5 Facts about Tottenham target, Hugo Lloris

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Based on the form of the season gone by, there’s no urgent need for Tottenham to replace Brad Friedel. But obviously his ability to remain the Peter Pan of the Premier League will eventually come to an end and strong reports have circulated about Tottenham signing Hugo Lloris as the long-term replacement for the American.

Lloris is said to be keen on the move, with some reports claiming he has agreed personal terms. The sticking point is said to be Lyon’s colourful president, Jean Michel Aulas, who is said to be demanding €20 million, €5 million more than Spurs have reportedly offered.

It remains to be seen if the deal will be completed’ but the Frenchman is clearly a young man of uncommon maturity and ability. Here are five facts you might not have known about Hugo Lloris.

#1 During his time with Lyon, Lloris’s longest spell without conceding a goal last for 558 minutes. A run of five consecutive clean sheets came to an end when Cristiano Ronaldo put a goal past him in for Real Madrid in a Champions League tie.

#2 When Lloris first signed for Lyon from Nice in 2008, he went five games and 483 minutes (one of the games went to extra time and penalties) before conceding his first goal for his new club.

#3 The Nice native has been voted Ligue 1 Goalkeeper of the Season on three ocassions. His first accolade came in at the end of the 2008/09 season and his most recent came in the season just passed.

#4 Before joining Lyon, Lloris was on the verge of joining AC Milan. With terms agreed, the deal collapsed as Christain Abbiati refused a proposed move to Palermo.

#5 Lloris earned his first cap for France against Uruguay in November 2008 and almost exactly two years later was appointed captain for the first time as Les Bleus faced England at Wembley.


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Euro 2012 – Hart and Lloris are the GK stars of Group D

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Group D is a group full of established and emerging goalkeeping talent. Here’s a look at the custodians involved in a very unpredictable group.

England

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Joe Hart is he number one and after a strong season and much improvement from the Manchester City keeper, it’s a straightforward pick. Over the last twelve months, he has gained the experience and judgement to compliment his obvious agility and reflexes. He’s now a more commanding figure in aerial battles and his once suspect concentration now looks pretty flawless. He’s the number one and without him England are substantially weaker.

If for any reason misfortune strikes, Robert Green will step in. He will forever be remembered for his howler against the USA at World Cup 2010, but he has bounced back well since that disappointment and subsequent tabloid character assassination. His reactions are top class, but his handling can be an issue. That said, if he needs to step in, he has the experience and ability to do it with minimum of fuss.

The selection of Jack Butland on the stand-by list was Roy Hodgson’s bolt from the blue. When John Ruddy broke a finger and had to withdraw from the squad, the untested 19 year old ws the focus of much attention. Owned by Birmingham, but on loan at League 2 Cheltenham for the last few months, it was a bold move by Hodgson. It had hints of Theo Walcott being brought along to World Cup 2006 ain’t to give him the experience of an international tournament. That’s fine, but if he is called into action, it could be a decision England may rue.

France

Hugo Lloris has quietly gone about becoming one of the best goalkeepers in the world over the last few seasons. Lyon have fallen off their Ligue 1 perch, but Lloris has continued to impress with his consistency and ability. Laurent Blanc handed him the captaincy and that speaks volumes about the 25 year old’s maturity and importance to the them. His good form was rubber stamped when he was this season voted Ligue 1’s Goalkeeper of the Year for a third time.

In reserve, France have the considerable talents of Steve Mandanda. The Marseille captain’s agility and reactions have always been evident, but his handling often let him down. In the last couple of seasons however, this has improved markedly and he now looks a far more reliable keeper. He’s get into several of the sides at Euro 2012 as a first choice, but will find it hard to leapfrog Lloris in the years ahead.

The third choice is Cedric Carrasso of Bordeaux. He’s the oldest of the three, but has only one cap to his name. That’s largely down to bad timing as his peak years have coincided with the rise of Lloris and Mandanda. He’s hugely agile and capable and won’t look out of his depth in the unlikely event he’s called into action.

Sweden
Despite not making the grade at Juventus or Manchester City, Andreas Isaksson has forged a good career for himself at PSV and become Sweden’s undisputed number 1. The 30 year old is closing in on his century of caps for the national side. At 6′ 6″, his height doesn’t compromise his agility. He’s an excellent shot-stopper and even though he’s not textbook perfect, he has the knack of getting something in the way of the ball. He may parry a little too often, but he’s a reliable first choice. For a keeper of his height however, his command of the aerial battle is below standard. He needs to take charge of what can be an uncertain Swedish defence.

