Friday, 19 Apr 2024

The Top 10 South American Goalkeepers of All Time

On April 25, 2020, Between the Sticks turns one year old. To celebrate the site’s anniversary (as well as its 50th post), goalkeeper journalist Mouhamad Rachini is ranking the 10 best goalkeepers from each of the five continents; Africa, Asia/Oceania, Europe, North/Central America, and South America.

Goalkeepers are ranked on a mix of different factors, including team and individual honors, longevity, quality of leagues they played in, peak, and statistical success.

Honorable Mentions

  • Claudio Bravo (Chile): A two-time Ricardo Zamora Trophy recipient, Claudio Bravo won league titles in his native Chile, Spain and England. Bravo, who is Chile’s most-capped goalkeeper of all time with 123 appearances, captained Chile to back-to-back Copa América championships in 2015 and 2016, as well as the 2017 Confederations Cup final.

  • Faryd Mondragón (Colombia): One of the last active members of Colombia’s 1990s golden generation, Mondragón was part of Colombian squads for the 1992 Olympics, two Copa Américas, two CONCACAF Gold Cups, and three World Cups (including the 2014 edition). The Colombian goalkeeper of Lebanese descent won club silverware in Argentina, Turkey, and Colombia.

  • Roque Gaston Máspoli (Uruguay): Roque Gaston Máspoli is a Peñarol legend; he backstopped the club to six Uruguayan league titles between 1940 and 1955. He was also part of Uruguay’s 1950 World Cup team which infamously defeated Brazil in the final. The IFFHS recognized Máspoli as South America’s sixth-best goalkeeper of the 20th century.

10. Marcos Roberto Silveira Reis (Brazil, Palmeiras, 1992 – 2012)

Considered to be one of the greatest goalkeepers in Brasileirão history, Marcos Roberto Silveira Reis, more commonly known as Marcos, made over 500 appearances for Palmeiras across a 20-year career. He’s a two-time Brasileirão champion and he backstopped Palmeiras to their only Copa Libertadores championship in 1999. He was the latter’s top goalkeeper and MVP.

Marcos played every minute of all seven of Brazil’s 2002 World Cup matches, keeping four clean sheets and conceding just four goals as Brazil clinched their record-breaking fifth World Cup. Marcos, who kept three clean sheets in four knockout round games, was recognized as one of the tournament’s top three goalkeepers.


9. Hugo Gatti (Argentina, multiple clubs, 1962 – 1988)

A 26-year veteran of the game, Hugo Gatti holds the record for most Argentine Primera División appearances with 765 league appearances to his name. He represented some of the country’s biggest clubs, including both River Plate and Boca Juniors.

Given Gatti’s background as a striker-turned-goalkeeper, it should come as no surprise to anyone that the Argentine enjoyed involving himself in offensive plays. Nicknamed El Loco for his madman-style of goalkeeping, Gatti was very comfortable playing the ball with his feet, and he would sometimes participate in his team’s own attacks. And when defending his goal, Gatti would sometimes join his defenders as an extra outfielder or rush out of his goal to challenge oncoming opponents.

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Hugo Gatti

8. Nelson Dida (Brazil, multiple clubs, 1992- 2015)

Across a 23-year club career, Nelson Dida represented some of the top clubs in world football, including Corinthians and AC Milan. Unsurprisingly, success closely followed Dida; among other trophies, the Brazilian won the Copa Libertadores, a Brasileirão title, an Italian Serie A title, two UEFA Champions Leagues, and two Club World Championships. Dida, who was voted FIFPro Goalkeeper of the Year in 2005, is also the only goalkeeper ever to win both the Copa Libertadores and the Champions League.

But Dida’s greatest influence might have to do with his skin color. Dida helped end the prejudice against black goalkeepers in Brazil through his successful performances. In 1999, Dida became the first Afro-Brazilian goalkeeper to represent Brazil since Moacyr Barbosa in the 1950 World Cup.

