International football presents a different challenge for an England GK

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Roy Hodgson’s England goalkeeping selections for the summer have provoked much debate. No-one can quibble with Joe Hart but there was far less consensus when it game to bringing Rob Green and John Ruddy (and now Jack Butland) to Euro 2012. Many people lament the continued absences of Ben Foster and Paul Robinson, whilst others made a case for Scott Carson who is out of sight and presumably out of mind in Turkey.

The first thing to say is club football and international football are totally different. International football is a lot slower. It’s a different mindset. I got called up to an England B team back in 1996. David Seaman was out injured and then Tim Flowers went down with an injury so I got bumped to the A squad. Nigel Martyn was the first choice and I sat on the bench for the game against Chile at Wembley.

Nigel summed up the differences between the club and country game perfectly. He told me “in international football, you’re generally going to be resigned to taking goal-kicks and picking the ball out of the net.” That’s because the game is a lot slower. In club games, the play is at a much higher tempo and you’re going to have maybe 14 or 15 saves to make. In international football, you’re normally only going to have to make three or four saves.

The teams are trying to work the ball into positions where they’re only a few yards out, so when the shots do come in, you’ve got much less of a chance of keeping them out. At that level, you’ve got to be prepared to do little else but take goal-kicks and pick the ball out of the net. Those requirements don’t suit every goalkeeper. It’s takes much more mental toughness and concentration. To play a long season at club level where you’re making a much higher volume of saves, it’s more suited to the younger and more physical goalkeeper.

From my own experiences, I’m fully aware of the psychological differences between being first choice and second choice both for club and country. At World Cup 2006, I was largely 2nd choice at West Ham, but I was thrown into the limelight for the national team. I knew exactly what was required, so it was no problem to step in and change mental approach.

It’s something England will need. Everyone will hope Joe Hart stays fit and healthy, but if he doesn’t you need to have a certain type of player around. Rob Green is the right man for the job. I’ve always liked him as a goalkeeper. He obviously had a disappointing World Cup in 2010 by his standards. It really knocked his confidence, but he’s going to Poland and Ukraine as a number 2. It’s a completely different mindset when you know you’re the back-up. You know you’ll play the odd game at most and you’re prepared for it. He’s experienced enough to know what international football involves, so it’s worth having him around. He can play that role as well as anybody.

I thought is was a good idea bringing John Ruddy along to give him a taste of senior tournament football. It’s not now going to happen thanks to his broken finger, but it was the right thing to do. Hopefully Jack Butland won’t need to see any playing time and he take build up his experience to play a bigger role in future.

Newcastle Form Fires Krul Into World’s GK Elite

Tim Krul

It’s been a while since I’ve updated my World Goalkeeper Rankings and with 2011 drawing to a close, I wanted to round-off the year by revising my list to take into account some interesting developments in recent months. As ever, I’m trying to balance the current form with long-term performance. Knee-jerk reactions are keenly avoided – one mistake doesn’t mean you can automatically consign a goalkeeper to the category of ‘calamity’ and one great save doesn’t necessarily count for much if it’s sandwiched between bouts of uncertainty and silly errors. With that in mind here’s my end of year totally subjective and unscientific World Goalkeeping Rankings.

Current (Former)
1. (1) Iker Casillas (Real Madrid and Spain)
2. (2) Gigi Buffon (Juventus and Italy)
3. (6) Hugo Lloris (Lyon and France)
4. (5) Victor Valdes (Barcelona and Spain)
5. (3) Pepe Reina (Liverpool and Spain)
6. (8) Manuel Neuer (Bayern Munich and Germany)
7. (4) Petr Cech (Chelsea and Czech Rep.)
8. (7) Joe Hart (Man City and England)
9. (=) Tim Krul (Newcastle and Netherlands)
10. (10) Shay Given (Aston Villa and Ireland)

