Who are the Greatest German Goalkeepers of All Time?

Goalkeepers are the foundation of successful national teams. The difference between silverware and failure at tournaments is ‘keepers. This is a round-up of the seven greatest German goalkeepers of all time.

Kaylan Geekie
Kaylan Geekie

Last Updated: 2024-07-08

Louis Hobbs

7 minutes read

Goalkeeping is the hardest position to play in football, but the Germans make it look easy. Die Mannschaft have won four FIFA World Cups (tied with Italy), one fewer than Brazil, and three UEFA European Championship titles. Germany has finished as runners-up and in third place four times each at World Cups and runners-up and third place three times each at the Euros. 

As with all successful football teams, the Germans have had a production line of exceptional goalkeepers. Toni Turek (1954), Sepp Maier (1974), Bodo Illgner (1990), and Manuel Neuer (2014) are Germany’s World Cup-winning goalkeepers. Maier (1972), Harald “Toni” Schumacher (1980), and Andreas Köpke (1996) are the country’s European Championship- winning ‘keepers. 

The quality of professional sports cannot be defined by silverware. Some of Germany’s greatest footballers did not win the FIFA World Cup or UEFA European Championship. Some never won league titles or the UEFA Champions League. SportsBoom examined the history books and scoured the internet to determine the seven greatest German goalkeepers of all time.

Image Credits : Agência Brasil

Image Credits : Agência Brasil

Who is the Greatest German Goalkeeper?

Sepp Maier is considered the greatest German goalkeeper. He is the most decorated
goalkeeper in German football history. He is the only German ‘keeper to win both FIFA and UEFA international football tournaments. Known as “Die Katze von Anzing” (“the cat from Anzing”) because of his cat-like reflexes in goal, Maier was part of the great Bayern Munich team of the 1970s. 

Maier is Munich’s record appearance holder with 709 caps across 17 seasons. He won four Bundesliga titles, three consecutive UEFA European Cups/Champions League, one UEFA European Cup-winners’ Cup, four DFP-Pokal (German Cups), and an Intercontinental Cup. He was named German ‘Player of the Year’ three times – the most by a goalie – and Germany’s Goalkeeper of the Century. 

The awards did not end there. Maier was named in Bayern Munich’s ‘All-time XI,’ the 1974 ‘FIFA World Cup All-Star Team,’ and as one of the greatest 100 footballers ever by World Soccer magazine. In 2014, he was inducted into Germany’s Sports Hall of Fame. SportsBoom has honoured Maier, naming him the best German goalkeeper of all time.

Image Credits : Bert Verhoeff

Image Credits : Bert Verhoeff

Who are the seven Greatest Goalkeepers in German History?

There are many great German goalkeepers. Maier tops the charts as Germany’s best
goalkeeper, but he is not the only ‘keeper classified as “great.” Germany has been blessed with great goalkeepers from the mid-twentieth century. From Bert Trautmann and Toni Turek. Oliver Kahn and Marc-André ter Stegen, to Bodo Illgner and Jens Lehmann in-between. Die Mannschaft has always been in safe hands. 

Germany’s club and international teams are among the most decorated sides in football. The country has won every club and international trophy. Every individual and team award. These are the seven greatest German goalkeepers in history.

Greatest German Goalkeepers of All Time

RankGoalkeeperClub/sMajor Honours
1Sepp MaierBayern Munich15
2Manuel NeuerBayern Munich – Schalke 0424
3Oliver KahnBayern Munich18
4Marc-André ter SteganBarcelona16
5Harald SchumacherFC Köln – Borussia Dortmund7
6Bodo IllgnerFC Köln – Real Madrid6
7Jens LehmannSchalke 04 – Borussia Dortmund –Arsenal5

*Major honours exclude German Super Cup (DFL-Supercup), DFL-Ligapokal & non-senior international trophies

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1. Sepp Maier

Sepp Maier was a one-club man, playing for Bayern Munich for 17 seasons. “The cat from Anzing” won every major honour, including a treble of European Cups (1973/74, 1974/75, 1975/76). In 1973/74, Maier won the Bundesliga, European Cup, and World Cup. He is the only goalkeeper to achieve this unique ‘treble’ of club and international trophies.

Maier played for Munich during the club’s most successful period when the Bundesliga and European Cup were more difficult to win. Only domestic champions entered the former European Cup (direct knockout and no seeded teams), which made the tournament harder to win than in the twentieth century. He might not have the most silverware, but his honours list is extraordinary.

Image Credits : Marcello Casal Jr/Agência Brasil

Image Credits : Marcello Casal Jr/Agência Brasil

2. Manuel Neuer (Most honours & most-capped German goalkeeper)

Despite winning the most club and international honours, Manuel Neuer is ranked second. Should Germany win EURO 2024, Neuer will move ahead of Maier in SportsBoom’s rankings as he would have equalled Maier’s European and World Cup double. Neuer is Germany and Munich’s most decorated goalkeeper. He is the only gloveman to reach 100 international appearances for Germany.

