Many of you are likely surprised by the fact I have selected Fabian Barthez of France as my World Cup Best XI goalkeeper. After all, the award for the best goalkeeper at the World Cup is named after Lev Yashin of the Soviet Union, who most experts would probably put on their Best XI lists. But, I like Barthez in the net, and I’ll tell you why.
Barthez was better than Yashin in the Cup. He wasn’t as physically talented as the USSR keeper, but he did get better results and he saved his best for the biggest games (well, except one). If it hadn’t been for Barthez, France would have never hoisted the 1998 World Cup, and it certainly would have never reached the Final of the 2006 World Cup.
During the ’98 World Cup, Barthez only conceded two goals during the entire tournament and as a result he won the Yashin Award in addition to a world title. His save of Ronaldo’s second half shot is renowned as one of the best in World Cup history. In 2006, he played very well, but his inability to best Buffon during PKs spoiled the affair.
The main reason I like Barthez for the all-time Best XI goalkeeper spot though is because, in addition to his World Cup title, he also holds the record for most career World Cup clean sheets with 10. His amazing performances on the globe’s biggest stage have made him a legend all over Earth. Sure, he’s as bald as a bat, but the man can flat out play.