Iker Casillas remains on top by virtue of his consistency and ability to bounce-back immediately from any semblance of a blip. He’s been typically reliable in Real Madrid’s surge to the top of La Liga and even in their defeat to Barcelona he was virtually foot perfect and showed leadership throughout. It’s ironic that the only goalkeeping error of El Clasico came from Victor Valdes and he ended up on the side that won with relative ease. It was a rare error from a goalkeeper with the passing skills that wouldn’t look out of place in the centre of midfield. Aside from his quality distribution, his concentration remains supreme and he’s the perfect goalkeeper for a Barcelona side seeking footballing perfection. It’s been a trying few months for their compatriot, Pepe Reina. The Liverpool goalie has been very good, but he’s been making more handling errors than we’ve become accustomed to due to the high standards he’s has achieved in the past. The mistakes were punished against Tottenham and Fulham, but there have been a smattering of other occasions when he got away with it. Reina is good enough that even when he’s not performing at his best, he’s still world-class, although slightly less world-class in recent months.

Another Premier League struggler is Petr Cech. Again, Cech has been excellent for much of the last few years, but this year has been difficult. At times he has shown the brilliance he is capable of, but hasn’t maintained it for long periods. A Chelsea defence struggling to adapt to life under Andre Villas-Boas hasn’t helped his cause and injuries has also disrupted his rhythm. He was uncharacteristically off the pace when Arsenal scored five at Stamford Bridge and at other times has been less than fluent in dealing with shots he has Again, he’s quality is not in doubt, but he’s not in his best form. Cech has bounced back from slumps in the past and there’s every reason to think a resurgence is in the pipeline.

Hugo Lloris feels like he’s been on the scene for years and it’s easy to forget that this Christmas will only bring his 25th birthday. Every time I’ve seen him, he has been hugely impressive. His reflexes, athleticism and composure are a delight to behold and as he gets older, he continues to add leadership to his box of tricks. He has been one of Europe’s best keepers for the last couple of seasons and it’s only a matter of time before he looks beyond Ligue 1 and towards the leading lights of European football for his next big challenge.

Tim Krul has been the best goalkeeper in the Premier League this season and contrary to the views of cynics, for once that’s not a position earned by default. The competition for that accolade has rarely been more fierce, but the Magpies number 1 has been so exceptional in so many Newcastle games, he is the pick of a strong crop. More than the impact of Alan Pardew, the shrewd acquisitions of Demba Ba and Yohan Cabaye, Krul’s form is arguably the reason for Newcastle’s surprisingly strong start to the season. For all their attacking play and improved organisation, they would a fraction of their points haul were it not for the numerous top quality saves he has come up with high in several games so far this season. The awesome display of agility and reflexes at Old Trafford may have been his most high-profile performances of the season, but in reality he has been excellent in virtually every game. He has progressed significantly since last season. Then he looked very capable, but also anxious and too prone to bad decisions and doing the wrong thing at the wrong time. Now he looks more composed, mature and seems to fill his goal far more than just a few months ago. The latter point may largely be down to the psychology of perception, but Krul is understandably more confident and it’s easy to see in his on-field demeanour. He makes his debut on the list after a stunning run of form that’s impossible to ignore.

Manuel Neuer was one of the world’s best whilst still at Schalke and he has enjoyed a tremendous start to his time at Bayern Munich. He set a club record for number of minutes without conceding a goal and although that run has come to an end, he is still making significant contributions to the Bavarians’ cause. Despite being top of the table, Bayern haven’t been flawless and Neuer has been there several times to make the difference between a win and careless dropped points. Style-wise, he’s the goalkeeper most resembling Peter Schmeichel in the game at present and if he continues to progress, he should enjoy similar levels of success to the Dane.