Johan Wiland is the most senior keeper in terms of age, but he’s the junior in terms of international caps. The Copenhagen keeper has eight to his name and at 31, may find himself behind Isaksson for most of his career. Like Isaksson, he’s a little unorthodox, but he gets the job done. His reflexes are top class and he’s brave in one on one situations.

Par Hansson is the youngest of the three goalkeepers and the one least likely to see game time. At 25, he’s very highly rated in his homeland and he will get his chance in future. His reactions are great and he’s very quick – he really is an exciting prospect for the future. One thing he may need to work on is his aerial presence. He stays on his line most of the time and to step up to the next level, will need to become more assertive.

Ukraine
The co-host’s preparation has been hindered by a severe dwindling of their goalkeeping options. The vastly experienced Oleksandr Shovkovskiy has been the first choice for the better part of the last two decades, but he has been ruled out after having to have shoulder surgery. The usual back-up of Maksim Dikan has been ruled out due to serious injuries picked up in a league game for Spartak Moscow earlier this season and another option, Oleksandr Rybka is serving a ban for testing positive for a banned diuretics whilst playing for Shakhtar Donetsk.

It leaves Andriy Pyatov as the man likely to start their campaign against Sweden. He has established himself as a firm favourite at Shakhtar Donetsk, particularly impressing in their Europa League run of 2009. Athletic and sharp, he won’t stand out as a weakness, but clearly he’s not the man most Ukrainians would want in goal.

If something does happen to Pyatov, then there’s problems for Ukraine. Mainly because between them, his two back ups have three caps. Two of them belong to Oleksandr Horyainov of Metalist Kharkiv. The 36 year old has plenty of experience at club level and he’s more than capable of filling in, but an ideal scenario would see him spend the tournament bench-warming.

Maksym Koval has just one cap to his name, but at the age of 19, that’s less of a concern. He has been ear-marked as a future star for some time now and will no doubt form a large part of Ukraine’s footballing future. He has made some gaffes in his short career, but it’s to be expected and his agility ad reflexes stand out as being exceptional. It would be a big ask to step into such a high pressure environment at such a young age, but the experience will stand him in good stead for the years to come.


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Five quality goalkeepers who could be on the move this summer


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The rumour mill is cranking into top gear as the summer transfer window opens. Here’s a look at five goalkeepers who could (and in some cases possibly should) be on the move in coming weeks.

Hugo Lloris (Lyon)

The stories about Lloris’s imminent departure from the Stade Gerland rival the ‘Cesc Fabregas to anywhere’ rumours in terms of tedium and frequency. Every summer the talk is this will be the one where he finally leaves. Tottenham have been linked, but with Brad Friedel still looking youthful and spritely, is it necessary? Immensely talented and clearly capable at the highest level, Lloris would be a great acquisition. But a lack of vacancies at Europe’s elite clubs suggests he might stay put. Aside from a couple of the Italian giants, very few of Europe’s top dogs are looking for an upgrade. Another season on the banks of the Rhone may be required until the right job comes along.

Johannes Hopf (Hammarby)

A new season is underway in Sweden and once again Hopf continues to impress. He was immense in ensuring Hammarby didn’t endure the indignity of going down to the third tier of Swedish football and has brought that form into the club’s improved form of the new campaign.

His agility, handling and leadership mark him out as a goalkeeper who can succeed at a higher level. He has the build and composure to prosper in the English game and it has clearly been noticed by the scout. Three Premier League teams and a host of top Championship sides were close to making a move last summer and after a strong finish to last year’s Superettan and brilliant start to this campaign, that enthusiasm is only likely to have swelled. Celtic and Hoffenheim have also been tracking the 25 year old and a move abroad must surely be imminent.

Ben Foster (Birmingham)

It was meant to be simple. If West Brom where to stay up and Birmingham failed to get promotion, Foster was supposed to stay at the Hawthorns by making his loan move permanent. The Blues unintentionally kept their end of the bargain, but the departure of Roy Hodgson has complicated matters. The 2011/12 season was a campaign of blissful simplicity and safety for the Baggies, but without Uncle Roy, next season will lack the same comfort. Birmingham may want to take him back, but with the up and coming Jack Butland within their ranks, they may also be tempted to cash in.