Nelson Dida

7. René Higuita (Colombia, multiple clubs, 1985 – 2009)

Nicknamed ‘the Madman’, René Higuita was a goalkeeper who, as the cliché goes, was unlike any other. Originally a striker who once finished as his high school’s top scorer, Higuita maintained his scoring touch when he made the switch to goalkeeper. With 44 goals to his name, including three with Colombia’s national team, Higuita is one of football’s all-time top-scoring goalkeepers.

Higuita’s flair also translated into his shot-stopping; one of his most famous saves, dubbed “the Scorpion Kick“, saw him clear a cross from England’s Jamie Redknapp by kicking the ball over his head with his heels.

René Higuita

6. Cláudio Taffarel (Brazil, multiple clubs, 1985 – 2003)

With 101 international caps to his name, Cláudio Taffarel is Brazil’s most capped goalkeeper ever and their joint-fifth most capped player of all time.

Furthermore, Taffarel is one of the national team’s most successful goalkeepers. In a senior international career that spanned 10 years, Taffarel won an Olympic silver medal, two Copa América championships, and the 1994 World Cup. Taffarel was particularly influential in the latter; he conceded just three goals throughout the tournament, including none in the final, as Brazil clinched what was their fourth World Cup.

Cláudio Taffarel

5. Ladislao Mazurkiewicz (Uruguay, multiple clubs, 1963 – 1981)

Born in Piriápolis, Uruguay, to a Polish father and a Spanish mother, Ladislao Mazurkiewicz is a goalkeeper who’s often forgotten about when discussing the best goalkeepers of the 20th century. But that’s mainly due to people’s own ignorance rather than any failures on his part.

Best known for his tenure with Peñarol — although he also spent time in Brazil (Atlético Mineiro), Spain (Granada CF), Chile (Cobreloa), and Colombia (América de Cali) — Mazurkiewicz spent nine total years with the Uruguayan club giants across two stints. He won five Uruguayan league titles, as well as the Copa Libertadores and the Intercontinental Cup in 1966. His side defeated Real Madrid in the latter, and Mazurkiewicz kept two clean sheets across the two-legged final.

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In 1999, the IFFHS recognized Mazurkiewicz as South America’s fifth-best goalkeeper of the 20th century and the world’s 12th best goalkeeper.

Ladislao Mazurkiewicz

4. Ubaldo Fillol (Argentina, multiple clubs, 1969 – 1991)

Largely considered to be one of the finest goalkeepers in Argentine football history, Ubaldo Fillol was best known for his agility and reflexes, which were necessary skills given his undersized frame (he stood at just a hair under 6 ft).

Nicknamed ‘The Duck’, Fillol made his professional debut in 1969 with Quilmes AC. The young native of San Miguel del Monte was just 18 years old at the time, but he would soon gain plaudits for his acrobatic style of goalkeeping. In 1972 alone, the now-Racing Club goalkeeper stopped six penalty shots; a record in the Argentine Primera División.

Argentina’s Footballer of the Year in 1977 — the first goalkeeper to be awarded that honor — Fillol was also a runner-up for the South American Footballer of the Year award on three separate occasions. The six-time South American goalkeeper of the year was recognized by the IFFHS as South America’s third-best goalkeeper of the 20th century. Fillol was also included in the Argentine Football Association’s all-time team in 2015.

Ubaldo Fillol

3. Gylmar dos Santos Neves (Brazil, Corinthians / Santos, 1951 – 1969)

In the FIFA World Cup’s storied history, only one goalkeeper has ever managed to win two World Cups as a country’s number one. And unsurprisingly, it’s a Brazilian. Gylmar dos Santos Neves was part of Brazil’s first two World Cup championships, playing leading roles in both 1958 and 1962.

Nicknamed ‘Pelé’s goalkeeper’ due to his bond with the iconic Brazilian no. 10, Gylmar would soon join his Brazilian national team teammate at the club level. After 10 seasons with Corinthians in which he amassed over 480 appearances and won three Paulistão titles, Gylmar joined Pelé’s Santos in 1961.

