A good goalkeeper can mean the difference between success and failure for a team. Here is a look at 10 of the best goalkeepers in the world.
'Saint Iker,' as he is known at Real Madrid, has been his club's first-choice goalkeeper since he was a teenager, having come through the youth set-up. Casillas has often had the misfortune of having an inadequate defense in front of him as Real have focused assembling a fearsome attack, only to neglect the backline. But this simply meant he was able to showcase his skills to an even greater extent, bailing out his defense time and time again, putting his body on the line and making spectacular saves when the opposition looked odds-on to score. One of a kind.
A World Cup winner in 2006, Buffon is considered by many observers as the best goalkeeper of the last decade alongside Casillas. The Juventus custodian has few weaknesses and remains the most expensive goalkeeper in the world following his 2001 move from Parma to Juve. Now well into his 30s, injuries may be taking their toll on Buffon, but he remains an important presence for club and country.
3. Victor Valdes (Spain & Barcelona)
There is a case for arguing that if the Barcelona custodian was any other nationality, he would be his country’s number one. But Valdes has had the misfortune of being in his prime at the same time as Iker Casillas, who has held the Spain jersey for over a decade. Valdes is Barca’s most successful goalkeeper, having won five La Liga titles and three Champions Leagues with the club. The former Tenerife youth player is terrific in one-on-one situations. He only earned his first cap for the national team in 2010.
4. Petr Cech (Czech Republic & Chelsea)
Since arriving at Chelsea from Rennes in 2004, Cech has been a model of consistency, rarely making errors and helping the club to three Premier League titles and a Champions League. He recovered from a fractured skull sustained in a controversial challenge by Reading's Stephen Hunt in 2006. Cech instils confidence in what is a solid Chelsea defense, and although he may have fewer saves to make than many goalkeepers, it is a sign of his class and extreme concentration that he is rarely found wanting when called upon. A busier figure on the international stage.
5. Joe Hart (England & Manchester City)
The least experienced goalkeeper on the list, but Hart has made very few mistakes in his time at Birmingham City and Manchester City. His excellent form on loan at St Andrews in the 2009-10 season led to Shay Given losing his place in the Man City side, and Hart is now England's number one goalkeeper. A superb shot-stopper possessed with calmness and authority.
6. Manuel Neuer (Germany & Bayern Munich)
An excellent 2010/11 season for Schalke prompted Bayern Munich to splurge a reported US$26 million on the player, with another $10 million dependant on performances. Many Bayern supporters felt that the club had overspent on a player whose contract was due to expire in 2012, when he would have been available for free. Neuer, though, is Germany's number one and a dominant presence between the posts.
7. Julio Cesar (Brazil & Queens Park Rangers)
Emerged as Brazil's first-choice goalkeeper for the 2010 World Cup qualifiers and the former Inter Milan stalwart did not let his country down. Has come back strongly from several high-profile mistakes that blighted him earlier in his career, but was deemed surplus to requirements at the San Siro in 2012 and completed a move to Queens Park Rangers.
8. Pepe Reina (Spain & Liverpool)
Like Valdes, Reina has been a victim of Casillas' phenomenal performances at international level. But Liverpool know his worth and persuaded the Spaniard to sign a new contract with the club in 2010. Reina has hinted at his frustrations about a lack of silverware in recent seasons and the Reds may have to break the winless cycle if they are to keep the Barcelona youth product. Prone to the odd clanger like most goalkeepers, but still one of the most consistent in the premier League.
9. Hugo Lloris (France & Tottenham Hotspur)
Lloris looks to have a promising career ahead of him for club and country. Boasting a long reach and superb reflexes, France captain Lloris is capable of keeping strikers at bay when his team are firmly under the cosh. Previously at Nice and Lyon, he was signed by Tottenham in August 2012 as they looked for a long-term option between the posts. Must improve his decision making.
10. Samir Handanovic (Slovenia & Inter Milan)
The 6ft 5in stopper left Udinese for Inter Milan in July 2012 after establishing himself as one of the best goalkeepers in Serie A. Conceding just four goals in 10 2010 World Cup qualifying matches, Handanovic helps form the spine of the Slovenia team, with his agility and penalty-saving prowess both valuable assets.