How does one choose a goalkeeper? Surely in a truly great team the goalkeeper will be almost insignificant? Similarly a great goalkeeper might appear in an average or even poor team. And why place emphasis on the spectacular, when security is paramount, rather than acrobatics? Clean sheets, particularly in a defensive minded team, are not necessarily a reflection of superlative goalkeeping abilities. Maybe nowadays the ability to save penalties, when so many top level matches are thus decided, is the measure?
Statistical analysis does not always help. Accepted wisdom is merely opinion stated as fact.
Statue of Yashin at Dynamo
There appears to be a consensus amongst experts on the game that Lev Yashin ( Dynamo Moscow & CCCP) was the greatest goalkeeper of all time. He is the only goalie to date to be European Footballer of the Year (1963) and in 2000 was named FIFA World Keeper of the Century.
In 812 career games Yashin kept 480 clean sheets. In 78 internationals he conceded 70 goals . It is believed that he made over 150 penalty saves during his career.
We read of games in which Yashin’s feats kept the score respectable (1958 vs Brazil) and others in which he played poorly as his team surrendered a strong position (1962 vs Columbia, when he conceded a Gol Olimpico). He featured spectacularly in the 1963 FA Centenary match at Wembley , when he appeared in the Rest of the World XI against England and made a number of breathtaking saves.
Yashin is credited with several tactical innovations that have since become common practice- punching clear, using the quick throw of the ball to launch counterattacks, coming out of the penalty area to anticipate danger (acting as a sweeper), and the command and organization of the defenders.
We will revisit the position of goalkeeper from time to time, and suggestions are always welcome!