In the world of football where statistics are dominated by goalscorers and accolades reserved for the ones with a nose for the opponent’s net, goalkeepers are a different breed. They seldom cross their own half, are often left alone in their goal (at least for the good teams) and at the end of the day, everybody remembers how many you let in. Goalkeepers may not win teams games but they can surely save them for their team. A good goalkeeper can make the difference between hanging onto a hard fought victory or meekly surrendering the lead and allowing the game to peter out into a tame draw. THT takes a look at the best goalkeepers in the world over the 2014/15 season.
David de Gea (Manchester United; Spain) – 78 saves, 11 clean sheets
The 24 year old goalkeeper of Spanish origin has been key to United achieving their aim of a top four finish this season. Whether it was the tenacious hold out against Arsenal’s firing squad to allow Louis van Gaal to leave the Emirates with all 3 points or the doggedness to keep West Ham restricted to one goal so Daley Blind’s late goal equalised the scoreline, de Gea has been vital to the plan. His goalkeeping abilities had come under tremendous scrutiny in his first season at United but two years later, he is widely regarded as one of the best young goalkeepers in the world and in line to replace Iker Casillas in the Spanish National Team. Unfortunately for United’s supporters, it is also an open secret that Real Madrid are interested in replacing Casillas with de Gea in their club lineup. The fact that Madrid is his home town and his parents and girl friend all live in Madrid also plays against United and very few would be surprised when Real Madrid eventually announce the signing of the player from Old Trafford.
Gianluigi ‘Gigi’ Buffon (Juventus; Italy) – 56 saves, 18 clean sheets
The Old Lady has much to thank its grand old man for as 37 year old Buffon led his side to the Italian double and a runners up finish in this year’s edition of the UEFA Champions League. Buffon rolled back the years to produce scintillating displays that would have shamed keepers a decade younger.
Buffon, who still holds the world record transfer fee for goalkeepers has made Juventus his home and he has developed a great understanding with his defenders, a fact clearly illustrated by his stats for the season. He has made 56 saves at a rate of 2.8 saves per goal and while it is largely due to the skill of the player himself, it would be unfair to not share some credit to the defenders too who often shut down strikers and/or force them to take sub-optimal strikes at goal. All said and done though, guiding his team to the final of the Champions League at his age surely earns him a place in this roster.
Claudio Bravo (Barcelona; Chile) – 59 saves, 23 clean sheets
Barcelona’s keeper selection has been one of the intrigues of this season. Bravo played only in the La Liga while ter Stegen was reserved for the Champions League fixtures. Managers often rotate squads between the two competitions, some even reserving players for one of the two competitions but those are outfield players. Goalkeepers are usually selected consistently to allow the team to settle in. Bravo, like Buffon, has been a beneficiary of playing behind a settled defensive line that boasts names like Gerard Pique and Dani Alves. That does not mean that the Chilean is not upto scratch, his stats would beg to differ. A staggering 3.47 saves per goal puts the shot stopper in a league of his own when compared to his counterparts in the big leagues across Europe. Bravo’s distribution accuracy has also been at 83% providing the starting point for many a Barcelona attack that culminated in a goal.
Manuel Neuer (Bayern Munich; Germany) – 48 saves, 20 clean sheets
Manuel Neuer has been the top goalkeeper in the world for a few years now. He combines his impressive shot stopping skills with an incredible sweeper role that allows Bayern to play an extremely high line as their goalkeeper is often their sweeper at the back too. His skills on the ball are also reflected in his 89% distribution accuracy. The return of 2.67 saves per goal is definitely on the lower side for a world class keeper but his presence in the box and in goal is a continuous source of confidence to his teammates and a constant deterrent to opponents in their box.