Shay Given is another regular feature on the rankings to have switched clubs over the summer. Clearly the older Given is more susceptible to injury than ever before, but already he has shown is immense ability by pulling of some fantastic saves for Aston Villa. He’s replicated that form for Ireland (one sloppy goal conceded against Estonia aside) and remains one of the world’s best. Gigi Buffon will no doubt empathise with Given on his injury troubles. The Italian missed a large part of last season with troublesome knocks he struggled to shake off, but since returning towards the end of last term and getting a run of games under his belt, he looks like the world-class keeper of old to the point where the debate about who deserves to be Italian number 1 that recently looked valid, as been relegated to the status of being almost laughable.

David De Gea drops out of the Top 10, but I stress that it’s not an abandonment of the belief that he’s something special and he’s destined to become one of the world’s best. Despite his excellent attitude and maturity beyond his years, he has struggled to get to grips with the Old Trafford spotlight. The standards at Manchester United are so high that there is little room for error and although he impressed hugely at Atletico Madrid, it would appear he is not quite the finished article – possibly more mentally rather than technically. Joe Hart takes a minor drop for a few errors in an otherwise good season for Man City. Like the rest of the team, we didn’t see the best of him in their abridged debut participation in the Champions League and he has been subject to a couple of lapses in concentration on the domestic front. It’s been an ongoing issue with Hart and one he needs to work on. The agility, handling and authority are all there, he just needs to iron out this one major chink in his armour.

It’s difficult to omit the likes of Michel Vorm, Woijech Szczesny and Guillermo Ochoa from the list, but it has to do done. Greatness comes with consistency and although they compare favourably with some of the other names on the list, they’ve not been operating at the same level for the similar length of time. Vorm has been nothing short of brilliant for Swansea. He has pulled off some breath-taking saves and is already a leading contender for the tag of ‘buy of the season’. Ideally he’d have more command of the aerial battles that are played out in his penalty area, but he’s so strong in other areas as to compensate for this short-coming. Szczesny has been excellent for Arsenal and before Robin van Persie grabbed the season by the scruff of the neck, he was their player of the season. He made massive progress in the off-season and even when the Gunners fumbled their way through the early part of the season, he was excellent. Guillermo Ochoa is a name I predict we’ll be hearing a lot more of in the new year. His move to Ajaccio in Ligue 1 was a curious one, but not long after arriving in Corsica, it became clear he viewed it as a stepping stone to bigger and better things. Don’t let Ajaccio’s dreadful plight at the foot of the French top flight fool you, Ochoa has been brilliant in almost every game. He has been supremely agile with good hands and without him, they would have conceded far more than the 36 they’ve shipped in their 17 games to date. He will be going somewhere at the end of the season and it won’t be Ligue 2. Which is more than can be said for the club.

Agree, disagree or think I’ve missed out on someone?
Have your say in the comments section.

What’s needed in a Premier League winning goalkeeper?

How much does the goalkeeper matter in a team aspiring to win league titles?
Is it possible, with enough outfield talent, to get away with a custodian touched more by the brush of distinct averageness than sublime greatness? Inspired by a watching of The Damned United and the remarkable vision of one Brian Howard Clough and curious to know how vigorously Manchester United should be in their pursuit of David de Gea, I had a look at the pedigree of goalkeeper associated with Premier League winning teams. Even though it brought him a fair deal of criticism at the time, Clough’s purchase of Shilton was inspired and paid of in the most spectacular of ways. Winning back to back European Cups when it was genuinely a cup competition and there was substantially less room for error showcased the potential benefits of a top class goalkeeper and to this day, there seem to be managers with aspiring title-winning sides who fail to grasp the importance of having a solid performer between the sticks. It’s far from an exact or even particularly detailed science. Although I’m aware there was football before the Premier League, statistics can be a bit sketchy prior to that so I’ve begrudgingly accepted that as my arbitrary cut-off point.

