De Gea, Schmeichel, Hart: Who is the Premier League's greatest ever goalkeeper?

  • Kobe Tong

The Premier League is arguably the ‘final boss’ for world-class goalkeepers.

If you can master the art of goalkeeping amidst the physical savagery and shoulder-barges of England’s top-flight, then the chances are that you can make it anywhere in the beautiful game.

As such, it’s no coincidence that some of the greatest goalkeepers of all time also happen to hold the distinction of being one of the finest number ones that the Premier League has ever seen.

Legendary Premier League goalkeepers

And as we wind up for the 2021/22 Premier League season in just a few days’ time, we wanted to look at the best shot-stoppers to have ever pulled on the gloves at English football’s highest level.

To achieve that, we have taken the 21 goalkeepers that we consider to be the most significant and talented that the Premier League has bore witness to since its inception all those years ago.



We won’t be taking any of their performances pre-1992 nor away from the Premier League into consideration and we’re laying out the final ranking within our beloved format of Tiermaker.

Using tiers ranging from ‘part of the furniture’ to ‘God tier’, we’re setting out to celebrate all 21 goalkeepers while also taking on the impossible task of separating the ‘greatest’ from the ‘great’.

Ranking the Premier League’s greatest ever goalkeepers

Get the gist? Ok, so enough of the disclaimers and housekeeping, let’s dive into the juicy debate and controversy that we’re all here to see by checking out our full ranking down below:

Part of the furniture

Jussi Jaaskelainen

David James

Mark Schwarzer

We like to think of this tier as the place for historically significant and much-loved goalkeepers who don’t quite have enough in terms of individual quality and silverware to threaten the highest slots.

Jaaskelainen is a cult hero amongst Bolton Wanderers fans and rightfully so, amassing more than 500 games for the club and producing some of the Premier League’s greatest ever saves.

As for James, we simply couldn’t leave out the goalkeeper with the second-most clean sheets in the division’s history (169), even if his legacy is somewhat tainted by the ‘Calamity James’ reputation.

Similarly, Scwharzer deserves huge respect for ranking third in the all-time clean sheet rankings and always proved a reliable pair of hands for Middlesbrough, Fulham, Chelsea and Leicester City.



Pepe Reina

Joe Hart

Kasper Schmeichel

It’s worth pointing out that these three goalkeepers aren’t necessarily of a lesser quality than those in the ‘solid’ category, but we simply thought that their underrated reputations needed attending to.

Let’s take Reina, for example, because the fact that he kept clean sheets in 47.7% of his Premier League games for Liverpool is a remarkable statistic that deserves far more airtime than it gets.

And it feels as though Hart’s recent plight has meant that far too many fans have forgotten that he was arguably once the world’s best goalkeeper and boasts a record-breaking four Golden Gloves.

Similarly, it’s about time that Schmeichel was considered more frequently amongst the Premier League’s greatest ever goalkeepers because he has been consistently excellent for Leicester City.


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Tim Howard

Shay Given

Nigel Martyn

Brad Friedel

Hugo Lloris

Neville Southall

Ok, so, ‘solid’ sounds like the mother of all understatements for these top-level ‘keepers, but it’s important to remember that we’re only labelling them as such within the context of the division’s greatest ever.

Howard takes pride of place in the Premier League’s all-time clean sheet rankings at seventh and became a club legend at Everton, helping the Toffees to 116 shutouts in just 354 league outings.

Meanwhile, 113-clean sheet Given was astonishingly reliable for a Newcastle United side that so often flitted between challenging for European qualification and relegation to the Championship.


Martyn deserves serious credit as the steady shot-stopper behind Everton’s highest ever Premier League finish and Leeds’ run to the Champions League semi-finals, amassing 137 league clean sheets.

Meanwhile, Friedel stands tall in the Premier League history books not only for bagging a goal but most impressively, playing in 310 consecutive games across spells Blackburn Rovers, Aston Villa and Tottenham Hotspur.

As for Lloris, it’s his astonishing shot-stopping as opposed to raw statistics that define his place amongst the Premier League greats, surpassing a century of league clean sheets for Tottenham.

And Southall ‘only’ finds himself as low as ‘solid’ by way of his peak years primarily coming before the Premier League era, though he still produced some Everton masterclass in his twilight years.


Simply superb

David de Gea

Thibaut Courtois


Alisson Becker

Jens Lehmann

A post-2018 slump is all that stops De Gea from entering ‘legendary’ territory because I’ll die on the hill that the United hero is the Premier League’s greatest ever when it comes to pure shot-stopping.

Courtois, on the other hand, thrived in England by commanding his penalty era with unerring efficiency, winning two Premier League titles in four years and a Golden Glove to boot.

With back-to-back Golden Gloves to his name, Ederson is well on his way to becoming an all-time Manchester City great and has won thrice as many Premier League seasons as he hasn’t.

Similarly, Alisson has proven himself to be nothing short of world-class since arriving in England, winning FIFA’s Best Goalkeeper award and the Golden Glove during his finest Liverpool season.


As for Lehmann, we’ve cooled our hype on the Arsenal icon a little bit over the last few years, but make no mistake that the ‘Invincibles’ number one is still one of the division’s greatest ever shot-stoppers.


David Seaman

Edwin van der Sar

What’s there to say about Seaman beyond the fact he is Premier League royalty? The Arsenal icon has the division’s fourth-most clean sheets at 141 and won the respect of every striker in the land.

The mastermind behind the Premier League’s longest ever clean-sheet streak, Van der Sar was the definition of reliable between the sticks and seldom ever put a foot wrong during his United pomp.


God tier

Petr Cech

Peter Schmeichel

Who else other than these two? We’d be out of our minds not to put Cech in the highest tier of all when he has the most clean sheets in Premier League history with a staggering total of 202.

However, not only does the Chelsea icon boast 33 more shutouts than his nearest rival, but he also marshalled the Premier League’s tightest ever defence, which conceded just 13 goals, in his debut season.

And it’s hardly controversial to claim that Schmeichel is the Premier League’s greatest ever goalkeeper based on ability alone, producing legendary saves against Liverpool and Newcastle.

The ‘Great Dane’ revolutionised the position with his furious leadership and ‘starfish’ saves and that was reflected in his trophy cabinet, collecting five Premier League titles in just seven seasons.


Full graphic


Do you agree?

So, there we have it, which goalkeepers do you think we’ve not given the time of day and which shot-stoppers do you think have been bigged up too much?

With so many world-class goalkeepers having taken to the Premier League stage, it’s only natural that you’re going to disagree with some of our takes and it certainly wasn’t an easy list to make.

Nevertheless, we’d be fascinated to hear your take on the greatest goalkeepers in Premier League history, so be sure to let us know your own opinion across our various social media channels.

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