Goalkeepers are one of the most important figures on a football field.
Undervalued for their contributions and over-criticised for their errors, there’s no position under quite as much scrutiny as the goalkeeper.
Their unique position makes those who excel there all the more impressive. With that in mind, here are Europe’s top 10 goalkeepers for this season (overall quality is considered but weighting is given to this season’s displays).
10. Manuel Neuer (Bayern Munich)
Remember when Manuel Neuer was the best goalkeeper in the world? He looked absolutely unplayable. Like a combination of Conan The Barbarian and the Alien Bounty Hunter from X-Files. Then he injured his foot, missed a year of action and since his return has looked decidedly… well he’s not bad but he’s definitely not the elite-level stopper he used to be. He has an impressive 10 clean sheets but his save percentage of 59.65% is, quite incredibly, the fifth-lowest in the Bundesliga.
9. Hugo Lloris (Spurs)
Hugo Boss has been as bad as he has been good this season. The veteran French stopper and Spurs captain has had moments of brilliance and leadership where he has been utterly essential to Spurs’ successes (including reaching their first-ever Champions League final), and an impressive save percentage of 75.19% in the Premier League this season attests to that; but he’s also had a few high-profile blunders which is what knocks him down the list.
8. Peter Gulacsi (RB Leipzig)
RB Leipzig have the best defence in the Bundesliga and the Hungarian stopper, who was once third-choice at Liverpool, is a huge reason why. Gulacsi has been absurd this season. His 15 clean sheets are the joint-most in the division and he has a colossal save percentage of 77.12%, the best of all regular starters in the German top flight.
7. David de Gea (Manchester United)
David de Gea was on some sort of other plane of existence in 2017/18, operating like Doctor Strange battling Thanos, able to summon clones of himself at will. At least that’s how it seemed watching him repeatedly keep Manchester United alive in games they should have been killed in long ago. Well, that brilliance has been balanced out by a much more normal 2018/19. For most of it he had still been a very good goalkeeper, but his recent error-strewn displays have cost United dearly which is what has pushed him down this list.
6. Andre Onana (Ajax)
Onana was once on Barcelona’s books but when they let him go Ajax bet big on the Cameroonian and he has delivered. He’s already played a Europa League final back in 2017 and will reached a Champions League semi-final in 2019. His presence between the sticks was enormous as Ajax nearly went all the way in Europe (and did, in fact, go all the way on the domestic front with an immense domestic double).
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5. Samir Handanovic (Inter)
Perpetually underrated because he plays for the haphazard and unstable Inter, Samir Handanovic has been one of the most reliable goalkeepers in the world over the past few years. This season he tops all Serie A stoppers in clean sheets (17) and his save percentage of 74.62% is very solid indeed. He’s also been made Inter captain, so you know he’s reliable.
4. Ederson (Manchester City)
Sure, we could talk about how Ederson has been the catalyst that turned Manchester City into the dominant force they are today. Sure, we could talk about his incredible 20 clean sheets, 23 goals conceded and 71.6% save percentage… but the most pertinent stat about Ederson is that as a goalkeeper he has not one but two assists this season. One in league play and one in the Champions League. Imagine having a goalkeeper as accurate and dangerous over long distances as an ICBM? That’s Ederson.
3. Marc-André ter Stegen (Barcelona)
There’s something to be said for consistency and “proving it” over a long period and that’s why Marc-André ter Stegen is ranked so highly. The German goalie is a ridiculous combination of Ederson and Alisson’s great strengths, where he is a maestro with the ball at his feet able to loft gentle lobs over pressing attackers heads to team-mates by the touchline but is also a pillar of strength and a dominant presence when 1 vs 1 against an onrushing striker. He’s also a really nice guy to boot. Ter Stegen really does have it all, but he still got thwacked at Anfield and conceded four goals which has to knock him down below the goalkeeper that beat him that night.
2. Alisson (Liverpool)
The bread and butter of goalkeeping is stopping the ball going into the net. And in this regard, Alisson is supreme. The brilliantly bearded Brazilian has been a calming presence at the back for Liverpool as they have pivoted to a side built on their defence. Alisson is big, strong and has absurd reflexes. 21 clean sheets and a save percentage of 77.08% are both league-highs and confirm Alisson’s excellence. The Brazilian made a huge play at the end of the season with immense displays in the Champions League semi-final second-leg and the final itself, where he equalled the record number of saves made (8) and managed to keep a clean sheet and win in the process.
1. Jan Oblak (Atlético Madrid)
But when it comes to goalkeeping excellence in Europe, there’s only one man who need be considered. Others may rise and fall, may occasionally challenge his spot but no one can truly step to Jan Oblak, the Slovenian stopper for Atlético Madrid. Signed for a measly €16m, Oblak has delivered year-upon-year of quality play. He has 20 clean sheets in La Liga this season having conceded 27 goals, but even more impressive is that his save percentage is a frankly staggering 79.39%.
That is the latest in a long line of stats, most impressive of which is that since joining Atleti he has conceded just 94 goals in 153 La Liga games – keeping 88 clean sheets in the process. Yeah, you read that right. 94 goals conceded, 88 clean sheets kept. Almost maintaining parity between goals conceded and clean sheets is a god damn miracle, and Jan Oblak is a miraculous goalkeeper.