Is Bayern Munich's Manuel Neuer the best goalkeeper ever?

Manuel Neuer of Bayern Munchen in action during the Champions League Group E match between Manchester City and Bayern Munchen
Image: Bayern Munich and Germany star Manuel Neuer

Manuel Neuer has been called the best goalkeeper of all time. We look at the cases for and against...

Bayern Munich may have lost the first leg of their Champions League semi-final to Barcelona – but it could have been a lot worse for Pep Guardiola’s men had Manuel Neuer not pulled off several fine first-half saves at the Nou Camp.

The German shot-stopper kept out one-on-one attempts from Luis Suarez and Dani Alves and, at half-time, Sky Sports pundit Jamie Redknapp described him as the best goalkeeper of all time.

“Some say the best in the world, I think actually he’s the best goalkeeper ever,” Redknapp said.

“He has taken goalkeeping to a whole new level. Not just with the saves he makes but also how he plays on the ball. He’s technically so good in every area.”

Here we look at five reasons why Neuer IS the best ‘keeper ever - and five reasons why he ISN’T…

Five reasons why Neuer IS the best ‘keeper ever

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Honours

Germany's goalkeeper Manuel Neuer and Argentina's forward and captain Lionel Messi hold their respective trophies of 'Golden Glove' and 'Golden Ball'
Image: Golden glove winner Neuer and Lionel Messi at the World Cup

Few players can boast a trophy cabinet as packed full as Manuel Neuer’s. The Germany goalkeeper played a key role as his country won the World Cup last summer – conceding just four times in seven games – having previously helped the U21 side to a European Championship in 2009.

At club level, Neuer has accumulated three Bundesliga winners’ medals, lifted the German Cup three times, and won the Champions League, UEFA Super Cup and Club World Cup.

Of course, being part of supreme Bayern Munich and Germany teams helps, but Neuer’s ability has also been recognised with individual awards; the 29-year-old became the first goalkeeper in nearly a decade to be shortlisted for the Ballon d’Or, won the Golden Glove at the World Cup and has twice been crowned Footballer of the Year in Germany.

Sweeper-keeper

Luis Suarez of Barcelona and Manuel Neuer of Bayern Muenchen compete for the ball
Image: Neuer beats Barcelona's Luis Suarez to a loose ball

“I’ve never seen a better sweeper, apart from maybe Franz Beckenbauer,” Germany’s goalkeeping coach has said of Neuer.

In the World Cup clash with Algeria, Neuer’s ability to race from his box, read the play and act as an extra defender for Germany showed a new way for a goalkeeper to play. His post-match heat-map demonstrated how he had spent much of his time outside of the penalty area, approaching the halfway line, ready to pounce on loose balls and over-hit passes from the opposition, while at the same time eager to join in with the play of his team-mates.

In the first leg of Bayern Munich’s Champions League tie with Barcelona at the Nou Camp Luis Suarez saw first-hand how effective Neuer can be – the German beat the Uruguayan striker to a bouncing through ball and cleared the danger with a diving header.

Stunning reflexes

Watch Neuer produce a stunning save against Porto

Neuer’s remarkable reaction times were clear for all to see in the quarter-finals of the Champions League against Porto. Despite Jerome Boateng unexpectedly diverting Danilo’s powerfully hit cross goalwards from close range, Neuer was still somehow able to flash out a hand and deflect the ball over the bar to safety.

“He has great reflexes,” says Germany goalkeeping great Sepp Maier.

Distribution

PORTO ALEGRE, BRAZIL - JUNE 30:  Goalkeeper Manuel Neuer of Germany makes a save during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Round of 16 match between Germany an
Image: Neuer is as good at passing the ball as he is at stopping it

“Neuer has the same technical skills as the others, he could play in the midfield. He can basically be a player behind the defence,” said Germany boss Joachim Loew.

The stats back up Loew’s confidence in Neuer’s footballing skills – he has completed more passes than any other goalkeeper in the Champions League this season, with his total of 315 far beyond second-placed Marc-Andre ter Stegen of Barcelona (242).  

