Ciao, Gigi: Buffon retires as No.1 among ten most-expensive goalkeepers ever…

Ian Watson
Gianluigi Buffon, Manuel Neuer and Alisson are ranked among the best goalkeepers in the world.
Gianluigi Buffon, Manuel Neuer and Alisson rank highly among the most expensive goalkeepers.

Gianluigi Buffon retired this week, going out as one of the greatest goalkeepers of all time. But where does he rank among the most expensive?

Here’s how we’ve ranked the 10 most costliest keepers. Andre Onana has yet to do anything for Man Utd other than scream at Harry Maguire so he’s omitted for now…


10) Jasper Cillessen – £31.35m
Are we really to believe that Valencia coughed up in excess of £30million for a goalkeeper who spent the previous three years on the Barcelona bench?

Cillessen, then 30, made only five La Liga appearances in three seasons as Marc-Andre ter Stegen’s stand-in. He moved to Valencia in the same week Neto went in the other direction for a similar amount – apropos of nothing, a couple of days before their financial year end.

As a Valencia player, Cillessen missed large chunks of his three seasons at the Mestalla due to injury and relinquished his place as Holland’s No.1. He’s now back where it all began, at NEC, who paid less than £1million last summer.


9) Kepa £71.6m
The Spaniard remains the most expensive goalkeeper in history. Which is still ridiculous despite Kepa clawing back some credibility at Chelsea.

A year ago, it would have been hard to pinpoint how Kepa could have fared worse at Stamford Bridge. He arrived to replace Thibaut Courtois and the Blues can hardly claim that they rushed to a rash judgement because the Belgian’s desire to move to Spain was abundantly clear for all to see. They had plenty of time to identify a replacement.

His first year wasn’t the error-riddled sh*t-show that his second season became, but he still made a fool of Maurizio Sarri when the coach wanted to substitute his keeper in the Carabao Cup final. When Frank Lampard replaced Sarri, Kepa’s form plummeted. He was dropped twice in Lampard’s first season in charge, then again early the following campaign, prompting Chelsea to sign Eduoard Mendy to replace him.

Mendy didn’t last and Thomas Tuchel’s last act was to reinstate Kepa. And, amid the Chelsea sh*tshow, he did pretty well last season, certainly in comparison to his previous efforts. Well enough to remain No.1 under Mauricio Pochettino? Possibly, largely because there are more urgent problems for Chelsea to address.


8) Alex Meret – £26.25m
The Italy keeper was in and out of Napoli’s goal for four long seasons after joining from Udinese in 2018, job-sharing with David Ospina.

Finally, at the start of last season, Luciano Spalletti made Meret his undisputed No.1 and the 26-year-old played every game but one on the way to sealing the Scudetto with five matches to play.

Meret was said to be a candidate to replace Hugo Lloris, but Tottenham took the cheaper option instead by moving for his Italy team-mate Guglielmo Viccario. Both are battling to be first understudy to Gianluigi Donnarumma.


7) Aaron Ramsdale – £30m
Many scoffed when it emerged how much Arsenal were willing to pay for a young, uncapped keeper who had been relegated in each of his previous two seasons with Bournemouth and Sheffield United. But Arsenal knew what they were doing…

Ramsdale arrived at the Emirates in August 2021 when it was thought he would be phased in around Bernd Leno. That plan went out of the window amid a dreadful start for the Gunners, with changing goalkeepers a very visible way of attempting to prompt an improvement.

It worked and Ramsdale hasn’t looked back. It’s worked out rather well for Leno too, who has been superb at Fulham, but Arsenal fans took to Ramsdale immediately, not just because he’s England’s second-best goalkeeper, but also his brash character. These days, goalkeepers are often expected to be calm, soothing presences, but Ramsdale prefers to play to the crowd and provoke the opposition.

His next challenge, though, could come from within if Mikel Arteta gets his hands on David Raya.


6) Jordan Pickford – £30m
Pickford was plucked from Sunderland in similar circumstances to Ramsdale. The Black Cats had just finished bottom of the Premier League, but Pickford was blameless in their shambolic demise. The then-23-year-old stood out – admittedly in a tiny field – as the club’s Player of the Year and he was nominated for the PFA Young Player of the Year award.

