On April 25, 2020, Between the Sticks turns one year old. To celebrate the site’s anniversary (as well as its 50th post), goalkeeper journalist Mouhamad Rachini is ranking the 10 best goalkeepers from each of the five continents; Africa, Asia/Oceania, Europe, North/Central America, and South America.
Goalkeepers are ranked on a mix of different factors, including team and individual honours, longevity, quality of leagues they played in, peak, and statistical success.
Goalkeepers are also grouped based on the country they REPRESENT, not the country they were born in. For example, Steve Mandanda, despite being born in an African country, is considered to be a European goalkeeper because he plays for France internationally.
You can access each piece by clicking on the attached hyperlink.
Claudio Bravo (Chile): A two-time Ricardo Zamora Trophy recipient, Claudio Bravo won league titles in his native Chile, Spain and England. Bravo, who is Chile’s most-capped goalkeeper of all time with 123 appearances, captained Chile to back-to-back Copa América championships in 2015 and 2016, as well as the 2017 Confederations Cup final.
Faryd Mondragón (Colombia): One of the last active members of Colombia’s 1990s golden generation, Mondragón was part of Colombian squads for the 1992 Olympics, two Copa Américas, two CONCACAF Gold Cups, and three World Cups (including the 2014 edition). The Colombian goalkeeper of Lebanese descent won club silverware in Argentina, Turkey and Colombia.
Roque Gaston Máspoli (Uruguay): Roque Gaston Máspoli is a Peñarol legend; he backstopped the club to six Uruguayan league titles between 1940 and 1955. He was also part of Uruguay’s 1950 World Cup team which infamously defeated Brazil in the final. The IFFHS recognized Máspoli as South America’s sixth-best goalkeeper of the 20th century.
10. Marcos Roberto Silveira Reis (Brazil, Palmeiras, 1992 – 2012)
Considered to be one of the greatest goalkeepers in Brasileirão history, Marcos Roberto Silveira Reis, more commonly known as Marcos, made over 500 appearances for Palmeiras across a 20-year career. He’s a two-time Brasileirão champion and he backstopped Palmeiras to their only Copa Libertadores championship in 1999. He was the latter’s top goalkeeper and MVP.
Marcos’s international career only lasted six years and 29 caps due to the excellence of teammates Cláudio Taffarel and Nelson Dida. But although his Brazil career was short-lived, Marcos was still able to leave his mark in national team history.
Marcos played every minute of all seven of Brazil’s 2002 World Cup matches, keeping four clean sheets and conceding just four goals as Brazil clinched their record-breaking fifth World Cup. Marcos, who kept three clean sheets in four knockout round games, was recognized as one of the tournament’s top three goalkeepers.
9. Hugo Gatti (Argentina, multiple clubs, 1962 – 1988)
A 26-year veteran of the game, Hugo Gatti holds the record for most Argentine Primera División appearances with 765 league appearances to his name. He represented some of the country’s biggest clubs, including both River Plate and Boca Juniors.
Gatti had more success with the latter; he made over 380 appearances for Boca Juniors, winning three league titles, two Copa Libertadores championships and the 1977 Intercontinental Cup. He was also Argentina’s Player of the Year in 1982.
Given Gatti’s background as a striker-turned-goalkeeper, it should come as no surprise to anyone that the Argentine enjoyed involving himself in offensive plays. Nicknamed El Loco for his madman-style of goalkeeping, Gatti was very comfortable playing the ball with his feet, and he would sometimes participate in his team’s own attacks. And when defending his goal, Gatti would sometimes join his defenders as an extra outfielder or rush out of his goal to challenge oncoming opponents.
8. Nelson Dida (Brazil, multiple clubs, 1992- 2015)
Across a 23-year club career, Nelson Dida represented some of the top clubs in world football, including Corinthians and AC Milan. Unsurprisingly, success closely followed Dida; among other trophies, the Brazilian won the Copa Libertadores, a Brasileirão title, an Italian Serie A title, two UEFA Champions Leagues, and two Club World Championships. Dida, who was voted FIFPro Goalkeeper of the Year in 2005, is also the only goalkeeper ever to win both the Copa Libertadores and the Champions League.
