Why Baia's better than Shilton (and many others)

Last week the International Federation of Football History and Statistics released its All-Time World Goalkeeping Ranking – although in this instance "all-time" means from 1987 to 2009.

Time isn't the only quibble.

Portugal’s most acclaimed goalkeeper Vítor Baía claimed 18th place, level with legendary Englishman Peter Shilton.

Not bad, some may say, but it is certainly not the place he rightfully deserved.

The decision to award someone as the best player in a certain position is rarely unanimous, but when making that decision we can go down two major routes:

1) Have a spirited, never-ending discussion about a player’s skill, raw talent, versatility and ability to handle pressure in big matches;2) Focus on numbers, i.e., titles, number of goals, international caps and other tangible key performance indicators.

Given the nature (and indeed name) of the IFFHS, The Portugeezer expects that these rankings are based on the second option.

But regardless of the criteria one opts to use, Baía would always be considered a top goalkeeper.

The former FC Porto and Barcelona goalkeeper won the three major European competitions (UEFA Cup, Cup Winners’ Cup and Champions League) and is currently the player with most titles won in the world with a total of 32.

He amassed 80 international caps and was often hailed as the best Portuguese goalkeeper in history.

For the record, The Portugeezer agrees that Gianluigi Buffon and Iker Casillas are currently the best goalkeepers in the world, but looking at that list there are certainly some goalkeepers who don’t deserve to be ahead of Baía.

The IFFHS's Top 20 (well, 21)

Sticking to the rational, tangible arguments, allow me to start with perhaps an unfortunate target: Michel Preud’Homme.

Still highly regarded in Portugal after five seasons at Benfica, the Belgian custodian was undoubtedly a talented goalkeeper but what major tournaments did he win?

Just a Cup Winners’ Cup and a European Supercup with KV Mechelen!

No matter how good he was – and he was that good – that’s nothing compared to Baía’s world-record trophy cabinet.

It is also hard to accept former Argentinian Sergio Goycochea’s position.

OK, so he happened to be the Albiceleste's Italia 90 talisman with his penalty heroics and collected a couple of Copa Americas, but his record at club level is far from eyecatching.

Would you honestly name ‘El Goyco’ one of the greats? 

The other one I’d like to mention here is José Luis Chilavert.

For outspoken charisma and ability to score free-kicks, the Paraguayan is second to none, but the Portugeezer thinks sixth place is a bit high – even with a Copa Libertadores, an Intercontinental Cup and four Argentinian championships.

Still, it would have been interesting to see him perform at a top European club to more accurately gauge his skills.

Two major trophies, one major fashion mistake

Baía can only have two regrets in his football career: the severe knee injuries that hampered his Barcelona career and being overlooked by Luiz Felipe Scolari despite being considered the best goalkeeper by UEFA in 2004 (a year in which Baía ranked eighth, according to IFFHS).

It's not the first time The Portugeezer is left baffled by an IFFHS ranking, but the most important question is whether they should be taken seriously.

It’s for the reader to decide, but maybe this save or this one will remind you of how great Baía was...

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