Being the team’s last line of defense, a soccer goalie needs to be quick, agile and flexible, while possessing the reflexes of a cat if he hopes to lead his team to glory. The Premier League has had its fair share of world-class keepers since its inception in 1992/93 and we’ve listed the 10 best in history here.
All of these keepers were internationals who played well above par while representing their clubs in the Premier League. Most of them won several trophies and individual awards during their careers and all were adept at keeping clean sheets. Just two of them are still active in England’s top flight, and there’s a good chance they’ll climb this list once they hang up their goalie gloves and boots.
10. Jussi Jääskeläinen
If you spent your Premier League career from 1997 to 2015 with the Bolton Wanderers and West Ham United you can be guaranteed of seeing a heck of a lot of shots. Just ask former Finnish international Jussi Jääskeläinen. The 42-year-old, who now plays in India, made some of the greatest saves in Premier League history while playing between the posts. He spent 15 years with Bolton until the club was finally relegated after the 2011/12 campaign. He played in 503 games for the club in all competitions, which ranks third on the team’s all-time list and he represented Finland on 56 occasions. Jääskeläinen played on some pretty weak teams in the Premier League, but still posted 109 clean sheets in 436 contests to rank tied for 13th on the all-time list.
9. David de Gea
Spanish international David de Gea of Manchester United is arguably the best goalie in the Premier League right now and one of two active Premier League players on this list. The 26-year-old joined United in 2011 from Atletico Madrid where he had been since a youngster. De Gea struggled at first in the Premier League due to his inability to deal with crosses and corners. However, the young man has certainly rectified that problem and is now considered to be United’s most valuable player by many. De Gea brings an added dimension to his game as he often uses his legs and feet to make save, much like a hockey goalie. He’s already won a Premier League crown, a League Cup, FA Cup, Europa League title and three Community Shields in England and has been named United’s player of the year a record three straight times from 2013 to 2016. There’s no doubt De Gea will move up this list in time.
8. Nigel Martyn
When it comes to clean sheets in the Premier League, you may be surprised that Nigel Martyn ranks number five overall with 138 of them in 372 games. Martyn’s pro career started before the Premier League did as he debuted in 1987 with Bristol Rovers. He joined Crystal Palace from 1989 to 1996, played with Leeds United from 1996 to 2003 and spent the rest of his career with Everton before retiring in 2006 due to an injury. Martyn was twice the most expensive England goalkeeper when it came to transfer fees with his moves to Crystal Palace and then Leeds. He was a Premier League stalwart and helped Leeds reach the last four of the European Champions League. Unfortunately for Martyn, he played at the same time as David Seaman and appeared just 23 times for England.
7. Shay Given
The likeable Shay Given of the Republic of Ireland stood on his head numerous times for the likes of Blackburn Rovers, Newcastle United, Aston Villa, Manchester City, Middlesbrough and Stoke City during his Premier League days from 1994 to 2017. He racked up 116 clean sheets in 451 league appearances to rank 12th on the all-time list and recorded another 52 in 134 games as the most-capped keeper ever for Ireland. Given’s best days were spent with Newcastle, where he’s rightly considered a legend, as he helped the team qualify for Europe several times. Shortly after he left, the club was relegated. Given has won an Intertoto Cup and an FA Cup and also helped Sunderland win the old First Division title in 1995/96.
6. Mark Schwarzer
Although former Australian international Mark Schwarzer may not have been a big trophy-winner during his Premier League career he was as steady as they come between the posts. The flexible keeper recorded the third-most clean sheets in league history with 152 in 514 appearances with Middlesbrough, Fulham, Chelsea and Leicester City between 1997 and 2016. He turned pro in 1990 and didn’t make his Premier League debut until seven years later. He played a national-record 109 times for Australia and appeared in two World Cups and is the only non-British player so far to have played in 500 Premier League games. The ever consistent Schwarzer managed to win a League Cup and Premier League title in England and is the oldest player to represent both Chelsea and Leicester.
5. Edwin van der Sar
Former Dutch international Edwin van der Sar spent a decade in the Premier League with stints at Fulham from 2001 to 2005 and Manchester United between 2005 and 2011. He had previously spent nine years with Ajax in Holland and two seasons in Serie A with Juventus, making him a seasoned veteran by the time he moved to England. Van der Sar played over 100 matches for Fulham, and United definitely noticed how good he was. He helped the Old Trafford outfit win the Premier League crown in four of his six campaigns and finished his Premier League career tied for sixth in clean sheets with 134 in 313 matches. He also co-holds the league record for 21 in a season, played the most games for Holland at 130 and is the oldest player to win a Premier League title.
4. David Seaman
Arsenal legend David Seaman began his career before the Premier League was born in 1992/93. He played with Leeds United in his debut season in 1981 then had stints with Peterborough United, Birmingham City, and Queens Park Rangers before joining the Gunners in 1990. Seaman left Arsenal in 2003 and played his final season with rivals Manchester City. His 142 clean sheets are the fourth-most in league history and he tended goal for England 75 times, which ranks second all-time for a keeper. This includes two World Cups and two European Championships. Seaman and his trademark ponytail won three league titles with Arsenal along with four FA Cups, a League Cup and a European Cup Winners Cup by pulling off numerous acrobatic saves on a regular basis.
3. David James
Former English international David James was actually an underrated keeper even though he posted 169 clean sheets in 572 Premier League contests with Liverpool, Aston Villa, West Ham, Manchester City and Portsmouth. James played in the league from 1992 to 2010 and won an FA Cup and League Cup after playing his first four seasons with lower-divison Watford. He also played in the lower divisions and abroad until retiring in 2014 and appeared in 53 matches for England. His 572 Premier League games currently ranks fourth on the all-time appearance list and he held the league’s clean sheet record until Petr Cech broke it. James did make the occasional mistake in goal and earned the nickname ‘Calamity James’, but his statistics and record speak for themselves.
2. Petr Cech
Petr Cech of Arsenal is just one of two active goalies on the list. He made a name for himself in England with Chelsea from 2004 to 2015 after playing the first five years of his pro career in his homeland of the Czech Republic. He’s the most-capped international player for the Czech Republic and has been named that country’s player of the year a record nine times. Cech has won numerous trophies and awards with Chelsea and Arsenal including four Premier Leagues, five FA Cups, three League Cups, a Champions League and a Europa League. The 35-year-old was the fastest to record 100 clean sheets in the Premier League in 180 games and holds the Chelsea record at 220 in all competitions. In addition, Cech is the all-time league leader with 194 clean sheets and counting and co-holds the record for 21 in a season.
1. Peter Schmeichel
The ‘Great Dane’ Peter Schmeichel is considered by many to be the best keeper the Premier League has ever seen and it’s hard to argue with them. He spent nine years at Old Trafford and backstopped Manchester United to their famous treble-winning season in 1998/99. Schmeichel earned numerous medals and individual awards with United then made history with Aston Villa when he became the first goalie to score in the league. The member of the English Football Hall of Fame could be depended on as his team’s last line of defense and pulled off incredible save after incredible save. He was also a vocal organizer of his back line and made sure they didn’t get complacent. Schmeichel’s Premier League career lasted from 1991 to 2003 with his final season at Manchester City. In 1997/98 he became the first goalie in the league to record 100 clean sheets and he retired with 129 of them in 310 games and also scored 11 goals during his career. Schmeichel played a national-record 129 games for Denmark with a goal to his name.