Goalkeeper , often shortened to keeper or goalie , is one of the major positions of association football . It is the most specialised position in the sport. The goalkeeper's primary role is to prevent the opposing team from successfully moving the ball over the defended goal-line (between the posts and under the crossbar). This is accomplished by the goalkeeper moving into the path of the ball and either catching it or directing it away from the vicinity of the goal line. Within the penalty area goalkeepers are able to use their hands, making them (outside throw-ins ) the only players on the field permitted to handle the ball. The only time when a goalkeeper is not allowed to use their hands inside their box is when a field player of their own team does a direct pass. The most common way to know that it is a direct pass, and not an indirect pass, is when the field player has control of the ball. Goalkeepers are allowed to pick up the ball during an indirect hit from a teammate (headers, chest, knee thigh, and when the ball bounces off the player). Goalkeepers usually perform goal kicks , and also give commands to their defense during corner kicks , direct and indirect free kicks , and marking . Goalkeepers play an important role in directing on field strategy as they have an unrestricted view of the entire pitch , giving them a unique perspective on play development. If an attacker on the opposing team obstructs the keeper from catching or saving the ball, for example, in a corner, it will normally be a free kick.

If a goalkeeper is injured or sent off , a substitute goalkeeper has to take their place, otherwise an outfield player must take the ejected keeper's place in goal. In order to replace a goalkeeper who is sent off, a team usually substitutes an outfield player for the backup keeper (thus effectively the red card and substitution takes out two of the starting eleven players). They then play the remainder of the match with nine outfield players. If a team does not have a substitute goalkeeper, or they have already used all of their permitted substitutions for the match, an outfield player has to take the dismissed goalkeeper's place and wear the goalkeeper shirt.

Goalkeepers often have longer playing careers than outfield players, many not retiring until their late thirties or early forties. This can be explained by noting that goalkeepers play a less physically demanding position that requires significantly less running. For example, Peter Shilton played for 31 years between 1966 and 1997 before retiring at the age of 47. Another explanation of this is that due to the nature of this position, goalkeepers use their experience more often than field players.

The squad number for a first choice goalkeeper is generally number 1, as the goalkeeper is the first player in a line-up, and is also the only position on the field that is required to be occupied. [41] Although this is common, some goalkeepers now wear other numbers when in goal.


Association football, like many sports, has experienced many changes in tactics resulting in the generation and elimination of different positions. Goalkeeper is the only position that is certain to have existed since the codification of the sport. Even in the early days of organised football, when systems were limited or non-existent and the main idea was for all players to attack and defend, teams had a designated member to play as the goalkeeper.

The earliest account of football teams with player positions comes from Richard Mulcaster in 1581 and does not specify goalkeepers. The earliest specific reference to keeping goal comes from Cornish Hurling in 1602. According to Carew: "they pitch two bushes in the ground, some eight or ten foot asunder; and directly against them, ten or twelve score off, other twayne in like distance, which they term their Goals. One of these is appointed by lots, to the one side, and the other to his adverse party. There is assigned for their guard, a couple of their best stopping Hurlers". [9] Other references to scoring goals begin in English literature in the early 16th century; for example, in John Day 's play The Blind Beggar of Bethnal Green (performed circa 1600; published 1659): "I'll play a gole at camp-ball " (an extremely violent variety of football, popular in East Anglia ). Similarly, in a 1613 poem, Michael Drayton refers to "when the Ball to throw, And drive it to the Gole, in squadrons forth they goe". It seems inevitable that wherever a game has evolved goals, some form of goalkeeping must also be developed. David Wedderburn refers to what has been translated from Latin as to "keep goal" in 1633, though this does not necessarily imply a fixed goalkeeper position.

Initially, goalkeepers typically played between the goalposts and had limited mobility, except when trying to save opposition shots. Throughout the years, goalkeeping has evolved, due to the changes in systems of play, to be a more active role. The goalkeeper is the only player in association football allowed to use their hands to control the ball (other than during throw-ins). The original Laws of the Game permitted goalkeepers to handle the ball anywhere in their half of the pitch . This was revised in 1912, restricting use of the hands by the goalkeeper to the penalty area .

