Bundesliga, La Liga, Ligue 1, Premier League, Serie A

Who Is The Best Goalkeeper In Europe?

That is a question I have been thinking about since research some stats on Inter Milan goalkeeper Samir Handanovic earlier this week.

The most common measurements used to compare goalkeepers are number of clean sheets and number of goal conceded.

If you look at the top four leagues in Europe combined (Serie A, La Liga, Bundesliga and Premier League) this is how the top goalkeepers stack up against each other

Most Clean Sheets

  • Morgan De Sanctis (Roma) – 9
  • Víctor Valdés (Barcelona) – 7
  • Hugo Lloris (Spurs) – 7
  • Gianluigi Buffon (Juventus) – 6
  • Manuel Neuer (Bayern Munich) – 6
  • Artur Boruc (Southampton) – 6
  • Tim Howard (Everton) – 6
  • Jussi Jaaskelainen (West Ham) – 6

The one surprise name on the list is Jaaskelainen as West Ham are the team not in the top half of the table. It is pretty clear from that statistic that the Hammers problems this season are at the other end of the pitch.

Number of Goals Conceded

  • De Sanctis – 3
  • Boruc  – 5
  • Lloris – 5
  • Neuer  – 7
  • Valdes – 8

Roma have had a record breaking start to the Serie A season and for De Sanctis to have conceded only three goals on 12 games is quite remarkable.

I don’t fee l though that goals conceded or clean sheets gives you a true measurement of who is the best goalkeeper in Europe. Except for Jaaskelainen, every goalkeeper listed here is playing for a top side. So are there numbers due to their goalkeeping skills, or the players in the front of them?

A better measurements of a goalkeeper’s ability is save percentage. For example if a goalkeeper faces 10 shots, how many does he save?

Save Percentage This Season

  • De Sanctis – 90.9%
  • Valdes – 83.3%
  • Lloris – 82.8%
  • Boruc – 81.5%
  • Roberto (Granada) – 80.3%
  • Samir Handanovic (Inter Milan) – 80%
  • Neuer  – 80%

Two new goalkeepers appeared on the list for the first time. Inter Milan’s Samir Handanovic and Granada’s Roberto. What makes Roberto’s numbers so impressive is that he has conceded 13 goals this season, far more than anyone. Obviously Granada’s defensive woes this season are not down to the quality of the goalkeeping, because if it was not for Roberto’s heroics, Granada would not be in the top half of La Liga.

It is not just stopping the ball that the top goalkeepers excel at these days. In the modern game today, with more and more teams trying to play the ball out from the back into midfield, the ability of the goalkeeper to successfully pass the ball to a teammate is becoming more and more important.

Passing Accuracy

  • Neuer  – 90.7%
  • Buffon – 79.4%
  • Handanovic – 73.7%
  • Boruc – 62.6%
  • Valdes – 61.3%

Couple of stats jump out here. It is clear the influence that Pep Guardiola is having at Bayern Munich as Neuer has a remarkable 90.7% passing accuracy. Conversely I would have expected Victor Valdes’s passing accuracy to be a lot more than 61.3%.

To after looking at the stats, who is the best goalkeeper in Europe this season?

To calculate that I gave 10 points for finishing first in a category, 9 points for finishing second, etc.

Adding up the numbers there is a three-way tie for first between De Sanctis, Valdes and Boruc. Just one point behind them was Neur. No surprise that three of the four goalkeepers are on teams that are top of their respective leagues, while Southampton have been the surprise team in the Premier League this year.

So who do you think is the better goalkeeper; De Sanctis, Valdes, Boruc or Neur?