How good would a goalkeeper have to be to win the Ballon D'Or these days?

Hasn’t happened since Lev Yashin in the 1960s. Even Manuel Neuer in his heyday never won it.

There is intrinsic bias towards goalscorers, since offense is where the glamor is. Messi, Ronaldo, etc. - strikers who hogged almost all the recent awards.

So does a goalkeeper have to maintain clean sheets in nearly every single match in order to get the Ballon D’Or? Win a World Cup for his nation by clean-sheeting almost everything and also a couple of PK shootouts?

Yes, all of that, and probably he would still not win it. On top of everything you wrote he would have to be telegenic, witty, nice and sexy and have strong backing from the media. Look at all those that did not win: Meier, Arconada, Schmeichel, Kahn, Casillas, Buffon, Čech, Var der Saar, Zoff, Ter Stegen and, yes, Neuer. Life’s unjust.

Well, if he could score the odd match winner too…

It’s really circumstantial. I don’t think they would need to be any better at goalkeeping than the best ones already are; the odds would just have to break right for them. They’re obviously not given entirely on merit, so you just have to have the best story, a lot of which is out of the individual player’s hands.

One thing that will help a lot is Messi and Ronaldo are pretty obvious outliers, and they won’t be competing for these forever. Then it just becomes a question of who can rack up the most accolades in 12 months without some outfield player having similar success and also scoring 50+ times. And to that point, even Lewa is what, 33 or 34 now.

Maybe Oblak could do it if Slovenia miraculously advanced all the way to a Euro Final (extremely unlikely), and Atleti won a treble without any of their strikers being out of this world (not unlikely).

Or, it seems to me that, let’s say, if Mendy merely played very well, and Chelsea won the league and France won the Euros (and let’s say Kante missed six weeks, while we’re at it), in a universe where Messi and Ronaldo didn’t exist, that wouldn’t be too far away from a possibility, would it? That was basically the Jorginho case; eliminate everyone who didn’t win each trophy until you were left with just one guy. He managed a third place without being anywhere near the kind of player who grabs all the attention.

A goalkeeper would, specifically, have to win a World Cup for a tremendous underdog. A keeper on a really strong side isn’t going to be tested enough, in multiple games, to be as valuable as his team’s best player at another position. A superior team will quite routinely only surrender a handful of shots on target ; if the goalkeeper only faces two shots and neither are all that challenging, you can’t really say he was that valuable.

No, what you’d need is a guy facing more shots than a strong side usually gives up and really standing on his head.

One’s country’s prospects aside, in terms of just plain raw quality, I can’t think of a better keeper than Oblack for such a prize. Consistently, season in and out, the best.

Absolutely. Liverpool, City and Bayern would maybe all say they prefer what they have in terms of the modern emphasis on keeper distribution and skill as outfield players, given their playstyles, but I don’t see any real argument against Oblak when it comes to keeping the ball out of the net.

Slovenia is just the right team. They’re ranked 65th in the world.

I think we’re “prisoners of the moment” with this one. It wasn’t that long ago that Buffon (the GOAT, in my opinion) finished in 2nd to his Italy teammate Cannavaro.

Oliver Kahn was voted the best player of the 2002 World Cup. He made a mistake in the final against Brazil which led to a goal but that Germany team was not considered a top team at the start of the tournament and he put in great performances keeping them in games and getting his defenders off the hook for their mistakes. In the final he also made many key saves.

If Germany won that match it is highly likely Kahn would have won the 2002 Balon d’or. He came third behind Roberto Carlos and Ronaldo.

Carlos was a great player but it’s arguable whether he was even the best full back in his team in comparison with the captain Cafu. I think his selection was a case of getting another player in from the world champions and he was quite underappreciated at the time so maybe it was just to give recognition that it is not just about goalscorers.

Ronaldo was the top scorer of the World Cup, scored both goals in the final, scored in all but one game during the whole tournament. He had also barely played any football in the previous two seasons because he had bad knee injuries. Ronaldo had already won the Balon d’or before as a twenty year old. In 1998 the mystery of his seizure before the World Cup final against France became a huge story because it was heavily believed that Nike who sponsored both the player and the team put pressure on the coach to pick Ronaldo against the team doctor’s advice. France won 3-0. The World Cup of 2002 was an incredible comeback story for a player who many had thought would never be the same again. That’s why he won it despite only playing about 25 games in the whole year. If Kahn and Germany had come out on top of their battle in the World Cup Final I am sure he would have come first place.