Goalkeepers of the Decade
We are now into the roaring twenties and as we anticipate bootleg alcohol and the re-emergence of jazz clubs, Sparta Spotlight looks back at the cream of the crop from each year of the previous decade.
2010 - Julio Cesar
Jose Mourinho’s Inter Milan side of the 2009/10 season swept all before them and were indeed the last Italian team to win the Champions League, as well as the last to lift Serie A other than Juventus.
Julio Cesar was a key figure in Inter’s treble winning season and particularly excelled in their historic European campaign. In a 'backs against the wall' display away to Barcelona, Mourinho’s men conceded a solitary goal, with Cesar denying Messi and co frequently in a season-defining display.
He would also keep another clean sheet in the Champions League final against Bayern Munich and again in the Coppa Italia final with Roma. There was an aura of invincibility about the Brazilian around that time and was recognised as the continents best, claiming the UEFA Goalkeeper of the Year award to add to his accumulative accolades in 2010.
After losing ‘The Special One‘ to Real Madrid, Cesar and Inter suffered a steady decline, succumbing to Juventus’s era of dominance. In 2012 Cesar’s worldwide recognition earned him a move to…. erm…QPR.
2011 - Edwin Van Der Sar
2011 was the final year of Edwin Van Der Sar’s illustrious career and turned out to be one of his finest.
Not only did he pick up a Premier League winner’s medal with Manchester United and was a runner up in the Champions League final after defeat to Barcelona at Wembley, the Dutchman was also swimming in personal accolades.
Featuring in the PFA Team of the Year and nominated in the FIFPRO XI, as well as being the oldest goalkeeper to ever feature in a European Cup Final at 40 years and 211 days, ending his career where he started, at the very top level.
In an act of sentiment, Alex Ferguson handed Van Der Sar the captaincy for his final match at Old Trafford, in which United relegated their opponents Blackpool in a thrilling encounter and also lifted their twelfth (Van Der Sar’s fourth) Premier League title.
The two-time Champions League winner would play one more competitive game for Dutch semi-professional outfit, VV Noordvjjik.
2012 - Iker Casillas
It would be farcical to compile a list of the decade’s best without including a man who captained his national side to two major tournaments in this decade.
Euro 2012 would be the last competition of Spain’s era of dominance and despite steamrolling Italy 4-0 in the final, if it wasn’t for the veteran Real Madrid and Spain man, the path to their third consecutive major trophy may not have been so smooth.
Not to be undermined was his part in Real Madrid’s 2011/12 La Liga title win, breaking a three-year spell of Barcelona’s domestic dominance. However, his performances and contribution to unifying a fragmented Spanish squad were pivotal to their hattrick of major honours.
After Xavi criticised Real Madrid’s ‘unsporting’ conduct, tensions between the Real and Barca players in the Spain squad were at breaking point.
Casillas facilitated and mediated a conversation between the two sides, which resulted in a harmonised squad, that would have been at great risk of flopping at Euro 2012 had he not intervened.
Only 1 goal was conceded in the whole tournament, unbreeched in the knockout stages, including the 4-0 thrashing Italy. 2012 was truly one of the finest years of the current Porto man’s career.
2013 - Manuel Neuer
Manuel Neuer had already enjoyed a pretty successful career up until 2013 (including a place in Euro 2012’s Team of the Year), but it was then where the German’s stock rose considerably and when many started to recognise him as the best on the planet.
The man who make the ‘sweeper keeper’ cool again would claim every club and essentially every individual honour at his disposal with Bayern Munich claiming a mammoth five trophies in 2013. This included the Bundesliga and a coveted Champions League, bouncing back from an agonising penalty shoot out loss in the previous year’s final.
Beating their Bundesliga counterparts Borussia Dortmund in the final, Neuer picked up the Fan’s Man of the Match award as well being named in the FIFA PRO XI. The future World Cup winner would need to get a bigger mantlepiece, picking up UEFA’s Goalkeeper of the season, IFFHS World's Best Goalkeeper and being named in both UEFA and UEFA Champions League team of the season.
Oliver Khan reincarnate conceded a mere 18 goals, 21 less than the next best defence and boasted a slim goal’s against column in European competition, playing every match on route to the Wembley final.
In all honesty there could have been several years in which Neuer could have featured, but unprecedented success on a domestic level ensures this was his most fruitful.
2014 - Thibaut Courtois
Despite a summer that would ultimately end in disappointment with both Atletico Madrid with a Champions League Final defeat to rivals Real and an underwhelming World Cup with Belgium, Thibaut Courtois will look back on 2014 with contrasting emotion to his current plight.
A formidable defensive line built by Diego Simeone, would upset the La Liga establishment by winning the 2013/14 title, the first won by a team other then Barcelona and Real Madrid for over a decade.
The lynchpin of that rear-guard was highly rated youngster was Thibaut Courtois, who had spent the 2013/14 campaign, as well as the two previous, on loan to Atletico from Chelsea.
Despite scoring just 77 times compared to triple-figure hauls achieved by the two giants of Spanish football, the meanest defence in the country, possibly Europe, would clinch the title at the Nou Camp, with the Belgian starring in a 1-1 draw.
Atletico’s remarkable run to the Champions League Final, which saw Courtois named in the tournament’s best XI, would do nothing to deter the attention of parent club, who were experiencing some issues on the goalkeeping front after an injury to Petr Cech.
After an incredible season for one so young, the towering Belgian would instantly claim the number one spot at Stamford Bridge and was ever-present in their all-encompassing league winning campaign under Jose Mourinho.