Last season was a good one for Foster. So much so that there was hope he would again make himself available for international selection again. It hasn’t happened yet, but he may be of interest to teams further up the Premier League food chain. He looks a more composed and reliable keeper in recent times. Combined with his excellent reactions, he has a lot to offer. The likes of Old Trafford may not come calling, but another big club may be tempted to swoop.

Guillermo Ochoa (Ajaccio)

Ochoa’s move to the Corsican club was a curious one, but after an excellent season, it now looks a shrewd one. The Mexican was aware of the need to rebuild his stock after his part in a banned substance fiasco at the 2011 CONCACAF Gold Cup. He and his fellow suspects were cleared of wrong-doing, but possibly aware of the ‘no smoke without fire’ attitude to drug rumours, packed his bags to start afresh in Ligue 1. He openly spoke about Ajaccio being a stepping stone to bigger and better things and the gamble seems to have worked. He looks to have achieved his aims and after playing a vital role in keeping the club in Ligue 1, he is attracting interest. His reactions and agility are absolutely world-class and have surely been noticed by clubs further up the food chain.

Marc-Andre ter Stegen (Borussia Mochengladbach)

Ter Stegen is one of the several young and immensely talented goalkeepers emerging from Germany. The 20-year-old has been linked with Barcelona to provide back-up and competition to Victor Valdes who hasn’t been flawless in the last few months. His appetite to benchwarm for the next couple of years will be slight, but the prospect of positioning himself perfectly to take one of the top goalkeeping berths in world football must also be tempting.

Brave, athletic and an organiser, he is a hugely exciting prospect. His international debut didn’t go so well after the Mannschaft conceded five goals against Switzerland. Disappointingly, Joachim Loew left him out of the squad heading for Euro 2012, but he is a player for Germany’s future.

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Manuel Neuer is the world’s best

Manuel Neuer

There’s many different ways of deciding who is the best goalkeeper in the world. Some value current form over long term reliability, whilst others are prepared to keep the faith for much longer. I try to do both and with that in mind here’s my Goalkeeper World Rankings for April.

1. Manuel Neuer (Bayern Munich and Germany)
It’s a simple pick right now. He’s been excellent since arriving in Bayern Munich and his performance on Wednesday night against Real Madrid highlighted his development. He made some excellent penalty saves, but it was his leadership and authority that was most encouraging for me. His ability has always been obvious, but now he’s got the experience to know when to take command of situations and when to take a step back, he’s reaching his potential.

2. Iker Casillas (Real Madrid and Spain)
I’m a big believer in Iker Casillas. He was a little bit shaky by his high standards on Wednesday night in the Champions League semi-final, but he still saved a penalty in the shoot-out and made some important interventions in open play. As ever, when he makes a mistake or doesn’t get something quite right, he bounces right back up and it rarely costs his team a goal.

3. Gigi Buffon (Juventus and Italy)
Buffon has been one of my favourites for a long time and given how Juventus are doing in this season’s Serie A, he has to be included. They’ve the league’s best defensive record, conceding just 18 goals in 35 games. It’s not all down to Gigi, but he’s certainly played his part. After injury trouble in the last couple of years, it’s great to see the agility is still there and the reflexes, calmness and leadership make him one of the world’s best.

4. Joe Hart (Manchester City and England)
It’s been a great year for goalkeepers in the Premier League, but I still rate Hart as the best all-rounder. He was voted in as the goalkeeper in the PFA Premier League Team of the Season and I wouldn’t argue with that. He’s incredibly mature and he’s improved his decision-making considerably over the last twelve months or so.

5. Hugo Lloris (Lyon and France)
It’s been another difficult season for Lyon, but Lloris comes out of it with big credit. Agile, ultra-reliable and still young, I’m a big fan and there’s more to come. Every time summer rolls around, the speculation liking him with a move somewhere seems as common as the smell of barbecues. Spurs are reportedly looking at him as a replacement for Brad Friedel and he’d be a great addition to the Premier League. Wherever he heads, I’m sure he’s destined to be an even bigger star than he is now.

After the couple of weeks Chelsea have had, it’s impossible not to give Petr Cech a mention. He had to be immense if Chelsea were to have any chance of ousting Barcelona and he delivered big time. He’s definitely on the fringes of my list.