Premier League Winning Goalkeepers

One thing immediately stands out – the list oozes quality. There’s not much more than can be said about Schmeichel. Tim Flowers was excellent for Blackburn and probably deserved more than the 11 England caps he earned. David Seaman gets a hard time for a handful of high-profile mistakes, but his years of performing superbly for Arsenal make him a genuine great. After a couple of years of struggle, Petr Cech has battled back to be considered one of the world’s best and with time on his side, may go on to be considered on of the best of all time. Again, there may be an unfair weighting given to the moments of madness that littered his later career, but Jens Lehmann was fantastic for Arsenal in their Invincibles season and performed well beyond that despite collecting little in the way of silverware. Barthez may be remembered as something of a calamity keeper and although his errors were at times tremendously amusing, he was a World Cup winner who’s overall contribution was overwhelmingly positive, despite the occasional moments of madness. Eventually the errors got too much to bear for Sir Alex and he was shipped out. but the Frenchman won a World Cup, a Champions League, several domestic titles and a plethora of individual honours during his career, so clearly he was a player of immense ability.

There is one exception and that comes in the 1999-2000 league season when Mark Bosnich was mostly United’s first choice with Raymond van der Gouw stepping in where necessary and Massimo Taibi briefly adding the comedy value. That’s not to belittle the talents of Bosnich who was utterly breathtaking at times during his career at Aston Villa, but clearly by the time he reached Old Trafford, the demons that would later seriously derail his career had arrived on the scene and he failed to recapture the stunning form of his years at Villa Park. From an early stage, it was clear the Sir Alex Ferguson had minimal faith in Bosnich and its surely no coincidence that in this season of chopping and changing within the goalkeeping ranks, United conceded 45 goals which remains the most allowed by any Premier League champions including the 42 game seasons of the early 90s. United had claimed the treble the year before and such was the talent they had, not only did they compensate for the absence of a top quality goalkeeper, but they did it by romping to the Premier League title with almost unimaginable ease. It’s the exception that every rule needs to have.

Ignoring the separation of league-winning goalkeepers into a further hierarchy of ability and such horribly vague labels as ‘legend’ it’s safe to say that the vast majority of the goalkeepers – at that time in their careers – were very, very good and amongst the best in the world. As such, there’s a clear correlation between a quality goalkeeper and winning leagues. You may have assembled a stunning array of outfield talent, but unless it’s a truly exceptional team, a substandard goalkeeper can’t really be hidden. Is it surprising that Arsene Wenger’s trophy drought has run largely in tandem with Manuel Almunia’s reign as number 1? This isn’t about mocking Almunia – I can remember a time when people sang ‘England’s number 1’ by way of genuine praise as opposed to a sneering chant – he’s a good keeper, but he highlights the difference between good and exceptional that is required from a goalkeeper in a team aiming to win leagues. If you don’t have a top class number 1, you may get away with it for a while, but leagues are about performing consistently to decide who’s the best and the goalkeeper is a perfect microcosm of this. Over the course of a season, a goalkeeper who makes five mistakes that cost a goal in 38 games could easily cost his team 10 points and that’s a huge tally for a team going for a title. Five mistakes isn’t a huge amount, but when dealing with thin margins between success and failure, it’s enormous. Very often the best thing about a top class goalkeeper has nothing to do with amazing athleticism or lightening reflexes, it’s the timing – doing the simple things right, taking charge at key moments and settling a defence that may be struggling. Casillas and van der Sar are masters of this and it’s no surprise that they’ve collected the volume of medals they have.

Is substantial investment in a goalkeeper warranted? Well, not if you can find your own Schmeichel, but if not, your best bet is splashing the cash.

Green’s Form Gives Capello Something To Think About

Rob Green

For anyone who has experienced the unique challenges facing the goalkeeper, there’s something heart-warming about seeing Rob Green once again in the England squad and vying for a place. Long after the Spanish players had celebrated their World Cup win by assaulting Cesc Fabregas using a Barcelona shirt as an accessory to the crime, England’s goalkeeper is still best known as the laughing-stock who failed to stop Clint Dempsey’s pea-roller. The goalkeeping role is a lonely one at the best of times, but after that calamity Green must have felt like a loner on a continent of over a billion.

