On April 25, 2021, Between the Sticks celebrated its two-year anniversary. In honour of the milestone, goalkeeper journalist Mouhamad Rachini is ranking the 10 best goalkeepers of all time from each of the big five European leagues: the German Bundesliga, the Spanish Liga Santander, the French Ligue 1, the English Premier League, and the Italian Serie A.
Goalkeepers are ranked based on a number of different factors, including team honours, longevity, peak, and statistical success, but only in their SPECIFIC DOMESTIC LEAGUES and relevant domestic competitions.
Performances in continental competitions (like the UEFA Champions League) and international competitions (like the FIFA World Cup) WILL NOT be considered. On the other hand, domestic cup successes (such as the Trophée des Champions) will be considered, but only to a small extent. Non-competition-specific individual accolades, such as Ballon d’Or votes and IFFHS top goalkeeper awards, will also be taken into account.
Furthermore, I’m only considering goalkeepers who played following the official founding of each league. In Ligue 1’s case, I’m only looking at performances post-1930, which is when the league was founded as the National. Though the league changed its name several times, including to Ligue 1 in 2002, a name change is not the same as introducing a completely new competition. Therefore, like the league itself, I don’t consider the National, Division 1 and Ligue 1 to be three separate leagues.
If you’re looking for a ranking that considers everything a goalkeeper did in their career, check out my “Top 50 goalkeepers in football history” project from last year.
Hugo Lloris (France): A former member of OGC Nice and Olympique Lyonnais, Hugo Lloris made 218 Ligue 1 appearances between 2005 and 2012. He’s one of three goalkeepers to win the league’s Goalkeeper of the Year award more than twice, and he won the Coupe de France and Trophée des Champions in 2012.
Joël Bats (France): A year after joining Paris Saint-Germain as Dominique Baratelli’s successor, Joël Bats helped the capital-based club clinch their first Division 1 title in 1986. Bats, who had previously finished runner-up with FC Sochaux-Montbéliard in 1980, retired in 1992 with 504 Division 1 appearances to his name.
Julien Darui (France): Largely considered to be France’s first great goalkeeper, the Luxembourg-born Julien Darui made Division 1 appearances for the likes of CO Roubaix-Tourcoing and Red Star FC. A one-time Division 1 champion and one-time Coupe de France winner, Darui was voted France’s goalkeeper of the century by L’Équipe in 1999.
Pascal Olmeta (France): Pascal Olmeta made 474 Division 1 appearances across his 18-year career, including appearance for Olympique de Marseille and Olympique Lyonnais. With the former, Olmeta won back-to-back Division 1 titles in 1991 and 1992; and with the latter, he finished runner-up in the league in 1995 and made a domestic cup final appearance in 1996.
Stéphane Ruffier (France): Stéphane Ruffier’s only championship win may be the 2013 Coupe de la Ligue, but nonetheless, he’ll be remembered as one of the 2010s’ top Ligue 1 goalkeepers. Ruffier is a five-time finalist for the league’s top goalkeeper award, and he was named AS Saint-Étienne’s player of the decade for 2010-2019.
10. Ulrich Ramé (France; Angers SCO & FC Girondins de Bordeaux
One of the most respected members of FC Girondins de Bordeaux’s late 1990s and 2000s squads, Ulrich Ramé dedicated 14 of his 22 years as a professional footballer to Bordeaux’s services.
Initially a member of Angers SCO (who were bouncing between French football’s top three divisions), Ramé joined Bordeaux in 1997. He was one of two goalkeepers the club signed that year, and he was expected to compete with loanee Stanley Menzo for Bordeaux’s number one spot. But due to a combination of poor mistakes from Menzo and excellent performances by Ramé, the latter was promoted to full-time duties.
Ramé’s victory was a sign of things to come, as he used his debut season to spring into the hearts of supporters. For 11 of the next 13 seasons, Ramé was an irreplaceable member of Bordeaux’s starting XI. He made 382 top-flight appearances between 1998 and 2011, including 32 and 26 appearances in Bordeaux’s league title-winning campaigns in 1999 and 2009.
A three-time Coupe de la Ligue champion and two-time Trophée des Champions winner (though he only played in two of the five finals), Ramé was the inaugural winner of the UFNP Ligue’s 1 Goalkeeper of the Year award in 2002.