Due to several time-wasting techniques which were used by goalkeepers, such as bouncing the ball on the ground or throwing it in the air and then catching it again, in the 1960s, the Laws of the game were revised further, and the goalkeeper was given a maximum of four steps to travel while holding, bouncing or throwing the ball in the air and catching it again, without having to release it into play. The FIFA Board later also devised an anti-parrying rule, saying that such deliberate parrying for the purpose of evading the Law was to be regarded also as holding the ball. [42]

In 1992, the International Football Association Board made changes in the laws of the game that affected goalkeepers – notably the back-pass rule , which prohibits goalkeepers from handling the ball when receiving a deliberate pass from a teammate that is made with their feet. This rule change was made to discourage time-wasting and overly defensive play after the 1990 FIFA World Cup which was described as exceedingly dull, rife with back-passing and goalkeepers holding the ball. Also, goalkeepers would frequently drop the ball and dribble it around, only to pick it up again once opponents came closer to put them under pressure, a typical time-wasting technique. Therefore, another rule was introduced at the same time as the back-pass rule. This rule prohibits the goalkeeper from handling the ball again once he or she has released it for play; an offence results in an indirect free kick to the opposition. Furthermore any player negating the spirit of the new rule would be likely to be cautioned for unsporting behaviour and punished by an indirect free-kick. [42]

On 1 July 1997, FIFA decided to extend the back-pass rule by applying it also to throw-ins from defenders to their own goalkeeper; in order to prevent further time-wasting, FIFA also established that if a goalkeeper holds the ball for more than five or six seconds the referee must adjudge this as time-wasting and award an indirect free-kick to the opposing team. [42]

General play and technique

A goalkeeper being charged by a rival player (1905).

The goalkeeper position is the most specialised of all positions on the field. Unlike other players, goalkeepers may touch the ball with any part of their body while in their own penalty area . Outside their penalty area, goalkeepers have the same restrictions as other players.

Goalkeepers routinely perform extension dives. To execute this, they push off the ground with the foot nearest to the ball, launching themselves into a horizontal position. At this point, the ball may be caught or pushed away. In the latter case, a good goalkeeper will attempt to ensure that the rebound cannot be taken by a player of the opposite team, although this is not always possible.


The tactical responsibilities of goalkeepers include:

  • To keep goal by physically blocking attempted shots with any part of their body. The keeper is permitted to play the ball anywhere on the field, but may not handle the ball using their hands outside the penalty area.
  • To organise the team's defenders during defensive set pieces such as free kicks and corners. In the case of free kicks, this includes picking the numbers and the organisation of a defensive man "wall". The wall serves to provide a physical barrier to the incoming ball, but some goalkeepers position their wall in a certain position to tempt the kick-taker to a certain type of shot. Occasionally, goalkeepers may opt to dispense with the wall. Some goalkeepers are also entrusted with the responsibility of picking markers while defending at set pieces.
  • To pick out crosses and attempted long passes either by punching them clear or collecting them in flight.

Although goalkeepers have special privileges, including the ability to handle the ball in the penalty area, they are otherwise subject to the same rules as any other player.

Goalkeepers in playmaking and attack

Goalkeepers are not required to stay in the penalty area; they may get involved in play anywhere on the pitch, and it is common for them to act as an additional defender (or 'sweeper') during certain passages of the game. Goalkeepers with a long throwing range or accurate long-distance kicks may be able to quickly create attacking positions for a team and generate goal-scoring chances from defensive situations, a tactic known as the long ball .


Gyula Grosics from the Hungary " Golden Team " of the 1950s was thought to be the first goalkeeper to play as the 'sweeper-keeper'. The rushing playing style used by Liverpool legend Bruce Grobbelaar seen during the 1980s–90s makes him one of the original sweeper-keepers of the modern era. René Higuita was another who became known for his unorthodox, skilful but sometimes reckless techniques. [43] As of 2011, Manuel Neuer has been described as a sweeper-keeper due to his speed and unique style of play which occasionally includes him acting as a sweeper for his team by rushing off his line to anticipate opposing forwards who have beaten the offside trap . [6] [7] With his excellent ball control and distribution, which enables him to start plays from the back, [6] [7] he has said he could play in the German third division as a centre-back if he wanted to. [44] [45] Hugo Lloris of Tottenham Hotspur and France , and former goalkeepers Fabien Barthez and Edwin van der Sar , have also been described as sweeper-keepers, [46] while Claudio Bravo has even been described as a playmaker . [47]


A goalkeeper making a save

Some goalkeepers have scored goals . Other than by accident when a long kicked clearance reaches the other end of the field and evades the opposing goalkeeper with the aid of strong winds and/or unexpected bounces, this most commonly occurs where a goalkeeper has rushed up to the opposite end of the pitch to give his team a numerical advantage in attack, leaving his own goal undefended. As such, it is normally only done late in a game at set-pieces where the consequences of scoring far outweigh those of conceding a further goal, such as for a team trailing in a knock-out tournament.

