An Analysis of European Ball-Playing Goalkeepers

To follow up my analysis of strikers based on conversion rate, for this project I have selected twenty-five goalkeepers to analyze their ability to handle and distribute the ball. To work the stats out, I’ve taken distribution divided by 2 + passing accuracy divided by 2. I’ve also decided to do the same with average distribution and passing length. Let’s get into it.


25. Jasper Cillessen (2015/16)
Cillessen is a quality goalkeeper and had a great 2015/16 season, earning himself a move to Spanish giants Barcelona. His accuracy of 67%, and average passing range of 41.5 meter sure did help, given Barca’s style of play. He’s one of two player whose season isn’t 2016/17.

Jasper Cillessen
Photo: marca.com

24. Victor Valdés (2012/13)
Coming in as the second player whose season wasn’t this one, it’s Victor Valdés. The Catalonian goalkeeper had quite a decent season in terms of passing, while also winning La Liga. His accuracy of 67%, standing at the same as Cillessen’s, helps that point. He wins over Jasper due to his passing length being shorter (36 meters).

23. Timo Horn 
Having been at Köln since the age of 9, he’s progressed through the ranks quite a bit to get to where he is today. Sadly, the 23 year old has missed 17 games this season due to various injuries. He’s still had quite a good season though, with 68% in accuracy and 43.5 meters in average passing distance.

22. Loris Karius 
Having arrived at Liverpool this summer from Mainz, he’s received a fair amount of criticism. Some crucial errors led to Mignolet getting the chance to regain his starting role, though neither has performed well enough to really make the position his own. The ex-Manchester City keeper has been great with his feet though, with a passing accuracy of 68.5%. He just about misses out on the top 20, due to his average pass length of 34.5 meters.

21. Thibaut Courtois 
Even though it feels like the tall Belgian has been around for forever, he’s still only 24. After having spent 3 years at Atletico Madrid (2011-2014) on loan, he’s now been back at Chelsea since. He’s continued to develop, and so have his on-the-ball assets. He has the same accuracy percentage as Karius, though his 31.5 meter average pass length takes him into the top 20.

20. Javi Varas 
The 34 year old Spaniard has been quite decent for Las Palmas this season, with 1.5 saves per goals conceded, however the former Sevilla man’s best area has been his passing, which 72% accuracy and 30m average in distance shows.

19. Samir Handanovic
Samir Handanovic is perhaps not the first keeper you think about when you hear “ball playing goalkeeper,” though the Slovenian has the quite impressive average length of 29.5 meters, and an accuracy of 73%. Not only that, but the Inter number 1 has an average of almost 3 saves per conceded goal. Not bad.

18. Anthony Lopes 
Having been born in Givors, 25 kilometers away from Lyon, it was meant to be that he’d start playing for Olympique Lyon. At the age of 13, he started working his way through the ranks at the club as a goalkeeper. Even though he was born and raised in France, the 1.84 meter tall keeper chose to represent his father’s country, Portugal. His 32 meter average length has helped Lyon play some great football, with his 73.5% accuracy contributing to that.

17. Ederson

The Brazilian started out at Sao Paulo, before moving to his current club, Benfica, at the age of 16. However after only spending 2 years in the academy, he moved to Ribeirao. He only spent a year at the club, before once again moving, this time to Rio Ave. After a rather successful couple of years there he got swooped up by Benfica once more. Since his arrival he’s been brilliant, and with his 74% accuracy, 37m average and 1 assist (!), there’s no surprise that the 23 year old is rumored to be set for a switch to Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City.

16. Thomas Strakosha

In at 16th place we’ve got Thomas Strakosha. The Athens-born Albanian keeper has had quite a solid season for Lazio, conceding only 23 goals in his 20 games. He’s also contributing with on-the-ball skills, as his accuracy of 74.5% and average length of 34.5m shows.

 15. Gianluigi Donnarumma

The 18 year old Italian is arguably one of the best youngsters out there. He’s got quite some experience on him, having made his debut for Milan at just 16 years and 8 months of age, back in October 2015. He’s got superb shot stopping ability, and quite decent ball-playing skills, as his 74.5% accuracy and 27.5m average shows. Still, this is an area that could need some improving if he wants to take the next step.

14. Oliver Baumann

The 26 year old former Freiburg man has been crucial for Julian Nagelsmann’s side this season. The side has really made a good account of themselves this season, currently sitting in 4th with one match left to play, whilst sitting comfortable as they’ve got 12 points more than Hertha. Baumann’s 75% accuracy and 28.5m average passing length has helped Hoffenheim play some fascinating football, while also recording 11 clean sheets in the process.

13. Claudio Bravo

Despite having flopped massively at his new employers, his ball-playing skills are still good. Sadly, that’s not enough. You’ve got to save shots too. The 34 year old Chilean’s 75.5% accuracy, and average of 37.5m is something, but it’s not surprising that Pep’s looking at replacements.

12. Gerónimo Rulli & Yann Sommer

These goalkeepers both also end up at 75.5%, with both of them having the same average length (33m). Somehow.

10. Wojciech Szczesny

The Arsenal loanee has had a superb season with Roma, currently sitting in 2nd. The Polish international’s 76.5% accuracy and 34.5m average passing length, as well as keeping 14 clean sheets, is superb. Still only 27, he could play a big role for Arsenal next season.

9. Roman Bürki

Another former Freiburg man on the list, we’ve got Bürki. The 26 year old has overtook Roman Weidenfeller as Dortmund’s first choice. With 77% accuracy and 37m average, there’s no surprise that he’s been crucial to Tuchel’s men. Add the fact that he’s only conceded 26 in 26 games this season, and you’ll quickly come to see that he’s a top keeper.

8. André Onana

Given the young Cameroonian’s “Barcelona DNA,” it’s no surprise that he’s good with his feet. 78% accuracy and 27m average shows just that. The 21 year old’s goalkeeping stats aren’t too shabby either, with 15 clean sheets in 32 games, conceding only 20 goals. However, he can get carried away at times, as you can see here

 7. Pepe Reina

Another goalkeeper crucial to his team’s style of play, Reina has contributed to Napoli’s ‘Sarriball’ with his passing. The former Liverpool man has a brilliant 79% accuracy, and an average length of 35m. Still got it in him at 34 years of age.

6. Willy Caballero

The former Elche and Malaga man hasn’t been bad this season, but he’s certainly not a City-level of goalkeeper. But hey, at least it ain’t Bravo. 80% accuracy and 27.5m average length is actually really good for a Pep-keeper. Not surprising that City’s looking for a new keeper though.

5. Yoan Cardinale

Into the top 5 we go, starting with Cardinale. The 23 year old former U-19 goalkeeper has had a really solid season with Nice, with 12 clean sheets, as well as battling for the title for a while. This with an accuracy of 81.5% and average length of just 31m. Nice finished 3rd in Ligue 1 in the end.

4. Marc-André Ter Stegen & Manuel Neuer

Somehow, these two superb German goalkeepers end up on the exact same stats. Incredible, isn’t it? Both have 82% accuracy and 28.5m average length.

2. Alphonse Aréola

The Paris-born French-Philippine goalkeeper has had an average passing length of 23m and an accuracy of 87.5%. As he’s only played 15 games, these stats aren’t really much to judge him by, but still superb from the Paris Saint Germain keeper.

So, who comes in at first place?

1. Kevin Trapp

Yep, the former Frankfurt man comes in at first place. 23 games, 16 clean sheets, 12 goals conceded, 89% accuracy and 24m average length. Those are the stats of the German keeper. Incredible.

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