Now, before we get cracking with this list, I’d like to set some ground-rules so we know where we are with it all.
These Top 4s will initially be about football and soon enough they’ll combine to make an all-time XI, but we’re in no rush. We’ll take each game as it comes, Brian.
However, there has to be some sort of criteria involved whenever you talk about the “Best Ever” anything and footballers are no exceptions.
I’m not old enough to have seen Lev Yashin. I’m barely old enough to have really watched Gordon Banks, but I’ve seen enough footage to know he was pretty handy between the sticks. Don’t expect to see the likes of Fatty Foulkes in here because I must have seen these players in action to consider including them, otherwise what’s the point in creating my Top 4 ?
Anyway .. now we know where we stand, without further ado I present to you:
My Top 4 Goalkeepers … Ever.
Still Italy’s numero uno at the relatively young age of 35 (given that he’s been around seemingly forever) Buffon has won 126 caps for Italy and shows no signs of slowing down yet. Despite winning five Scudetto with Juventus, he’s only ever been a runners-up in the Champions League and to win that honour would crown a fine collection of medals amassed thus far, including the 2006 World Cup in Germany.
Typically for a goalie, he’s a larger than life character who commands the penalty area and marshals his defence expertly. He’s also adept as a penalty saver and a brilliant out-and-out shot-stopper.
You’d never believe it to look at him now, but Southall was like a cat with magnetic gloves in his pomp.
Like a mustachioed superhero, he would hurl his relatively small frame around the goalmouth and go for balls that he really had no right to expect to reach … but it worked and he was devastatingly effective both for Everton and Wales. It was probably the fact that he was Welsh and therefore played in no major international tournaments that he never achieved the worldwide acclaim that his natural talent deserved. Combined with the fact that English teams were banned from Europe when Everton last won the league title, Southall can count himself unlucky not to be classed in the elite of world class goalkeepers, for surely the Toffees would have won the European Cup such was the quality of their squad at the time.
England’s record cap holder with 125 international appearances, Shilts was once famously described by none other than Brian Clough as being worth “12 points a season on his own”. Given that he shared the No.1 jersey with Ray Clemence for many years and that the Liverpool man won 61 caps of his own, Shilton’s record could have been well over 150 had Ron Greenwood ever taken the decision to pick one of them and stick with his man.
With probably the finest reflexes of any man on this list, Shilts is a true legend of the game: double European Cup winner under Cloughie with unfancied Nottingham Forest, lynchpin of Bobby Robson’s Italia 90 England side, staunch perm fan years after they’d been fashionable, there wasn’t much left for him to do once he finally hung up his gloves at the ripe/ropey old age of
1005 first class games
1 League Cup, 1 League title, 2 European Cups (all with Forest)
PFA Player Of The Year 1978
Peter Schmeichel: believe the hype.
Despite being a Manchester United player for most of his career, Schmeichel was still a loveable character and unquestionably one of the greatest footballers ever to play The Beautiful Game.
The archetypal modern ‘keeper, he absolutely dominated his own half let alone the penalty box, and was always barking orders at anyone within earshot.
Never short of confidence, Schmeichel was inspirational as a leader, as a shot stopper and even as a threat at the other end of the pitch.
Imagine being a forward bearing down on goal, one on one with … oh no … I forgot about him. And there he is … that big lump of Danish bacon making star shapes like a demented perpendicular snow angel … they say half the game is played in the mind, well when you faced this man you knew you stood no chance.
There’s no other choice for me.
Honourable mentions: Gordon Banks, Lev Yashin, Iker Casillas, Petr Cech, Oliver Kahn, Zino Zoff.