Courtois has endured a torrid start to his Real Madrid career following a move in the summer of 2018, but at the age of 27, there is plenty of time for him to realise the promise he showed at the Vicente Calderon.
2015 - Gianluigi Buffon
Arguably the most legendary ‘keeper of his generation, Buffon is still going strong at 41 years-old and is our choice for the best goalkeeper of 2015.
Juventus’s spell of dominance has been helped somewhat by the decline of the two Milan teams, but under Max Allegri, they were also a force to be reckoned with in Europe, no small part down to their outstanding defensive record.
The Old Lady strolled to a league and cup double in the 2014/15 season, shipping just 27 goals in all of their domestic fixtures.
Even more impressive were the incredible defensive displays in the knock-out stages of the Champions League, marshalled by their stalwart Buffon. This included a formidable display in a 0-0 draw away to Monaco in the Quarter Final and another to restrict Real Madrid to a stalemate to send them through to final in Berlin.
Unfortunately, Buffon was denied his elusive European triumph in an unfortunate 3-1 defeat to Barcelona, but one of many marvellous seasons at the very highest level, 2014/15 and his decorated honours list will cement his place in goalkeeping folklore.
2016 - Kasper Schmeichel
The biggest achievement in the Premier League era, Leicester City’s 2015/16 title win captured the hearts of football fans everywhere and helped us all to believe in the impossible again, until a shift of power back to the status-quo the next season.
An unfashionable centre half partnering of Robert Huth and Wes Morgan along with Schmeichel played their part in ensuring the work of their more recognised starts, Riyad Mahrez, N’golo Kante and Jamie Vardy, was not in vain.
Despite failing to keep a clean sheet in their first ten games (manager Claudio Ranieri famously buying pizza for his players after achieving their first) the new year saw a new-found solidity, keeping eleven league clean sheets in the second half of the season.
Schmeichel would emulate his father Peter and lift the Premier League title, also beating Christian Eriksen to the Danish Player of the Year.
Unlike his senior, Kasper would not be able to emulate his father’s European Championship victory with his native Denmark after losing to Sweden in the Euro 2016 playoff at the backend of 2015.
However, the Foxes star deserves his title of the best goalkeeper of 2016 on the achievement of keeping the big-guns of the Premier League at bay, an achievement that may never be beaten.
2017 - Jan Oblak
The second Los Rojiblancos stopper in this list, Jan Oblak is one of many churned out by the goalkeeping factory of Atletico Madrid.
Still only 26, Oblak has been on the European stage for feels like a while and despite Atletico’s baron season trophy-wise, 2017 was a notable year for the Slovenian.
At the age of 23 Oblak had been number one for two seasons at Atletico, one at Benfica and in 2017 made the Madrid side’s final campaign at Vicente Calderon very memorable for the for the former Benfica stopper.
Oblak was winning plaudits for his performances in the Champions League, in particular a Round of 16 2nd leg with Bayer Leverkusen, in which he pulled off a spectacular triple-save. Atletico reached the semi-finals after another impressive display by their goalkeeper against Leicester City sent them through to another showdown against their Madrid rivals.
Despite a heavy defeat at the Bernabeu essentially dispatching them from the competition, Oblak was included in the 2016–17 UEFA Champions League squad of the season and also won the second consecutive Ricardo Zamora Trophy (Spain’s Goalkeeper of the Year trophy).
2018 - Ederson
Guardiola’s fall-out with Joe Hart had seemed slightly short-sighted in the 2016/17 season as Claudio Bravo endured a torrid time in his first season in England.
It’s no surprise that a few eyebrows were raised when City forked out a staggering £35 million, a then British record for a goalkeeper, for the Benfica youngster Ederson in the summer of 2017.
As Pep’s men broke records themselves and romped to a century of points in the 2017/18. The shaky City back-line of the season before was unrecognisable with the addition of Ederson, who proved that ball playing ‘keepers are not necessarily susceptible less competent on the defensive side.
They conceded just 27 goals with Ederson starting all but two Premier League fixtures and would only let in two more in their first ten games at the start of the 2018/19 season, in which they won a second consecutive title.
Ederson was hard done by not to be Brazil’s number one for the World Cup in Russia playing second-fiddle to Alisson (see below) but did enjoy a hugely successful first two years in England and is pushing his Liverpool counterpart for the national jersey.
2019- Alisson Becker
Brazil haven’t always been famed for producing great goalkeepers, but Alison Becker is the third on this list.
After an impressive spell with Roma, Liverpool splashed out an eyewatering £66.8 million in an attempt to plug a gap that cost them the previous year’s Champions League and tarnished them with a reputation of having little in the way of defensive capability.
Like his countryman, Allison transformed the Liverpool defence and with Virgil Van Dijk at the heart of the defence, The Reds have stormed to European success and an unassailable lead at the top of the Premier League at the end of the year.
Many argue that Allison and a much improved back-line are the reason for their astounding success in 2019, which includes an unbeaten run that extends the whole of 2019. Having boasted a wealth of attacking talent for some time, the defensive area seems to have been the missing piece in the puzzle and it would be hard to disagree that the Brazilian has been the protagonist of Liverpool’s remarkable rise back to the top.
The footballing bodies that be have recognised Alison’s contribution, awarding him FIFA’S Best Goalkeeper, Premier League Goalkeeper of the Season, Champions League Goalkeeper of the Season and Copa America’s Golden Glove.
Honourable Mentions to….
2010 - Maarten Stekelenburg
2011 - Joe Hart
2012 - Petr Cech
2013 - David De Gea
2014 - Claudio Bravo
2015 - Morgan De Sanctis
2016 - Rui Patricio
2017 - Keylor Navas
2018 - Hugo Lloris