It’s hard to talk about new guard and old guard when it comes to goalkeepers, because of the relatively late age they both breakout in and continue on playing to. Still, the world’s best goalkeepers list is slowly changing: Gianluigi Buffon and Iker Casillas are still with us, entertaining the younger talents of Samir Handanovic, Joe Hart and the fantastic Hugo Lloris and probably above the rest, Manuel Neuer.
Samir Handanovic, Inter & Slovenia
The 28 year old goalkeeper needed to wait for a sharp dip in the form of Julio Cesar before he got his call up to a big club, after five rather successful seasons with Udinese. Inter are not the most stable of teams, but Handanovic has been getting praises across the board from pundits and former players for his form between the posts (16 matches, conceded 16 goals). Some keepers find it hard adjusting to life from a smaller club (although Udinese are no bottom feeders), but it looks like Handanovic is handling the pressures at Inter well, including an improvement in his focus and consistency, which sometimes is harder to keep seeing less action come your way.
Joe Hart, Manchester City & England
On some days, Hart is simply unbeatable, or as close as you can get to that. He has fantastic reflexes and awareness of where he is, and when his focus is completely on, it doesn’t really matter that Manchester City’s defense can look like a mess. The problem is that Hart, while having performances like the one against Dortumnd in the Champions League this season, is prone to have concentration lapses in the “smaller” matches that sometimes turn into embarrassing goals. He’s conceded 15 goals in 18 matches this season, and gives City in more than just his ability between the posts, but also his leadership skills, despite being only 25.
Gianluigi Buffon, Juventus & Italy
Into his 12th season with Juventus, Buffon continues to be one of the most impressive figures between the goalposts you’ll get to see. It goes beyond the individual ability. Juve’s defense, along with Buffon, is probably the best in Europe. While he isn’t as impressive and unbeatable as he once was, Buffon has conceded only 11 goals this season and he still has his one on one and aerial ability quite intact, kept at a very high level. A few mistakes late last season almost cost Juventus the title, but he seems to be back in a much more focused and consistent mode this season.
Iker Casillas, Real Madrid & Spain
You don’t become such a legend, while you’re still playing, at Real Madrid, for nothing. You don’t captain a Spanish side to three major titles, back to back to back, if you’re not any good. Iker Casillas has had better seasons when it comes to his individual ability and the level of saves (and the amount of them) he produces in each match. Maybe age and a deteriorating athletic ability is hurting his aerial game, which was never the best in the world. But some assets aren’t only explained in their form and ability, and some players don’t need to be benched if they’re having a bad day or two.
Hugo Lloris, Tottenham & France
It wasn’t the best of starts for Lloris in London, suddenly finding himself as the replacement to a 40 year old American. When he finally began getting chances, a 5-2 loss to Arsenal threatened to derail it all. But those five goals weren’t his fault, but had more to do with his team falling apart. Lloris has since kept his place in the lineup, keeping a clean sheet in three of the last four matches. He’s slowly getting used to the more aggressive nature of aerial battles in the Premier League, never his strongest suit, but with more confidence and with what he calls “a mental strengthening experience” on the bench, he’ll be heralded as the Premier League’s best pretty quickly.
Manuel Neuer, Bayern Munich & Germany
He’s arrogant or careless, call it what you will, which can lead to awkward situations, and sometimes awkward goals. Still, Neuer is part of one of the best footballing machines in Europe at the moment, conceding only 7 goals so far in the Bundesliga. His concentration levels did hurt him last season, a tough one making his debut for Bayern. This year, it seems like those problems are fading away, and Neuer is in the right place in the right time to keep Bayern’s run going very well, feeling a lot more confident about the man between the posts this season.