''Plenty of keepers retire at earlier ages for the usual reasons, like injury, lack of interest from clubs, and those who move into a coaching role. A good keeper is successful because of experience, intelligence, and self-confidence, none of which necessarily decline with age.'' Arsene Wenger
Here's our analysis of some of the best goalkeepers in the world. Does your team's goalkeeper match up to their standards, or should your manager take a few points from Arsene Wenger [click here for full interview] and learn from them?
Johan Cruyff followed Michels’ lead as Ajax coach in 1985/86, advising keeper Stanley Menzo: ''Go out and make mistakes.'' That message reflected the recognition that this style of keeping came with risks and rewards. The risks soon became apparent when Louis van Gaal succeeded Cruyff. His impatience with Menzo’s blunders led him to promote Edwin van der Sar, who was accomplished enough with the ball at his feet to hold his own in any part of the team, but less gung-ho than Menzo when rushing out of his area.
Yet Cruyff didn't give up. The idea of having one player in your side who just stopped shots offended his sense of logic. The ideal was to have 11 footballers, one of whom could also make great saves. He was even more adventurous than Michels, valuing Menzo more for his contribution to attack than for his quality in goal.
In 1992, when Cruyff won the European Cup as Barcelona coach, a promising 10-year-old called Victor Valdés joined the club’s youth system. Although Van Gaal spent four years managing Barça, Cruyff was still the club’s football philosopher, in or out of residence. Valdés was the perfect goalkeeper for the fast circulation football the club developed under his former players Frank Rijkaard and Pep Guardiola. Between 2009 and 2011, Valdés didn’t make that many saves because his team were so dominant he usually didn’t need to. Valdés would, of course, be kept much busier during his spell between the sticks at Middlesbrough.
BUILDING FROM THE BACK
Traditionally, when a keeper’s team have the ball, their job is to position themselves to avert any potential danger. Yet the sweeper-keeper’s positioning reflected the need to spot the danger – and the opportunity. As Packie Bonner noted in a recent edition of UEFA’s The Technician, this kind of goalkeeper had become ''an integral team member with an important role to play in building from the back – not just playing short passes with a view to initiating possession plays, but developing to mix this with a more direct supply to the front and the ability to launch counter-attacks.''
Old-school specialist coaching, which focuses on the keeper’s work in a particular part of the pitch, has effectively been rendered obsolete. Keepers like Neuer have to read the whole game, play the most productive pass or throw and act as a third full-back or centre-back.
NEW GENERATION GOALKEEPERS: ANDRE TER STEGEN (Barcelona) & EDERSON MORAES (Man City)
by Franscesco Farioli (Goalkeeping Coach of Sassuolo & Aspire Academy Qatar)
ALISSON BECKER'S RISE TO THE TOP
Liverpool's new goalkeeper started out at Internacional in 2013, where he fought off competition from the experienced Dida to become the club's No. 1, before joining Roma three years later for €7.5m. He didn't feature at all in Serie A in his debut season at the Stadio Olimpico, instead acting as understudy to Wojciech Szczesny, while appearing in Roma's Coppa Italia, Europa League and Champions League qualifiers. However, Szczesny's departure from Roma last summer, coupled with Eusebio Di Francesco replacing Luciano Spalletti as the club's head coach, saw Alisson promoted to first choice this season. ''If I hadn't had the guarantee of playing, I would have asked to leave Roma,'' Alisson revealed in September.
''When Roma sold Szczesny to Juventus [the Poland international returned to Arsenal from a loan spell at Roma before joining Juve permanently], the club already knew Alisson was a better goalkeeper,'' says Sky Italy's Augusto De Bartolo.''This season, he has been one of the best 'keepers in Serie A, if not the best now that Gianluigi Buffon is at the end of his career.'' "If Roma has the third best defence in the league this season, then that is due to Alisson's abilities. Statistically speaking, he has the best save percentage (80.21 per cent) and is the 'keeper that not only stops the most number of shots faced, but also the one that saves the most dangerous shots in the top flight."
Finally, football fans are beginning to take notice of the incredible job that Oblak has done as part of Atletico Madrid’s infamously mean backline. Why? Well, that defence isn’t so tough any more. Atleti’s goalkeeper is now more vital than ever in the Diego Simeone era, and as those around him decline, Oblak continues to get even better.
The Slovenian has it all aged only 25: strong command of his penalty area, expert positioning, brilliant shot-stopping ability and all of it with unerring consistency. In October, he achieved his 50th clean sheet for Atletico, in only his 86th appearance for the Rojiblancos. He has won La Liga's Zamora trophy for the last three campaigns, and last season made the Europa League Squad of the Season after helping his team to the trophy.
Oblak is one of the best goalkeepers in the world right now – and might just stay there for a very long time.
Oblak saving 3 goals vs. Leverkusen