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Ben Hayward

Best goalkeepers of the 2000s

Italy's Gianluigi Buffon and Spain's Iker Casillas at the FIFA Confederations Cup in 2013.

Goalkeepers were hugely influential in the first decade of the new millennium.

At the 2002 World Cup, a goalkeeper won the Golden Ball for the tournament's standout player, even though that award should really have gone to Ronaldo.

In 2006, Italy conceded only twice en route to winning the World Cup for the fourth time, while a number of high-profile matches across the decade were settled on penalties – including the Champions League finals in 2001, 2003 and 2005.

Here, a look at the best goalkeepers in the world from 2000 to 2009...

32. Thomas Sorenson

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Thomas Sorenson succeeded the legendary Peter Schmeichel in goal for Denmark and went on to make over 100 appearances for his national team between 1999 and 2012.

Sorenson played for Sunderland, Aston Villa and Stoke City in the Premier League and was a starter for Denmark in the 2002 and 2010 World Cup campaigns.

31. Stipe Pletikosa

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Stipe Pletikosa played in five international tournaments for Croatia in a long international career which saw him win 114 caps between 1999 and 2014.

Pletikosa was also part of the team which shocked England in a 3-2 win at Wembley in 2008, which saw Croatia head to Euro 2008 as the Three Lions failed to qualify. He spent most of his career in Croatia, Ukraine and Russia, making a sole appearance for Tottenham on loan in 2010.

30. David James

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David James won 53 caps for England between 1997 and 2010 and became a better goalkeeper in the latter part of his career.

A starter at Euro 2004, he became the oldest World Cup debutant in 2010 at the age of almost 40 years old. He played for Aston Villa, West Ham, Manchester City and Portsmouth in the 2000s, helping the latter win the FA Cup in 2008.

29. Jerzy Dudek

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Jerzy Dudek will be forever in the hearts of Liverpool fans for his heroics in Istanbul on the night of May 25th, 2005.

After Liverpool had come back from three goals down in the Champions League final against AC Milan, the Polish goalkeeper made an extraordinary double save from Andriy Shevchenko in extra time and went on to stop two penalties in the shootout as the Reds claimed an incredible victory. Dudek later joined Real Madrid as back-up to Iker Casillas and won 60 caps for Poland.

28. Paul Robinson

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Paul Robinson was a fine goalkeeper for England in the mid-2000s but ultimately lost his place following a decline in form and confidence in 2007.

Robinson won 41 caps overall and was in goal for the Three Lions at the 2006 World Cup. He also scored two goals in his career – a header for Leeds against Swindon in 2004 and a free-kick from his own half for Tottenham versus Watford in 2007.

27. Roberto Abbondanzieri

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Roberto Abbondanzieri was in goal for Boca Juniors as the Buenos Aires-based club won a series of international honours in the early 2000s.

A three-time Copa Libertadores champion in 2000, 2001 and 2003, Abbondanzieri also helped Boca claim the Intercontinental Cup in 2000 and 2003, plus two Copas Sudamericana in 2004 and 2005. He won 46 caps for Argentina and was first choice at the 2006 World Cup, when he was taken off injured at 1-0 up in the South Americans' eventual loss to Germany on penalties.

26. Angelo Peruzzi

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Angelo Peruzzi only made nine appearances for Italy in the 2000s, but finished his international career with a World Cup winners' medal in 2006.

After a sole season at Inter, Peruzzi played at Lazio between 2000 and 2007 and was still one of the finest goalkeepers in Serie A. At the World Cup in Germany, he was back-up to Gianluigi Buffon.

25. Essam El-Hadary

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Essam El-Hadary won 159 caps for Egypt between 1996 and 2018 and is considered by some to be the greatest goalkeeper ever from Africa.

A four-time Africa Cup of Nations winner, El-Hadary was named as the tournament's best goalkeeper in 2006, 2008 and 2010. He was also best goalkeeper in the CAF Champions League on three occasions – in 2001, 2005 and 2006 – and won a string of honours for club side Al-Ahly.

24. Oswaldo Sanchez

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Oswaldo Sanchez won 99 caps for Mexico between 1996 and 2011 and is considered one of the greatest goalkeepers in the nation's history.

Sanchez won the CONCACAF Gold Cup with Mexico in 2003, was Golden Glove at the Confederations Cup in 2005 and won club titles with Chivas and Santos Laguna. In the mid-2000s, he was one of the best in the world.

23. Tim Howard

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Tim Howard is a legend for the United States men's national team, with 121 caps for the USA in a 15-year international career between 2002 and 2017.

