Whether it’s a shot stopper, the man between the sticks or the number one, a goalkeeper is ultimately the last man. In fact, keepers can often save seasons as well as games. They can play a significant role in team’s campaign and can often contribute to key moments. Ultimately, they can be the difference when it comes to conceding a goal. It could be that penalty save in the dying seconds of a game or a one on one situation. Whatever the outcome, goalkeepers are vital cogs in the footballing machine. Yet to be a goalkeeper, not only does it take a tremendous amount of courage but teams rely on an individual’s personality to see them through.
Over the years, there have been a number of different personalities who have cemented iconic status in goal. This includes the likes of Rene Higuita who loved to come out of his area every now and again. Take for example the infamous goal he conceded when playing for his native Colombia against Cameroon at Italia 90. Higuita liked to show off and dribbled out to almost the halfway line. His skills though were to let him down as Roger Milla swiped the ball from under his feet and scored into an empty net. In addition, Higuita was also famous for his legendary Scorpion kick against England at Wembley stadium.
It is now more a case of out with the old and in with the new as goalkeepers are receiving more plaudits for their status. Nevertheless, they have certainly taken inspiration from some of the finest goalkeepers of recent years from Edwin Van Der Sar to Gianluigi Buffon. Manuel Neuer aside, who are the best young goalkeepers in the world and which ones are more likely to go on to achieve legendary status? We'll look at the top 15.
15 Asmir Begovic
One of the English Premier League’s brightest stars is Bosnian international Asmir Begovic. The Stoke City goalkeeper is adept thanks to his 6-foot-6 frame, whilst making the number spot his own. He has been a prolific performer for Stoke over the past few years and has already represented Canada at the Under 20 level. Still under 30 years of age, Begovic takes his inspiration from iconic German keeper Oliver Kahn. He has been a key figure in the Bosnia line up since 2009 and is extremely agile for a big chap. On the other hand, his kicking ability is another weapon in his soccer arsenal and has seen Begovic on the score sheet for the Potters. This took place against Southampton where Begovic scored in just 13 seconds from his own penalty area.
14 Rui Patricio
Currently playing his football in Portugal, Rui Patricio has emerged in the last few years as one to watch. The Sporting Lisbon goalkeeper has remained with the Lisbon club ever since he was a young boy. He has made more than 200 appearances for the club and is a key member of his national side. His shot stopping is second to none, whilst he has also been a major figurehead as captain in the Portuguese capital.
13 Fraser Forster
Standing at a towering 6-foot-5 inches plus, Southampton goalkeeper Fraser Forster has some impressive experience under his belt. He began his early play in the north of England playing for Newcastle United and has appeared for the likes of both Stockport County and Bristol Rovers. It was not until a move to Glasgow Celtic where he both pleased the crowd as well as his team. Stand out performances in the UEFA Champions League for the Hoops most notably against Barcelona would vary Forster in good stead. Having made more than 150 appearances for the club, Forster was beginning to show signs of a genuine number 1. He has followed this up with a handful of English caps which has seen him be a firm fixture in some of Roy Hodgson’s squads.
12 Ron Robert Zieler
At just the tender age of 25 years of age, German keeper, Ron-Robert Zieler is one of the brightest young properties in world football. He began at Cologne and even enjoyed a short spell at Manchester United. In spite of the fact that this was to be short lived, Zieler signed for Hannover 96 after three years at Old Trafford. There is no denying that this goalie possesses all the right skills to become a contender to Manuel Neuer in the long term.
11 Salvatore Sirigu
With Gianluigi Buffon enjoying the autumn of his career, the attention now turns to who will replace the iconic number 1. There are already many who have tipped Salvatore Sirigu to challenge for the Azzuri shirt once Buffon hangs it up. Currently plying his trade in Ligue 1 for Paris Saint Germain, Sirigu is among illustrious company. This includes Zlatan Ibrahimovic not to mention Lucas Moura who the Italian lines up with on a regular basis. Having signed from Palermo for around $5 million, Sirigu is fast becoming the successor to Buffon’s throne.
10 Wojciech Szczęsny
Arsenal and Polish international Wojciech Szczęsny came to the attention of Arsene Wenger at just the age of 20. Since then, he has established the number one spot at the Emirates. The youthful Pole still has a lot to learn but there is no doubt he has improved since his move to North London. His performances and antics at times may be a little questionable but he is without question a talent. This is despite a cigarette gaffe recently, where Szczęsny was fined around $50,000 for smoking in the showers.
