Football

The Debate: Why Jose Luis Chilavert is the greatest goalkeeper ever

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Jose Luis Chilavert at the 1998 World Cup

Image credit: Getty Images

ByCarrie Dunn
20/05/2020 at 14:05 | Updated 20/05/2020 at 15:08
@carriesparkle

Each week, four Eurosport writers make their case on a topical issue before having their arguments picked apart in our Friday podcast. This week: who is the greatest goalkeeper of all time? Carrie Dunn is next up in praise of a Paraguayan marvel...

It's a cliche that all goalkeepers are a little eccentric. Jose-Luis Chilavert certainly is - and was during his playing career, with political pronouncements aplenty, rumours of punch-ups, plus feuds with various rivals including Faustino Asprilla and Diego Maradona.

But try to leave the controversies to one side, and you'll see that as a player, his achievements are unlikely to be bettered, or even equalled.

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As a goalkeeper, he was a very fine one, and deservedly picked up multiple accolades - named the world's best goalkeeper three times in the mid-1990s.

He spent much of his career in Argentina, helping Velez Sarsfield to cups and league titles, and selected as the country's Footballer of the Year in 1996.

But he was most well known globally for his stunning performances on the biggest stages with Paraguay - hardly one of the forces of world football, but always worth watching during Chilavert's era as they went toe-to-toe with some of the giants and proved themselves equal to the task.

Although he had previously spent three years in La Liga with Real Zaragoza, his superlative World Cup in 1998 brought him to greater prominence as the world began to realise how compelling and how impressive this unorthodox goalkeeper was.

And yes, let's talk about that unorthodoxy.

Maybe a goalkeeper taking a penalty every now and then isn't that unusual.

But taking free kicks too? It's courageous, it's risky, and it's amazingly entertaining to watch.

More importantly, he was good at those set pieces.

Jose Luis Chilavert takes a free kick for Paraguay against Germany at the 2002 World Cup

Image credit: Getty Images

He even has a hat-trick to his name - scoring three of Velez's goals from the spot against Ferro in 1999. When he retired, he had 62 goals to his name - including eight at international level.

But don't let a goalkeeper with a fine set-piece record dazzle you - or lead you to dismiss him. Chilavert was not a gimmick. He was a great shot-stopper, a commanding presence, a charismatic leader.

And his brilliance helped Paraguay to punch considerably above their weight; had he played for one of the leading nations, his name would always be up there with the best, not simply wheeled out as an example of goalkeeping madness.

At his peak he was better than contemporaries Taffarel, Andoni Zubizarreta and Andreas Kopke.

And let's face it, it's always nice to have a keeper who can score penalties as well as save them.

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