When requesting an example to explain the slender, almost indefinable differences between the best of their trade and simply the best of the rest, one need only take a gander at Liverpool’s Simon Mignolet.
Indeed, no one can doubt the Reds have got good value out of their £9million signing, but poor performances on big occasions are continually letting him down. He was at fault for both of Manchester City’s goals when Liverpool visited the Etihad last season, and even his attempt to save Phil Jagielka’s wonder-strike in the Merseyside derby has come under criticism from Sky Sports duo Jamie Carragher and Gary Neville.
As Brendan Rodgers continues to try and improve his developing Liverpool side, it’s believed the Anfield boss is already considering replacements for his No.1 ahead of the January window.
We know former Barcelona star Victor Valdes didn’t take his fancy – with the free agent now training at Manchester United – but he’s FIVE Mignolet upgrades that might.
Measuring in at a monolithic 6 foot 6 and well proven in the Premier League, Stoke City’s Asmir Begovic has to be considered a major candidate for any top English side looking to strengthen at No.1
Indeed, he’s now amassed 145 appearances in the top flight throughout spells with the Potters and Portsmouth, and during his five full campaigns at the Britannia has claimed six seasonal accolades, including the Young Player of the Year award in 2011, the Player of the Year award in 2013 and consecutive Players’ Player of the Year awards in 2013 and 2014.
The Bosnian international came close to joining Manchester United in summer 2013 whilst David de Gea’s wiry frame cast doubts over his future in the Premier League and he’s been regularly linked with an Anfield move throughout the years too – specifically, just before Liverpool signed Simon Mignolet:
Nearly done! Asmir Begovic says his move to Liverpool is nearly done, and he’s already looking forward to training: http://t.co/E0nna9IsEt
— Metro Sport (@Metro_Sport) May 24, 2013
As shown in the graphic below, the 27 year-old recorded the fifth-best save percentage in the Premier League last season, bettering Mignolet by quite some way:
He also made less errors leading to goals than the Liverpool No.1:
Begovic won’t be the cheapest goalkeeper in this article, having already proved himself at Premier League level, but Stoke City will be more prepared to sell than many; in 21 year-old Jack Butland, currently on loan at Derby County, they’re already have the Bosnian’s long-term replacement.
The towering shot-stopper’s nine clean sheets helped the Potters claim their highest league position in over 40 years last season. Here’s a look at some of his best ever saves in the Premier League:
Despite insisting he’s yet to be contacted by the Anfield club, the tabloids believe Espanyol ‘keeper Kiko Casilla is currently leading the race to become Liverpool’s next No.1:
— Metro Sport (@Metro_Sport) October 28, 2014
The 28 year-old is enjoying some fine form at the start of the season, with his four clean sheets in eight La Liga outings only bettered by Atletico’s Moya and Barcelona’s Claudio Bravo. He’s also second in the saves charts, as shown below:
Last term, Casilla produced this stunning save to keep out Real Madrid’s Gareth Bale:
It’s not been an easy career for the 6 foot 3 Spaniard; he failed to make the grade at Real Madrid, amassing just five appearances for their B string in the space of two years, and was initially farmed out at Espanyol.
But performances over the last few years has seen his stock dramatically soar, and he’s now Spain’s third-choice ‘keeper behind Iker Casillas and David de Gea. Here’s a look at the Espanyol star in action:
The Independent believe Casilla could be available for around £8million in January:
— IndySport (@IndySport) October 14, 2014
But Liverpool face strong competition from former club Real Madrid for his signature.
From one of the best in La Liga to one of the best in Serie A, Mattia Perin is yet to make 100 appearances in the Italian top flight but has already demonstrated enough promise to make it into Italy’s World Cup squad and allegedly catch the eye of Bayern Munich:
— Sports Mole Bayern (@SMBayern) August 1, 2014
Last term, the Genoa No.1 kept an impressive eleven goals in 37 appearances and also proved to be one of the division’s most proficient shot-stoppers:
Here’s a collection of Perin’s best saves from 2013/14:
And this year, the 21 year-old has found an even higher gear:
Liverpool fans will be concerned with Perin’s limited experience – the 6 foot 2 ‘keeper is yet to feature as a senior internationally or pick up his first appearance in Europe.
But already compared to a young Gianluigi Buffon, Perin looks to be a wise long-term investment.
Another Serie A shot-stopper said to be on Liverpool’s radar is Fiorentina No.1 Neto:
— Metro Sport (@Metro_Sport) October 23, 2014
The 25 year-old has continually impressed since first turning out for Viola in 2011, going on to win a silver medal with Brazil at the London Olympic Games twelve months later.
Building upon an impressive twelve clean sheets in 35 appearances last term, only Juves’ Gianluigi Buffon and Morgan De Sanctis of Roma have claimed more shutouts than the 6 foot 3 goalie this season:
He’s also one of the Italian top flight’s best in terms of distribution, which has been a real problem for Simon Mignolet at Liverpool:
There are certainly more qualified and experienced candidates on this list, but Neto remains the most likely to be on the move in January. His contract is up at the end of the season and negotiations over a new deal have reportedly stalled.
That could see him arrive at Anfield for a nominal fee. Here’s a look at the South American in action:
A distinct possibility or simply a pipe dream?
Chelsea’s Petr Cech is one of the greatest goalkeepers in Premier League history, having won four Golden Gloves and twice made it into the PFA Team of the Year. But he’s unfortunately found himself overtaken in the pecking order by 22 year-old Thibaut Courtois this season.
The Czech international has vowed to fight for his place at Stamford Bridge and boosting Chelsea’s goalkeeping depth enormously, Jose Mourinho is under no hurry to sell.
But even struggling for game-time in the auxiliary competitions this season, thus far featuring just once in the Champions League, it’s likely the 32 year-old can be prized away in January.
With 327 Premier League appearances under his belt, in addition to over 100 outings in Europe, Cech’s top flight credentials are undoubted and his eternally composed nature could breed a new sense of calmness in Liverpool’s chaotic defence. Here’s a look at some of his best ever saves for the Blues:
But whether Chelsea would be prepared to surrender one of world football’s top goalkeepers to another Premier League side remains to be seen, especially with a plethora of foreign clubs already linked to his signature:
— Metro Sport (@Metro_Sport) October 23, 2014