Last Thursday, Thibaut Courtois followed Cesar Azpilicueta by signing a new long term contract at Chelsea to cap off what really has been a successful summer for the West London side. The Belgian’s signature on the five year contract seems to secure his spot between the sticks for Chelsea for this season and many beyond, spelling the end for Petr Cech’s reign as Chelsea number one and arguably number one in the league.
Courtois really made a claim to being one the best keepers in the world whilst being on loan at Atletico Madrid for the last three seasons, especially last season as the neutral’s favourites went on to win their first La Liga in 18 years. Since his loan move back in 2011 no keeper has kept more league clean sheets in Europe’s top 5 leagues than the 22 year old, 56, 21 of which are since the beginning of last season, 5 more than Cech and Hugo Lloris.
Back in 2004 Cech also made his debut for Chelsea as a 22 year old, he came to Chelsea as an understudy to Carlo Cudicini, who at the time was the best keeper in the league, however, an injury for the Italian gave Cech the opportunity to make his mark and he did just that keeping a clean sheet on his debut against Manchester United. Cech has gone on to be number one for nine years and at the age of 31 he still is one of the best keepers in the world but where do he and his Belgian team mate rank amongst the best in the world?
When I was growing up there was an abundance of world class keepers around, in the Premiership there was Seaman and Schmeichel and in Europe, Buffon, Casillas, Kahn and the likes of Canizares, Peruzzi, Toldo, Van Der Sar and Chilvaret were underrated, even Barthez was fantastic.
However, now the competition is not so fierce, there must be some honourable mentions but there can only be a top 5. Casillas isn’t the man he once was, maybe down to confidence and at only 31 he still has plenty to offer but there have been too many high profile mistakes from the man who made his Madrid debut at just 16. Victor Valdes is highly underrated because of the lack of action he got in that glorious Barcelona team, but his concentration and his ability in a one on one situation can’t be matched, would a massive coup if Liverpool were to sign him. Samir Handanovic, again underrated but most likely because he is Slovenian and is playing for a poor Inter side, however this should not deter from the supreme agility the 6,5” man holds. David De Gea is forever improving and after a shaky start to his United career with confidence he now looks truly like a United player.
Ok so the top 5,
5) Petr Cech
A man laden with records, accolades and achievements he is a model goalkeeper whose main asset is his consistency. Has great concentration and is an authoritative figure instilling confidence in his defence. He overcame that skull fracture in 2006 to return just as good and still as brave. There has been a slight decline in the past two seasons but from very dizzy heights so is still one of the very best around.
4) Hugo Llrois
The France national team captain joined North London side Tottenham on transfer deadline day in 2012 for a bargain £12million. The 27 year old is truly a sweeper keeper who reads the game well to spot danger and has lightning reflexes to match becoming truly formidable in one on one situations. He recently signed a new 5 year deal with Spurs and is symbol of their ambition as Llrois is really someone who can light up the Champions League stage.
3) Gianluigi Buffon
The World’s most expensive goalkeeper when he signed for Juventus from Parma back in 2001 but they certainly got their monies worth. The 2006 World Cup winner has hardly any weaknesses to his game and is rated highly amongst Italian with most saying he is even greater than the legend Dino Zoff. Injuries have started to hamper the 36 year old but he continues to be an outstanding shot stopper and commander of his area.
2) Thibaut Courtois
Tremendously confident, especially for his age, his long reach means he comes out for crosses and absolutely dominates his box, a defenders dream. Has a huge future ahead being only 22 and could well go on to be one of the best ever. His save one on one against David Nugent this season already proof to Chelsea fans what a special talent they have and already a La Liga champion and Champions League runner up no wonder he is so confident.
1) Manuel Neuer
He is the undisputed number one in the world, it surely cannot be argued against and the World Cup winner is supreme in every attribute. He has truly brought sweeper keeper back, his footwork and his reading of the game make him an 11th outfield player. Yet his other skills must not be played down, he has very quick reflexes resulting in excellent shot stopping, he commands his area likes all the best keepers and his distribution is without equal. A perfect Guardiola keeper he is redefining the goalkeeper role and he is the man all goalkeepers must look up to and try and aspire to.