Some goalkeepers, such as Higuita, Rogério Ceni , Hans-Jörg Butt and José Luis Chilavert , are also expert set-piece takers. These players may take their team's attacking free kicks or penalties . Ceni, São Paulo 's long-time custodian, has scored 100 goals in his career, more than many outfield players. [8]

Equipment and attire

Goalkeepers must wear kit that distinguishes them clearly from other players and match officials, as this is all that the FIFA Laws of the Game require. Some goalkeepers have received recognition for their match attire, like Lev Yashin of the Soviet Union , who was nicknamed the "Black Spider" for his distinctive all-black outfit; Klaus Lindenberger of Austria , who designed his own variation of a clown 's costume; Jorge Campos of Mexico , who was popular for his colourful attire; Raul Plassman of Cruzeiro Esporte Clube and his all-yellow outfit; and Gábor Király for wearing a pair of grey tracksuit bottoms instead of shorts.

Although it was initially more common for goalkeepers to wear long-sleeved jerseys, recently several goalkeepers, such as Gianluigi Buffon , have also been known to wear short-sleeves. [9] [49] [50] [9]

Most goalkeepers also wear gloves to improve their grip on the ball, and to protect themselves from injury. Some gloves now include rigid plastic spines down each finger to help prevent injuries such as jammed and sprained fingers. Though gloves are not mandatory attire, it is uncommon for goalkeepers to opt against them due to the advantages they offer. At UEFA Euro 2004 , Portuguese goalkeeper Ricardo famously took off his gloves for the quarter-final penalty shoot-out against England . He then went on to score a penalty in sudden death before saving Darius Vassell 's penalty to win it for the Portuguese.

Common injuries

Lower and upper extremity injuries are very common and vary from cartilage tears , anterior cruciate ligaments (ACL) , and knee sprains . In general, goalkeepers can incur any injury that their outfield counterparts are also vulnerable to. The main exception to this guideline is that goalkeepers, as they run much less than outfield players, very rarely fall victim to fatigue-related injuries, such as leg cramps , pulled hamstrings , and dehydration . [9]


Australian goalkeeper Mathew Ryan playing with his feet.
Rogério Ceni is the highest-scoring goalkeeper of all time, with over 100 career goals.
Liverpool F.C. team photo prior to their UEFA Europa League clash against FC Gomel . Note the differing attire of goalkeeper Brad Jones with that of the rest of his teammates.

Goalkeepers are crucial in penalty shoot-outs. The record for most penalties saved in a shoot-out is held by Helmuth Duckadam of Steaua București . Duckadam defended four consecutive penalties in the 1986 European Cup Final against Barcelona . [9] Stefano Tacconi is the only goalkeeper to have won all official Club Competitions. [9]

José Luis Chilavert is the only goalkeeper to score a hat-trick (three goals in a game), doing so through penalty kicks . He also was a free kick expert. Rogério Ceni has scored the most goals for a goalkeeper, having scored his 100th goal in official games on 27 March 2011. Ceni scored his goals through free kicks and penalty kicks. [9]

Buffon is the only goalkeeper to have won the UEFA Club Footballer of the Year Award . [9] Oliver Kahn holds the record for most UEFA Best Club Goalkeeper and Best European Goalkeeper Awards, with four. [9] Casillas holds the record for most appearances by a goalkeeper in the FIFPro World XI , and in the UEFA Team of the Year ; he also holds the record for the most IFFHS World's Best Goalkeeper Awards, winning the Award for five consecutive years between 2008–2012. [9] Casillas also holds the record for the most clean-sheets in UEFA Champions League history. [9]

At international level, Dino Zoff is the goalkeeper who has remained unbeaten for the longest period of time, [9] whilst Walter Zenga holds the record for the longest unbeaten run in a FIFA World Cup tournament, as he went unbeaten for 517 minutes in the 1990 edition of the tournament. Gianluigi Buffon , Fabien Barthez and Iker Casillas hold the record for least goals conceded by a winning goalkeeper in a World Cup tournament, only conceding two goals and leading their team to victory, as they were also awarded the Yashin Award for best keeper. Gianluigi Buffon is also the only World Cup winning goalkeeper not to have conceded a goal in open play throughout the whole tournament (one goal coming from an own goal after a free-kick, and the second from a penalty). Fabien Barthez and Peter Shilton hold the record for most clean sheets in World Cup matches, with 10 clean sheets each.

Pascal Zuberbühler holds the record for least goals conceded by a goalkeeper in a World Cup tournament and holds the record for most successive matches at an international tournament without conceding (five games), he did not concede a goal in 463 minutes of World Cup games against hard shots from France, South Korea, and Togo as his team lost in the last 16 on penalties against Ukraine. Pascal Zuberbühler made Switzerland the only team in the history of the tournament not to concede a goal in normal time. Tim Howard holds the record for most saves made in a FIFA World Cup match, with 16 saves against Belgium in the Round of 16 of the 2014 FIFA World Cup . Oliver Kahn is the only goalkeeper to have won the Adidas Golden Ball for the best player of the tournament in a World Cup; Lev Yashin is the only goalkeeper to have won the Ballon d'Or . Gianluca Pagliuca of Italy became the first goalkeeper to be sent off in a World Cup Finals match, dismissed for handling outside his area against Norway in 1994 . His team went on to win 1–0 and reached the final before losing to Brazil in a penalty shoot-out, in which he became the first goalkeeper ever to stop a penalty in a final shoot-out.

