Gianluigi Buffon rolled back the years during Juventus’ impressive 3-0 win at Barcelona this week, the veteran goalkeeper making seven saves as the Italian champions secured qualification to the knockout stages as group winners.
Buffon may not be the undisputed number one at the Bianconeri but remains a dependable servant to Juventus, one of the greatest goalkeepers of all-time continuing to play at the highest level despite rapidly approaching his 43rd birthday.
Following the veteran’s display at the Camp Nou we’ve decided to revisit some of the best goalkeepers the competitions has seen, here are 10 of the greatest goalkeepers in Champions League history:
German football has a fine record when it comes to producing leading goalkeepers and Oliver Kahn ranks amongst their very best, a formidable and ferocious presence in goal and one of the most successful shot-stoppers in his nation’s history.
Kahn became a legendary figure at Bayern Munich after signing for Germany’s most successful club in the mid-nineties, reaching the Champions League final for the first time in 1999 as the Bavarians were stunned by two stoppage-time goals against Manchester United.
Bayern returned to the showpiece two years later and it was Kahn who helped seal their redemption, saving three penalties in a shoot-out success against Valencia as the Bundesliga side were crowned champions of Europe for the first time in 25 years.
Kahn was awarded a UEFA Fair Play award for his consoling of Santiago Canizares in the immediate aftermath of that success, his opposite goalkeeper having been left distraught after losing a second successive final with Valencia.
Undoubtedly amongst the world’s best goalkeepers at his peak in the late nineties and early 2000s, Kahn became the first goalkeeper in history to win the World Cup’s Golden Ball following his performances in helping Germany reach the 2002 final in Japan and South Korea.
Peter Schmeichel’s legacy in English football is often represented in how he is used as a benchmark for the Premier League’s best goalkeepers, the former Denmark international regarded by many as the best to have adorned the gloves.
Schmeichel signed for Manchester United in a bargain £505,000 deal in 1991 and became one of the most inspired signings of Sir Alex Ferguson’s record-breaking reign, becoming a key figure in the side which dominated the early years of the Premier League.
The ‘Great Dane’ was a colossal figure in goal and his signature ‘starfish’ save technique would become the stuff of legend, as he won major honour after major honour during a glittering career at Old Trafford.
Few goalkeepers have ever had such presence with Schmeichel a fierce competitor and leader from the back, captaining the Red Devils as they secured the 1999 Champions League with a dramatic final victory over Bayern Munich – Schmeichel’s hulking frame causing chaos in the penalty area as United snatched a stoppage-time equaliser.
Peter Schmeichel with a wonder save vs Rapid Vienna, 1996. pic.twitter.com/TJKv6X5WwM
— 90s Football (@90sfootball) May 30, 2017
Schmeichel won five Premier League titles and three FA Cups alongside that aforementioned Champions League success, in addition to winning 129 caps for Denmark and forming part of the side which won the 1992 European Championships.
Gianluigi Buffon continues to perform at the highest level despite his 43rd birthday looming next month, the iconic Italian amongst the best goalkeepers the game has seen.
Buffon rose to prominence at Parma and made his debut for the side as a teenager, before forming part of a cult side during the nineties that lifted a Coppa Italia and UEFA Cup double during the 1998/99 campaign.
Two years later, he became the most expensive goalkeeper of all-time with a move to Juventus, his record-breaking fee standing for more than 15 years but proving well worth the investment.
Buffon has made more appearances in Serie A than any other player in the division’s history, winning 10 league titles across two spells with the Bianconeri, in addition to spending a single season at Paris Saint-Germain.
That move to PSG was made with the intention of finally lifting the Champions League, club football’s biggest prize having proven elusive for Buffon in his career to date with the goalkeeper having agonisingly lost three finals – including a shoot-out defeat to AC Milan in 2003.
Undoubtedly amongst the best players never to have won the trophy, the World Cup winning veteran remains one of the Champions League’s all-time greats despite his lack of a winners’ medal.
Edwin Van Der Sar
Edwin Van der Sar is a name often overlooked amongst the game’s greatest goalkeepers, though the former Netherlands international’s career achievements rank amongst the very best.
Van der Sar is one of just 12 players to have won the Champions League with two different clubs, winning the trophy or the first time with Ajax in 1995 before again lifting the trophy as a Manchester United player 13 years later – the longest ever gap between two winners’ medals.
The goalkeeper first reached successive finals with the Amsterdam side during the mid-nineties, winning the first of those two showpieces as Patrick Kluivert became the youngest ever final goalscorer to seal a 1-0 victory against AC Milan.
Van der Sar was a commanding and calming presence in the backline and his move to Manchester United ended the club’s long search for a successor to Peter Schmeichel, the £2m fee for the veteran proving a bargain following six years of stellar service.
Van der Sar formed part of a brilliant backline in arguably Sir Alex Ferguson’s final great side at Old Trafford, winning four Premier League titles and playing in three Champions League finals – including starring as Chelsea were defeated in the first all-English final in 2008.
No goalkeeper in Premier League history has ever recorded more clean sheets than Petr Cech, a shot-stopper who also regularly excelled on the European stage.
