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Ranking the five goalkeepers with most appearances in Champions League history

While so often overlooked for accolades such as the Ballon d’Or, goalkeepers remain vital to the success of any side, with the European stage having been blessed with some of the finest stoppers the game has to offer in the Champions League era.

Recent years have seen the rise of the likes of Alisson and Courtois although this new batch of goalkeeping talent still has a long way to go to hit the heights of the stars of years gone by.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at the five goalkeepers with the most appearances in Champions League history.

Victor Valdes – 106

Only six goalkeepers have in fact made it to a century of appearances in the competition, with former Barcelona stopper Victor Valdes just about edging out German giant Oliver Kahn (103) for a place in the top five.

A product of the famed La Masia academy in Catalonia, Valdes made his first-team debut for the club in August 2002, before eventually nailing down a regular starting berth in the side during the 2003/04 campaign, going on to be the undisputed first-choice in his position for the next decade.

His stint as the club’s number one would see the Spaniard win three Champions League titles, winning his first against in Arsenal in 2006, before playing a pivotal role as Pep Guardiola’s side won two in the space of just three seasons between 2009 and 2011, beating Manchester United on both occasions.

One of the first ‘keepers to really play out from the back, the hugely talented stopper was denied regular involvement at international level due to the presence of Iker Casillas – making just 20 senior appearances for La Roja – yet would go on to make 535 appearances for La Blaugrana at club level.

He departed the Nou Camp in 2014, joining United on a free transfer, yet after just two league outings he was shipped out on-loan to Belgian side Standard Liege for the 2015/16 season, eventually finishing his career with a solitary season at Middleborough a year later.

Petr Cech – 111

One of the greatest goalkeepers in Premier League history, Petr Cech also enjoyed success on the continent, notably winning the Champions League in 2012 while at Chelsea as the Blues overcame Bayern Munich in their own backyard in the showpiece.

The Czech stopper – who is the most capped player in his nation’s history – was integral to that success in Munich, keeping out former teammate Arjen Robben’s extra-time penalty, before making two vital saves in the ensuing shootout to help Roberto Di Matteo’s side clinch a maiden triumph in the competition.

The Blues had missed out on the trophy four years earlier after defeat to Manchester United on penalties in Moscow, although Cech had handed his side the chance of victory after denying Cristiano Ronaldo’s spot-kick, only for John Terry to infamously fail to capitalise on that advantage.

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He had originally enjoyed his first taste of the Champions League while at Sparta Prague, before making the switch to Stamford Bridge in the summer of 2004, going on to concede just 15 league goals that season and keeping a record 24 clean sheets as Jose Mourinho’s men won the title.

He would go on to win three more league titles during his time in west London, before joining rivals Arsenal in 2015, eventually retiring four years later at the end of a stellar top-flight career. The 39-year-old remains atop the pile for most clean sheets (202) in the Premier League era.

Gianluigi Buffon – 124

Gianluigi Buffon is undoubtedly an undisputed goalkeeping legend – still going strong at the age of 43 with Serie B side Parma – although the Italian has endured a turbulent relationship with the Champions League, despite his longevity in the competition.

Of the 42 players to have reached a century of appearances in Europe’s elite competition, the Juventus legend is one of only three not to have won it, alongside Spanish icon Cesc Fabregas and the enigmatic Swede, Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

Equally, Buffon – and former teammate Paolo Montero – are the only two players to have reached three finals without winning it, finishing runner-up in 2003, 2015 and 2017 during his lengthy first stint in Turin.

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Those near-misses appeared to be weighing on his mind as the World Cup winner was sent off in stoppage time in a dramatic quarter-final, second-leg clash with Real Madrid at the Bernabeu in April 2018, the legendary stopper seeing red – quite literally – after a shove on referee Michael Oliver, following a controversial late penalty that had been awarded to the hosts.

With Buffon off the pitch, Cristiano Ronaldo would step up to clinch a 4-3 aggregate victory, before the veteran was once again on the wrong end of a questionable refereeing decision a year later while at Paris Saint-Germain, as Marcus Rashford memorably sent Manchester United through with a last-gasp penalty.

After a solitary season in Paris he returned to Italy in 2019, although was unable to end his Champions League woes, before making an emotional return to second tier Parma over the summer.

Manuel Neuer – 124

Bayern Munich’s 2-1 win over Dynamo Kyiv on Tuesday evening not only maintained their 100 per cent start to the group stage, but also saw Manuel Neuer move level with the man above on 124 Champions League appearances.

It may not have been the German’s finest game in a Bayern shirt, although rarely has he let the club down since his arrival from Schalke in 2011, going on to win two Champions League’s and nine successive Bundesliga title’s over the last decade.

His debut season had ended in disappointment after losing out on the title to Borussia Dortmund and slipping up in the Champions League final against Chelsea on home soil, although Neuer had been pivotal in taking his side to the showpiece with two shootout saves in the semi-final victory over Real Madrid.

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The Bavarian giants’ misery wouldn’t last long, however, as they swept to a treble the following year, Neuer notably making a string of fine saves in the European showpiece at Wembley in the 2-1 victory over Jurgen Klopp’s Dortmund side.

It’s been a tale of domestic dominance since, while recent years have also seen Bayern emerge as favourites on the continent, winning the Champions League again in 2020, while they currently looked well-placed to do so again this year with five wins from five in the group thus far.

That sensational start under Julian Nagelsmann has seen the 35-year-old already pick up three clean sheets, taking his total tally to 50 in the competition – only nine behind leader Iker Casillas.

Iker Casillas – 177

Speaking of the Spaniard, Casillas is one of the finest of his generation and a certified Real Madrid icon, having been the club’s number one for over 15 years after making his debut as a teenager back in 1999.

The 1999/2000 season would see the youngster set a then-record as the youngest goalkeeper to ever make a Champions League appearance, starting against Olympiakos at the age of just 18 years and 177 days.

At the end of that campaign, he became the youngest ‘keeper to play in and win a Champions League final as Los Blancos beat Valencia, while two years later he came off the bench for the injured Cesar Sanchez and helped the La Liga side edge past Bayer Leverkusen to earn a second major European honour.

He would have to wait another 12 years, however, to bag his third and final Champions League title, as Carlo Ancelotti’s side clinched the much-coveted ‘La Decima’ with victory over Atletico Madrid in Lisbon in 2014.

The World Cup and two-time European Championship-winning stopper would go on to leave the Bernabeu in 2015 to join Portuguese side Porto, where he would end his sensational career five years later with over 1000 games under his belt for club and country.

The now-retired 40-year-old was only recently overtaken by former teammate Cristiano Ronaldo as the Champions League’s record appearance-maker, while he is also still leading the way with the most clean sheets in the competition’s history (59).

Read – Remembering the Man United XI that beat Rangnick’s Schalke 4-1 in the UCL semi-final

Read Also – Eight moments that defined Arsenal and Man United’s classic rivalry

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