Pitchside Europe: The loneliness of the up-and-coming keeper

“Where once blunders by up-and-coming keepers could be written off as inexperience, the timeframe for adjustment to life at results-obsessed Champions League sides is getting narrower by the season. Given the huge psychological demands that accompany football’s loneliest position and the fact that many goalkeepers continue to develop until well into their 30s, it is slightly surprising that clubs of United and Bayern’s stature are even prepared to take such gambles on goalkeepers who are yet to reach professional maturity.”

My latest blog post for Eurosport, on the psychological challenges facing young goalkeepers such as Manchester United’s David de Gea, can be read here.

3 Responses to “Pitchside Europe: The loneliness of the up-and-coming keeper”

  • Kári Tulinius:

    Interesting post. One thing that I’ve been thinking about though:

    “It is not because nobody wants to buy goalkeepers, however, but because nobody is prepared to sell them. Goal-scorers and crowd pleasers may fire the imaginations of the fans and the media, but a reliable world-class goalkeeper is truly priceless. As a result, the game’s elite net-minders rarely feature in the transfer gossip columns – and when they do, the fees evoked can be astronomical.”

    Neuer, Muslera and Stekelenberg, no strangers they to the limelight, being three of the four goalkeepers playing in the last World Cup semifinals, were all sold this summer, for the rather paltry sums of €18, €12 and €6 million respectively. I don’t think the problem is that no one wants to sell world class keepers, which all three are, but that teams aren’t willing to part with the required cash.

    Swansea may have pulled off a similar coup to Ajaccio’s by securing the services of Michel Vorm, the Dutch reserve goalkeeper, for a ridiculously low €1.5 million. Managers seems to routinely undervalue good goalkeepers. I wonder if this is because few managers were themselves once goalkeepers.

    • Tom:

      That’s a fair point. I think the thing with Neuer, Muslera and Stekelenburg is that – rightly or wrongly – they’re still seen as up-and-coming goalkeepers, despite being first-choice for their respective national sides. None of them were playing for elite Champions League clubs so there may be a sense that they haven’t yet proven themselves at the very highest level over a long period of time, in the way that Gianluigi Buffon, Iker Casillas and Pepe Reina have. I was amazed that they were all sold so cheaply though.

      • Jean-Michel:

        I think the real answer is there : “Goal-scorers and crowd pleasers”
        People are not ready to put money on a player if he doesn’t please the fans and doesn’t sell jerseys. There is no transfer of established goalkeepers between big clubs because it will imply putting €50M+ on the table, and the clubs are reluctant to do that for a player who can’t score a goal.
        The market is driven by the show business not by the game…

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