Statistically, goalkeepers are the players with the fewest touches on the ball. This is one of the reasons they are often underrated. The latter can be supported by the fact that since 1956, when the award for the world’s best player of the year began (known as Ballon d’Or since 2016), only one goalkeeper managed to win it. This happened in 1963 when the goalkeeper of the Soviet Union national team and Dynamo Moscow Lev Yashin won the award.
There are occasions, however, such when a team wins a game during a penalty shootout when the goalkeeper of the winning team becomes the hero and most valuable player of the game or tournament. Examples of such games are the two World Cup finals that have been decided by penalty shoot-outs. Claudio Taffarel was Brazil’s hero in 1994 and Gianluigi Buffon the player to give Italy the trophy in 2006.
This article will take a look at the goalkeepers who are in the best form this season among the big 5 European leagues (Premier League, La Liga, Seria A, Bundesliga, Ligue 1). The analysis will involve the top 5 goalkeepers based on the fewest goals conceded, while also taking into consideration total minutes played.
Note: the stats used consider the following period: start of the season for each league until the 28th of November
5. Geronimo Rulli (Montpellier) – 10 goals in 13 games
Geronimo Rulli who plays for Montpellier is at the fifth position of our list, having conceded 10 goals in 13 games played. Montpellier are currently 6th in Ligue 1 and could have been even higher if they were more effective in attack. They have conceded 10 goals but only managed to score 14.
Rulli is an Argentinian goalkeeper, 1.89m tall, and he is on loan to Montpellier from Real Sociedad. He started his career at Estudiantes, where he played for the youth teams before moving to the senior team, where he made 50 appearances in 3 years.
After that, Deportivo Maldonado signed him, however, he was immediately loaned to Real Sociedad, before playing a single game for the Uruguayan club. Since joining his current club Montpellier, he spent almost every season on loan to Real Sociedad, with the Spanish side buying his rights in full in 2017.
The only season Geronimo Rulli didn’t play for the Spanish club was in 2016-17, when he signed for Manchester City under Pep Guardiola for £4 million. He played zero games for the senior team of the Citizens, however. He is now 27 years old and has two appearances for the Argentina national team.
4. Jan Oblak (Atletico Madrid) – 9 goals in 14 games
Jan Oblak has conceded an equal number of goals (9) to Unai Simon, however, he managed that in 14 games, compared to the 13 of Athletic Bilbao’s goalkeeper.
Oblak is the man between the goalposts of Atletico Madrid since 2014 and has played a total of 153 games for the Spanish club. He is 26 years old and has 26 international caps for Slovenia.
Jan Oblak moved from Olimpija Lubljana to Benfica at the age of 17, being part of the successful team of 2013-14 when the Portuguese side won the domestic treble: the Portuguese league and the two cups. During that season, Oblak also played and lost the Europa League final during a penalty shootout against Sevilla. During his time at Benfica, he was loaned to a number of Portuguese clubs: Beira Mar, Olhanense, Uniao de Leiria, and Rio Ave.
In 2014 he took the major career decision of joining Atletico Madrid for a fee of €16 million, becoming La Liga’s most expensive goalkeeper at that time at just 21 years old. At Madrid, he was voted as La Liga’s best goalkeeper for the past four consecutive seasons. In terms of team honors, he celebrated the winning of the Europa League and UEFA Super in 2018, in addition to a Super Cup in 2014. Oblak was unlucky to lose the Champions League final after a penalty shoot-out in 2016 against Real Madrid.
3. Unai Simon (Athletic Bilbao)- 9 goals in 13 games
Despite being just 22 years old, Unai Simon is the starting goalkeeper of Athletic Bilbao. Following the philosophy of Athletic Bilbao, where only Basques can be a part of the team, Unai Simon is a club youth product.
In 2011, Unai joined Athletic Bilbao’s youth system from Aurrera De Vitoria. In 2014, he played a couple of seasons in the third division at Athletic Bilbao’s feeder club, Basconia, before moving back to Bilbao Athletic (Athletic Bilbao’s reserve team) in 2016, where he spent two years playing for them.
Last season, the Basque goalkeeper made his debut for Athletic Bilbao against Leganes in a 2-1 home victory. He was called to the team after Kepa Arrizabalaga’s departure from the club and Iago Herrerín’s injury. Unai keeps the best record among all La Liga’s goalkeepers in the current season having conceded 9 goals in 13 games.
2. Kasper Schmeichel (Leicester City FC) – 8 goals in 13 games
Being the son of one of the greatest goalkeepers of all time, Peter Schmeichel, Kasper has managed to establish himself as Denmark’s no.1, in addition to being a consistent Premier League goalkeeper. He has been playing for Leicester City since 2011, having amassed a total of 313 appearances. His greatest achievement has been winning the Premier League title in 2015-16 which has been called one of the most beautiful miracles in the recent history of the game.
During his youth career, Kasper played a year for Estoril before moving to Manchester City. He was a Manchester City player for four years (2004-2009), however, he was loaned to a number of teams such as Darlington, Bury, Falkirk, Cardiff City, and Coventry City, making just 8 appearances for the Citizens. He never had the chance to establish himself at Manchester City so he signed for Notts County in 2009, with which he managed to have a full season and win the League 2 title.
The latter achievement attracted the interest of Championship clubs, with Kasper signing for Leeds United in 2010, putting another full season under his belt. Despite his initial desire to stay at Leeds United, Kasper eventually signed for Leicester City.
Since 2011 when he joined Leicester City FC under his former Manchester City and Notts County manager, Sven-Göran Eriksson, Kasper has been part of some historic moments for the club. Firstly, in 2013-14 they managed to win the Championship title, gaining the club’s promotion to the Premier League. Among his individual honors, Kasper was voted as the Danish player of the year for two years in a row in 2016 and 2017.
Leicester City are currently second in the Premier League table and by having Kasper Schmeichel under the goalposts and Jamie Vardy on fire, anything is possible.
1. Predrak Rajkovic (Stade Reims) – 7 goals in 14 games
At the age of 24, the Serbian goalkeeper Predrak Rajkovic is on top of our list as he has conceded just 7 goals in 14 games, or 1 goal conceded every 2 games. His club, Stade Reims, are 7th in Ligue 1. This is mainly due to poor attacking efficiency. They’ve only managed to score 10 goals in 14 games, the second-worst attack of the league.
Predrak started his career at Hadjuk Velijko before moving to Jagodina with which he made his senior debut in the Serbian Super Liga in 2013 against Partizan. He played just four games for Jagodina but his vital contribution to the winning of the 2013 European under 19s championship with Serbia attracted the interest of Red Star Belgrade for which he signed and played for two years. He won the league with the Serbian club in 2013-14, although he mostly featured for them the following season.
In June 2015 and after winning the FIFA U-20 World Cup, as well as the award of the best goalkeeper of the tournament, Rajkovic signed a new contract with Red Star Belgrade. A couple of months later Maccabi Tel Aviv paid a €3 million fee to the Serbians and signed him for five years.
At the Israeli club, Predrak Rajkovic won the league once (2018-19), in addition to winning the cup twice (2017-18 and 2018-19). He also participated in the Champions League group stage matches in 2015. He moved to Stade Reims during the summer of 2019. He has also featured for the Serbian national team, winning 13 caps in the process.