But Dida’s greatest influence might have to do with his skin colour. Dida helped end the prejudice against black goalkeepers in Brazil through his successful performances. In 1999, Dida became the first Afro-Brazilian goalkeeper to represent Brazil since Moacyr Barbosa in the 1950 World Cup.
Dida would go on to earn over 90 caps for the Seleção. He backstopped Brazil to Confederations Cup glory in 1997 and 2005, as well as a Copa América championship in 1999.
7. René Higuita (Colombia, multiple clubs, 1985 – 2009)
Nicknamed ‘the Madman’, René Higuita was a goalkeeper who, as the cliché goes, was unlike any other. Originally a striker who once finished as his high school’s top scorer, Higuita maintained his scoring touch when he made the switch to goalkeeper. With 44 goals to his name, including three with Colombia’s national team, Higuita is one of football’s all-time top-scoring goalkeepers.
A journeyman who played in countries like Colombia, Spain and Mexico, Higuita was known for his eccentricity. The Colombian would sometimes dribble out of his box and take on attackers mano-a-mano, and he wasn’t afraid of sweeping up loose balls outside of his box. This played a part in revolutionizing the modern goalkeeper’s role.
Higuita’s flair also translated into his shot-stopping; one of his most famous saves, dubbed “the Scorpion Kick“, saw him clear a cross from England’s Jamie Redknapp by kicking the ball over his head with his heels.
6. Cláudio Taffarel (Brazil, multiple clubs, 1985 – 2003)
With 101 international caps to his name, Cláudio Taffarel is Brazil’s most capped goalkeeper ever and their joint-fifth most capped player of all time.
Furthermore, Taffarel is one of the national team’s most successful goalkeepers. In a senior international career that spanned 10 years, Taffarel won an Olympic silver medal, two Copa América championships, and the 1994 World Cup. Taffarel was particularly influential in the latter; he conceded just three goals throughout the tournament, including none in the final, as Brazil clinched what was their fourth World Cup.
At the club level, Taffarel was one of the first Brazilian goalkeepers to succeed in Europe. He won two Coppa Italias and the 1993 UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup with Parma, and two Süper Ligs, two Turkish cups, and two continental cups with Galatasaray. He was named Man of the Match in the 2000 UEFA Cup final, which Galatasaray won.
5. Ladislao Mazurkiewicz (Uruguay, multiple clubs, 1963 – 1981)
Born in Piriápolis, Uruguay, to a Polish father and a Spanish mother, Ladislao Mazurkiewicz is a goalkeeper who’s often forgotten about when discussing the best goalkeepers of the 20th century. But that’s mainly due to people’s own ignorance rather than any failures on his part.
Best known for his tenure with Peñarol — although he also spent time in Brazil (Atlético Mineiro), Spain (Granada CF), Chile (Cobreloa) and Colombia (América de Cali) — Mazurkiewicz spent nine total years with the Uruguayan club giants across two stints. He won five Uruguayan league titles, as well as the Copa Libertadores and the Intercontinental Cup in 1966. His side defeated Real Madrid in the latter, and Mazurkiewicz kept two clean sheets across the two-legged final.
A nine-year veteran of the Uruguayan national team, Mazurkiewicz was part of Uruguay’s World Cup teams in 1966, 1970 & 1974. He played in 13 total games across those three World Cups. These include six appearances in the 1970 World Cup, which Uruguay finished fourth in. It was the country’s highest finish since a similar fourth-place finish in the 1954 edition. Mazurkiewicz was recognized as the 1970 edition’s top goalkeeper.
A well-respected shot-stopper in both South America and the rest of the world, Lev Yashin, the iconic Soviet goalkeeper who is often viewed as the sport’s greatest ever goalkeeper, viewed Mazurkiewicz as his own successor. Mazurkiewicz subbed on for Yashin in the latter’s farewell match, and Yashin gifted him his own gloves. This is often seen as a symbolic gesture from Yashin, announcing to the world that the passing of the torch (or gloves, in this case) has been made and Mazurkiewicz is the new world’s top goalkeeper.