With a pass completion rate of 91 per cent, Neuer is a man to be trusted when he has the ball at his feet.

Penalty saving

Bayern Munich's goalkeeper Manuel Neuer (R) stops a penalty kick from Real Madrid's Brazilian midfielder Kaka (L) during the UEFA Champions League second l
Image: Neuer saves Kaka's penalty in the Champions League semis

As you’d expect from a 6ft 4in goalkeeper who thoroughly prepares and researches his opponents and has stunning reflexes, Neuer is pretty handy when it comes to saving penalties.

The ‘keeper helped Bayern Munich to the Champions League final in 2012 with two superb stops against Cristiano Ronaldo and Kaka in the shootout with Real Madrid. He even blocked Juan Mata’s effort in the final, although Didier Drogba eventually had the last say for Chelsea.

Neuer got his revenge against the Blues in the 2013 UEFA Super Cup, saving the final penalty to clinch the title, and denied Arsenal’s Mesut Ozil in the Champions League the following season.

He’s a keen penalty taker, too, scoring against Real Madrid in that semi-final – although he did recently miss in a shootout defeat to Borussia Dortmund.

UEFA Champions League Highlights

Five reasons why Neuer ISN’T the best ‘keeper ever

Lev Yashin

Goalkeeper Lev Yashin (black) from the Soviet Union boxes the ball away from an English player during the World Cup first round soccer match between the So
Image: Sovier Union 'keeper Lev Yashin won the Ballon d'Or

The only ‘keeper ever to win the Ballon d’Or, Lev Yashin – or the ‘Black Spider’ as he was known – was famous for his outstanding reflexes. A one-club man, Yashin kept goal for Dynamo Moscow for two decades, winning 78 caps for the Soviet Union. An Olympic champion in 1956, Yashin also represented his country at three World Cups.

Iker Casillas

Image: Iker Casillas is a Real Madrid and Spain legend

A modern great, Iker Casillas may be struggling for top form right now but his status as a Real Madrid legend is not in doubt. Since making his debut as a 16-year-old, Casillas has gone on to win five league titles, three Champions Leagues, two Copa del Reys and a Club World Cup with Real. Not to mention captaining Spain to World Cup glory and two European Championships.  

Gianluigi Buffon

Gianluigi Buffon of Juventus celebrates as Alvaro Morata of Juventus scores their first goal
Image: Gianluigi Buffon is the most expensive 'keeper ever

The world’s most expensive goalkeeper, Gianluigi Buffon was shortlisted for the Ballon d’Or after helping Italy win the 2006 World Cup and has won 147 caps for his country. The 37-year-old is approaching 600 league appearances at club level, too, having become a Juventus icon since his big-money move from Parma.

Dino Zoff

ROME, ITALY - NOVEMBER 17: Italy Goalkeeper Dino Zoff in action during an International match circa 1976, Zoff won over 100 full caps
Image: Dino Zoff won the World Cup with Italy aged 40

The Italian legend Dino Zoff captained his country to World Cup success in 1982 – aged 40. Zoff holds the record for the most minutes in international football without conceding a goal after going 1,142 minutes between 1972 and 1974 without having to retrieve the ball from his net. A six-time winner of Serie A with Juventus, Zoff also lifted the Coppa Italia twice, and twice finished runner-up in the European Cup.

Peter Schmeichel

Manchester United keeper Peter Schmeichel celebrates a goal in the UEFA Champions League semi-final second leg match against Juventus at the
Image: Peter Schmeichel led Manchester United to Champions League glory

Manchester United hero Peter Schmeichel is one of the most iconic goalkeepers of the modern era, having captained the Old Trafford outfit to one of the most famous Champions League triumphs in the tournament’s history. The Dane also won five league titles under Sir Alex Ferguson and, perhaps even more impressively, helped Denmark stun the world of football by winning Euro 92. 

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