The greatest goalkeepers in Premier League history

Profile Picture: Josh Powell

February 25th, 2021

Goalkeepers are the unsung heroes of Premier League football. While we all frantically look up YouTube montages of our favourite goals and TV pundits across the country rave about attacking flair – the only mention goalkeepers get is if they've had a howler.

One of the more frequent Christmas presents every year back in the day would be a VHS of ‘Goalkeeping Gaffes’ from an Aunty or Uncle you rarely saw. Time has moved on since then, but nothing changes - it doesn’t take long for a goalkeeping mishap to go viral on Twitter.

But while keepers get a bad rap, it’s their command of the penalty area and sublime shot-stopping which can be the difference between winning titles.

Here are the greatest goalkeepers in Premier League history

5. David James

A controversial choice straight off the bat, but David James has every right to be on this list. You don’t get more than 50 caps for England and make 575 Premier League appearances without being an incredibly good keeper.

James will be remembered more for his ‘Calamity James’ nickname in the press, and some controversial hair styles, but it’s easy to forget that only three players in Premier League history made more appearances than him, and only Petr Cech has more PL clean sheets.

He performed admirably, despite playing at five clubs who at the time all had defenses that were falling apart. Liverpool were hapless when he was between the sticks, and Manchester City and West Ham both had shocking defenses while James was number one. Throw in stints at Portsmouth and Aston Villa and it’s incredible James kept as many clean sheets as he did. 

4. Pepe Reina

Reina became the fastest Liverpool keeper ever to reach 100 clean sheets when they beat Villa 3-0 in December 2010. It had taken him just 198 matches.

The problem for Reina, and the reason he may not be mentioned in these lists as often as he should, is that he was never number one for Spain. He was behind Iker Casillas originally, and then David De Gea in the latter part of his career.

But don’t let his lack of national experience take away from his quality in the Premier League. Reina has 136 clean sheets in just 297 appearances – a ratio of 45.8%, the highest in PL history. He was a three-time winner of the Premier League Golden Glove and became a Liverpool hero when he saved three out of West Ham’s four penalties in he 2006 FA Cup Final.

3. David Seaman

Like James, Seaman is unfortunately more likely to be remembered for a dodgy hairstyle and an infamous gaffe – this time getting lobbed by Ronaldinho from miles out in the 2002 World Cup. But that is an unfair reflection on the man nicknamed ‘Safe Hands’.

A two-time Premier League winner with Arsenal, Seaman kept 141 clean sheets in 344 games and had incredible cat-like reflexes. His shot-stopping was a key foundation of Arsene Wenger’s title-winning Gunners, and his save in the 2002 FA Cup semi-final with Sheffield United is arguably the greatest save of all-time.

The ponytail and the moustache were a bad combo and should never be repeated, but as for being a top Premier League keeper, Seaman has to make the list.

2. Petr Cech

The foundation for Jose Mourinho and Chelsea’s Premier league success was their defense, and nobody was more important in that than keeper Petr Cech. He is the only man to have kept more than 200 clean sheets in the league (202) and helped Chelsea on their way to four league titles, four FA Cups, three League Cups and a Champions League trophy.

His record-breaking CV is unreal.

He reached 100 Premier League clean sheets quicker than anybody in history (180 games) and holds the record for most clean sheets in a single season with 24. He has four Premier League Golden Glove awards and in 2004-05 he went 1,025 minutes without conceding a single goal. That’s the same amount of time it would take for you to watch Die Hard eight times back-to-back. Yippee ki yay!

1. Peter Schmeichel

6'3" and close to 16 stone of pure dominance. Peter Schmeichel frightened his own defenders as much as he frightened opposition strikers, and it was his commanding nature and incredible shot-stopping which makes him the best Premier League keeper of all time.

128 clean sheets in 310 appearances give him the fourth highest clean sheet percentage in PL history, but beyond the numbers he helped turn Sir Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United into an all-conquering machine. A five-time Premier League winner, three-time FA Cup winner, and a key part of the 1999 Treble winning side, Schmeichel was a huge presence in United’s dominance.

Ryan Giggs said that Schmeichel won more games for Manchester United than any keeper he had ever seen, and it speaks volumes that it took six years and numerous high-profile names before the Red Devils found a suitable replacement.