Pickford had an erratic time at Everton, initially settling well and establishing himself as England’s No.1. Then, it all got a bit ravey, before the Wearsider cooled his jets.

Which was fortunate for Everton since no one has done more than two-time club Player of the Season Pickford to keep the Toffees in the Premier League.


5) Thibaut Courtois – £35m
The Belgium keeper secured his dream move from Chelsea to Real Madrid in 2018 after winning the Golden Glove at the World Cup in 2018. But it threatened to descend into a nightmare when he endured a rough debut season at the Bernabeu. He was dropped by Zinedine Zidane after a series of mistakes before he eventually turned his form around.

And how! In 2020, Zidane described Courtois as the best in the world – “I have no doubt about it, he’s proven that” – when he kept Real in the title race with a number of huge saves. Others disputed that assertion but Courtois proved he might have had a point when he put in a superhuman performance to beat Liverpool in last year’s Champions League final.

The Belgium No.1 has a chip on his shoulder about his critics, but the desire to prove others wrong has driven him to turn things around at Real and put himself in the discussion when it comes to debating the world’s best.

Mo Salah reacts after his shot is saved by Thibaut Courtois.

4) Ederson – £34.7m
Manchester City made Ederson the world’s costliest keeper in 2017 when they bought him from Benfica. Sort of. Gianluigi Buffon’s move to Juventus in 2001 equated to more Euros at the time, but City paid more pounds sterling for Ederson.

His initial task was made all the more simple by City playing the ghost of Claudio Bravo in their goal the previous year. But Ederson offered more than simply a safe pair of hands.

He made big saves at crucial times in Pep Guardiola’s first Premier League title triumph – and those that followed – but his distribution over all distances has offered City a whole new dimension.

In terms of defending his goal, Ederson wasn’t at his best last season. Not that it mattered much.

Read more: Premier League keepers ranked: Alisson saved Liverpool 10 goals this season


3) Alisson – £67m
Alisson was at his very best last term. Which is handy because it’s difficult to imagine how grim things might have got for Liverpool had he not been.

The 30-year-old has always been ahead of Ederson in the Brazil reckoning and like his compatriot, Alisson could hardly fail given how wretched the fella he replaced was. Going from Loris Karius to Alisson is one of the biggest upgrades ever to take place in any goalmouth.

Alisson spent only a month as the world’s most expensive goalkeeper ever before Chelsea did Liverpool and the rest of the Premier League a favour by signing Kepa.


2) Manuel Neuer – £24.3m
It isn’t immediately clear how much Neuer cost Bayern Munich. When he moved to Bavaria from Schalke in 2011, Bayern paid an initial fee of £13million.

But with add-ons, it seems the final price was almost double that figure. The stipulations reportedly were that if Bayern won the Bundesliga twice and reached the Champions League semi-finals twice in Neuer’s first four seasons at the club, then Bayern would be liable for just over £24million. They met both targets, but were one more Champions League triumph away from having to cough up another £5million.

Regardless, it would have been money well spent. Neuer has spent his 12 years in the Bayern goal vying for the title of the world’s best keeper. With, among others, this guy…


1) Gianluigi Buffon – £31.2m
The Italy legend, arguably the greatest goalkeeper ever, held the title of the world’s most expensive keeper for 17 years after joining Juventus from Parma in 2001 for Dr Evil money – 100 billion lira, which equated to around €52million.

That not more eyebrows were raised at the time said much about how certain everyone was that Buffon would go on to become a great. Juve’s sale of Zinedine Zidane in the same summer perhaps overshadowed Buffon’s move somewhat, but both deals turned out to be inspired.

Buffon earned 10 Serie A titles and four Italian cups as a Juve player, becoming a World Cup winner along the way. He holds the record for most Serie A appearances, the record for the longest streak without conceding a goal in Serie A and the highest number of caps for Italy.

Aged 45, having returned to finish where he started at Parma, Buffon finally called it a day this week. Ciao, Gigi.