9 Fernando Muslera
With a string of impressive performances for his country, Uruguayan international Fernando Muslera is making a name for himself. The Galatasaray shot stopper is a force to be reckoned with and uses his frame to the best of his ability. He has excellent reflexes and commands his box to great effect. He has been a firm fixture on the international circuit with several highlights to his name. This includes playing a key part in helping Uruguay achieve the Copa America trophy back in 2011.
8 Paul Nardi
Considered to be one of the great expectations for French football, Paul Nardi should be on the radar for many clubs. The 20-year-old now plays for AS Monaco in Ligue 1 having moved from AS Nancy. He made 33 appearances for the club before his glamorous move to the principality. Despite the $6 million price tag, Nardi is set to turn many people’s heads as he aims for glory. His developing success is down to among other attributes representing France at Under 20 level.
7 Keylor Navas
One of the major new talents that came out of the FIFA 2014 World Cup was Keylor Navas. The Costa Rican international impressed between the posts for his native country with a host of performances. His sharp reaction speed led to a move to Real Madrid who had obviously seen plenty of potential in the player. As a result, Navas put pen to paper and made the move in the summer from fellow La Liga side Levante. At 27 years of age, he has signed for Madrid on a six-year contract with many touting him to replace Iker Casillas.
6 Marc-André ter Stegen
This summer, German international Marc-André ter Stegen made the move from the Bundesliga to the Spanish league. At just 22 years old, he is definitely one for the future and Stegen could not resist the pull of FC Barcelona. He is highly rated by many in the game and has represented his home country across several levels. It will take Stegen time to make a name in the Barcelona goal as this is currently being occupied by Chilean Claudio Bravo.
5 Joe Hart
Joe Hart has long been a main figure in Manchester City’s side. He has been involved in their most significant moments which has led to capturing two Premier League titles. The first title in 2012 helped the Blues achieve their first title in nearly half a century. He also conceded less than 30 goals during the campaign which was a league record. As far as the international stage is concerned, Hart has been a regular for England and figured in several major tournaments. This features Euro 2012 and the World Cup in Brazil this past year.
4 Simone Scuffet
Another keeper who is hot to trot is Simone Scuffet. This precocious young talent has been dubbed the successor to Italian great Gianliugi Buffon. He managed to push his way into the Udinese first team at the just the age of 17. Following this, he was called up to the Italian national squad and has been linked to a host of global clubs. He has incredible athleticism and is an imposing figure at the back which ensures that he makes it on to the list.
3 Bernd Leno
Bernd Leno has already impressed and holds the record for being the youngest ever number one to appear in a UEFA Champions League tie. Only in his early twenties, the Bayer Leverkusen keeper joined them back in 2011. He has progressed with seamless ease through the German ranks with appearances at every level. Time does seem to be on his side as stalwart Manuel Neuer is not going anywhere in a hurry. Yet head coach Joachim Loew will no doubt be grooming Leno to take over the German goalkeeping mantle.
2 Thibaut Courtois
Arguably one of the finest young keepers of the moment, Thibaut Courtois is a giant in every sense of the word. At 6-foot-6, the Belgian international impressed whilst at Atletico Madrid and appeared more than 100 times. In time, he will be the complete keeper and is still in his early twenties. He has now established himself as number one under Jose Mourinho at Chelsea and featured for Belgium at the 2014 World Cup. There will no doubt be enquiries to capture Courtois but for now he remains at Stamford Bridge.
1 David de Gea
Although he started off with a whimper, David de Gea has answered all of his critics to become a top class keeper. In 2011, the Spanish international signed from Atletico Madrid in a reported $25 million fee. Many pundits and fans were critical from the outset and criticised De Gea’s lack of influence and ability to catch crosses. Yet, he has swept all these disparagements under the carpet and has now emerged as the number one at Old Trafford. He has saved the Red Devils quite literally on more than one occasion this season especially against Everton and Liverpool. His ability knows no bounds as he has secured made the number one jersey his own at Manchester United. Meanwhile, De Gea is certainly the favourite to succeed Real Madrid’s Iker Casillas once the Madrid player calls it a day.