5. Iker Casillas
Iker Casillas makes it onto this list by default. Casillas is not currently the best keeper in the world, but he stands guard for two of the best teams in the world, Spain and Real Madrid. Two years ago he would have certainly taken the top spot in these rankings, but injuries and a run of poor form have caused him to slide. In the coming weeks, Casillas will feature in the UEFA Champion’s League final and then follow that up by leading his country in Brazil as Spain seek to win an unprecedented fourth consecutive major tournament. This could not have been achieved without the leadership and shot stopping abilities of Casillas.
Casillas has bridged gaps in the Spanish national team that have developed between the cliques of players for Real Madrid and Barcelona. At 31 years of age, he still has a few years left at top physical condition for a goalkeeper, which will give him an opportunity to add more to his career list of achievements. He rebounded from a 6-0 drubbing against Barcelona last season with a strong performance in the Copa del Ray. In 33 appearances this season he has made a total of 65 saves. His workload has been lightened by Diego Lopez, but his number 1 status has never been in question. St. Iker is a Spanish soccer legend, a once in a generation talent that will be celebrated by generations to come.
4. Thibaut Courtois
At 22 years of age, Thibaut Courtois is not yet a household name. However, this young man may be able to capture the La Liga crown, UEFA Champions League, and possibly lift the World Cup all in a two month span. The Chelsea-owned goalkeeper attracted controversy in the Champion’s League semi-final when UEFA waived a contract clause that would have forced Atletico Madrid to pay in excess of €6 million to play him over the two match tie. Courtois proved to be a decisive factor in these matches, stopping Chelsea on numerous occasions and earning his club a spot in the Final.
Courtois has also excelled in La Liga where he has appeared in 36 games making an impressive 67 saves and keeping a league leading 20 clean sheets. During one stretch he went 820 minutes without conceding at the Vicente Calderon. During Belgium’s World Cup Qualifying campaign, Courtois played every single minute. He is an internet sensation that unintentionally created a phenomenon known as “Thibauting” where participants lay or jump fully outstretched like Courtois does when making diving saves. The future of Courtois is in question, with Chelsea keen to recall the keeper that saw them out of the Champion’s League, but will Jose Mourinho deem him ready to usurp Petr Cech from his place between the pipes at Stamford Bridge?
3. Petr Cech
Few men in world football have paid the price that Petr Cech has paid for his craft. In 2006, Cech suffered a skull fracture following a collision with Stephen Hunt. Cech is easily recognizable for the rugby headgear that he now wears for protection. Since the collision with Hunt, Cech has remained the Premier League’s top goalkeeper, fighting through injuries and management changes alike. Through it all he has remained one of Chelsea’s central leaders, continuously proving he was one of the world’s top goalkeepers.
His shot stopping abilities remain second to none in world football. During the most recent Premier League campaign, he stopped a total of 81 shots for Chelsea and notched an impressive 16 clean sheets. These performances were good enough to earn Cech the Barclay’s Golden Glove award, the third of his career. At 31 years of age with the specter of Thibaut Courtois standing behind him, many are beginning to question how much longer Cech can continue to perform at such a high level. A shoulder injury against Courtois’ Atletico Madrid forced Chelsea to play without him for the remainder of the season, a possible explanation for their lack of defensive cohesion in the season’s final stages. Much like Iker Casillas, Cech still has years of productive goalkeeping ahead of him, but performing at this top level will not last forever.
2. Gianluigi Buffon
Gianluigi Buffon has lifted his third consecutive Serie A trophy with Juventus at the age of 36. While most footballers would be looking to retirement, Buffon continues to excel and has his eyes on Italian glory in Brazil. Buffon finished second for the International Federation of Football History and Statistics World’s Best Goalkeeper award, bested only by Manuel Neuer. During his most recent Serie A campaign, Buffon made 84 saves and earned 18 clean sheets. He has been handsomely rewarded for stick with Juventus through their relegation as a result of the club’s match fixing scandal.
Buffon has already won one World Cup and Italy has to be considered one of the tournament favorites in Brazil. Although he does not possess the aerial command that he once did, Buffon remains a vocal leader of his team’s defense. He has faced down the world’s elite players in virtually every circumstance, stopped their best efforts, and then rallied right back to face the next barrage. He is now the most capped player in the history of the Italian national team and although he never wears blue, no man better exemplifies the passion and desire of the “Azzurri.”
1. Manuel Neuer
Manuel Neuer is the best keeper in the world. This is not a statement that is open to debate. There are no holes to poke in the argument, he is simply the best. Neuer possesses lightning fast reflexes and unparalleled aerial command. He may not be the most vocal commander on this list, but he is the world’s best keeper outside of the penalty area, possessing phenomenal instincts for charging attackers. Neuer’s distribution is a crucial, unspoken strength for both Bayern Munich and Germany.
Neuer earned the 2013 IFFHS World’s Best Goalkeeper award by a significant margin over Gianluigi Buffon. At the age of 28, Neuer is in the prime of his career and hopes to earn another trophy to his collection in Brazil. Entering his fourth year and third major tournament as Germany’s top keeper, the pressure will be on Neuer to deliver performances against the world’s best. In the last World Cup, he fooled referees and the world into taking a goal away from Frank Lampard. The world awaits to see if he has any tricks left up his sleeve.
In the words of CM Punk, Manuel Neuer is the BEST IN THE WORLD!