Four goalkeepers that define FC Barcelona
Nov. 29, 2018, is a very special day for FC Barcelona. Not only is it the seventh anniversary of their 5-0 victory over Real Madrid in 2010/2011's first league Clasico, but it also marks the club's 119th birthday.
FC Barcelona was founded in 1899 by a group of Swiss, English and Catalan footballers. Led by the Swiss-born Joan Gamper, the club has become a symbol of Catalan identity and tiki-taka football. Feeding off their slogan of "More than a club", FC Barcelona has grown into one of the prime examples of European football dominance, with 25 league titles, 30 Copa Del Reys and five UEFA Champions Leagues decorating their trophy cabinet.
Many legendary footballers have donned the Blaugrana, with Johan Cruyff, Diego Maradona, Ronaldo, Ronaldinho, and Lionel Messi being just some of the lucky few to have excelled in the colours. But while most of us tend to think of the outfielders that captivated our imaginations, FC Barcelona has also been blessed with some quality goalkeepers, some of which helped shape the club into what it's become today. Here are just four of those 'keepers that define FC Barcelona, organized by date.
Honourable mention: Jose Manuel Pinto (2008-2014)
Make no mistake about it, Jose Manuel Pinto is far from one of the best goalkeepers in FC Barcelona history. Although he was awarded the Ricardo Zamora Trophy in 2006, Pinto wasn't exactly a goalkeeper that comforted Cules on the pitch. But what he lacked in quality, he made up for in personality.
During his six years with FC Barcelona, Pinto made a name for himself as one of the side's most energetic and open players. His positive relationships with the rest of the FC Barcelona cast was evident from day one. He was valued for his comedic personality and his fun-loving attitude provided tranquility in the club's most stressful times. Pep Guardiola called him an “important part of the dressing room" and Lionel Messi once reportedly threatened to leave FC Barcelona if the Spanish goalkeeper wasn't offered a contract extension. He may not have served a large role on the pitch, but he exemplified FC Barcelona's family-oriented identity.
Ferenc Plattkó (1923-1930)
Brought in to replace the iconic Ricardo Zamora, Ferenc Plattkó ultimately bested his predecessor. The Budapest-native became one of the first players to play for a team outside of his birth country when he joined FC Barcelona in 1923. He spent seven years at the club, making almost 190 appearances. He was a part of 10 championship squads, including the first ever side to win a La Liga title in 1929.
Through his fearlessness and secure goalkeeping, Ferenc Plattkó guided FC Barcelona through their first Golden Age. Plattkó was such an admired figure in Spain that in 1928, Spanish poet Rafael Alberti immortalized him in a poem. Titled Ode to Plattkó, the poem was written following Plattkó's magisterial performance in the 1928 Copa Del Rey final. Alberti described the Hungarian as a "blond bear of blood" in "heroic blue and red". No small honour for the first great goalkeeper in FC Barcelona history.
Antoni Ramallets (1946-1962)
Signed from local club Europa, he was initially just a back-up to Juan Velasco. But when Velasco suffered a serious eye injury in 1949, Ramallets assumed starting duties on a permanent basis. His time at the club coincided with the “Cinco Copas” era, which saw FC Barcelona win multiple league and domestic cup titles. Ramallets would also clinch five Ricardo Zamora trophies in that span.
Nicknamed "The Maracaná Cat", Antoni Ramallets had all of the tools to be a great FC Barcelona goalkeeper. His combination of agility and wisdom made him a formidable 'keeper to play with and an annoying one to face. He spent much of his later years as club captain, becoming one of the first goalkeepers to captain a team full-time. In a period that also featured the likes of Joan Segarra, László Kubala and Luis Suárez, among others, Ramallets stood out on the defensive end and etched an exemplary name for himself in the Catalan club's lore.
Andoni Zubizaretta (1986-1994)
Now a Sporting Director with Olympique Marseille, Andoni Zubizaretta tended goal for FC Barcelona between 1986 and 1994. The native of Vitoria, Spain, was a formidable goalkeeper in his prime. He played a part in 410 matches with FC Barcelona, including 301 in La Liga. He never played less than 46 games (all competitions) in a season, and he appeared in 50+ matches in five different seasons.
In eight seasons with the Catalans, Zubizaretta finished a season trophyless just once. He amassed 11 different honours with FC Barcelona, including four league titles. His crowning moment came during the 1992 European Cup final. After backstopping FC Barcelona to the final, Zubizaretta captained the side to 1-0 win over Sampdoria after extra-time. The victory gave FC Barcelona their first ever European Cup win and made Zubizaretta just the third goalkeeper to captain his club to European glory. Zubizaretta was a revered part of the FC Barcelona squad of the early 1990s and helped define the club during his eight-year stint there.
Victor Valdes (2002-2014)
The only goalkeeper on this list to have come out of La Masia, Victor Valdes is often cited as the club's greatest ever netminder. With 21 club titles to his name, Valdes is by far the most decorated 'keeper in FC Barcelona history. He was part of six league-winning squads, played in three UEFA Champions League finals (all of which he won), and even backstopped the Catalans to two FIFA Club World Cups.
Unfortunately, because of the embarrassment of talent that was front of him, Valdes is often overlooked when discussing the key members of FC Barcelona's various championship squads. And when he is brought up, it's usually in a negative light. When one looks back at his FC Barcelona career though, it's clear that, although he did have a knack for conceding the odd error, his role was a prominent one. With FC Barcelona requiring its goalkeepers to play like an 11th outfielder, Valdes benefited the team with collected passing and cool sweeping. He was confident on the ball and he would even challenge (and usually beat) opponents with his ball-handling skills. No goalkeeper has made more FC Barcelona appearances (535) or won more Ricardo Zamora trophies (5) than the 36-year old, nor does any other goalkeeper define the club better.