The 12 Greatest Sweeper-Keepers of All Time - Ranked

Mitchell Wilks
German DFB Pokal"FC Schalke 04 v Bayern Munchen"
German DFB Pokal"FC Schalke 04 v Bayern Munchen" / ANP Sport/Getty Images

The phrase 'sweeper-keeper' is often attributed to Manuel Neuer in modern times, with the German famously emerging as one of the greatest goalkeepers of the last decade thanks his aggressive and innovative style of play.

Now 34, Neuer has a lot to look back on, but still shows no signs of giving up his dominance anytime soon. The German has just signed a new deal with Bayern Munich to keep him at the club until 2023, which is testament to how important he has been to them since signing in 2011.

Despite his reputation, however, it's important to note that Neuer isn't alone in being a top sweeper-keeper. Many have adopted the style in recent years due to his hand in popularising it once more, but there were also many greats before him opting for the outlandish approach.

So, with that in mind, here's a list of the best sweeper-keepers to ever set foot on the pitch and in between the sticks...and out of their 18-yard box, quite a lot.

12. Rene Higuita


Famous for the ridiculous 'scorpion kick' he pulled off in a friendly against England in 1995, opting to clear a cross by hurling his legs over the back of his head instead of catching the incoming ball.

Bagging 41 goals in his career as a goalkeeper, Higuita was somewhat ahead of his time. He played a high-risk and eccentric game in goal, completely different to most other goalkeepers in the 80s and 90s.

11. Jorge Campos

FBL-MEX-GER-MEXICO86-FRANCE98 / AFP Contributor/Getty Images

The man with one of the greatest football wardrobes ever, Jorge Campos was an incredible anomaly within the game.

Predominantly a goalkeeper and known for his wildly-styled jerseys, Campos was sometimes deployed as a striker during his career due to his incredible athleticism and versatility. Despite standing at just 5'6, his athletic ability and unorthodox style saw him flourish regardless.

10. Rogerio Ceni

Sao Paulo v Bahia - Brasileirao Series A 2014
Sao Paulo v Bahia - Brasileirao Series A 2014 / Alexandre Schneider/Getty Images

This one's for the FIFA Ultimate Team players.

Rogerio Ceni made a career out of being a set-piece specialist, which has somewhat overshadowed his abilities between the sticks. He scored 131 goals in a stunning 25-year career at Sao Paulo before retiring in 2015, and is considered one of Brazil's greatest goalkeepers.

His free-kick ability was incredible, but his goalkeeping traits were just as good; an excellent shot-stopper who was just as good with the ball at his feet. An underappreciated sweeper-keeper.

9. Gianluigi Buffon

Juventus FC v ACF Fiorentina - Serie A
Juventus FC v ACF Fiorentina - Serie A / Marco Luzzani/Getty Images

One of the greatest to ever do it, Buffon has enjoyed an incredible career and still plays at the top level now at 42 years old.

He's recognised in more recent times for his consistency and longevity, but in his prime, Buffon was a keen sweeper-keeper and impressive at snuffing out any danger that came with the high defensive lines in front of him. Excellent reader of the game and great with his feet.

8. Edwin van der Sar

Bolton Wanderers v Manchester United - Premier League
Bolton Wanderers v Manchester United - Premier League / Alex Livesey/Getty Images

Manchester United's only regret with Edwin van der Sar must be that they should have purchased him sooner to replace Peter Schmeichel.

The Dutchman signed for United aged 34, but played like someone in their prime. An incredibly intelligent keeper, Van der Sar also started attacks with his pinpoint passing and excelled in one-on-one situations, particularly early on in his career.

7. Peter Schmeichel

Peter Schmeichel of Manchester United
Peter Schmeichel of Manchester United / Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

The debate of who is the best goalkeeper to ever play for Manchester United will never truly be settled, but the bar was set incredibly high after Peter Schmeichel's reign with the Red Devils.

One of the greatest keepers of all time, the 'Great Dane' was an intimidating figure who filled the goal. His size was matched by terrifying speed, which saw him excel in one-on-ones and pull off some ridiculous stops. He was also competent with the ball at his feet however, and would start countless attacks with his distribution.

A fierce keeper who wouldn't shy away from any challenge, he bagged 11 goals in his career.

6. Gyula Grosics


Who was the man responsible for a playing style that's revolutionised football? Gyula Grosics.

Thought to be the first player to ever play as a sweeper-keeper, Grosics was a part of Hungary's 'Golden Team' of the 1950s. Playing mostly in his home country, he won gold at the Olympics with his national team in 1952 and is credited with the aggressive style of play, challenging opposition players high up the pitch and encouraging them to miss the goal.

5. Alisson Becker

Liverpool FC v West Ham United - Premier League
Liverpool FC v West Ham United - Premier League / Robbie Jay Barratt - AMA/Getty Images

One of many talented Brazilian keepers, Alisson has been a revelation since moving to Liverpool in 2018.

The 27-year-old is one of the best keepers in the world currently, and has been instrumental in Liverpool's improved form in the last few years.

Quick off his line and incredible with the ball at his feet, there's nothing that would stop Alisson plying his trade outfield. He's that good.

4. Ederson

Real Madrid v Manchester City - UEFA Champions League Round of 16: First Leg
Real Madrid v Manchester City - UEFA Champions League Round of 16: First Leg / DeFodi Images/Getty Images

The man who jostles with Alisson for the title of Premier League's best goalkeeper and Brazil's number one spot is Ederson, currently of Manchester City.

Signing for Pep Guardiola's City in 2017, Ederson was tasked with stepping up to the plate and being their new number one sweeper-keeper, a title that Joe Hart and Claudio Bravo couldn't live up to.

Since then, he's developed into one of the best in the world - his ability with the ball at his feet is incredible. He edges ahead of Alisson here, as he plays in a Guardiola side that allows him to be on the ball more often.

3. Marc-André ter Stegen

FC Barcelona v Real Sociedad  - La Liga
FC Barcelona v Real Sociedad - La Liga / Eric Alonso/MB Media/Getty Images

The German is the man responsible for keeping Manuel Neuer out of the national team these days, since developing into arguably the best keeper in the world at Barcelona.

Ter Stegen is a formidable sweeper-keeper who reads the game competently and can pull off some outstanding stops. He's confident with both feet, and is the poster boy for 'total football' at Barça.

At just 28, he's got loads in the tank as he begins to reach the peak of his abilities.

2. Lev Yashin

Lev Yashin
Lev Yashin / Central Press/Getty Images

Widely considered as the greatest goalkeeper ever, Lev Yashin remains the only keeper ever to win a Ballon d'Or.

The Soviet shot-stopper revolutionised the game, asserting himself as the authority on the pitch from his goal during a 20-year career with Dynamo Moscow, from 1950 to 1970.

Yashin revolutionised the position and the role of the goalkeeper from someone who would only perform when called into action, into a core part of any team, making inspiring saves, pushing his defence up and barking out orders from the back. He had it all.

1. Manuel Neuer

While Ter Stegen waits to dethrone Neuer at the top, he isn't quite there yet.

The man responsible for popularising the role of the sweeper-keeper once more, Neuer has become known for his audacious dashes off the line to clear the ball high up the pitch. While this has backfired on occasion, high risk equals high reward - for the most part.

Neuer is undoubtedly in the conversation of the greatest goalkeepers of all time, and his ability during his peak years has been vital to success for club and country.

Now the captain of Bayern Munich, it will be interesting to see how much longer the German can stay at the top level as age and injuries catch up with him, and with young Alexander Nübel joining the Bavarian giants from Schalke.