In 1999, the IFFHS recognized Mazurkiewicz as South America’s fifth-best goalkeeper of the 20th century and the world’s 12th best goalkeeper.
4. Ubaldo Fillol (Argentina, multiple clubs, 1969 – 1991)
Largely considered to be one of the finest goalkeepers in Argentine football history, Ubaldo Fillol was best known for his agility and reflexes, which were necessary skills given his undersized frame (he stood at just a hair under 6 ft).
Nicknamed ‘The Duck’, Fillol made his professional debut in 1969 with Quilmes AC. The young native of San Miguel del Monte was just 18 years old at the time, but he would soon gain plaudits for his acrobatic style of goalkeeping. In 1972 alone, the now-Racing Club goalkeeper stopped six penalty shots; a record in the Argentine Primera División. A year later, Fillol was traded to River Plate, one of Argentina’s top clubs.
It’s here that Fillol elevated himself to legendary status. For the next 10 years, Fillol made over 360 appearances for the Buenos Aires-based club. Fillol won seven league titles with River Plate, including the 1975 Metropolitano tournament — the club’s first title in 18 years.
It was during this time that Fillol also earned his first call-up to Argentina’s senior team. He made his international debut in 1974 and his World Cup debut that same year. But while he largely served as a back-up to Daniel Carnevali in 1974, Fillol took over starting duties in both the 1978 and 1982 World Cups. He had more success in the former, backstopping Argentina to its first-ever World Cup championship and earning a World Cup All-Star Team appearance in the process.
Argentina’s Footballer of the Year in 1977 — the first goalkeeper to be awarded that honour — Fillol was also a runner-up for the South American Footballer of the Year award on three separate occasions. The six-time South American goalkeeper of the year was recognized by the IFFHS as South America’s third-best goalkeeper of the 20th century. Fillol was also included in the Argentine Football Association’s all-time team in 2015.
3. Gylmar dos Santos Neves (Brazil, Corinthians / Santos, 1951 – 1969)
In the FIFA World Cup’s storied history, only one goalkeeper has ever managed to win two World Cups as a country’s number one. And unsurprisingly, it’s a Brazilian. Gylmar dos Santos Neves was part of Brazil’s first two World Cup championships, playing leading roles in both 1958 and 1962.
In 1958, Gylmar conceded just four goals and kept four clean sheets. He didn’t concede a single goal in Brazil’s first four games — three group games and a quarter-final — as Brazil captured its first World Cup.
Four years later, Gylmar starred again. This time he conceded five goals and kept two clean sheets in six appearances as Brazil became just the second team in history to win back-to-back World Cups. And by winning back-to-back World Cups, Gylmar, as mentioned earlier, became the first and only goalkeeper to win two World Cups as a nation’s starting goalkeeper. (Gianpiero Combi was Italy’s starting goalkeeper in 1934, and Aldo Olivieri was their starter in 1938).
Nicknamed ‘Pelé’s goalkeeper’ due to his bond with the iconic Brazilian no. 10, Gylmar would soon join his Brazilian national team teammate at the club level. After 10 seasons with Corinthians in which he amassed over 480 appearances and won three Paulistão titles, Gylmar joined Pelé’s Santos in 1961.
With Santos, Gylmar immediately assumed starting duties and boosted an already great team to a near-perfect level. In eight seasons with the club between 1961 and 1969, Gylmar won five Brasileirão Série A titles (including four straight between 1962 and 1965) and five Paulistão titles. Gylmar also won two Copa Libertadores championships with Santos, in 1962 and 1965; a first for Brazilian club football.
Gylmar, who also attended the 1966 World Cup as a reserve goalkeeper, retired in 1969 having earned 94 international caps for the Seleção. He’s the second most capped Brazilian goalkeeper of all time.
