As Cech joins 300 club at Chelsea, here’s Sportsmail’s all-time Premier League goalkeepers featuring Schmeichel, Seaman and more
That old saying: ‘A top class goalkeeper can win you 10 points a season’ is still relevant today. The saves win games, the commanding presence organises defences and the reliability eases nerves.
As the popularity of the Premier League has increased, the world’s best stoppers have come to these shores to showcase their ability. They say goalkeepers are a different breed, but who is the best?
As Petr Cech prepares to make his 300th appearance in the Premier League with Chelsea, here’s Sportsmail’s favourite goalkeepers to have graced the top flight since 1992.
Stopper: Cech should reach 300 appearances for Chelsea this weekend against Cardiff, but is he the best top flight goalkeeper ever?
Peter Schmeichel, without question. A giant of a man. Those star-burst saves started a trend. He filled the Manchester United goal like a mystical monster guarding the treasures of its cave.
Petr Cech. A brilliant goalkeeper and so intelligent he masters a variety of languages so he can make himself understood to whichever defender is playing in front of him.
The logic he applied to dealing with the Bayern Munich penalty takers in that Champions League final was also very, very clever. Nice man too.
Petr Cech. His ninth season as the Stamford Bridge No 1 places him at the very top level for longer than Peter Schmeichel was, with more to come.
He’s been by far the best and most consistent keeper in England over the past decade, and vital to every single one of the bucketload of trophies Chelsea have won since his arrival.
David Seaman. It is difficult to argue that someone other than Peter Schmeichel deserves be described as ‘the best’ Premier League keeper but Seaman wasn’t far behind him in terms of ability and the medals – and the saves he made reflected that.
He is also a great bloke, whom I met regularly when he was at Manchester City. The idea of him being a dour Yorkshireman simply isn’t true, as some of the stories he used to tell proved. He was exactly what you want a top goalkeeper to be: talented and a character.
David Seaman. The mere mention of this man’s name may have many instantly recalling Ronaldinho’s 40-yard free kick which went sailing over his head at the 2002 World Cup but Seaman was quite simply an Arsenal legend, coming second to Ray Parlour in the all-time Premier League appearances chart for the Gunners with 325.
Seaman won two Premier League titles during a hugely successful 13-year career with Arsenal and provided an ever trustworthy last line of defence that Arsene Wenger has failed to find since.
Nigel Martyn was an early hero of mine ever since I was my cousin’s guest at Elland Road when he was mascot for an FA Cup clash against Barnsley in the early 1990s.
In the players’ lounge afterwards, Martyn was the only one I saw declining the offer of beer, sticking instead to orange juice.
A true pro and top bloke. But for sheer entertainment value my vote goes to Massimo Taibi – mainly for this (1min 42sec)
Schmeichel was the best and Gabor Kiraly gets an honourable mention for wearing those baggy tracksuit bottoms, but I’d go for Brad Friedel. Three failed attempts to join an English club at the start of his career didn’t put him off, and even in his 40s he’s still giving Hugo Lloris a run for his money. In between, I honestly can’t remember him having a bad game for Liverpool, Blackburn, Aston Villa or Spurs. A model pro and a nice bloke to boot.
Lots of attributes are needed to make a top keeper but only one of them lifts you out of your seat. It’s not judgement, organising defences or even plucking a cross out of the air.
It’s saves – reflex actions that deny certain goals and leave you shaking your head in wonder – and there were none better than Nigel Martyn.
MOST PREMIER LEAGUE APPEARANCES
David James… 572
Mark Schwarzer… 504
Brad Friedel… 447
Shay Given… 440
Jussi Jaaskelainen… 416
At Leeds, and even in his later years at Everton, he produced moments of sheer brilliance that left you wondering how he did it. Dedication was one way. David Moyes described him as one of the best professionals he had ever worked with.
Many more goalkeepers picked up the trophies and the international tournament exposure but there have been few better produced in the Premier League era than Nigel Martyn. For Crystal Palace, Leeds and Everton he very rarely dipped below outstanding and seldom made mistakes.
His talent deserved much more than to have a career with no major trophies and just 23 England caps and he was unfortunate to spend his best years playing in the same era as David Seaman. Had Martyn been playing today, Joe Hart would have had a huge fight on his hands for the Three Lions No 1 jersey.
It speaks volumes of the man that Nigel Martyn is an icon at all four of clubs he represented in his 19-year playing career. He earned maintained a reputation as a shot-stopper of the highest calibre in 12 Premier League seasons for Crystal Palace, Leeds and Everton.
Were it not for David Seaman, Martyn would have surely won far more than the 23 England caps he collected between 1992 and 2002. Martyn started out in the Cornish amateur leagues, not making his professional career for Bristol Rovers until the age of 21. They don’t make them like that any more.
My favourite goalkeeper to have played in the Premier League? His name is Ludek Miklosko. He came from near Moscow and played in goal for West Ham.
Long before Petr Cech, ‘Ludo’ was the finest keeper the Czech Republic had to offer and cost the Hammers a bargain £260,000 from Banik Ostrava back in 1990. Songs are still chanted every other week at Upton Park about him but Manchester United fans curse the very mention of his name.
His man of the match performance famously denied them the title on the final day of the 1994/95 season. United do, however, boast the greatest ever No 1 in Premier League history. As a fellow member of the goalkeeper’s union, he’s one of my all-time heroes: Peter Schmeichel.
