The Bundesliga has a history of elite goalkeepers. When reflecting on any era, there’s usually a Bundesliga representative with a strong claim to be considered the best in the world.
That’s been the case throughout the last decade or so with Manuel Neuer flourishing and reinventing the position at Bayern Munich.
German football has a knack for producing brilliant goalkeepers. Through the decades the Bundesliga has been home to talented shot-stoppers, many of which have lifted league titles and impressed on the international stage.
We’ve picked out the greatest goalkeepers in Bundesliga history, starting with Harald Schumacher.
The only goalkeeper to play for Schalke, Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund, Harald ‘Toni’ Schumacher might be the answer to some trivia questions, but he’s actually best remembered for his decade-plus spent with Koln.
Schumacher was an ever-reliable ‘keeper through one of Koln’s best periods, including their second league title and numerous top-five finishes in the 1980s. He even had a streak of 213 consecutive appearances in the German top flight.
Twice named German Footballer of the Year and with 76 West Germany caps to his name, Schumacher enjoyed over a decade as a goalkeeper coach after retiring.
Ranking 10th in Bundesliga appearances and among the all-time leaders in clean sheets, Ulrich Stein was a lock to make this list.
Stein made his name with Arminia Bielefeld, starring as they returned to the Bundesliga and putting in some strong performances before they suffered relegation.
His best days came with Hamburg, however, winning consecutive league titles. A fiery personality caused some problems throughout Stein’s career.
He ended his international career by calling Franz Beckenbauer a laughingstock and his first stint with Hamburg came to a premature finish after he punched Jurgen Wegmann of Bayern.
Becoming Borussia Dortmund’s number one after Jens Lehmann’s 2003 move to Arsenal, Roman Weidenfeller overcame a mountain of injuries in his first few years with the team to establish himself as not just first choice, but one of the best in the world.
Weidenfeller was the rock of several great Dortmund sides, the constant in a squad which experienced significant turnover.
He had a tendency to come up with magical saves when his team most needed him. This was evidenced throughout Dortmund’s back-to-back league titles and their run to the 2013 Champions League final.
Of course, Manuel Neuer has become synonymous with Bayern Munich.
Yet, it would be unfair to forget that it was Schalke who developed Neuer in their academy and gave him his first few seasons of Bundesliga experience.
Neuer has won everything there is to win at club and international level, accumulating team and individual honours.
Beyond the hardware, though, Germany’s number one has a tactical legacy, altering how the position is viewed around the world, and changing what teams ask of their goalkeepers. He has been so much more than a shot-stopper for Bayern and Germany.
Just reading his name provokes images of him bellowing at his defenders.
Oliver Kahn was an entertaining goalkeeper to watch beyond his exceptional talent between the sticks.
Starting out at Karlsruher SC, just like Neuer, Kahn had already established himself as an upper echelon Bundesliga goalkeeper before he moved to Bayern.
Once he joined the Bundesliga giants, the Titan built a decorated career, amassing over 400 appearances across 14 seasons with eight league titles and two top-three Ballon d’Or finishes.
Jens Lehmann has 394 Bundesliga appearances to his name, but many will best associate him with his role in Arsenal’s invincible season.
Lehmann spent the majority of the rest of his career in Germany, however, starting out at Schalke before stints with Dortmund and Stuttgart.
Prone to the odd error and occasionally in trouble with the officials, Lehmann was perhaps underrated at times.
His shot-stopping was rarely spectacular, but he had a commanding personality to organise his defence and was a calming influence at set pieces.
It was never a safe BTTS bet with Lehmann in goal – he holds the all-time record for consecutive Champions League clean sheets.
Signing for Bayern after impressive performances at the 1982 World Cup, Jean-Marie Pfaff doesn’t have the longevity of many others mentioned here, but his peak was as good as anyone’s.
Despite standing at just 5’11, Pfaff was a complete goalkeeper, possessing lightning reflexes and superb hand-eye coordination to effortlessly claim set pieces.
He was regarded as a master at saving penalties too and commanded his defence with an eccentric and likeable personality.
Gaining Ballon d’Or votes in three separate years, Pfaff won three Bundesliga titles during his six years in Germany and finished as runner-up in 1987 European Cup.
Hans-Jorg Butt’s career was often overshadowed by teammates.
His time at Bayer Leverkusen was effectively ended by Rene Adler, he was stuck as backup to Quim at Benfica, and he was initially signed as a reserve at Bayern Munich.
For the national team, Butt was behind Kahn, Lehmann and Neuer at different points, meaning he only earned four caps.
Regardless, Butt made nearly 400 Bundesliga appearances across his tenures with Hamburg, Leverkusen and Bayern. He also scored 26 goals thanks to his penalty taking exploits and ventures up the field when his team needed a goal.
First of all, ‘Die Katze von Anzing’ (the cat from Anzing) is a brilliant nickname. Sepp Maier’s play was deserving of such.
Maier made 473 appearances in the Bundesliga, all of which were for Bayern Munich. He pulled off jaw-dropping saves with speed-of-light reactions, and he played with joy, earning him fan favourite status.
Named German Footballer of the Year on three occasions, The Cat From Anzing was named as one of the 100 greatest footballers of all-time by World Soccer, and who can argue with that?
A World Cup winner, a three-time European champion at club level and star in four Bundesliga winning sides, Maier still has a case as Germany’s best goalkeeper of all-time.
Andreas Köpke falls short on the medal count compared to his peers on this list, but we’re not judging team success here. This is about the best goalkeepers, and there’s no question Köpke belongs.
Köpke made 346 Bundesliga appearances, 280 of which came with Nürnberg. He was named to kicker’s Bundesliga Team of the Season on three occasions, beating some all-time greats, and earned IFFHS’s Best Goalkeeper award in 1996.
That’s a CV deserving of recognition – Köpke never played for the biggest clubs, but perhaps that only enhances his achievements.