Standing between the sticks for 90 minutes can be one of the hardest jobs in the world. As a goalkeeper it is your sole duty to prevent any goals from getting between you and the back of the net. A collection of fantastic stops can be overshadowed by one silly mistake meaning it is the No. 1’s job to stay focused at all times.

That’s why the best teams in football carry the best ‘keepers to match. And It’s these guys that have become the best in the world.

1) Iker Casillas

We start with the guy that has been Real Madrid and Spain’s number one choice goalkeeper for years. An exceptional player on his day, Casillas boasts an incredible record of playing over four hundred and fifty league games and appearing in one hundred and forty internationals. The Spaniard conceded the second-least amount of goals last season when he only let in 31 in 37 appearances.

Having won the Liga BBVA five times, the Champions League and European Championships twice as well as the coveted World Cup in 2010, there is no doubt Iker Casillas has pretty much been there and done it all. Only a handful of players to remain at one club their whole life and the 31-year-old sets an example of loyalty and devotion that comes by so rarely these days. His rank as number one ‘keeper in the world is thoroughly deserved.

2) Gianluigi Buffon

The giant Italian is one of the greatest shot-stoppers of all-time. His handling of a one-on-one situation means viewers assume when a player is through on goal there is more of a chance that the shot will be saved. His assurance in goal is why he has kept the Italian jersey since 2002 and never looked back.

The first name on the Italian team-sheet, Buffon was the reason Italy made it all the way to the Euro 2012 final as he made vital saves against England in the quarter-final penalty-shootout and against Germany in a tense semi-final. Unfortunately, the final was one step too far for the 34-year-old but he will always remember Juventus’ unbeaten title-winning season. Buffon collected an incredible 21 clean sheets to earn his third (fifth before revoked) Serie A medal. A fantastic goalkeeper by any standard, finding an adequate successor will be the toughest task for Italy.

3) Joe Hart

Three years ago, Joe Hart was playing his trade on loan to Birmingham City as then Manchester City manager, Mark Hughes, didn’t know whether or not to sell the young Englishman. Now in 2012, Hart has become Manchester City’s and England’s number one with no other ‘keeper close to the standards he has set. The 25-year-old has been ever-present for The Citizens for two years running now and it’s no wonder why.

Having had a sub-standard Euro 2012 where he struggled to keep his goal at bay, Hart is still at a young age in comparison to his competitors. He kept eighteen clean sheets in the 2010/11 season and seventeen the following as he helped his side win the F.A Cup and the Premier League within two years. Having collected only his first medals in the past few seasons, the 6ft 5in stopper will be looking for bigger and better things as City look to retain the title as well as aspire for European glory.

Third right now, Hart could well move on to becoming the best goalkeeper in the world.

4) Victor Valdes

A lot has been missed with defence when it comes to talking about Barcelona. Usually the subject of conversation falls to a certain Lionel Messi or his equally dazzling colleagues Xavi and Iniesta. But what people fail to remember is how consistent Valdes has been at the back for the Catalan side. His mistakes have been glittered over YouTube but such is the talent of the Spanish ‘keeper that an error becomes an internet sensation.

Although he has only been capped nine times, the Barcelona number one has won Liga BBVA five times and the Champions League thrice and has even earned the Zamora trophy (for most clean sheets in a Spanish season) four years running. Most notably, the Barca ‘keeper managed to go 896 minutes without conceding a single goal last season. Having stayed with Tito Vilanova’s side for the whole of his career, Valdes hasn’t really tested himself in another league in another country. But he won’t be complaining with the total of 19 honours he has collected with the Spanish side.

5) Manuel Neuer

German international Neuer became a huge star when he single-handedly helped his side secure a passage to the quarter-finals of the Champions League in 2008. It was his number of impressive performances in Europe that sparked Bayern Munich’s interest and in 2010, the Bundesliga giants secured Neuer’s signature. It was almost the perfect starting season for him as Bayern made it to the final of the clubs’ strongest European competition, only to lose on penalties to Chelsea.

With the weight of expectancy from German fans, the 26-year-old gained plaudits as he performed admirably in the group stages of Euro 2012 by leading his defence to victories over Portugal, the Netherlands and Denmark. A 4-2 victory over Greece was overlooked as it was an extremely comfortable game for the Germans but a 2-1 loss to Italy in the semi-finals condemned the German side to a defeat. Just like Hart, at a younger age, the former Schalke 04 star has much to look out for and a Bundesliga title this season could be just the thing.

Both Bayern and Germany will be delighted to know they have someone in the shape of Neuer to lead the backline for years.

The other goalkeeper worth a mention includes Petr Čech. Although I strongly believe he is a very good goalkeeper and it was his vital saves that helped Chelsea win the Champions League, I feel the others carry a lot more consistency within their game. Čech was incredible for the years when the Blues were challenging for the Premier League title but since the last couple of seasons, he hasn’t been as good as he can be. Hopefully, within a few years, we could be looking at a different top five altogether. 

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