortunately for the Argentine, David de Gea has for a long time been the outstanding player at Old Trafford, making opportunities hard to come by. Since arriving at Manchester United from Sampdoria in 2015, Romero has made just seven league appearances, although he has made 52 appearances in all competitions. During those 52 appearances, Romero has kept 32 clean sheets, a remarkable record which only further begs the question of why he is still at the club. Aged 32, Romero is most likely in his prime right now, but he is restricted only to Europa League, EFL and FA Cup fixtures.
One of the more unusual transfers of the summer was the swap deal between Barcelona and Valencia of goalkeepers Neto and Jasper Cillessen, reportedly constructed primarily in order to balance both clubs books for Financial Fair Play rules. Cillessen, it could be argued, was the best second choice goalkeeper in the world at Barcelona, and the same case could now be made for Neto. The 30-year-old once-capped Brazilian’s career has essentially seen him go from being a regular at Fiorentina, then to a backup at Juventus, regular game time again at Valencia, and now backup again at Barcelona. He’s a really agile shot stopper who impressed at Valencia, but dislodging Marc-Andre ter Stegen is a near impossible task, and Neto had to have known that upon his arrival at the Camp Nou. He has played just three games for Barcelona this season, but he takes the crown here narrowly ahead of Sergio Romero as the finest backup goalkeeper in world football right now.