9. Bruno Martini (France; AJ Auxerre, AS Nancy & Montpellier HSC)
Bruno Martini is widely considered to be one of the top French goalkeepers of the 1980s and 1990s. He made 492 Division 1 appearances across his career, and he suited up for the likes of AJ Auxerre, AS Nancy and Montpellier HSC.
It’s with the first club that Martini established himself as a French goalkeeping giant. 321 of his nearly 500 first division appearances were made in Auxerre’s colours, and while he never won a major trophy with the Diplomats, he did backstop them to seven separate top-6 finishes between the 1986-87 and 1993-94 seasons.
A two-time recipient of France Football’s Étoile d’Or award as Division 1’s top footballer, Martini once went an Auxerre-record 892 minutes without conceding a league goal. Unsurprisingly, Auxerre supporters voted him into the club’s greatest 1977-2007 XI.
Shortly after Martini’s death on Oct. 20, 2020, French Football Federation President Noël Le Graët said of the goalkeeper: “Bruno is part of the history of French football.” It’s a testament to the Frenchman’s influence and iconic status.
8. Dominique Baratelli (France; AC Ajaccio, OGC Nice & Paris Saint-Germain)
With 593 Division 1 appearances to his name, Dominique Baratelli is one of Ligue 1’s more experienced goalkeepers. In fact, only four goalkeepers have played more Ligue 1 games than the Nice native, and he actually held the appearance record when he retired in 1985.
Baratelli’s professional career began with AC Ajaccio in 1967. There, he shushed initial doubts about his shorter-than-average size through a series of excellent league performances. He gradually started in more and more games, and he soon became revered for his cat-like reflexes.
Baratelli’s performances caught the attention of his hometown club, OGC Nice. They signed the Frenchman in 1971 and immediately established him as their starting goalkeeper. Baratelli played 40 or more games across all competitions in all but one of his seven seasons with Nice, and he backstopped the club to two second-place finishes in Division 1 and an appearance in the 1978 Coupe de France Final.
Baratelli spent the final seven seasons of his career with Paris Saint-Germain, with whom he won the Coupe de France as their starting goalkeeper in 1982 and 1983. In the 1982 final, Baratelli saved AS Saint-Étienne’s final penalty to give PSG their first ever major championship.
7. Bernard Lama (France; Multiple Ligue 1 clubs)
Though Dominique Baratelli backstopped the club to their first pieces of silverware and Joël Bats was an integral part of the club’s first Division 1 title victory in 1986, most Paris Saint-Germain supporters seem to be in agreement that Bernard Lama is the club’s greatest ever goalkeeper.
Nicknamed ‘the Cat’ due to his quick reflexes and agility, Lama was already a Division 1 veteran when he joined PSG in 1992 — he had accumulated more than 200 league appearances with LOSC Lille, FC Metz, Stade Brestois 29 and RC Lens prior to his move.
Lama was under some pressure to succeed when he first joined PSG, due in large parts to his excellent performances prior to his transfer and the fact that he was replacing the great Bats. But Lama didn’t play like someone under much stress.
In eight years with the Parisians (separated by a season spent with West Ham United on loan), Lama made 251 Division 1 appearances, and he formed the spine of a PSG team that won the 1994 Division 1 title, two Coupes de France, and the 1995 Trophée des Champions.
For his efforts, France Football recognized Lama as France’s player of the year in 1994.
6. Fabien Barthez (France; Multiple Ligue 1 clubs)
Fabien Barthez’s legendary status is mostly a result of his silverware-winning performances with the French national team. That said, the Lavelanet native had a respectable Division 1/Ligue 1 career.
A product of Toulouse FC’s youth academy, Barthez first gained worldwide plaudits with Olympique de Marseille, who he joined in 1992. He backstopped OM to the 1992-93 Division 1 title (which was later stripped due to a match-fixing scandal) and a 2nd-place finish in the 1993-94 season (which was nullified by Marseille’s forced relegation due to financial bankruptcy).
After spending a year in Division 2, Barthez joined AS Monaco in the summer of 1995. He’d go on to make 143 Division 1 appearances for the club over the next five seasons, leading them to league titles in 1997 — the club’s first since 1988 — and 2000, as well as the 1997 Trophée des Champions as club captain. He was also awarded Division 1’s Goalkeeper of the Year award in 1998 and the IFFHS World’s Best Goalkeeper award in 2000.
