David de Gea’s departure from Manchester United marks the end of a fruitful 12-year tenure. As he bids farewell, it is worth assessing where he stands among the greatest goalkeepers in the history of the Premier League.
The Spanish shot-stopper is leaving the club after his contract expires, as the club is unwilling to match the £375,000-per-week deal he signed in 2019. However, De Gea departs on a personal high note, having recently secured his second Premier League Golden Glove award for the most clean sheets in a season.
In this analysis, Sport News Center examines De Gea’s standing in comparison to some of the other notable Premier League goalkeepers.
In terms of trophies, De Gea falls short when compared to his counterparts due to his long stint with an underwhelming Manchester United team. He clinched a single Premier League title in the 2012-13 season under the guidance of Sir Alex Ferguson. In contrast, legendary United goalkeeper Peter Schmeichel and current Manchester City custodian Ederson possess an impressive record of five Premier League winners’ medals each. Furthermore, De Gea’s collection includes one FA Cup, two EFL Cups, and the Europa League, achievements overshadowed by Schmeichel and Ederson.
Only three goalkeepers have managed to secure more Premier League clean sheets than De Gea. Petr Cech, a former Chelsea and Arsenal goalkeeper, tops the list by a considerable margin with 202 clean sheets. David James, who had spells with Liverpool, Aston Villa, West Ham, Manchester City, and Portsmouth, occupies the second position with 169 clean sheets. Following closely is Mark Schwarzer, who represented Middlesbrough, Fulham, Chelsea, and Leicester, with 151 clean sheets. De Gea’s tally stands at 147, placing him fourth in this regard. However, his performance last season elevated him above David Seaman, Nigel Martyn, Pepe Reina, Brad Friedel, Tim Howard, and Edwin van der Sar.
Since Opta began recording save data in the 2003-04 season, De Gea ranks third in the Premier League for saves. However, comparisons with goalkeepers from earlier eras cannot be made. Over the span of 19 years, Ben Foster, a former United player now with Wrexham, leads the pack with 1,248 saves, aided by his longevity and stints with teams that often faced defensive challenges like Watford, Birmingham, and West Brom. Jussi Jaaskelainen, who played for Bolton and West Ham, follows with 1,223 saves, while De Gea trails closely behind with 1,157 saves (averaging 2.8 saves per game). Schwarzer, Cech, and current West Ham goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski complete the top performers. Since De Gea’s debut for United, his save ratio of 72% in the Premier League ranks below only Cech, Liverpool’s Alisson, and Newcastle’s former Burnley goalkeeper Nick Pope (among players with 100 or more appearances).
With 415 Premier League appearances, De Gea ranks seventh among goalkeepers who have featured in the division. This feat becomes even more impressive when considering that De Gea played 57 matches in La Liga for Atletico Madrid before joining United. At the age of 32, he potentially has another 200 league appearances ahead of him. The top position in terms of longevity belongs to former England goalkeeper David James, who made 572 appearances and also conceded the most goals (665). Schwarzer follows with 514 appearances and 653 goals conceded, holding the record for the most Premier League appearances by a non-British player. Shay Given, the Republic of Ireland icon, played 451 matches, conceding 607 goals for Blackburn, Newcastle, Manchester City, Aston Villa, and Stoke. Brad Friedel, who represented Liverpool, Blackburn, Villa, and Tottenham, trails with 450 appearances and 567 goals conceded. Cech amassed 443 appearances, conceding only 366 goals, while Jaaskelainen recorded 436 appearances and 613 goals conceded. Throughout his Premier League journey, De Gea let in 446 goals in his 415 appearances.
De Gea secured two Premier League Golden Gloves, earning the honor in the 2017-18 season and the most recent campaign. He joins an elite group of six goalkeepers who have won the award multiple times. Petr Cech and Joe Hart, who played for Manchester City, Birmingham, West Ham, and Burnley, lead the way with four each. Ederson and Pepe Reina, representing Manchester City and Liverpool respectively, have three, while Alisson has two. Additionally, De Gea holds the joint record for the most Manchester United Player of the Season awards (2014, 2015, 2016, and 2018), tied with Cristiano Ronaldo. No other player at the club has received more than two such accolades.
Since his debut for Manchester United, De Gea has conceded 426 goals, while the expected goals from those shots amounted to 467, meaning he effectively prevented an additional 41 goals. Only Hugo Lloris of Tottenham denied more goals during this period, with 48 saved goals out of 428 expected goals. However, De Gea ranks sixth in the Premier League for errors leading to goals, with 17 to his name. Asmir Begovic leads in this category with 25, followed by Lloris with 24.
Regarding Manchester United, the club’s top three goalkeepers in the Premier League era are widely regarded as Peter Schmeichel from Denmark, Edwin van der Sar from the Netherlands (both of whom won the Champions League with the club), and De Gea. Schmeichel secured five Premier League titles, while Van der Sar and De Gea won four and one respectively. In terms of clean sheets, De Gea outperformed both Schmeichel and Van der Sar, recording 147 clean sheets compared to Van der Sar’s 132 and Schmeichel’s 128 (including their stints with other clubs).
With De Gea’s departure from the club, along with defender Phil Jones, no players remain at Manchester United who have played under the legendary manager Sir Alex Ferguson or have won the Premier League title with the club.
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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Premier League goalkeepers
Q: Where does David de Gea rank among the Premier League’s best goalkeepers?
A: David de Gea’s ranking among the Premier League’s best goalkeepers is a subject of debate. While he has achieved notable success with Manchester United, his trophy count falls short compared to some of his counterparts. However, he has excelled in terms of clean sheets, saves, and longevity, making a strong case for his inclusion among the top goalkeepers in the league’s history.