Liverpool are one of the biggest, best and most successful football clubs in the world, let alone England. As such, one would expect them to have had some truly world-class players all over the pitch and that has certainly been the case. The Anfield faithful have witnessed magic from the likes of Robbie Fowler, Mo Salah, Luis Suarez, Steven Gerrard, Michael Owen, John Barnes and, going back further, players such as Kevin Keegan, Kenny Dalglish, Ian Rush, Ian St John and many others.
However, in this article, we take a look at one of the most important, yet often unheralded positions on the pitch: the goalkeeper. Keepers are often remembered more for their mistakes than their saves, with the positive side of their game simply being expected. This often means they are overlooked when it comes to individual awards but the truth is that a great save can be as valuable as a goal. A top-class shot-stopper can be worth up to 20 points a season to a team according to some estimates, and Liverpool have been blessed with some true greats over the years.
Is Alisson the Best Goalkeeper Liverpool Have Ever Had?
Perhaps the Reds’ greatest-ever custodian is the man currently in possession of the gloves, Alisson Becker, or just plain old Alisson to many. There is fierce debate about who is the best Brazilian goalkeeper right now and Alisson’s rival, Ederson, is good enough to be the first choice stopper at treble-winning Man City. But Alisson keeps him out of the national side and has 40 more caps than his compatriot (61 to 21 at the time of writing).
Alisson’s distribution is superb and whilst this may be one area in which he lags behind Ederson, his international colleague is probably the only keeper ahead of him with his feet. He has made mistakes but that is all part of the modern way of playing and perhaps the biggest strength of the Liverpool keeper is his ability to put such mistakes behind him.
He is incredibly calm and composed and helps organise his defence. He is probably the best in the world when it comes to one-on-ones and is also magnificent at taking crosses. A brilliant shot-stopper too, he has no weaknesses and is considered by many to be the best goalkeeper in the world. Despite Liverpool’s poor performance in the 2022/23 campaign, the Brazilian ace kept 14 clean sheets, the joint-second best in the Premier League. He is currently 24th on the all-time list (Premier League era only) but will no doubt move up the chart rapidly in the seasons ahead.
Ray Clemence: Liverpool’s Rock
Comparing players across different eras is not always fair and rarely simple and the position of keeper has changed a lot, even in the last decade or so. However, one thing we can be fairly sure about is that no matter how good Alisson is, he won’t be eclipsing Clemence in terms of Liverpool appearances.
The Skegness-born goalkeeper made over 250 appearances for Spurs but that was after he ended a 14-year stint with the Reds! He made 61 appearances for England, preventing Peter Shilton from being the undisputed number one for a long period. However, his record of 665 outings with Liverpool puts him behind only Ian Callaghan, Jamie Carragher and Steven Gerrard in terms of appearances for the club.
Clemence won almost everything with the Anfield side, including five league titles, an FA Cup, League Cup, three European Cups and two UEFA Cups. He was a reliable and assured, yet graceful and athletic stopper who had no weaknesses, though his reading of the game and positioning was probably his greatest strength. He went on to be part of the England coaching setup for a long time and his calm, reassuring presence can only have helped.
Tommy Lawrence: Legendary Keeper Goes Viral
Younger Liverpool fans may only be aware of Lawrence thanks to this excellent, heartwarming clip of him. However, the Scottish keeper, who also played for Tranmere Rovers, appeared almost 400 times for the Reds and kept an impressive 133 clean sheets.
He was at the club between 1957 and 1971 and it was his enduring excellence that kept a young Clemence out of the team initially. Lawrence was a player that helped transition the Reds from being a team in Division Two to one right at the top of English football. He ended his career with two league titles and FA Cup to his name and was a key part of the Bill Shankly revolution that changed Liverpool forever.
Bruce Grobbelaar: Entirely Sane? No. Brilliant? Yes!
Grobbelaar was born in Durban, South Africa, but represented Zimbabwe internationally. A quick glance at the long, long list of teams he played for may give the impression he was a journeyman but he made 440 of his 574 league appearances for the Reds. He played for 18 clubs in total and whilst his eccentricities mean he will be remembered by them all, he will always be associated with Liverpool, where he played between 1981 and 1994.
He was signed as a backup to Clemence and despite the relatively high fee of £250,000 was unknown to most Reds. He made his debut on the same day in 1981 that Mark Lawrenson and Aussie Craig Johnston made their Liverpool bows and his early career was far from plain sailing. He was unpredictable and eccentric at the best of times but made a number of errors initially and appeared erratic. He improved, however, and before long Liverpool supporters knew they had a truly world-class goalkeeper on their hands. He made over 600 starts at the Anfield side and almost 43% of those ended with the opposition failing to score.
Grobbelaar was a wonderful shot-stopper and also commanded his area and backline superbly. He was the sort of character and leader the best teams need and whilst many will remember his “spaghetti legs” routine during a penalty shootout in the 1984 European Cup final, it should also be remembered just how good he was. He added six league championships, three FA Cups and a trio of League Cup wins to that European Cup success and is a true Liverpool legend.