In his first full season as Arsenal’s #1 Wojciech Szczęsny has proven himself as reliable, unflappable and truly world-class. Second in the PL behind Hart in my opinion, it’ll be great to see how those two develop over the coming years.

It was also hard to leave out Michel Vorm. He’s had a fantastic season for Swansea although he won’t be happy with conceding four against Wolves over the weekend. He’s got top class reflexes and he’s amazingly agile. He’s definitely one of the best in the Premier League this season.

Ali Al Habsi has had a fantastic season for Wigan too. He made one absolutely world class save against Arsenal and those contributions are crucial for a team like Wigan. If that goes in, Arsenal probably come back and win the game and all of sudden there’s no amazing run of results and they’re going down. He’s been doing things like that all season and he deserves an honourable mention.

I’ve also been impressed by Kiko Casilla for Espanyol. He’s made a few mistakes lately and he get dropped, which set him back. He’s still some way from being in my top five, but he looks like he’s heading in the right direction and I look forward to seeing how he develops next season.

Premier League and La Liga GKs dominate latest Goalkeeper World Rankings

Guillermo Ochoa

It may have been a relatively barren summer with little by way of regular football fare, but it’s back and it’s been no sleepy start the season. It’s especially the case when it comes to the goalkeepers with a multitude of storylines to witness unfolding with fascination.

David De Gea dominated much of the goalkeeping related headlines for July and August. First there was the anticipation if seeing him line out for Manchester United in their pre-season programme. Then came the excitement of seeing him try the role in something more akin to the heat of battle with the Community Shield and the first league games as United the bid for league number 20. Sadly, it hasn’t been the start De Gea dreamed of, but although his fee comes with the expectation of near perfection, his age means a certain amount of slip-ups are to be expected. The frequency and nature of the mistakes have been surprising, but it’s too early to push the panic button. The media have once again displayed their remarkable ignorance of the goalkeeping position by essentially writing him off as a Fergie flop with immediate effect, but a less sensationalist analysis is required to thoroughly diagnose why the young Spaniard looks so far removed from the dominant nigh-on wall who impressed so for Atletico and the underage Spanish sides in recent seasons. It’s speculation on my part, but I believe his errors stem from over-thinking as a result of the realisation of the pressure at United. Having watched him closely for the guts of 2 years, I’m utterly convinced he has the ability to be a huge success at Old Trafford and he will overcome his difficulties in time. That said, at the moment his status in the Top 10 is under threat and his progress will be one of the more interesting subplots to the season.

A goalkeeper more than capable of speaking about putting short-term disappointment behind him is Shay Given and the early stages of Aston Villa career suggest his sustained period of inactivity at Manchester City hasn’t blunted his ability. Even throughout his spell of bench-warming, he was highly regarded by me and although being continually overlooked by Roberto Mancini meant he had to be eased out of the rankings, I have little difficulty in reinstating him into the Top 10. It’s a little harsh on Steve Mandanda who has really come along at Marseille, but in short – do I think Given has proven himself to be a better goalkeeper than the Frenchman? Personally I think he’s better than players higher up on the list, but time will tell if he can recapture the startling consistency that has made him one of Europe’s top goalkeepers for much of the last decade and return to his lofty position of the past.

At the top of the rankings, what we’ve seen from Iker Casillas suggests he will continue performing to the high standards now almost taken for granted. Two Super Copa games and 5 goals conceded isn’t the most compelling of stats to back up that claim, but his performances in keeping brilliant Barcelona at bay was far better than the scoreline suggested. Serie A hasn’t yet resumed so we haven’t seen Gigi Buffon, but will surely remain one of the world’s finest keepers. Petr Cech only managed one game before suffering an injury likely to keep him out for a month. That game wasn’t his most convincing and due to Pepe Reina’s good start to the season for Liverpool, the Premier League pair swap places. Hugo Lloris has been playing well for Lyon, but Manuel Neuer’s career at Bayern Munich hasn’t got off to the perfect start, either on or off the pitch. We’re more concerned about what happens on the pitch and for those reasons, he takes a slight dip in the rankings.