He has won 17 domestic and nine European and World club titles, 11 Bundesliga titles, six DFP-Pokals, two UEFA Champions Leagues, two UEFA Super Cups, two FIFA Club World Cups, and the 2014 FIFA World Cup. The Bavarian ‘keeper won the 2009 UEFA European Under-21 Championship.

Image Credits : Mehr News Agency

Image Credits : Mehr News Agency

3. Oliver Kahn

One of the greatest goalkeepers of his generation, never mind Germany, Oliver Kahn is the only goalkeeper to win the ‘Golden Ball’ for ‘Best Player at the FIFA World Cup.’ Kahn won EURO ’96 as a backup to Andreas Köpke. He was a runner-up (2002) and bronze medal (2006) winner at two World Cups. Kahn won eight Bundesliga, six German Cups, the 2000/01 Champions League, the 1995/96 UEFA Cup, and the 2001 Intercontinental Cup.

4. Marc-André ter Stegan

Marc-André Ter Stegan is unfortunate his career has run parallel to Neuer. He is the third- most-decorated German goalie but will pass Kahn in the next few years. Ter Stegan has five La Liga and Copa del Rey titles with Barcelona but no domestic trophies in Germany. 

Ter Stegan’s domestic and international trophy haul continues with two Spanish Super Cups, one UEFA Champions League and UEFA Super Cup, and the 2015 FIFA Club World Cup. He was a European Under-17 Championship and 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup winner. Ter Stegan could become the most successful German goalkeeper of all time.

Image Credits : www.realvalladolid.es

Image Credits : www.realvalladolid.es

5. Harald ‘Toni’ Schumacher

Harald Schumacher was twice a World Cup runner-up (1982 & 1986) but did win the 1980 European Championship. Schumacher was famous for saving penalties. He saved two spot- kicks during a semifinal versus France (1982) and two in a quarterfinal against Mexico (1986) shootout across two World Cup tournaments. He was twice named ‘German Footballer of the Year’ in 1984 and 1986. 

‘Toni’ Schumacher won two Bundesliga titles, one each with FC Köln (1977/78) and Borussia Dortmund (1995/96). He moved to the Turkish Süper Lig and won the title with Fenerbahçe. Schumacker won three DFP-Pokals with Köln. He was twice a Turkish ‘Player of the Year’ and was awarded the ‘Silver Ball’ for second-best player at the 1986 World Cup in Mexico.

6. Bodo Illgner

Bodo Illgner was Schumacher’s successor at FC Köln and Germany. Illgner was part of the European Under-16 Championship-winning team in 1984. Despite being voted German ‘Goalkeeper of the Year’ four times and ‘Best European Goalkeeper’ in 1991, Illgner never won a domestic trophy in his homeland. 

His only domestic and European honours came at Real Madrid. He only won one La Liga title. However, he claimed two Champions League titles and won a Spanish Super Cup and an Intercontinental Cup with Madrid. Illgner kept goal in Germany’s 1990 World Cup triumph in Italy, making him one of the seven greatest German goalkeepers.

Image Credits : Wonker

Image Credits : Wonker

7. Jens Lehmann

Jens Lehmann gets the nod ahead of Trautmann, a German and Manchester City cult hero, Turek, the 1954 World Cup-winning ‘keeper, and Köpke, the EURO ’96 champion. Lehmann’s ill-discipline and penchant for errors plagued him throughout his career. His worst moment came in Arsenal’s 2006 Champions League final loss to Barcelona after Lehmann’s red card changed the game. 

He should, however, be remembered for playing every match of Arsenal’s “Invincibles” season. Lehmann still holds the Champions League record for most consecutive clean sheets (8) while at the North London club. He was twice voted UEFA ‘Club Goalkeeper of the Year’ in 1997 and 2006. 

Lehmann is the only German goalkeeper to win league titles in three countries. He won a Serie A title with AC Milan in 1998/99, the Bundesliga with Dortmund in 2001/02, and the English Premier League in 2003/04. He won the 1996/97 UEFA Cup with Schalke and the 2004/05 FA Cup at Arsenal. Lehmann was a 2002 World Cup and 2008 European Championship runner-up with Germany.

Image Credits : Tsutomu Takasu

Image Credits : Tsutomu Takasu


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Kaylan Geekie
Kaylan Geekie Sports Writer

Kaylan Geekie is a sports fanatic. He attended Durban High School before moving to Scotland, where he lived for 15 years. During his time in the United Kingdom, Kaylan graduated with a first-class BA Honours Degree in Sports Journalism at the University of the West of Scotland. Kaylan worked for nine years as the Match-Day Editor of SuperXV.com, reporting on Super Rugby, The Rugby Championship, the 2015 Men's Rugby World Cup and the 2017 British & Irish Lions series for the website.