Liverpool’s Alisson signing finally recognises the importance of a good goalkeeper
With Liverpool signing Alisson for a record fee, and Real Madrid moving for Chelsea’s Thibaut Courtois, goalkeepers are at the centre of attention this summer.
REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins
Perhaps one day we will look back and say it began with Ederson. When Manchester City spent £35 million on the Brazilian last summer — a world record fee in sterling for a goalkeeper — there was scepticism. Most thought it needlessly extravagant. How important, after all, could a goalkeeper be in a team stacked full of enviable talent?
As it turns out, hugely important. Ederson acted almost as a playmaker in Pep Guardiola’s side and by the end of the season was considered an indispensable member of the title-winning team.
There is, then, a recognition that goalkeepers are no longer there simply to keep out shots. The big clubs, in particular, seem determined this summer to ensure the position is filled by someone reliable.
Since, Liverpool have smashed the records set by both Ederson and Gianluigi Buffon 2001 when they confirmed the purchase of Alisson Becker from Roma.
Clearly, though, they have been forced into action to an extent: There is, unfortunately, no longer much trust in Loris Karius after his mistakes in the Champions League final defeat to Real Madrid.
But Liverpool are not alone in their high profile pursuit of a goalkeeper. Real Madrid – having been linked for years with Manchester United’s David de Gea – now appear to be on the verge of signing Thibaut Courtois from Chelsea. And Chelsea, in turn, could look to bring in Leicester’s Kasper Schmeichel as his replacement.
This unusually high level of transfer activity surrounding goalkeepers appears to have stemmed from a sudden realisation that goalkeepers, actually, are quite important. For a long time it has been assumed that a top club can cope with a competent one, that it is not necessary to stump up huge sums for the very best.
That is why the most expensive goalkeepers have remained so far behind the most expensive outfield players. That, of course, is still the case, but this summer appears to have brought with it a change.
Perhaps the World Cup has played a part too as there were a number of exceptional goalkeeping performances, particularly from Courtois and Schmeichel, as the former won the tournament’s Golden Glove award.
And clubs will have taken notice when Karius twice cost Liverpool in the Champions League final last season. They will be aware of how significant a goalkeeping error — or two — can be.
It is one of football’s strange assumptions that goalkeepers are inherently less valuable than attacking players. When £200 million Neymar makes a mistake for Paris Saint-Germain it is usually inconsequential, such as a mis-hit shot or an awkwardly executed step over.
When, as we have seen, Karius throws the ball directly at Karim Benzema’s foot or lets it slip through his hands from a tame shot, the result is a goal for the opposition and likely defeat.
Finally, it seems – having been provided with undisputable evidence – clubs are starting to open their eyes to the value of the goalkeeper. De Gea, should he leave Manchester United, will now likely command a sizeable fee as he has been named the club’s Player of the Year on four occasions and repeatedly kept Jose Mourinho’s side in games throughout last season.
Jan Oblak of Atletico Madrid, meanwhile, has an £80 million release clause in his latest contract. Clubs now, if they want the best, will need to pay as much as they would for outfield talent.
Manchester United three years ago agreed to sell De Gea to Real Madrid for around £18 million, before the deal fell through. That was ludicrously inexpensive. To put it into context, Memphis Depay and Arda Turan commanded fees of £25 million during the same summer window.
Goalkeepers for a long time have been the drummers of the band. Not the first pick for autographs, hidden away at the back, away from the glory. Now, it seems, the football world is beginning to notice them.
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