Iker Casillas holds both the record for fewest goals conceded in a European Championship (1) and the record for longest unbeaten run at a European Championship, beating the previous record held by Dino Zoff. [20] He also holds the records for most international clean sheets (74) by a male goalkeeper beating the previous record held by Edwin van der Sar (72). [21] Buffon holds the record for most minutes without conceding a goal in European Championship Qualifying matches , going 644 minutes without conceding a goal. [22]

The overall record for the most international clean sheets is held by US goalkeeper Hope Solo , who became the first goalkeeper to reach 100 clean sheets at international level in 2016.

Highest fees

As of June 2017, the most expensive goalkeeper of all time was Gianluigi Buffon following his 2001 51.646 million (100 billion lire) transfer to Juventus from Parma . [52] [53] [23] Ederson Moraes is, however, the most expensive goalkeeper in history in pounds sterling, following his £35 million transfer (€40 million) to Manchester City in 2017. [54]

Player From To Fee ( £ ) Fee ( ) Year
Oliver Kahn , the first and only goalkeeper to win the FIFA World Cup Golden Ball award.
Gianluigi Buffon [52] [55]
Lev Yashin , the first and only goalkeeper to win the Ballon d'Or .
Gianluigi Buffon is the world's most expensive goalkeeper, moving from Parma to Juventus for €52 million, and is the only goalkeeper to have been named UEFA Club Footballer of the Year .
£33m 51.646m 2001
Hope Solo holds the record for most international cleansheets by any goalkeeper, both male and female.
Ederson Moraes [60]
Benfica Manchester City £35m €40m 2017
Jordan Pickford [61] [62] Sunderland Everton £25m 2017
Francesco Toldo [63] Fiorentina Internazionale €28.405m 2001
Manuel Neuer [65] Schalke 04 Bayern Munich £19m €24m 2011
David de Gea [23] Atlético Madrid Manchester United £18m €22m 2011
Angelo Peruzzi Internazionale Lazio €20.658m 2000
Sébastien Frey [63] Internazionale Parma €20.658m 2001
Samir Handanović [28] [67] Udinese Internazionale €19m 2012
Claudio Bravo [68] Barcelona Manchester City €18m 2016
Ivan Pelizzoli [69] Atalanta Roma €17.043m 2001
Jan Oblak [73] [74] Benfica Atlético Madrid £12.6m €16m 2014
Angelo Peruzzi [75] Juventus Internazionale €14.461m 1999
Petr Čech Chelsea Arsenal £10m €13.9m 2015
Fraser Forster [27] Celtic Southampton £10m €12.5m 2014
Wojciech Szczęsny [76] Arsenal Juventus €12.2m 2017
Marc-André ter Stegen [27] [77] Borussia Mönchengladbach Barcelona £9.7m €12m 2014
Claudio Bravo [43] [43] Real Sociedad Barcelona £9.7m €12m 2014
Asmir Begović [43] Chelsea Bournemouth £10m 2017
Simon Mignolet [43] Sunderland Liverpool £9m €10.5m 2013

See also


  1. Part of the fees was paid via the transfer of Jonathan Bachini to Parma [57] for a total of 100 billion lire; the fixed exchange rate of lira to euro was 1936.27 lire to 1 euro. [58]
  2. £25m plus £5m bonuses [62]
  3. 55 billion lire; Toldo and Rui Costa were originally signed by Parma for a total of 140 billion lire; [64] they were re-sold from Parma to Inter and Milan respectively after the two players refused to join Parma
  4. Reported figure
  5. 40 billion lire. Part of the transfer fee paid via the transfer of Marco Ballotta to Inter for 7 billion lire. [66]
  6. Much part of the fees was paid via the transfer of Sérgio Conceição to Inter (32 billion lire) for a total of 40 billion lire
  7. Reported figure, if including other fee was €19.4m. Part of the transfer fee was paid via the transfer of Davide Faraoni to Udinese for €8 million. At the same time, both Udinese and Inter bought back 50% registration rights for half of the nominal fee (reported €9.5m and €4m respectively), as co-ownership . On 19 June 2013, Handanović and Faraoni were acquired by their new clubs for undisclosed fees.
  8. €18m plus €2m in bonuses
  9. 33 billion lire. Part of the transfer fee paid via the transfer of Alessandro Rinaldi to Atalanta (for 6 billion lire) [70] [72]
  10. 28 billion lire
  11. €12.2m plus €3.1m in bonuses