A CONCACAF Gold Cup winner in 2007 and 2017, Howard was also a runner-up at the 2009 Confederations Cup. At club level, he made over 400 appearances for Everton and also had a spell at Manchester United.

22. Pepe Reina

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One of the best Spanish goalkeepers of his generation, Pepe Reina was part of the European Championship-winning squads of 2008 and 2012 and also at the 2010 World Cup.

At club level, he impressed at Villarreal before spending nine seasons at Liverpool from 2005 to 2014. He kept 20 clean sheets to win the Golden Glove in his first season and although he made mistakes in the 2006 FA Cup final against West Ham, he redeemed himself by saving three out of four penalties in the Reds' shootout win.

21. Shay Given

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Shay Given won 134 caps for the Republic of Ireland in a 20-year international career and is considered one of the greatest goalkeepers in the nation's history.

An agile, athletic goalkeeper with quick reflexes and good anticipation, Given is best known at club level for his spell at Newcastle United, where he made over 450 appearances between 1997 and 2009.

20. Rustu Recber

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Rustu Recber played 120 times for Turkey between 1994 and 2012 and was one of two goalkeepers in the 16-man team of the tournament at the 2002 World Cup, alongside Germany's Oliver Kahn.

Rustu had helped Turkey to third place in Japan and Korea. He was named as the best goalkeeper in European competitions that same year and Pele included him in his list of the greatest living footballers in 2004.

19. Ricardo 

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Ricardo won 79 caps for Portugal and all of those came in the 2000s – between 2001 and 2008.

At Euro 2004, he saved one penalty and scored the decisive spot-kick against England in the quarter-finals. At the World Cup two years later, he saved three penalties in a shootout as the Portuguese knocked out England again in the last eight.

18. Manuel Neuer

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Manuel Neuer's best years came later at Bayern Munich and as part of Germany's World Cup-winning team in 2014, but he was still a great goalkeeper in the 2000s.

Now regarded as one of the greatest goalkeepers in history, Neuer broke through in the 2006/07 season at Schalke and impressed in those early years. He made his Germany debut in 2009.

17. Rogerio Ceni

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One of the best Brazilian goalkeepers of his generation, Rogerio Ceni was also Sao Paulo's set-piece taker between 1997 and his retirement in 2015.

Ceni scored over 100 career goals for Sao Paulo in over 1,000 appearances for the club. He was part of the Brazil squad which won the 2002 World Cup. In total, he won 17 caps for his country.

16. David Seaman

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David Seaman won the last 20 of his 75 England caps in the early 2000s and was still a great goalkeeper in his final years – even if he is remembered for his mistake against Brazil in the World Cup quarter-finals in 2002.

Beaten by Ronaldinho's long-range free-kick as he expected a cross, Seaman was mortified. He retired from England duty that summer, but played on for two more seasons – one with Arsenal and another at Manchester City.

15. Marcos

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Although Claudio Taffarel and Dida both played more matches for Brazil, the starting goalkeeper for the South Americans' 2002 World Cup campaign was Marcos.

The (6 ft 4 in) 1.93m goalkeeper spent his entire career at Palmeiras and won 29 caps for Brazil between 1999 and 2005. He was named fourth best goalkeeper in the world by IFFHS in 2002.

14. Santiago Cañizares

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Santiago Cañizares was Valencia's goalkeeper for a decade between 1998 and 2008 and a key part of the club's success in that era.

Described as the best goalkeeper in the world by Peter Schmeichel in 2004, Cañizares won two La Liga titles with Valencia in the early 2000s and played in back-to-back Champions League finals in 2000 and 2001. He also won 46 caps for Spain.

13. Gregory Coupet

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Gregory Coupet was France's first-choice goalkeeper for much of the 2000s and the last line of defence for the successful Lyon side of that era.

With Lyon, he won seven Ligue 1 titles in a row and was named as the best goalkeeper in the competition on four occasions. Coupet won 34 caps for France, but was surprisingly left out of the team for the 2006 World Cup as Fabien Barthez returned in goal.

12. Antonios Nikopolidis

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Antonios Nikopolidis won 90 caps for Greece between 1999 and 2008 and was in goal for his nation's historic European Championship win in 2004.

Nikpolidis was instrumental in Greece's triumph, which was built on a solid defence, and he was named in the team of the tournament after keeping clean sheets against France, Czech Republic and hosts Portugal in the knockout stages. At club level, he won six Greek titles in the 2000s.

11. Julio Cesar

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One of the greatest Brazilian goalkeepers of all time, Julio Cesar was known for his rapid reflexes, his agility and his athleticism.

