Who is the Bundesliga's best goalkeeper? For many years it was a question that most of us didn't even bother to ask, such was Manuel Neuer's unrelenting supremacy for six-time reigning champions Bayern Munich. But the stats so far in 2018/19 show that the four-time IFFHS World's Best Goalkeeper may actually be human after all.

With Bayern currently fourth in the table, bundesliga.com crunches the numbers on the Germany captain and the four rival stoppers who have helped Borussia Dortmund, Borussia Mönchengladbach, Eintracht Frankfurt and RB Leipzig rejig the domestic order with a third of the season gone…

Roman Bürki (Borussia Dortmund)

Games played: 12
Goals conceded: 11
Clean sheets: 5
Shots saved: 37/48 (77.1%)

Roman Bürki has only conceded a goal every 90 minutes in the Bundesliga this season, helping Dortmund storm to top spot. © gettyimages / Schuermann / AFP

Dortmund underwent something of a defensive overhaul this summer, with new signings Abdou Diallo, Achraf Hakimi, Axel Witsel and Thomas Delaney all slotting into Lucien Favre's first-choice XI. The Swiss coach saw no need to change his keeper, though, and Bürki has repaid his countryman's faith handsomely. His save ratio has improved from 70 per cent last season to over 77 this term, and he has conceded just under one goal per game, keeping four clean sheets. While he missed the Klassiker victory over Bayern through injury, he has been one of BVB's most reliable performers, helping them beat Leipzig, Frankfurt and Bayer Leverkusen on their way to top spot. There is one monkey that the 28-year-old will be keen to get off his back though: in 12 attempts, he has yet to save a Bundesliga penalty.

"Roman Bürki has been excellent," enthused coach Favre. "He's made a lot of important saves this season. It's very important that we keep our cool under pressure, so experienced players are absolutely vital, especially as we have a lot of youngsters. Roman has done a great job in that respect, he's one of our leaders."

Yann Sommer (Borussia Mönchengladbach)

Games played: 13
Goals conceded: 16
Clean sheets: 4
Shots saved: 46/62 (74.2%)

Yann Sommer has been an inspirational figure this season for Gladbach, who are dreaming of a first Bundesliga title since 1977. © DFL DEUTSCHE FUSSBALL LIGA

It was Sommer, and not Bürki, who emerged as Switzerland's No.1 after former Wolfsburg keeper Diego Benaglio retired in 2014. The 29-year-old seriously impressed with Die Nati at the 2018 FIFA World Cup and has carried that form into his fifth Bundesliga season at Gladbach. So far he has had more touches than any other keeper in the division, an average of 51.3 per game, which shows that he plays a key role in helping the Foals build from the back. Though he hasn't quite hit the heights of his remarkable maiden campaign – when he boasted an 83 per cent save ratio and 15 clean sheets – Sommer has still kept out almost three-quarters of the shots he's faced, and his efforts have allowed Dieter Hecking's side to keep the pressure on leaders BVB. In July 2018, meanwhile, kicker put him top of their biannual list of the best keepers in the Bundesliga.  

"Yann is an outstanding, honest and ambitious character who speaks up in the dressing room, which is why the coach made him vice-captain," explained Gladbach sporting director Max Eberl. "We need him as an important leader within the team. The magazine kicker didn't choose him as the best keeper of the Rückrunde for nothing."

Kevin Trapp (Eintracht Frankfurt)

Games played: 12
Goals conceded: 16
Clean sheets: 2
Shots saved: 37/53 (70%)

It's like he never left! Kevin Trapp has been on excellent form since returning on loan to Eintracht Frankfurt, where he was first-choice keeper between 2012 and 2015. © gettyimages / Grimm

Trapp has done a fine job since returning to the Commerzbank Arena on loan from Paris Saint-Germain. The 28-year-old can also lay claim to a save ratio of 70 per cent, while he has been particularly effective in stopping 'big chances' – his figure of 36.4 per cent is bettered only by Gulacsi with 41.7. The Germany international enjoyed a solid first stint with Frankfurt between 2012 and 2015, and his all-time Bundesliga stats are in line with this season's: a 71 per cent save ratio in 125 appearances and 32.5 per cent of big chances saved, better even than Neuer. Trapp is also something of a penalty specialist, having kept out five of the 17 he's faced in the German top flight.  

