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.
1. 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, has silenced his critics and was the best goalkeeper at the 2014 World Cup as Germany won the tournament for the first time since 1990.
2. Thibaut Courtois (Belgium & Chelsea)
Courtois plays with confidence beyond his tender years and pulled off some truly remarkable saves after joining Atletico Madrid on loan from Chelsea in 2012. Injury permitting, Courtois will be one of the very best goalkeepers in the world for the next 10 or 15 years and was key to the Spanish outfit winning their first La Liga title since 1996. The Belgian returned to Stamford Bridge after that 2014 title win.
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.
'Saint Iker,' as he is known at Real Madrid, was dropped for much of the 2012-13 and 2013-14 seasons but remains a club legend, having come through the youth system. Casillas has often had the misfortune of having an inadequate defense in front of him as Real have focused on 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.
5. Victor Valdes (Spain)
There is a case for arguing that if the former 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 six La Liga titles and three Champions Leagues with the club. The former Tenerife youth player is terrific in one-on-one situations. He left Barca in 2014.
6. 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.
7. Hugo Lloris (France & Tottenham Hotspur)
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 but an undisputed first choice for club and country.
8. Joe Hart (England & Manchester City)
A superb shot-stopper possessed with calmness and authority, Hart made a huge contribution to Manchester City's title win in 2012. He initially made few mistakes after breaking onto the scene in a loan spell with Birmingham, and then returning to City. However, the 2012-13 and 13-14 seasons will not be remembered as the best of Hart's career, and despite his numerous strengths, the England goalkeeper needs to improve his handling and minimize errors that have proved costly for club and country.
9. 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. Cesar represented Brazil at the 2014 World Cup finals.
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.