A penalty specialist, he saved a spot-kick from Andres d'Alessandro as Brazil beat Argentina in a shootout to win the 2004 Copa America and was first choice for Inter as the Nerazzurri won five Serie A titles in the second half of the 2000s, culminating in a treble triumph in 2009/10.

10. Jens Lehmann

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Jens Lehmann replaced two legends for club and country in David Seaman and Oliver Kahn – and he was an outstanding goalkeeper in his own right.

Lehmann was between the sticks for the Gunners in their Invincible Premier League season in 2003/04, after signing for Borussia Dortmund, and was first choice for Germany as they reached the World Cup semi-finals in 2006. In the penalty shootout against Argentina in the last eight, Lehmann went the right way every time and saved two. He also made several spectacular saves against Italy in the semi-finals.

9. Francesco Toldo

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Francesco Toldo was chosen to start for Italy at Euro 2000 after Gianluigi Buffon suffered an injury eight days before the tournament.

Toldo kept three clean sheets and saved three penalties in the semi-final win over the Netherlands – one in normal time and two in the shootout. He was named in the team of the tournament and won 28 caps for Italy overall. He was also Serie A goalkeeper of the year in 2000, while at Fiorentina. At Inter, he won a series of trophies following his move in 2001, although he was not first choice in his latter years.

8. Edwin van der Sar

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One of the most consistent goalkeepers of the 2000s, Edwin van der Sar won 130 caps for the Netherlands between 1995 and 2008.

Named European goalkeeper of the year in 2009, Van der Sar won a series of trophies as a Manchester United player – including the Champions League in 2008 – and was one of the best of his generation.

7. Dida

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Dida was AC Milan's goalkeeper through most of the 2000s and was part of two Champions League-winning teams for the Rossoneri in 2003 and 2007.

Named second best goalkeeper in the world by IFFHS in 2005 and third best in 2004, Dida won 91 caps for Brazil and was a World Cup winner in 2002, although he did not play a single minute in Japan and South Korea.

6. Victor Valdes

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Victor Valdes did not play for Spain until 2010 and was only a back-up option when he did, but he was one of the best goalkeepers in the world throughout the 2000s.

Valdes made a number of key saves as Barcelona beat Arsenal in Paris to win the Champions League in 2006. Strong with his feet as well as making saves, he was important in initiating attacks under Pep Guardiola as the goalkeeper in possibly the greatest club side of all time, winning the treble in 2008/09.

5. Petr Cech

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Petr Cech was one of the best goalkeepers in the world for most of the 2000s and the Czech won a series of trophies in an 11-year spell at Chelsea.

Named by IFFHS as the world's best goalkeeper in 2005, Cech was European goalkeeper of the year in 2005, 2007 and 2008. He was also part of the successful Czech Republic side which reached the semi-finals of Euro 2004.

4. Fabien Barthez

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Fabien Barthez started off the 2000s by helping France follow up their 1998 World Cup win with the title at Euro 2000.

A two-time Premier League winner with Manchester United in 2001 and 2002, Barthez played in another World Cup final with France in 2006 and made a record 17 World Cup appearances for Les Bleus in 87 caps overall. Named by IFFHS as world's best goalkeeper in 2000.

3. Oliver Kahn

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Oliver Kahn won the World Cup Golden Ball in 2002 for his role in leading an average Germany side all the way to the final. He later made a mistake against Brazil which cost a goal, but was still excellent throughout the tournament.

A year earlier, he was the hero for Bayern Munich in a Man of the Match performance as he saved three penalties against Valencia in the Champions League final. Named world's best goalkeeper in 2001 and 2002 by IFFHS, Kahn won 86 caps for Germany and is considered one of the greatest of all time.

2. Iker Casillas

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Iker Casillas is one of the greatest goalkeepers of all time and a huge reason behind the success of Real Madrid and Spain in the 2000s.

A Champions League winner with Madrid in 2000 and 2002, Casillas came off the bench to make a number of key saves in the 2002 final against Bayer Leverkusen. Such interventions earned him the nickname "San Iker" and later in the decade, he captained Spain to victory at Euro 2008, which marked the start of a glorious era as La Roja won the World Cup in 2010 and another continental crown in 2012.

1. Gianluigi Buffon

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Gianluigi Buffon was instrumental for Italy in their 2006 World Cup win, conceding only twice en route to the title – an own goal and a penalty.

Named world's best goalkeeper by IFFHS in 2003, 2004, 2006 and 2007, Buffon was also their best of the decade and a runner-up in the 2006 Ballon d'Or. Italy's first choice throughout the 2000s, he won 176 caps in total and is considered one of the greatest goalkeepers in football history.

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