Brick wall: Miklosko’s name is still sung at Upton Park after his top rank performances, including stopping Manchester United winning the Premier League in 1995 (below)
Fabien Barthez. Bald, bonkers and full of blunders – the Manchester United No 1 was always box office but not always for the right reasons.
Some of his decision-making made your eyes water, some of his errors defied belief, or logic, or basic rules of goalkeeping.
Perhaps one of the biggest blotches on Sir Alex Ferguson’s (otherwise pretty decent) CV was his scrabbling search for a permanent goalkeeper in the post Peter Schmeichel years. Ultimately Ferguson found that man (all too late) in Van der Sar, but boy we had some fun along the way.
Peter Schmeichel was the best practitioner between the posts, no doubt. But for entertainment value Fabien Barthez earns my vote here. He was a jester and the penalty area was his court.
MOST PREMIER LEAGUE CLEAN SHEETS
David James… 170
Mark Schwarzer… 149
Petr Cech… 148
David Seaman… 142
Nigel Martyn… 138
Never content with pulling off saves and offering good distribution, he would perform for the crowd, dribbling the ball perilously close to advancing strikers, indulging in dragbacks, and practicing stepovers without a care in the world. All this was done with a infantile grin on his face.
His bald head was iconic – particularly when Laurent Blanc arrived at United to kiss it once more – as was his diminutive status and insistence on pulling up his shorts to inappropriate degrees. ‘Fabien Barthez, has got a brother called Des,’ went his song.
Brilliant. Didn’t matter if it was true or not. West Ham fans have their own chant to remember his ill-advised attempt to out-psych Paolo Di Canio in an FA Cup tie. But even that was part of his charm.
Given a ghoulish interest in bad goalkeepers my vote has to go to Lars Leese, who rose without trace to briefly become Barnsley’s very average guardian in their late Nineties Premier League spell.
The German was described by his manager John Hendrie as a shambles and a loser, but his stay did at least produce one of football’s most entertaining autobiographies, Keeper Of Dreams.
Erik Thorsvedt. Erik the Viking made a horror start to his career at White Hart Lane, when he let a tame long-range shot from Nigel Clough slip through his grasp as Spurs lost to Nottingham Forest 2-1 live on ITV.
But he became a hero in his seven years in north London and was memorable for his brilliance in the 1991 FA Cup semi-final – in stark contrast to Dave ‘slippery hands’ Seaman at the other end.
Edwin van der Sar. One of the best goalkeepers in the world when he made the surprise move to Fulham in 2001. To his credit he stayed around and helped establish the west Londoners as a Premier League club and over four years at Craven Cottage he pulled of a number of match winning saves.
In 2005 he got the move to a big club that his talent deserved when he joined Manchester United. Four Premier League titles, two League Cups and a Champions League later, the Dutch No 1 retired with the medals that his Premier League career deserved.
Edwin van der Sar was the complete goalkeeper (which David James, my second choice, certainly wasn’t). When he retired at 40, he was still among the world’s best and could have continued playing with ease.
Outstanding consistency, authority, athleticism, reactions and distribution, Van der Sar also made the vital penalty save that won the 2008 Champions League final for Manchester United and remained their first choice until 2011, having moved to Old Trafford in 2005 in what most viewed as a short-term move.
Peter Schmeichel may be remembered as United’s best ever but the reality is Van der Sar was every bit as good and, unlike the Dane who had declined by 1999, maintained his sky-high standards throughout his career.
Jussi Jaaskelainen. Capable of pulling off some stupendous saves and winning matches on his own.
He might not be able to kick it straight and doesn’t really have a clue when to come off his line but the Flying Finn is a tremendous shot-stopper, as his breathtaking double save against Manchester United in 2002 shows.
He was one of the main reasons Bolton were in the Premier League for as long as they were.
Shay Given was consistently one of the best goalkeepers in the Premier League during his 12-year spell with Newcastle.
And what separates Given from the obvious choices of Schmeichel, Seaman and Van der Sar is that he didn’t always have the best protection in front of him but still kept a huge amount of clean sheets, pulling off some spectacular saves in the process.
Luckily for the (sometimes) dodgy Newcastle backline, Given was on hand time and time again to save their blushes.
The best evidence of this came when the former Republic of Ireland No 1 claimed the Man of the Match award despite being on the wrong end of a 5-1 scoreline against Liverpool in December 2008.
His rapid decline from Premier League stalwart to Aston Villa benchwarmer may have dented his reputation somewhat but Shay Given remains one of the most naturally talented goalkeepers to have graced England’s top-flight.
A shining light throughout his 12-year spell at Newcastle, the Irishman’s promising start at Manchester City could’ve been so much more had it not been for the emergence of Joe Hart.
Eccentric and at times crazy, you never knew what to expect when Jens Lehmann played for Arsenal. At times he would look like the best goalkeeper in the world. One game in particular springs to mind when thinking about the German – his inspired performance at Anfield on Valentines’ Day in 2006, when he saved a Steven Gerrard penalty and kept a dominant Liverpool team at bay for 87 minutes – before Luis Garcia scored the only goal.
But even more memorable, for all the wrong reasons, was his ridiculous diving competition with Didier Drogba at Stamford Bridge. Lehmann was one of the best goalkeepers in the league when on form, but his temperament, or lack of, meant you couldn’t take your eyes off him.
Carlo Cudicini. The Italian may not be the best all-round goalkeeper the Premier League’s seen but – for the few seasons he was Chelsea’s No 1 – Cudicini was excellent and great value with it too.
It’s a shame that the talk of qualifying for England was premature and that Petr Cech was just that good when he moved to Stamford Bridge.