In the wake of Courtois’ pedestal performance against Manchester City last night, a lot of talks has been sparked about goal-keepers and their role in the game. Despite being one of the most imperative players in the field, their role goes unnoticed unless they go on to make a mistake which sinks a team in the grandest stages of all.
Spanning from Loris Karius who cost Liverpool their European dream to Rene Higuita’s ‘El Loco’, goalkeepers have played the tale of villains to heroes on several occasions. Europe has also produced world-class custodians like Gordon Banks, Peter Shilton and Lev Yashin who romanticized the art of goal-keeping across the face of the entire planet.
However, Europe’s biggest league of Champions, earlier known as the European Cup and now rechristened as UEFA Champions League, has stayed witness to the art of sublime goal-keeping who went to defy all the odds to notch up their due share of fame. We will look at a league of titans who pulled off the highest number of clean sheets in Europe’s biggest completion.
5. Victor Valdes – 45 clean sheets
One of the most towering goalkeepers in Catalonian history, Victor Valdes transcended himself beyond the ordinary when he signed up for Barcelona
Appearing in a whopping 387 matches for the Spanish stalwarts, Valdes established himself as an impregnable bulwark under the Spanish woodwork. In a staggering 106 appearances in the Champions League, Valdes managed to prise out 45 clean sheets. He conceded 89 goals at an average of 0.84 goals per game which is an extremely enviable European record for any custodian.
Though there were controversies about the fact that he had significant help from the illustrious Catalan rearguard, this man’s towering stand beneath the post ensured that anything that spilt off the airtight defence was being gobbled up by him.
4. Peter Cech – 49 clean sheets
Known for his humdinger stint with Chelsea, Cech was also the brightest glimmer of hope for Sparta in his limited appearances. Labelled as one of the most stupendous goalkeepers of all time, Cech pulled off inhuman saves in any colour that he has donned on until date.
In the European competition of Elites, he produced 49 clean sheets from 111 games, conceding 103 goals at an average of 0.93. His colossal physique under the woodwork was used to the fullest extent by the Czech custodian. Despite suffering a life-threatening blow to his head, he managed to stage a dramatic comeback only to kiss greater heights initially with Chelsea and later with Arsenal.
3. Edwin van der Sar – 51 clean sheets
Dotingly known as the Flying Dutchman, the 6 feet 6 inches Colossus has emerged as a hero for every single side that he has played for. He also holds the record for the longest duration of not conceding a goal as he went for 1311 minutes without letting the ball slip into the net.
A part of 3 emphatic European sides, Juventus, Ajax and Manchester United, out of which he won the Champions League with Ajax and United, van der Saar managed to chronicle 51 clean sheets from the 98 games that he was a part of.
Conceding 79 goals at an average of 0.81, the Dutchman turned out to be United’s fabled hero after he thwarted an emphatic spot-kick in the tie-breaker in their bid to win the Champions League in 2008.
2. Gianluigi Buffon – 51 clean sheets
A man who played for Juventus for a staggering 18 glittering years is number two on this prestigious list. Though in Champions League, his legacy comes in the colours of two clubs, Juventus and Paris Saint-Germain.
Italy’s torch-bearer of goalkeeping excellence, carrying on the legacy from Gianluca Pagliuca, Buffon took the levels of goalkeeping to a new unprecedented high which others could only dream of. Known for his sweeping goalkeeping flair and his sensational outings, all that comes atop is his fabulous shot-stopping ability. Buffon spent a lion’s share of his career at the Old Lady.
Playing 123 games in the Champions League, the Italian shot-stopper wrung out 51 clean sheets and let through 119 goals at an average of 0.97. Buffon’s leadership ability and his sportsmanship made him one of the most loved and adored athletes of the 21st century.
1. Iker Casillas – 57 clean sheets
Known as the Saint in Spain, Iker Casillas recently announced his departure from football on a permanent basis at the ripe age of 39 years. The man, who led Spain and Real Madrid to countless glories, was also one of the best goalkeepers in the world, known for his aquiline reflexes and his inhuman prowess in the air.
With 57 clean sheets from 177 appearances that saw him concede 203 goals at an average of 1.15 goals per game, Casillas was an indispensable moniker for Los Merengues.
Much to everyone’s sorrow, he suffered an acute myocardial infarction that compelled him to take up the job of a goalkeeping coach which spanned on for a year at Porto when he finally called it quits accommodating a friendlier environment for his physique.