"I find it's always important to have players on the pitch who open their mouths," admitted coach Adi Hütter, who's keen to make Trapp's loan deal permanent. "Kevin is an out-and-out leader. I like his ambition, and the fact that he is never satisfied with what he has achieved. That's what makes him stand out. I would really like to keep hold of him over the summer."

Peter Gulacsi (RB Leipzig)

Games played: 13
Goals conceded: 10
Clean sheets: 7
Shots saved: 39/49 (79.6%)

Stats don't lie: no keeper in the Bundesliga has a better save ratio this season than RB Leipzig's Peter Gulacsi, who has conceded just 10 goals, or one every 108 minutes. © imago / opokupix

On paper, Gulacsi has been the standout goalkeeper in the Bundesliga this season, with the best save ratio, the fewest number of goals conceded and the most clean sheets. The Hungarian is Leipzig's record appearance maker in the top flight, having missed just two of their 80 league outings since the start of 2016/17. He has played a vital role in helping them climb to fourth in the table, repelling 39 of the 49 shots he's faced and only letting his opponents convert seven of their 13 major chances. The 28-year-old also went five straight games without conceding between Matchdays 7 and 11, in a period that included impressive wins over Nuremberg, Hertha Berlin and Leverkusen. With just 10 goals conceded, Leipzig boast the best defensive record in the Bundesliga ahead of Dortmund (13).

"Pete has played in every game, and in purely statistical terms he is the best goalkeeper in the Bundesliga," observed Leipzig boss Ralf Rangnick. "His role within the team is clear, and if anything he has only become more important. He's a lovely guy, a consummate professional and an absolute rock for the team."

Manuel Neuer (Bayern Munich)

Games played: 13
Goals conceded: 18
Clean sheets: 2
Shots saved: 17/35 (48.6%)

Heads up! Manuel Neuer (l.) is having a disappointing season by his own high standards, but it's never a good idea to underestimate Bayern Munich... © gettyimages / Christof Stache

No discussion of the Bundesliga's top keeper could overlook Neuer, but the Bayern and Germany captain has been way off his best this term, possibly as a result of his lengthy injury lay-off in 2017/18. His rather alarming save ratio of 48.6 per cent is well below his all-time average of 76.1, and currently the second-worst mark in the league behind Nuremberg's Fabian Bredlow. Historically, though, the 32-year-old is head and shoulders above the pretenders to his crown. He is the only Bundesliga keeper with at least 100 appearances to have played more games (359) than he has conceded goals (279), with nearly half of those outings resulting in a clean sheet (171). Add in his aura of invincibility, the way in which he has revolutionised the position and his undeniable leadership qualities and you start to understand why he has been Bayern and the Bundesliga's No.1 for so many years.

"He's the most modern and the most intricate goalkeeper out there," former Bayern sporting director Matthias Sammer once said. "In terms of being the complete package, he's probably the best there's ever been. There'll never be another keeper like him."

Watch: Neuer's Top 5 saves in the Bundesliga

It is clearly too early to suggest that Neuer, at just 32, is past his best. After all, his predecessor Oliver Kahn was nearly 39 when he hung up his gloves in May 2008, having kept a record 196 clean sheets in 557 Bundesliga appearances. The Germany No.1 may be going through a bad patch – but form is temporary, whereas class is permanent. Still, there is no denying that the chasing pack have closed the gap on the previously untouchable Bayern custodian.

At the moment, there isn't a great deal to separate Bürki, Sommer, Trapp and Gulacsi, while a man of Neuer's immense talent is perfectly capable of turning his season around. To determine who is truly the best in the Bundesliga, we may have to wait and see which of these sublime shot-stoppers gets their safe pair of hands on the Meisterschale in May.

Andy Smith

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