2. José Luis Chilavert (Paraguay, multiple clubs, 1982 – 2004)
No South American goalkeepers’ list is complete without the ‘Bulldog’ himself, José Luis Chilavert. A three-time IFFHS World’s Best Goalkeeper, Chilavert is one of the continent’s top goalkeepers despite not playing for one of its biggest national teams.
Chilavert made his professional debut in 1982 with Sportivo Luqueño as a teenager. He spent most of his club career in his native Paraguay and Argentina, although he did also have stints in Spain, France and Uruguay.
The Paraguayan’s best years came with Argentine club Vélez Sarsfield, who he played for from 1991 to 2001. In 10 seasons with the side, Chilavert made over 340 appearances and won nine trophies. These accolades include four Argentine Primera División titles and a Copa Libertadores-Intercontinental Cup double in 1994.
Chilavert, who was recognized as 1996’s South American Footballer of the Year, made his international debut in 1989. Although he only made just 18 international appearances between 1989 and 1995, by the end of his international career in 2003, Chilavert had amassed 74 caps. These include appearances in both the 1998 World Cup — Paraguay’s first World Cup appearance in 12 years — and the 2002 World Cup.
Along with being a fantastic shot-stopper, Chilavert was also an expert set-piece taker and goalscorer. The Paraguayan goalkeeper scored 67 goals across his 22-year career, making him the second-highest goalscoring goalkeeper of all time. Eight of his goals came while on international duty — a football record — and during Paraguay’s 2002 World Cup qualifying campaign, Chilavert scored four goals.
Chilavert was also the first goalkeeper to score a hat-trick. In a 1999 Argentine league match, Chilavert scored three penalties in Vélez Sarsfield’s 6-1 thrashing of rivals Ferro Carril Oeste.
In 1999, the IFFHS recognized Chilavert as the second-best South American goalkeeper in the 20th century. He was also recognized as the world’s sixth-best goalkeeper, ahead of goalkeeping icons such as Peter Schmeichel, Peter Shilton and Gylmar dos Santos Neves.
1. Amadeo Carrizo (Argentina, River Plate / Alianza Lima / Millonarios, 1945 – 1970)
South America is home to some of football’s craziest goalkeepers. Throughout this list, we’ve been introduced to Hugo Gatti and his Loco-style of goalkeeping, the madman René Higuita and his dribbling and sweeping abilities, and the goalscoring José Luis Chilavert.
But before Chilavert, Higuita and Gatti, there was Amadeo Carrizo.
Nicknamed ‘Tarzan’, Carrizo is considered to be one of the pioneers of goalkeeping, up there with the likes of the Lev Yashin and Hungary’s Gyula Grosics. In the 1950s and 1960s, he was considered by many to be South America’s top goalkeeper.
A native of Rufino, the Argentine made his debut in 1945 with River Plate. He spent 23 of his 25 professional years in the service of the Buenos Aires-based club, making over 510 appearances. He won seven league titles — including five as River Plate’s undisputed no. 1 goalkeeper — as well as two Copa Aldao championships. His River Plate career ended in 1966, two years after posting a career single-season high 16 clean sheets and backstopping the club to the Copa Libertadores final.
To this day, Carrizo holds the River Plate record for most Argentine Primera División appearances (521), as well as the league record for most consecutive minutes without conceding a goal (769 minutes).
Although Carrizo made just 20 appearances for the Argentine national team, the goalkeeper was still well-respected worldwide, even by the likes of Yashin. Following a friendly match between Yashin and Carrizo in 1968, Yashin gifted Carrizo his gloves as a token of appreciation. The two goalkeepers also appeared in a cover photo for the magazine El Gráfico that same year.
Credited for being one of the first goalkeepers to leave his penalty area to defend his goal and use goal kicks as a strategy to start counter attacks, Carrizo was recognized by the IFFHS as South America’s top goalkeeper of the 20th century.
Do you agree with my list? Which other South American goalkeepers do you think should’ve made the cut? Let me know in the comments below or through Twitter via @ThatArabKeeper.