Ever since Edwin van der Sar announced he would be retiring at the end of the season – and for a long time prior to that – there has been speculation about who will claim one of the most high-profile goalkeeping jobs in world football. Pretty much every elite level keeper – and several who certainly aren’t amongst the elite – has been mentioned as a target. In recent weeks, speculation suggested a move for Julio Cesar was becoming more and more likely. I’ve written previously about how his extensive experience fits the profile Sir Alex Ferguson likes in his goalkeepers and his outstanding agility doesn’t hurt either.
For all his good points, I cited one issue which I feel would be a big turn off for United. Cesar is an excellent keeper in a number of respects (as shown here), but his tendency to punch – or at least not catch – is a concern. Without wanting to sound like a nostalgic ex-pro longing for the 60s and 70s when you were allowed stab the keeper and not concede a free, he does it to often. I’m not against keepers punching or parrying when it is the best course of action, but if it happens too often, you have to ask yourself if the keeper is doing it because he sees it as being the best course of action for his team or because he doesn’t trust his handling skills. As time goes by, it looks more and more like Cesar knows his handling is suspect and hence his reluctance to hold on to the ball.
The weakness was highlighted against Bayern Munich. In fairness Arjen Robben hit his shot sweetly and there was a bit of zing to it, but at the same time, it was pretty much straight at Cesar and any goalkeeper wanting to be considered top class should expect to gather it cleanly. Cesar spilled it and left Mario Gomez with a simple tap-in that puts the Germans in charge of the tie and the defending champions on the verge of elimination. To his credit, Cesar made a number of good saves throughout the game, but that will be forgotten after an error such as this. Being at Man Utd, pretty much every game is high stakes. One high-profile mistake may be forgiven, but he won’t get away with it too often. You get the feeling Fergie may have scratched Cesar off the list of potential replacements.
PS: In a bizarre footnote to Cesar’s error, it turns out he walked home from the San Siro after the match.
Nothing says ‘I care’ more than leaving your high power sports car in the club car park and making a moody short walk to your million-pound villa.