10 mad EPL goalkeepers

Timothy Wee Timothy Wee

FOX Sports Asia looks through the history books to bring you the ten most larger-than-life goalkeepers that have graced the EPL stage.

The ideal goalkeeper is suppose to be the epitome of cool. He is suppose to be calm and collected under pressure and yet always alert to impending goal threats.

But as most football fans will know, that is hardly the case.

Since the start of the EPL, England’s top footballing division has seen its fair share of goalies who defy the stereotype.

Whether it is down to an eccentric personality, delusions of grandeur or repressed outfield playing ambitions, no one can forget these outrageous/courageous individuals who can make or break a match. After all, who can forget the sight of “Mad Jens” Lehmann charging out of the Arsenal box?

So are these goalies considered heroes? Or zeroes? We round up ten of the ‘maddest’ EPL goalkeepers through the ages to help you decide.

Fabien Barthez

There is no other name that will cause more chuckles than Fabien Barthez. The French international clown goalkeeper was signed by Manchester United after helping his country to their Euro 2000 win.

On his day, Barthez is a remarkable reaction shot stopper. He is also a master of penalty mind games – having thrown off the likes of Leicester City’s Muzzy Izzet and Fulham’s Steed Malbranque.

When off form though, the former Marseille man, known for outrageous dribbles and venturing out of his box, often took unnecessary risks. His United manager Sir Alex Ferguson famously said, “Other goalkeepers would play safety first… He (Barthez) liked the excitement of taking care of the ball. I remember he kept telling me he was a better outfield player.”

Perhaps Barthez should have played in midfield in the 2003 Champions League exit to Real Madrid, where the bald custodian failed to stop Cristiano Ronaldo’s opener at the near post. He returned to Marseille in 2004 with only 30 clean sheets in 92 league appearances.

Jens Lehmann

Better known as “Mad Jens”, Jens Lehmann was a member of the Arsenal’s Invincibles squad and holds the Champions League record for most consecutive clean sheets (10 European clean sheets).

The German keeper, signed in 2003, is remembered for his swashbuckling playing style and was often seen rushing out of his box.

Though his excellent European performances got Arsenal to their first ever Champions League final in 2006, Lehmann also got himself sent off early in that game after bringing down Barcelona’s Samuel Eto’o – the first player and only keeper to be sent off in a final.

The two-time UEFA Club Goalkeeper of the Year did managed 54 clean sheets in 148 league appearances and was a standout in their 2005 FA Cup win over United.

David James

Aptly nicknamed “Calamity James”, David James is an English goalkeeper who is most remembered for his time at Liverpool. He famously injured his back reaching for his TV remote.

Conceding twenty goals in just eleven matches, James ridiculously blamed his faltering concentration levels on his computer game habit back in 1993. He was notorious for flapping at crosses too.

Despite his shortcomings, James has the second most clean sheets in the EPL after Petr Cech with 169 in 572 appearances. The 2008 FA Cup winner went on to play for Aston Villa, West Ham, Manchester City and Portsmouth after leaving the Reds in 1999.

Jerzy Dudek

Arriving in Liverpool back in 2001, Jerzy Dudek is a name that divides Reds fans.

At his best, the Polish keeper’s quick reflexes and strong mental game meant nothing could get past him. In his finest display, he denied Milan’s striker Andriy Shevchenko with a double save at the death and employed Bruce Grobbelaar’s “spaghetti legs” to put off Shevchenko, Serginho and Andrea Pirlo in Liverpool’s 2005 Champions League final penalty shootout win.

Hard to believe that this is the same keeper that actually messed up a simple header and allowed United’s striking flop, Diego Forlan to score. TWICE. The Pole’s inability to hold on to the ball also costed him when he slipped up at Middlesbrough allowing Gareth Southgate to score and ending Liverpool’s unbeaten streak in 2002.

Dudek left for Real Madrid in 2007 after losing his place to Pepe Reina. He had 49 clean sheets in 127 appearances.

Peter Schmeichel

Voted the best goalkeeper ever, United legend Peter Schmeichel was a part of the historical ’99 Treble team. The Danish keeper won five EPL titles, three FA Cups, a League Cup and Champions League during his time with the Red Devils.

Arriving in 1991, Schmeichel was physically intimidating figure – he was so big that he wore specially made XXXL jerseys! Never one to mince his words, the Dane was known for barking orders and organising the backline.