Too often it feels like we only talk about a goalkeeper in the aftermath of a mistake, so it’s a pleasure to say Green’s response since that set-back has been outstanding. His performances couldn’t always be described in the same terms, but in terms of determination and resolve, the West Ham keeper has been excellent. There’s still the occasional costly error, but without his saves, the Hammers would be in trouble far deeper than the struggles they’re already enduring. His performance against Tottenham last weekend showcased the superb reflexes that earned him international recognition to begin with and underscored the fact that he has shown commendable mental strength to emerge from adversity.

Of course Rob Green has been in England squad’s since the humiliation in South Africa, but the remarkable element to the story is that if Fabio Capello was going purely on recent form, Green should get the nod. He won’t, but with Joe Hart experiencing the first sustained slump of his career and Ben Foster performing in patches, Green would be the form choice. The consensus for most people would be that Hart is the most complete and naturally talented goalkeepers of the three, but Green has shown the spirit and tenacity to merit being in the reckoning for the game in Cardiff.

Sadly the flipside of Green’s resurgence is that it highlights the absolute dearth of talent available to England which I’ve touched on several times previously. No sooner had David Stockdale strung a handful of appearances together for Fulham than he was called into the senior squad and despite never having played a Premier League game, Frank Fielding was in the mix for the national team job as recently as August. As good as Green has been, the flaws remain. Agile and blessed with excellent reflexes, his handling and concentration errors undermine his bid to be considered genuinely world-class. He’s more than capable of putting together a run of good games, but sooner of later a blip comes along and often those blips are a little too frequent for comfort. A lack of long-term consistency sees him fall into the ‘good’ rather than the ‘great’ category – the worry for England is that ‘good’ might have to be good enough for some time to come.

Ben Foster Howler

Ben Foster

I’ve watched it plenty of times and I have to hold my hands up and admit I just don’t know what he was trying.
Was Alan Hansen paying a subtle tribute to Alan Partridge on BBC’s Carling Cup Match Of The Day or was it something more accidental? I just don’t know. Equally, I’ve been struggling to fathom just went wrong when Ben Foster allowed Carlton Cole’s weak effort to squirm across the line. The more I watch it, the less sense it seems to make – it’s like Frankie Boyle’s Tramadol Nights all over again. After a multitude of views, I can’t really isolate one error. Normally you can pinpoint one key problem such as handling, judgement or being David James and put the error down to that, but in this case it seems to be a few things going wrong at the same time.

If you missed it, here’s footage of Foster error in all it’s gory detail.
In the first part, his footwork is terrible. At 6 or 7 seconds into the clip, you can see him scampering across his line in what looks to be a state of panic. There was no need for such panic, mainly because his starting position wasn’t bad and also because the ball is going to none other than Carlton Cole. In an instant, his footwork means he’s off-balance and in the best position to react to whatever unfolds in front of him. When the shot does come, his body weight has already gone beyond the line the ball is taking and his attempts to make a scrambled save are in vain.

Ben Foster Error

In my opinion, the lack of recovery ties in with Foster’s underlying problem of just not having the most explosive legs. For those of you know picturing Wile E Coyote taking delivery of some gunpowder filled prosthetic limbs for his pursuit of the Roadrunner, allow me to elaborate. For me, Foster has superb reflexes, but when it comes to launching himself across the goal, I think he can look rather leaden-footed. For the most part, he can get away with it, but there are times when he goes for a shot and his legs just don’t give him the leverage to get a hand to the shot.

