Their importance for teams is often overlooked. Broadcasters, journalists and even fans tend to focus on attacking players, but nobody should ever underestimate the significance of a great goalkeeper.
Using their amazing reflexes and agility, demonstrating tactical awareness and organisational skills, truly outstanding goalkeepers can have a huge influence on the team and help to win trophies.
After all, they are the last line of defence, tasked with denying opposition teams the chance to score goals. As we look through the Premier League years, these are five of the very best shot-stoppers.
According to football folklore, Bristol Rovers first heard about Nigel Martyn from their tea lady, who discovered him while on holiday in Cornwall.
After a successful trial he went on to make 101 appearances for The Pirates, before Crystal Palace swooped in 1989. The signing of Martyn by Palace made history as the first ever £1 million goalkeeper in British football.
Martyn excelled with Crystal Palace as the Premier League era began, smashing the goalie transfer record again in 1996, this time when Leeds United paid £2.25m for his consistently safe hands. After setting a transfer record for the club, Martyn continued to excel towards the end of his career, helping Everton reach fourth spot in the 2004-05 Premier League campaign.
Despite never quite managing to lift any major trophies, Martyn was recognised as the best goalkeeper in the English top flight on four occasions. He featured in the PFA Team of the Year in 1993-94, 1997-98, 1998-99 and 1999-2000.
Martyn was also hugely reliable between the posts for England, representing his country 23 times, which arguably would have been more were it not for the next goalkeeper on our list.
One of his most infamous moments, David Seaman was once lobbed from the halfway line by Nayim, when the former Spurs man helped Real Zaragoza beat Arsenal in 1995 UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup final. A similar incident occurred in the 2002 World Cup Quarter Final against Brazil, when the legendary Ronaldinho beat Seaman from an unassuming freekick.
Ignoring these bizarre incidents, Seaman is widely regarded to have been the greatest Arsenal goalkeeper of all time.
Seaman began his professional career at Peterborough United, working his way up the league ladder following a spell with Birmingham City. But it was at Queens Park Rangers where his reputation was established.
Having already debuted with England in 1988, moving to Arsenal was Seaman’s watershed moment. He helped the Gunners to clinch the old First Division title in 1990-91.
During 13 outstanding seasons at Arsenal, the value of Seaman between the posts could never be underestimated. His robust goalkeeping assurance helped them win the 1997-98 and 2001-02 Premier League titles, plus the FA Cup four times and the EFL Cup once.
Only iconic goalkeeper Peter Shilton has earned more caps for England, with Seaman representing the Three Lions 75 times between 1988 and 2002.
Edwin van der Sar
Following his emergence and superb displays at Ajax, winning numerous domestic and continental titles, Edwin van der Sar was already hailed as one of Europe’s top keepers. This reputation was then sealed in 1999 when he joined Italian giants Juventus. Only a couple of years after this, things took an unexpected turn for the big Dutchman.
Flushed with cash at the time and keen to make statement signings, Fulham lured Van der Sar to Craven Cottage in 2001, bringing his exceptional talents to the Premier League. After four campaigns with the London club, Manchester United picked him up for the bargain price of just £2 million. He went on to become an authentic legend for the Red Devils.
Over the course of seven fabulous campaigns, Van der Sar won four Premier League titles, the FA Community Shield three times, plus the EFL Cup twice. His agility and reactions were also vital in Europe, as Manchester United conquered the UEFA Champions League in the 2007-08 final. The memorable ‘Flying Dutchman’ saved the decisive penalty in that game against Chelsea.
Boasting countless individual and collective honours through an outstanding career, Van der Sar also enjoyed an amazing international career, making 130 appearances for the Netherlands.
When signed by Jose Mourinho at Chelsea in 2004, Petr Cech was originally considered to be the backup option. This quickly changed after the pre-season injury suffered by Carlo Cudicini. The man from the Czech Republic made an instant impact, setting a new club and Premier League record by keeping 21 clean sheets.
This undoubtedly helped Mourinho and the Blues, as they romped to the Premier League title in 2004-05, sealing the reputation of Cech as one of the best goalkeepers in the business.
During his eleven full seasons at the club, Cech won four Premier League and four FA Cup titles, including the double in 2009-10. He secured further domestic success with four EFL Cups and three FA Community Shields. Cech also won the UEFA Champions League in 2011-12 and the UEFA Europa League in 2012-13. Switching across town to Arsenal, his experience and presence were vital as the Gunners won the 2016-17 FA Cup.
Cech spent fourteen campaigns in the Premier League, winning everything possible with Chelsea and Arsenal. He became the only goalkeeper to win the EPL Golden Glove at two different clubs. He also amassed 124 caps representing the Czech Republic.
Once described as the ‘bargain of the century’ by Sir Alex Ferguson, little was known about Peter Schmeichel at the time of his arrival at Old Trafford in 1991. Nevertheless, that quickly changed following an impressive first 1991-92 campaign, followed by Denmark stunning everyone to win the 1992 UEFA European Championship.
But what made Schmeichel special was his presence. Just the sight of Schmeichel was hugely intimidating to rival attacking players, outstretched hands and that giant frame filling the United goal. His distribution with feet or hands was also truly remarkable, often the starting point for many lightning surges forward by the Red Devils.
Schmeichel was a central figure in five Premier League title triumphs, during the most dominant era in Manchester United history. This also included league and FA Cup doubles in 1993-94 and 1995-96. But the crowning glory was undoubtedly the 1998-99 ‘Treble’ campaign, when Schmeichel captained the team which lifted the UEFA Champions League trophy.
Here at Zenseats, we pride ourselves on being the safest and most reliable hands for your ticketing needs. But whenever we ask Manchester United fans about Peter Schmeichel, they fondly regard the Great Dane as not only the greatest goalkeeper in EPL history, but also the finest shot-stopper ever to grace the beautiful game.