After a three-year spell with Manchester United, Barthez returned to France for one last run in the top flight in 2003. He made 90 more Ligue 1 appearances for Marseille and FC Nantes before retiring in 2007.
5. Steve Mandanda (France; Olympique de Marseille)
When I started watching Ligue 1 regularly in the early 2010s, there were many goalkeepers that I paid particular attention to; Stéphane Ruffier, Salvatore Sirigu, Cédric Carrasso, just to name a few.
But the Ligue 1 goalkeeper who I especially enjoyed watching was Olympique de Marseille’s Steve Mandanda.
Initially brought in on a season-long loan deal from Ligue 2 club Le Havre AC in 2007, the young Mandanda’s stay in Marseille was made permanent after he stripped Carrasso of starting duties in his debut Ligue 1 season.
Mandanda has been an irreplaceable member of Marseille’s starting XIs since his loan deal was made permanent in 2008. He’s made a club-record 456 top-flight appearances (and counting) in OM colours across 13 seasons between 2007 and 2021. In fact, between 2007 and 2016, Mandanda missed just 8 of a possible 342 Ligue 1 games.
During his (still active) tenure, Mandanda backstopped Marseille to the club’s first Ligue 1 title in 18 years in 2010, as well as three Coupes de la Ligue, two Trophées des Champions, and four 2nd-place finishes in Ligue 1 (including one as recently as 2020). He captained Marseille in three of the five domestic cup finals he won.
A two-time Marseille Olympian of the Season, Mandanda is widely respected as the top Ligue 1 goalkeeper of his generation. He’s won a record five UFNP Ligue 1 Goalkeeper of the Year awards, and he’s been included in the UFNP Ligue 1 Team of the Season five times.
4. Dominique Dropsy (France; Valenciennes FC, RC Strasbourg & FC Girondins de Bordeaux)
A Division 1 veteran with 596 French top-flight appearances to his name, Dominique Dropsy is a legend for RC Strasbourg and FC Girondins de Bordeaux, and he’s frequently mentioned among both clubs’ greatest ever footballers.
After making his Division 1 debut in 1972 with newly-promoted Valenciennes FC, Dropsy was signed by Strasbourg in 1973. He immediately established himself as the club’s number one goalkeeper, and though the club was relegated to Division 2 in 1976, Dropsy stuck around to help the club return to the summit.
Dropsy’s dedication not only earned him the respect of Strasbourg fans, but it also resulted in major silverware. After earning promotion back to the top flight in 1977, an inspired Dropsy backstopped Strasbourg to the club’s first (and to date, only) Division 1 championship in just their second season back in the first division.
In 1984, a 34-year-old Dropsy finally lived a boyhood dream when he joined hometown club, Bordeaux. Dropsy was the club’s first-choice goalkeeper up until his retirement, and he played a significant role in Bordeaux’s dominance of 1980s French football. He won two Division 1 championships in 1985 and 1987 — Bordeaux’s first top-flight league titles since 1950. He also started in and won two Coupe de France Finals — he didn’t concede a single non-penalty goal across the 1986 and 1987 finals.
Dropsy called it a career in 1989. At the time of his retirement, he held Ligue 1’s all-time appearance record. He’s since dropped to 3rd in the all-time list.
3. Mickaël Landreau (France; Multiple Ligue 1 clubs)
Mickaël Landreau’s historic professional club career began in 1996 with FC Nantes, a year after the team’s 1995 Division 1 victory. Then just a recent graduate of Nantes’ youth academy, the 17-year-old kept a clean sheet and saved a penalty in his Division 1 debut vs. SC Bastia. Landreau’s performance shocked the French football world, and by 1998, he was not only the club’s undisputed starting goalkeeper but also the youngest captain in Nantes history.
These decisions would’ve easily broken most other teenage goalkeepers. But in Landreau’s case, it actually encouraged the Frenchman to play at a higher level. By the end of the 1998-99 season — his first full season as club captain — Nantes were Coupe de France champions for the first time in 20 years. And by the end of the 2000-01 season, Nantes and Landreau had added another Coupe de France, two Trophée des Champions and the 2001 Division 1 title to their resumes.