Gylmar, who also attended the 1966 World Cup as a reserve goalkeeper, retired in 1969 having earned 94 international caps for the Seleção. He’s the second most capped Brazilian goalkeeper of all time.

Gylmar dos Santos Neves

2. José Luis Chilavert (Paraguay, multiple clubs, 1982 – 2004)

No South American goalkeepers’ list is complete without the ‘Bulldog’ himself, José Luis Chilavert. A three-time IFFHS World’s Best Goalkeeper, Chilavert is one of the continent’s top goalkeepers despite not playing for one of its biggest national teams.

Chilavert, who was recognized as 1996’s South American Footballer of the Year, made his international debut in 1989. Although he only made just 18 international appearances between 1989 and 1995, by the end of his international career in 2003, Chilavert had amassed 74 caps. These include appearances in both the 1998 World Cup — Paraguay’s first World Cup appearance in 12 years — and the 2002 World Cup.

Chilavert was also the first goalkeeper to score a hat-trick. In a 1999 Argentine league match, Chilavert scored three penalties in Vélez Sarsfield’s 6-1 thrashing of rivals Ferro Carril Oeste.

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In 1999, the IFFHS recognized Chilavert as the second-best South American goalkeeper in the 20th century. He was also recognized as the world’s sixth-best goalkeeper, ahead of goalkeeping icons such as Peter Schmeichel, Peter Shilton, and Gylmar dos Santos Neves.

José Luis Chilavert

1. Amadeo Carrizo (Argentina, River Plate / Alianza Lima / Millonarios, 1945 – 1970)

South America is home to some of football’s craziest goalkeepers. Throughout this list, we’ve been introduced to Hugo Gatti and his Loco-style of goalkeeping, the madman René Higuita and his dribbling and sweeping abilities, and the goalscoring José Luis Chilavert.

But before Chilavert, Higuita, and Gatti, there was Amadeo Carrizo.

Nicknamed ‘Tarzan’, Carrizo is considered to be one of the pioneers of goalkeeping, up there with the likes of the Lev Yashin and Hungary’s Gyula Grosics. In the 1950s and 1960s, he was considered by many to be South America’s top goalkeeper.

Although Carrizo made just 20 appearances for the Argentine national team, the goalkeeper was still well-respected worldwide, even by the likes of Yashin. Following a friendly match between Yashin and Carrizo in 1968, Yashin gifted Carrizo his gloves as a token of appreciation.

Credited for being one of the first goalkeepers to leave his penalty area to defend his goal and use goal kicks as a strategy to start counter-attacks, Carrizo was recognized by the IFFHS as South America’s top goalkeeper of the 20th century.

Amadeo Carrizo

Do you agree with my list? Which other South American goalkeepers do you think should’ve made the cut? Let me know in the comments below or through Twitter via @BlameTheKeeper.


Q: How were the goalkeepers ranked?

A: The goalkeepers were ranked on a mix of different factors, including team and individual honors, longevity, quality of leagues they played in, peak, and statistical success.

Q: Why were some goalkeepers not included in the top 10?

A: This list is subjective and based on the opinions of the author. Some goalkeepers might have been left out due to personal biases or other considerations.

Q: Was the ranking limited to goalkeepers from South America only?

A: Yes, the ranking focused exclusively on South American goalkeepers.

Q: Can you provide more information about each goalkeeper’s career?

A: For more detailed information about each goalkeeper’s career, you can visit the “Between the Sticks” website or search for their names on Pesstatsdatabase.


South America has produced some of the greatest goalkeepers in the history of football. From pioneers like Amadeo Carrizo to modern legends like José Luis Chilavert, these goalkeepers have left an indelible mark on the game. Their skills, achievements, and contributions to their respective clubs and national teams have earned them a place among the best goalkeepers of all time. So, the next time you watch a football match, take a moment to appreciate the artistry of these South American shot-stoppers.