May 5th, 2012 by darren
Lev Yashin, known fondly as “The Black Spider” will feature on most people’s shortlist as the best goalkeeper in the history of football. Whilst there may not not be a hotly-debated rival in the same way as the debate between, say, Maradona and Pele, we will , in the weeks and months ahead, take a look at a number of other keepers who may have a valid claim to the title of the world’s best goalkeeper ever.
Yashin’s 22 year long career with Dynamo Moscow started in the youth set up and an inauspicious senior debut for them in 1950, conceding a poor goal in the game. The mistake set his career back and he didn’t play another senior game again for another 3 years. Yashin’s career then took off and he helped Dynamo Moscow win the Soviet League 5 times, finish runners up 6 times and win the Soviet Cup 3 times. He played his last club match for Dynamo Moscow in 1971.
At international level, Yashin received early recognition and made his debut for the USSR in 1954. He played his part in the USSR winning the European Championship in 1960 and he played in 3 successive World Cups in 1958, 1962 and 1966.
His personal accomplishments include being recognised as the best goalkeeper of the 20th century, by the International Federation of Football History and Statistics. Most notably, he is the only goalkeeper to ever have been awarded the title of European Footballer of the Year, in 1963. He is attributed to have saved a remarkable 150 penalties during his career, a feat unmatched by any other goalkeeper in the history of the game. He kept an amazing 270 clean sheets in his long career,
It is interesting to look at the qualities that made him perhaps the world’s best goalkeeper ever, and typical of all great keepers he had a commanding, intimidating presence on the field and lightning reflexes. He demonstrated great athleticism in producing breathtaking, sometimes incredible saves on the field of play. Like Peter Schmeichel many years later, he was fond of drilling his defence by yelling orders at them and showed his leadership qualities through his organisation of his defenders. He showed innovation, and was one of the first keepers to clear the ball in difficult situations by punching it clear rather than trying to save it- a goalkeeping methodology popular with continental goalkeepers ever since.
Lev Yashin stands, for many fans and commentators of the beautiful game, peerless, in any discussion of the greatest goalkeepers the world has ever seen.