Beyond this error, it’s widely been regarded as a good season for the Birmingham number 1. He has largely played well, but some of the praise thrown at him seems a little manufactured. I’ve watched a lot this season and although he has made some excellent saves and earned Birmingham several points, a big mistake never seems to be too far away. At times his judgement and execution can be off and I’m never completely convinced by his handling. Alex McLeish has been very vocal about how well he’s been playing to the point where he has been advocating a recall to the England team, but that strikes me as being man-management from Big Eck. Foster may be one of those confidence players who needs to be talked up – Emile Heskey Syndrome is the medical term. It’s only natural he looks disconsolate after letting the goal in, but it’s just how disconsolate he looks that hints at brittle confidence. The likes of Casillas, Reina and Cech have all probably made similar errors down through the years, but they have the mental strength to shrug it off and make amends the next time.

It looks like this one may have got to Foster and it will be interesting to see how he reacts.

Goalkeeper World Rankings

The Ministry’s Top Ten Goalkeepers In The World

Current (Former)
1. (1) Iker Casillas (Real Madrid and Spain)
2. (2) Petr Cech (Chelsea and Czech Rep.)
3. (3) Gigi Buffon (Juventus and Italy)
4. (4) Edwin Van Der Sar (Man Utd)
5. (5) Pepe Reina (Liverpool and Spain)
6. (7) Victor Valdes (Barcelona and Spain)
7. (6) Shay Given (Man City and Ireland)
8. (8) Hugo Lloris (Lyon and France)
9. (9) Joe Hart (Man City and England)
10. (-) David de Gea (Atletico Madrid)

For yet another month, there can be little debate about Iker Casillas at the top of our Goalkeeper World Rankings. Critics may point to a costly error at the San Siro that handed AC Milan a goal, but on that occasion, it was a handling error accentuated by over-aggression and over confidence. Anticipating a cross along the six yard box, he took a step off his line, only to be left virtually stranded as the pass was skewed towards goal. His other performances in the last month were largely flawless however and he has plenty going for him in the pro column. Not for the first time, it’s the quality of his saves rather than overwhelming quantity that makes him so impressive. With Real’s new Galacticos routinely dismantling opponents, his involvement is kept to a minimum, but time over time throughout November he came up trumps for his team when called upon. His concentration is supreme and a great addition to his obvious athleticism. His performance could be the decisive factor in the first Clasico of the season on Monday,

Chelsea’s swift reversal of fortune has been dramatic, but the sudden glut of balls Petr Cech is now picking out of his net are no reflection on his performances. Throughout the crisis, he has remained firm and in actual fact minimized the impact of the faltering defence in front of him.

In an interesting twitter exchange with Shaka Hislop, we learned the former Newcastle and West Ham goalkeeper thinks our #3, Gigi Buffon is “well past his best”. It seems a harsh assessment for a players we haven’t seen since the World Cup in June, but clearly there’s something in the Italians game that Hislop has identified as being a concern. By his own admission, the Trinidad and Tobago international said he felt a deterioration in his own performance at around the age of 36 or 37 whilst he was still at Upton Park. Although it feels like he’s been around since the advent of the wheel, Buffon doesn’t turn 33 until next January. That would give a few more years in his relative prime to defy the predictions of Hislop. For the time being at least, we’re giving him the benefit of the doubt and leaving him largely untouched in the World Rankings until he eventually returns from injury.

Elsewhere on the list, there is little change. Pepe Reina is performing well behind a misfiring Liverpool team and something similar can be said of the 40 year old Edwin van der Sar. Shay Given continues to slide based almost solely on his inability to usurp Joe Hart in the Man City team. Hart is doing little wrong and with Mancini struggling to keep fans onside, he may just stick with the residual benefit that comes from sticking with the Englishman.

David de Gea makes his first appearance on the World Rankings list after another strong month, taking the Spanish representation to 4. Atletico Madrid are being their typically inconsistent selves, but were it not for his performances, they’d be simply be their atypical woeful selves. As we’ve said many times in the past, De Gea looks to have the complete package and one thing that’s stood out over the last few games is his desire to take command in his penalty area. It’s standard for most experienced keepers, but for man who only a few weeks ago left his teenage years, it’s impressive. Igor Akineev is the goalie to drop out of the Top 10. A few weeks ago we expressed concern about his handling and over reliance on punching when Ireland hosted Russia in a Euro 2012 qualifier and our follow up scouting missions of CSKA Moscow games found this to be the norm rather than the exception. It’s probably rather telling that speculation linking him with a move to Europe’s top clubs has died down in recent months.

