After 70+ years of goalkeepers being overlooked – with one notable exception – France Football has finally come up with a way to give the unsung heroes of the football world the respect they deserve.
Only once in the long history of the Ballon d’Or been given to a goalkeeper, with Dynamo Moscow’s Lev Yashin the last to get his gloves on the coveted trophy in 1963.
In a bid to fix that, the 2019 ceremony will see keepers separated from outfield players for the first time, instead contesting their own award – with the first ever Yachine Trophy set to be handed to the best between the sticks in 2019.
The award will be handed out on December 2nd, but as we just just a month out from when the contenders will be named on October 21st, we’ve had a pop at predicting what the rankings will be.
7) Wuilker Faríñez
Kicking things off with an outside bet, if there was a goalkeepers’ equivalent of the Kopa trophy then Faríñez would be a shoe-in, such have been the 21-year-old’s impressive performances over the last 12 months.
By far and away the outstanding keeper in Colombia where he plies his trade for Millonarios, the Venezuelan was linked with Barcelona this summer after an incredible Copa America campaign that put him well and truly on the map. He made four key saves against Peru and kept Brazil at bay in a group stage that saw his side concede just once.
They eventually succumbed to a Lionel Messi-inspired Argentina in the knockout stages, and while it’s not at all likely Faríñez takes the trophy this time around, he looks sure to be one of the names at the head of the shortlist down the line.
6) Kepa Arrizabalaga
The tag of ‘world’s most expensive goalkeeper’ is a heavy one to wear, but although some questions were asked about his early form at Chelsea – not helped on by one or two shaky moments and that EFL Cup final spat with Maurizio Sarri – he has slowly established himself as one of the Premier League’s top keepers.
He helped inspire Chelsea to Europa League success which carries some weight as far as award season is concerned, and the fact that he has ousted the previously immutable David de Gea as Spain’s first choice won’t have hurt his cause either.
5) André Onana
There were no shortage of stars of the show throughout Ajax’s historic 2018/19 campaign, a season that saw them storm to a domestic double and make the Champions League semi-finals – a Lucas Moura late show the only thing separating them from the chance at an unprecedented treble.
Right in the mix for every minute of it – bar two games – was 23-year-old André Onana, who graduated from a promising youngster to establish himself as one of the top keepers in Europe.
Similar to Faríñez, there are more established names whose pedigree is likely to place them higher, but Onana is yet to even hit his peak, so he’ll be up there in the years ahead.
4) Jan Oblak
The man plenty in Spain would argue is the best in the business at present, Oblak endured what you might call an average season at club level – well, on the trophy front at least.
In terms of his individual displays, he showed exactly why he’s rated as highly as he is, conceding just 29 goals in La Liga and four in nine Champions League appearances.
In virtually any other goalkeeping climate he’d be the top dog, but the competition here is beyond fierce.
3) Marc-André ter Stegen
As much as it was a reasonably ‘meh’ season for Barcelona, having to ultimately settle for just the La Liga trophy and Champions League semi-final, absolutely no blame lies at the feet of their German stopper.
The 27-year-old has been one of the most consistent players on the planet recently, his performances far belying the statistics even though he kept 23 clean sheets in his 43 appearances in 2018/19. He’s not yet Germany’s number one, but as the influence of Manuel Neuer wanes, he will be before too long.
The idea of a sweeper keeper functioning effectively in the Premier League seemed like a myth before Ederson came along, taking to Pep Guardiola’s high-intensity keep-the-ball-at-all-costs system like a duck to water.
His influence between the sticks played no small part in Manchester City winning every domestic trophy they contested, falling just two short of their own record 100-point tally. In doing so, he conceded just 23 goals – which was bettered only by…
1) Alisson Becker
Yep, the man that Ederson himself has admitted is the absolute best in the world at present. The Brazilian came into a Liverpool defence already much-improved thanks to the arrival of Virgil van Dijk, but took it to even loftier heights as the Reds completed their transformation into a defensive powerhouse.
His stats were, quite frankly, preposterous. He kept a clean sheet in more than half of his 53 games in all competitions, and kept almost as many in the Premier League (21) as he did concede goals (22). As a standalone season, Alisson’s 2018/19 is the modern benchmark for keepers.
Lev Yashin was a goalkeeper known above all else for his presence in goal and quickness of his line, attributes that Alisson does justice more than anyone else on this list. We really should just give him the award now and save ourselves the hassle.