Safe feet: the seven best ball-playing goalkeepers in world football

Safe feet: the seven best ball-playing goalkeepers in world football

The job of a modern-day goalkeeper has certainly changed over time and the very best in the world are now as good with their feet as they are with their hands.

The ‘sweeper keeper’ role, epitomised by Bayern Munich’s Manuel Nuer and advocated by football philosopher Pep Guardiola, is the latest footballing trend and every team seemingly needs one.

With shot-stopping ability no longer enough, most goalkeepers have to demonstrate an ability to pass the ball accurately over distance and the awareness to spot a teammate in space high up the pitch.

But which goalkeepers possess enviable passing skills? Here are some of the best of the business.

Manuel Neuer

Club: Bayern Munich

Passes last season: 522

The godfather of sweeper keepers, Neuer continues to reinvent the role. Seemingly not content with his place in between the sticks, Neuer patrols the edge of his box and is often the man starting off the attacks.

Playing almost as an anchor of the team, Neuer made 522 successful passes in an injury-hit Bundesliga campaign but more impressively he achieved a pass accuracy rate of 80% despite averaging a lengthy 29m pass length.

Marc-Andre ter Stegen

Club: Barcelona

Passes last season: 939

Marc-Andre ter Stegen was promoted to the position of Barcelona’s full-time No.1 last season after previously being restricted to a cup role and he excelled between the sticks despite the club enduring a disappointing campaign.

Neuer’s deputy for the German national time, ter Stegen is cut from the same cloth as not only is he an imposing ‘keeper and top quality shot-stopper, he is also exceptionally good at starting moves from the back, even completing more passes than Luis Suarez last season.


Club: Manchester City

Passes last season: 474

Pep Guardiola was quick to dispose of the services of Joe Hart after joining Manchester City and he wasted little time in relegating his replacement Claudio Bravo to the bench by signing Ederson from Benfica.

The Brazilian will have to show that he possesses the ball-playing skills that Guardiola craves as well as the ability to pull off more saves than Bravo could and the signs so far are most certainly positive.


Keylor Navas

Club: Real Madrid

Passes last season: 340


Not to be outdone by their La Liga rivals, Madrid have got their own sweeper-keeper in Keylor Navas. The Costa-Rican worked hard to keep himself in the starting line-up last season and has helped Las Blancos to successive Champions League trophies.

Navas may be mostly renowned for his propensity to make remarkable reaction saves to deny opposition attackers but he is also very adept when distributing the ball out of his hands.

Roman Burki

Club: Borussia Dortmund

Passes last season: 634

Despite a change in personnel in the dugout, Borussia Dortmund have retained their possession-based style under Peter Bosz and that means that Roman Burki will have a big part to play in building from the back this season.

The Swiss goalkeeper has come in for criticism for allowing tame shots to fly past him too easily, but when it comes to passing he’s one of the best in the business, recording a 79% pass accuracy rate for Dortmund last season.

Hugo Lloris

Club: Tottenham

Passes last season: 781

It would be unfair to say Tottenham’s keeper is only good with his feet because the Frenchman is a spectacular shot-stopper.

However, Hugo Lloris certainly enjoys spraying passes out from the back and very rarely goes long unless he absolutely has to. Fortunately, for him, he often has Toby Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen making options for him out wide.

Lloris can sometimes play his way into trouble but on the whole, he is dependable with the ball at his feet.

David de Gea

Club: Manchester United

Passes last season: 510

Cast in a similar mould of Hugo Lloris, De Gea is very well-known for his often unorthodox goalkeeping style. With a tendency to use his feet when saving shots, De Gea is also a very effective ball-player himself.

Due to his status as one of the world’s best goalkeepers, it is often De Gea’s incredible reaction saves that attract the most attention but his passing is far better than given credit for.