Who is the greatest goalkeeper in Premier League history?
From the timeless achievements of Peter Schmeichel and David Seaman to the contemporary brilliance of Ederson and Alisson Becker, England’s top-flight has been blessed with countless world-class shot-stoppers since its 1992 rebranding.
And while that makes the job of keeping clean sheets easy for the teams that employed them, it doesn’t make our job very easy when it comes to picking the best of the best from said legendary goalkeepers.
Legendary Premier League shot-stoppers
But when has that ever stopped us at GIVEMESPORT? The answer, in case you’re wondering, is ‘never’, because we’re taking our third annual look at how the division’s greatest ever number ones are stacking up.
Ranging from ‘part of the furniture’ to ‘God tier’, the various rungs on the goalkeeping ladder will assess the shot-stoppers based on their technical ability, achievements in the league and individual statistics.
Only performances in the Premier League will be taken into consideration, so their overall standing in football history, output in overseas leagues and international football as well as the English top-flight prior to 1992 are off the table.
And do of course bear in mind that our selections are purely subjective. Our opinion isn’t necessarily the right one and we’d love to hear your own views on the topic once you’ve taken a look at ours.
“50 MILLION MARTINEZ BID! Personal Terms AGREED!” (Football Terrace)
Ranking the Premier League’s greatest ever goalkeepers
But enough with the disclaimers because we’ve got legendary Premier League goalkeepers coming out of our ears, so be sure to check out we how ranked them from least to most brilliant down below:
Part of the furniture
Brad Friedel, David James, Tim Howard and Jussi Jääskeläinen
We mean this section as a compliment, we do, because these are superb goalkeepers who have a special and significant place in Premier League history without ever really having the world-beating individual ability to compete in the higher tiers.
Friedel’s spot in the Premier League history books is assured as one of few shot-stoppers to have ever scored in the competition and his staggering record of playing 310 consecutive games across spells Blackburn Rovers, Aston Villa and Tottenham Hotspur might never be beaten.
James, despite his ‘Calamity’ nickname, boasts the second-most clean sheets in the division’s history, while Howard also finds himself in the top ten having amassed 116 shutouts in just 354 league outings for Everton.
And the streets will never forget Jaaskelainen, who produced some of the Premier League’s best ever saves and gained cult hero status at Bolton Wanderers across more than 500 appearances for the club.
Nigel Martyn, Kasper Schmeichel and Mark Schwarzer
Let’s give these three shot-stoppers some extra love because, as can sometimes be the case with goalkeepers, their ability between the sticks feels like it’s been taken for granted over the years.
Martyn deserves a lot more credit as the steady hand behind Everton’s highest ever Premier League finish and Leeds United’s run to the Champions League semi-final, tallying up 137 league clean sheets.
Meanwhile, it’s shocking that we seldom see Schmeichel – Kasper, that is – in the conversation surrounding the division’s greatest ever goalkeepers despite having been consistently top-class for Leicester City for the best part of seven years.
And Schwarzer, who proved to be a thoroughly reliable presence for Middlesbrough and Fulham in particular, is too often overlooked as the man with the third-most clean sheets in Premier League history.
Safe pair of hands
Pepe Reina, Neville Southall, Shay Given and Hugo Lloris
Ok, so, ‘safe pair of hands’ is putting things mildly, but this quartet of ‘keepers just happen to end up in the middle of the road – the jam section of the Victoria Sponge, if you were – in the context of the Premier League’s very best.
Reina gets something of a bad rap in England with his occasional errors and strange spell at Aston Villa unfairly given more air time than the fact he bagged clean sheets in 47.7% of his Premier League games for Liverpool. Very impressive.
Across Merseyside now and poor Southall has drawn the short straw here because he’s only held back by the fact that his best days were behind him in the Premier League era. He would be nailed on for a ‘God Tier’ spot if pre-1992 performances were considered too.
Meanwhile, 113-clean sheet Given is too often lost in the goalkeeping shuffle despite dominating for Newcastle United during his pomp and Lloris, despite his shakier moments, still stands out as one of the most technically-gifted ‘keepers to ever call the Premier League his home.
Thibaut Courtois, Jens Lehmann, Joe Hart, David de Gea and Ederson
Pure, pure class everywhere and what better place to start than Courtois? Few goalkeepers have ever been better suited to the Premier League with the two-time winner absolutely dominating from crosses and set-pieces.
Then there’s Lehmann, who commanded his penalty area with just as much confidence and even more in the way of aggression, proving the final piece in the puzzle for Arsenal‘s historic ‘Invincibles’ side.
Hart is thoroughly disrespected in the annals of Premier League goalkeepers because lest we forget that he has the joint-most Golden Gloves in the league’s history and was the best in the world during his prime.
As for De Gea, the Manchester United could well be the greatest shot-stopper that the division has ever seen, winning no less than four Sir Matt Busby Player of the Year awards such was his extraordinary individual heroics.
And Ederson strolls into this tier no questions asked, knocking on the door of the very loftiest categories having now secured a third Premier League Golden Glove and fourth winners’ medal.
David Seaman, Edwin van der Sar and Alisson Becker
Never flamboyant, expect for the ponytail, Seaman had the respect of every striker across the land as one of the finest goalkeeping technicians to grace English football with the Arsenal icon helping himself to 141 clean sheets, the fourth-most in the competition’s history.
Similarly, Van der Sar was about as reliable as they come, finally ending United’s post-Schmeichel hangover with an unerring sense of stability best demonstrated by his record-breaking run of clean sheets in 2008/09.
And yes, we have decided to give Alisson a promotion seeing as he returned to his status as the world’s best goalkeeper during a stupendous 2021/22 campaign that saw him bag a second Premier League Golden Glove.
We simply had to put Alisson in the very highest echelons of the list, even above Ederson, because there’s arguably never been a Premier League goalkeeper this side of Schmeichel who has been as consistently regarded as the world’s best as much as Liverpool’s number one has.
Peter Schmeichel and Petr Cech
Ok, we’re done with the niceties, because for all the room for debate in our purely subjective list, we feel pretty darn certain that Schmeichel and Cech are the two greatest Premier League goalkeepers to have ever lived.
Based on pure ability, the ‘Great Dane’ is the finest the league has ever seen with the five-time winner producing some of the most jaw-dropping saves in its history against Liverpool and Newcastle United alone.
Meanwhile, Cech not only holds the distinction of having the most clean sheets in Premier League history, but he also marshalled its greatest ever defence during the 2004/05 season in which he embarked upon a head-spinning streak of 1,024 minutes without conceding.
Who’s your top pick?
Like we say, this is a ranking of ‘the greatest Premier League goalkeepers of all time’, so even if your favourite ever shot-stopper finished rock bottom, remember that it still makes them, well, one of the greatest Premier League goalkeepers of all time…
It’s not easy making it as a professional footballer, period, never mind in the most stressful position of all in a world-class division renowned for its physical style of play.
As such, any goalkeeper making it onto our list or even coming within a sniff of the nominees deserves a round of applause because you really have to be something special if you want to become the Premier League’s number one, number one.