Who’d be a goalkeeper, eh?
It’s perhaps the most difficult position on the pitch. Especially nowadays.
The modern number one not only has to pull off amazing saves, but command the box, be dominant in the air, organise the defence, be quick off the line and (of course) be faultless with the ball at feet.
Not much to ask at all, really? Even after throwing in that one small mistake will potentially break a reputation and be magnified like nothing else.
But there are a number of truly brilliant stoppers out there, and over the next few weeks, 90min will be running a series to find the five world class players in every position in the game today - with goalkeepers first up. The series is based on a scoring metric which you can read all about by clicking this link.
What you’ll see below though is a shortlist of 10 of the world’s best, and why they’ve been included in the running to be told the words ‘Welcome to World Class’.
From the moment Alisson Becker was made first-choice goalkeeper at AS Roma, it was clear to everyone in Italy that this boy was a star in the making. Although his talents weren’t recognised to their maximum by those outside of the Italian capital, regular viewers knew that Stadio Olimpico was only a stop-gap on his rise to greatness.
Liverpool had seen enough over the 12 months to fork out €70m for his services, and the Brazilian finally began to earn the praise he deserved. Commanding and dominant between the sticks, there is no other goalkeeper whose mere presence is enough to leave a striker quaking in his boots.
Since his arrival in 2018, it has been a non-stop party for Jurgen Klopp and co. One Champions League and Premier League title later, Alisson has written his name into Merseyside folklore.
Club: Real Madrid
Thibaut Courtois is only 28 years old, but he has been one of the elite goalkeepers in Europe for the better part of a decade now. The Belgian starlet spent three brilliant years at Atletico Madrid at the start of his journey to the top, then returning to parent club Chelsea - where he continued this sensational form.
The gigantic keeper excelled on British shores, but two Premier League titles and four years later, he was heading back to Spain, this time to Atleti’s bitter rivals Real Madrid. Courtois got off to a rocky start at Santiago Bernabeu, but he was a star performer in last season’s title success, ending Barcelona’s reign as champions.
Club: Manchester United
Time to put some credit back behind the name David de Gea. Sure, his form has dipped considerably in the past couple of campaigns, but it was always going to be impossible to maintain the ridiculous standards he had set over the five years prior to that slip.
It speaks volumes of the man that he was voted Manchester United’s Player of the Season from 2014-18 without exception, carrying a bang-average Red Devils side to heights they wouldn’t have threatened without his influence.
There’s now signs he’s getting back to his best, and plenty of time for him to recapture the form which made him a contender as the very best on the planet.
What were you doing when you were 16? Sneaking into nightclubs? Having film nights and pizza with your mates? Or making your debut for Italian giants Milan and starting your journey as one of the most promising goalkeepers of your generation? Probably not the last one, right?
Gianluigi Donnarumma was thrust into the limelight as a tender teenager, with the expectations of half a city - a big one, granted - on his shoulders. It’s not been all sunshine and lollipops for the now 21-year-old, but his meteoric rise to fame has seen him transform into one of the most reliable and commanding goalkeepers in Italy.
Now carrying the torch left by Gianluigi Buffon, Donnarumma is expected to occupy the sticks for the Italian national team for the next decade at least. No pressure, Gigi.
Club: Manchester City
Insanely efficient at the basics, partial to the odd moment of supernatural heroics and impeccable when distributing the ball, Pep Guardiola couldn’t have built a more suitable goalkeeper for his demanding and high-risk style of play if he’d been handed the keys to NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
Ederson may not be enjoying his most fruitful period in a team that seems to have hit its ceiling and is drifting towards the end of a cycle, but he is impressive enough to be involved in the next generation of Guardiola’s Man City side.
Club: Tottenham Hotspur
A man who leads by example and with his own authority on the pitch, Hugo Lloris is a captain, a leader, and a mighty fine goalkeeper. Since becoming Tottenham Hotspur’s number one shot-stopper back in 2012, few doubts have been raised over his abilities, and his position in the side has rarely come under threat.
Although he has won very few trophies at domestic level, the Frenchman has lifted the most prestigious award of them all on the international stage, captaining his nation to World Cup glory in 2018.
With Jose Mourinho leading his own revolution at Spurs, Lloris may be dreaming of adding a Premier League winners medal to his list of accolades.
Club: Bayern Munich
Simply put, one of the best to stand between (and often charge miles away from) the big white posts. Manuel Neuer made his name as an offensive, brash goalkeeper during his time at Schalke, and his brilliant displays convinced bitter rivals Bayern to spend big to land their man.
What a good bit of business that was. The 34-year-old has guarded the sticks for the German giants since 2011, winning eight Bundesliga titles and two Champions League trophies. He may have had a wobble following an injury in 2017, but he looks reborn behind this Bayern backline.
Neuer revolutionised the game before our eyes, and held up the torch for the new heavyweights to follow suit.
Club: Atletico Madrid
Jan Oblak is a throwback to how goalkeepers used to keep net. The giant Slovenian is a no thrills, no spills kind of guy, who is not necessarily renowned for his excellent work with the ball at his feet, nor his ability to play out from the back.
Nah, this man just saves shots. All shots. Every shot. He is the dream goalkeeper for Diego Simeone and his Atletico Madrid side: nothing fancy - just stop the ball and do your job efficiently. And his aptitude at doing the basics so effectively is what makes Oblak so special.
Back in 2015, Arsenal flop Wojciech Szczesny had lost his way. However, the most surprising of career turnarounds unfolded over the next two years, as he recovered his form at Roma and subsequently sealed a switch to Juventus in 2017.
Now in his fourth year in Turin, Szczesny is regarded as the most consistent and talented goalkeeper in Serie A, and he’ll be hoping his exploits take him to heights that even Buffon couldn’t reach by winning that elusive Champions League trophy.
Marc-Andre ter Stegen
The biggest compliment you can pay Marc-Andre ter Stegen is that he has gone toe-to-toe with Neuer in the race to become Germany’s number one goalkeeper, and that there are a number of people who believe he should get the nod.
The Barcelona keeper has been insanely good since taking over from Claudio Bravo, and he is without doubt the most important player in the Blaugrana’s current backline. The Catalan giants are going through a tough period in their history, and they’re going to need their German guardian at his best to navigate them through these choppy waters.