After 13 seasons, Landreau departed Nantes in 2006. He was linked to the likes of Arsenal and AC Milan at the time of his departure, but he ended up signing for Paris Saint-German on a free transfer.
Though he played every Ligue 1 game between 2006 and 2009 and won the 2008 Coupe de la Ligue, Landreau switched PSG for LOSC Lille in 2009. Here, he won the domestic double of the Ligue 1 title and Coupe de France — he kept a clean sheet in the final vs. PSG — in 2011.
On Dec. 4, 2013, Landreau, now a member of Bastia, broke Jean-Luc Ettori’s French top-flight appearance record when he made his 604th career Division 1/Ligue 1 appearance against AC Ajaccio. He would retire at the end of the season with a grand total of 618 Division 1/Ligue 1 appearances.
2. Grégory Coupet (France; AS Saint-Étienne, Olympique Lyonnais & Paris Saint-Germain)
Grégory Coupet is most known for his double-save against FC Barcelona during a 2001-02 UEFA Champions League match. But while that’s probably the greatest save he’s ever made, Coupet’s incredible career is worth more than just a single highlight.
Coupet debuted with AS Saint-Étienne in 1994. He made an additional 65 Division 1 appearances for the club until 1996, when the club was relegated to Division 2. While in the second division, Coupet joined rivals Olympique Lyonnais in January 1997 as a replacement for the departing Pascal Olmeta.
It took a while for his Lyon career to flourish, but when the 21st century came around, Coupet and Lyon became the dominant forces in French domestic football.
After a 2nd-place finish in the 2000-01 season, Lyon won seven consecutive Division 1/Ligue 1 titles between 2002 and 2008 — the first seven first division titles in club history. It’s the French record for most consecutive league titles, and it signified the beginning of a new generation in which OL — a team that rarely challenged for the Division 1 title in the 20th century — became one of the primary forces in French football.
Coupet was a key member of Lyon’s title-winning squads, not just as the starting goalkeeper but also as one of the team’s voices of leadership, motivation and concentration. He started 224 league games during that run, and he won the UNFP Ligue 1 Goalkeeper of the Year award a then-record four times. Additionally, Coupet won seven domestic cups, including five Trophée des Champions.
After a one-season spell with Atletico Madrid, Coupet returned to Ligue 1 with Paris Saint-Germain in 2009. He played two seasons before retiring in 2011. In his final game (the 2011 Coupe de France Final), Coupet saved a penalty against LOSC Lille’s Mathieu Debuchy.
1. Jean-Luc Ettori (France; AS Monaco)
One of the few highly successful one-club goalkeepers in French football history, Jean-Luc Ettori spent his entire 19-year professional club career in the service of AS Monaco.
Initially a student at the Institut national du football de Vichy, Ettori graduated from the program in 1975. He joined AS Monaco that same year, and he made his Division 1 debut a few months later in a 3-1 loss to FC Girondins de Bordeaux. It was Ettori’s only appearance that season, and the club were relegated to Division 2.
Ettori’s inexperience and age saw him remain on Monaco’s bench for the entirety of the 1976-77 season. But after the club was promoted back to Division 1 in 1977, the 22-year-old Frenchman was given a shot at the starting role.
At the expense of Yves Chauveau, Ettori took the promotion in strides. He made 34 league appearances as Monaco won the Division 1 title in their first season back in the top flight. Ettori’s involvement in the surprising league championship propelled him into national stardom. It also kick-started a golden era for the Monégasques.
Over the next several seasons, Ettori would add multiple trophies to his resume. He backstopped Monaco to two more Division 1 titles in 1982 and 1998, as well as runner-up finishes in 1984, 1991 and 1992. He also won the Coupe de France in 1980, 1985 and 1991 — he kept a clean sheet in two of those finals — and the 1985 Challenge des champions cup.
Ettori retired following the conclusion of the 1993-94 season. At the time of his retirement, he held the Division 1 appearance record with 602 appearances to his name. He’s one of only two players in league history to surpass 600 appearances.
Do you agree with my list? Which other Ligue 1 goalkeepers do you think should’ve made the cut? Let me know in the comments below or through Twitter via @BlameTheKeeper.