Cech made his debut in the competition for Sparta Prague but it was at Chelsea where he enjoyed his greatest success, spending over a decade at Stamford Bridge and winning a wealth of major honours.
Amongst those include four league titles and the 2012 Champions League, Cech starring as Chelsea became the first London side to be crowned as champions of Europe.
The former Czech Republic international was heroic as the west London side defeated Bayern Munich in the final, saving an extra-time penalty from Arjen Robben before saving from Ivica Olic and Bastian Schweinsteiger in the resulting shoot-out on a historic night in Germany.
Cech is one of just six goalkeepers to have made more than a century of Champions League appearances, whilst his haul of 49 clean sheets is bettered by just two players in the tournament’s history.
Iker Casillas stands as the current record holder for both Champions League appearances and clean sheets, with the goalkeeper having built his legend in club football’s biggest competition.
Casillas became the youngest goalkeeper in history to win the Champions League in 2000, forming part of the Real Madrid side who beat Spanish rivals Valencia in Paris just four days after his 19th birthday.
Real’s victory came in the midst of a dominant period in European competition as they won three titles between 1998 and 2002, with Casillas also playing his part in that latter triumph as Bayer Leverkusen were beaten at Hampden Park.
Casillas captained Spain to an unprecedented three major tournaments in succession – including winning the World Cup in 2010 – before leading Real Madrid to further Champions League success and the fabled La Decima, Madrid sealing their tenth European Cup after defeating city rivals Atletico Madrid in 2014.
The Spaniard was a superb shot-stopper with his agility and reflexes unrivalled at his peak, his all-time record of 57 Champions League clean sheets a landmark that will take some beating.
Victor Valdes’ career saw him form the last line of defence in arguably club football’s greatest ever side, one of a number of La Masia graduates who ushered in a golden era at Barcelona.
The former Spain international lifted the Champions League on three occasions during a trophy-laden spell at Barcelona, spending more than a decade as the Catalan’s goalkeeping custodian.
Valdes won his first winners’ medal as Arsenal were beaten in the 2006 final in Paris, before playing his part in a side many regard as the best to have ever won the Champions League.
Barcelona dominated European football under the guidance of Pep Guardiola and lifted the Champions League in both 2009 and 2011, beating Manchester United in both finals with their latter performance producing some spellbinding football at Wembley.
Valdes found himself behind the aforementioned Casillas at international level but his contribution to Barcelona ranks him highly amongst the goalkeeping greats of the Champions League era, winning six league titles alongside his three European crowns.
Jan Oblak has become one of the best goalkeepers in world football since signing for Atletico Madrid from Benfica six years ago, shattering all forms of records as the wall behind a resilient defence under Diego Simeone.
Tall, athletic and agile, no goalkeeper in Atletico Madrid history has ever kept more clean sheets than Oblak, whilst he became the fastest shot-stopper to reach a century of shut-outs in La Liga earlier this year – achieving the feat a huge 40 matches quicker than previous record holder Miguel Reina and in just his 182nd appearance.
Named in the UEFA Champions League squad of the season on three occasions, Oblak formed part of the Atleti side which finished as runners-up in 2016, before winning the Europa League two years later.
Oblak’s sensational shot-stopping has continued into the current campaign and he remains firmly in the conversation of the world’s greatest goalkeeper, the Slovenian international having conceded twice in just 10 league fixtures so far this season.
Keylor Navas may not have been a superstar signing upon his arrival at Real Madrid, but he more than played his part in historic era of success for the Champions League’s most successful side.
Navas formed part of the side which became the first team to defend the trophy in the Champions League era, part of three consecutive crowns for the Spanish giants in a period of unprecedented dominance.
The Costa Rican was named as the UEFA Champions League Goalkeeper of the Season during the latter of those triumphs in 2018, his reflexes and athleticism playing a vital role in Los Blancos success.
Navas departed the Bernabeu and signed for Paris Saint-Germain in 2019 and helped the side to a maiden Champions League final in his debut season at the Parc des Princes, the 33-year-old hoping to help the Parisians to a first European crown this season.
The second German goalkeeping great to feature in our top 10, Manuel Neuer is recognised as the best goalkeeper of his generation and amongst the finest of all time.
Neuer is perhaps the best example of the ‘sweeper-keeper’ style that has become so favoured in the modern era, a player who revolutionised the position with his willingness to join in the play.
The Germany international is amongst the first goalkeepers to impact the game proactively rather than reactively, a fine passer with the ball at his feat in addition to an intimidating presence when within the widths of the goalposts.
Neuer has won eight league titles since swapping the colours of Schalke for Bayern Munich, where he helped the Bavarians reach back-to-back Champions League finals in 2012 and 2013, winning the latter in the first ever all-Bundesliga final against Borussia Dortmund.
That success formed part of a historic treble for Bayern and was followed by World Cup success with Germany the following year, cementing his position as one of the most successful goalkeepers to have played the game.
Named as UEFA’s Goalkeeper of the Year on five occasions and twice named as Germany’s Footballer of the Year, Neuer captained Bayern to another continental treble last season – Hansi Flick’s side becoming the first in history to win the Champions League having won every single fixture.