Schmeichel kept 129 clean sheets in 310 league appearances and could cover the entire goal with his trademark “star jump”. It was also not unusual for him to go forward for a corner if his team was behind – having scored for United at the last minute to draw 2-2 with Rotor Volgograd in the 1995 UEFA Cup (Europa League) match.

He joined Aston Villa in 2001 and became the first EPL goalkeeper to score in a 3-2 defeat to Everton. Schmeichel also played for Manchester City where he was unbeaten against United.

Mark Bosnich

An excellent penalty shot-stopper, Australian goalkeeper Mark Bosnich played for Aston Villa, United and Chelsea during his EPL career. In total, he only kept 74 clean sheets in 206 appearances.

Establishing himself with Villa in the 1993-94 season, Bosnich stopped three penalties in their League Cup semi-final shootout and five from open play that season. He was hailed as one of the best after helping Villa to fourth in the league and a League Cup win in 1996, but was fined by FA for showing a Nazi salute to Spurs fans.

Moving to United in 1999, Bosnich started bright enough to win a league medal in his first season – most notably saving a Juninho penalty. But inconsistency and the signing of Barthez meant he never played after 2000 for United.

After his 2001 transfer to Chelsea, the Australian was plagued by injuries and fitness problem and was most notably mocked for being a waste of money. He was sacked by the club in 2002 for failing a drugs test and served a nine-month suspension.

Manuel Almunia

Easily one of the worst keepers between the sticks for Arsenal, Manuel Almunia was signed in 2004 as backup to Jens Lehmann. Despite his highly inconsistent displays, the Spaniard won the 2005 FA Cup with the Gunners.

Almunia’s Jekyll and Hyde tendencies meant that he had to wait until 2008 before he was trusted with the number one shirt.

Even then, he continued to frustrate his manager and fans alike. In the 2010 match with West Brom, Almunia conceded and saved a penalty only to let a tame shot slipped through his near post. West Brom won the match 2-3 with Almunia out of position for their third.

Subsequently, the Spanish goalkeeper was injured and found himself third choice – behind Lukas Fabianski and Wojciech Szczesny. He signed for Watford in 2012 and retired with 43 shutouts in 109 EPL appearances.


Massimo Taibi

Little is known about former United keeper Massimo Taibi, and if United fans have their way, they would erase all record of the Italian signing from Venezia.

The 1999 £4.5 million signing was supposed to be their backup keeper, but was thrusted into the limelight with injures to Bosnich and Raimond van der Gouw.

In his debut against Liverpool, the Blind Venetian flapped at a free kick allowing opposing defender Sami Hyypia to score. While he recovered in that game, Taibi’s blundering streak continued as he allowed Southampton’s Matt Le Tissier to score.

He played only four more games for United, featuring in a 5-0 defeat to Chelsea which was their first league loss in a year, before leaving for Reggina with no clean sheet at all!

Heurelho Gomes

Brazilian goalie Heurelho Gomes came to Tottenham Hotspur from PSV in 2008 with great expectations. Known for his outstanding reflexes and long throws, he helped the Dutch club to their first Champions League semis in fourteen attempts and four league titles.

However, his time at Spurs is another story all together.

Despite being brilliant in the draw away to Chelsea, Gomes was subsequently so poor that he kept Spurs in the relegation zone because of errors against Villa and Fulham. As a result, goalkeeping coach Han Leitert was given the sack.

Gomes regained some form after making a return from injury in the 2009-10 season and was compared to England goalkeeping legend Gordon Banks for saving two out of three penalties in a 3-1 away defeat at Sunderland.

But disastrous displays in their 2011 Champions League second leg exit to Real and against Chelsea, Gomes spilled Ronaldo and Frank Lampard’s shots respectively, meant the club was forced to sign a replacement in veteran Brad Friedel.

He left on loan to Hoffenheim before signing for Watford in 2014. He managed 53 clean sheets in 186 EPL appearances.

Roy Carroll

Most remembered for “the goal that never was” against Spurs, Roy Carroll was signed by United as a backup to Barthez in 2001. The Northern Irish goalie won the league title and a FA Cup during his time with United.

In a 2005 match against Spurs, Carroll blatantly scooped back into play a halfway line shot by midfielder Pedro Mendes when it was clear that it was over the line. The goal was not given and he got away with it.

But the former Wigan player wasn’t so lucky in the 1-0 defeat to Milan – spilling a shot into the path of opposing striker Hernan Crespo who scored. He was released in 2005 and moved to West Ham – bizarrely injuring his knee in training while collecting balls from his goal.

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