The keeper of the month award goes to Casillas with Cech and De Gea occupying the places. He’ll no doubt be delighted.

David de Gea & Maksym Koval

Maksym Koval

The Nets Big Things?
We hadn’t heard about it before, but every decade or so, the lovely folks at Don Balon – a Spanish language football magazine publish their list of players they’re expecting to make it big. Only players born after the 1st January 1989 qualify on this occasion and at first glance, it’s certainly not the most ridiculous set of predictions we’ve ever read – although we do read Mystic Meg’s horoscopes every day of the week.

In the past, some of their predictions were spot on – Fernando Torres & Kaka – whilst others haven’t quite gone on the fulfil the potential the magazine had identified – David Prutton and Keith Kelly (now plying his trade in the Jamaican Premier League.

When it comes to goalkeepers they don’t tend to stick their neck out a whole lot, but we’ll cut them some slack because goalkeepers under the age of 21 who’ve broken into their respective teams rival ‘Louis Walsh heading home with a woman after a night out’ in terms of rarity. Their patchy record of prediction in this position may also go some why to explaining the reluctance to name names. In the 2001 version of the list, they put forward just two selections. The first was Chris Kirkland – then a highly rated youngster with Coventry. To give him his due, injury has had a huge impact on his progress, but with his 30th birthday coming next year, he looks unlikely to ever live up to the billing he was once given.

If the success of Kirkland can be argued, the choice of Rubinho can’t. Back in 2001 he had earned a hatful of caps for the Brazilian U20 side and was starting to establish himself as a regular with Corinthians, but since arriving in Europe the star-bound trajectory he was on has dipped. Again, to give him his dues, he was a regular with Genoa in Serie A for a couple of seasons, but things have taken a turn for the worse and now he’s on loan with Serie B side, Torino.

This year the folks at Don Balon have again tipped just two members of the goalkeeper union for stardom. The first being Atletico Madrid keeper, David de Gea. We’ve praised de Gea to the rafters at the Ministry Of Glove, so much so that anything other than his transformation into a 24 foot by 8 foot wall of impregnability would be classed as a failure. He continues to make huge strides and he looks destined to become one of the world’s top goalkeepers for the bulk of the next two decades. That feels a lot like a curse of the commentator in the making, so we’ll move on.

The second selection is a lot more out of left field. It’s Maksym Koval of Dynamo Kiev. He won’t turn 18 until December, but already he’s found time to be linked with a move to Arsenal, make several appearances for the Ukrainian U19 national team and play a handful of Premier League games for the club that nurtured him, Metalurh Zaporizhya. To be honest, there isn’t a lot of information out there about him, but it would seem making the grade at Dynamo Kiev is going to be tough. They seem to have an abundance of young goalkeepers to choose from and time may well see him drop down the pecking order. From the statistics we’re using, it would also appear that he’s amassed an interesting little collection on yellow cards from not a huge amount of games. Last season he picked up 3 of them for Zaporizhya in 19 games. It’s nothing conclusive but those rather hint at temperament issues.

Interestingly, a few more high profile goalkeepers who were eligible for the list have been omitted, most notably, de Gea’s Atletico team-mate, Sergio Asenjo. The lack of an English name on the list may be of a concern for Fabio Capello, but the chances are he’ll be long since departed from the England hotseat by the time it matters. Equally, we’ve put forward the case for Jonas Lossl here before, but he clearly hasn’t made enough of an impact to have grabbed the compilers’ attention.

Given the success of some of the previous predictions, that may not be a bad thing.

The full Don Balon list (from the Spoiler)