Bayern Munich and Germany goalkeeper Manuel Neuer is the third best player in the world behind Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, if last year’s Ballon D’Or verdict was anything to go by.
The summer’s transfer window had a very prevalent goalkeeping theme as well, with the likes of David De Gea, Petr Cech and Iker Casillas all moving, or nearly moving in the case of De Gea, to other clubs.
Not only this but teams are beginning to recognise the importance of having a good back-up goalkeeper. Barcelona’s treble winning team of last season consisted of two starting goalkeepers, manager Luis Enrique used Chile international Claudio Bravo for their league fixtures and German international Marc ter Stegen for Barca’s Champions League games, and it clearly worked very well.
Competition for goalkeeping places has often occurred at international level, with the likes of Spain, Italy and England in the Peter Shilton/Ray Clemence days, reaping the rewards of such competition. However, are goalkeepers getting better or worse, or is this article a waste of my time and even worse, yours?
Well you’ve read this far so you may as well see it through.
Every week there seems to be a 3-3, or a 4-2 in the Premier League round of fixtures. Top-flight English football is billed as an action-packed blockbuster with speedy wingers and clinical strikers, so why did Arsenal sign a thirty-something goalkeeper instead of a star striker?
Well the simple fact of the matter is this; goalkeepers prevent the opposition from scoring goals. The importance of an exceptional shot-stopper is so often overlooked in world-football.
From a young age we’re taught to pick the goalies last, it’s considered a thankless task, to put your body on line and take the occasional goal kick. In the park, to be a goalkeeper is almost a punishment, when between the sticks one reflects on their bad performance and uses the time to work out why they find themselves in this terrible position, the position of a goalkeeper.
The irony is, when in this predicament, you have the best view on the pitch. The very best goalkeepers are the eyes and ears for their managers, It’s the reason keepers increase in value with age, like an old fine wine or David Beckham. Why else would a manger so often entrust their goalkeepers with the captain’s armband?
The truth is goalkeepers are no better or worse than before. The only thing that has changed is the style of football being played. Yes, goalkeepers have to be slightly better with their feet, but fundamentally it is the same position it has always been.
More goals are being scored in the Premier League because more shots are being attempted than before, it’s as simple as that. Therefore keepers have an increased number of opportunities to showcase their skills with Hollywood saves, in their brightly coloured kits.
It all fits into football’s new glossy HD formula, the goalkeeper has been rebranded and people are no longer taking them for granted.
So next time you find yourself between the sticks in a kick about with your mates, just remember, you’re probably the most important person on the pitch.