The most impressive performance from a goalkeeper this month came from a goalkeeper yet to break into the top 10. Guillermo Ochoa has long since been spoken about as the hottest goalkeeping property outside of Europe, so it was a surprise to many when he signed for newly promoted Corsican outfit, Ajaccio in Ligue 1. He has since explained that the move is in part to rehabilitate his reputation after allegations of doping and also as a stepping stone to one of Europe’s bigger name clubs. He may not stay with the islanders for long, but while he’s there the locals will be treated to some show. Already he has put in a couple of performances of remarkable agility and athleticism. He doesn’t yet break into the Top 10 on account if the fact I haven’t seen enough of him to be sure of his consistency, but more of the same and he’ll be there and most likely in a lofty position. He’ll have to make do with Goalkeeper of the Month honours for August.

Also in good form and narrowly missing out is Wojciech Szczesny. Arsenal have had a troubled start to the season, but one major ray of sunshine has been the form of the young Pole. Over the summer, Arsene Wenger’s reluctance to make a move for a high-profile keeper was questioned, but it was always apparent that Szczesny would be his first choice and he looks to have repaid that faith by developing significantly during the close season. Confidence has never been an issue for the youngster, but his performances so far indicate he now is a more assured performer. The stunning penalty save from Antonio Di Natale in Arsenal’s Champions League was the cherry on top of the cake, but more impressive is the overall improvement in his game.

Another goalkeeper bubbling outside the Top 10 are Fernando Muslera who was simply brilliant at the Copa America. He’s another supremely talented goalkeeper who is yet to convince me of his consistency despite obvious ability. For a long time I had him pegged as something of a calamity keeper, but I’m more than willing to admit that may be an inaccurate reflection. I will follow his progress at Galatasaray keenly. Samir Handanovic of Udinese also impressed immensely in the Champions League tie with Arsenal and after getting a lot of good reports about him last season, he’ll be one to watch when the Serie A season finally gets underway.

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

Goalkeeper World Rankings – June 2011

Current (Former)
1. (1) Iker Casillas (Real Madrid and Spain)
2. (3) Gigi Buffon (Juventus and Italy)
3. (4) Petr Cech (Chelsea and Czech Rep.)
4. (5) Pepe Reina (Liverpool and Spain)
5. (6) Victor Valdes (Barcelona and Spain)
6. (7) Hugo Lloris (Lyon and France)
7. (9) David de Gea (Atletico Madrid)
8. (8) Manuel Neuer (Schalke and Germany)
9. (10) Joe Hart (Man City and England)
10. (=) Steve Mandanda (Marseille and France)

With the European season coming to an end, there’s been a lull in major activity in my Goalkeeper World Rankings, but there was one major movement that kept me ticking over. The retirement of Edwin van der Sar leaves a hole right at the top of my World Rankings. When it became clear that this would be the Dutchman’s last season as a player, I worried that his lofty place in the rankings may have had too much to do with nostalgia and an over-sentimentality. As the season went on and van der Sar performed with assurance and no lack of agility, it was clear that despite his age, he was still very much one of the world’s elite.

His performance in the Champions League pretty much summed it up. There were some questions asked of his positioning, but I genuinely believe his hesitancy had more to do with the wide variety of attacking options in the Barcelona arsenal rather than error. With los Cules cutting United apart, I think he was on his guard for the through ball and for Pedro and Messi’s goals was a pace or two away from the ideal starting position. Overall though, his performance was excellent and even though it ended with a runners-up medal, individually he went out on a high. Without him, the United could well have been staring down the barrel of a 4 goal defeat.

So despite not having the major European leagues to follow, I’ve spent most of my time looking back over performances from throughout the season to pick out the goalkeeper I think deserves to make it into the Top 10. I had a long hard look at South America and spotted a few keepers I’ll be watching closely in future, but they weren’t quite up to making the Top 10. I threw it open to the floor and I was given cupboards full of food for thought with a wide array of possibilities. In the end, I went for Steve Mandanda and he makes his first appearance on my immensely subjective and totally debatable chart. For a long time, I rated the sheer agility of Mandanda as being comparable to the very best keepers in the world. Where he always fell down for me was his handling. To me it was always a little too untidy and he couldn’t really be trusted to gather most shots at the first attempt, but this season there was a significant improvement in that part of his game. He looks far move comfortable in both his handling and his decision-making. If he continues his progress, he’ll be challenging Hugo Lloris for the starting position with Les Bleus.

There’s little movement elsewhere. Pretty much everyone moves up one to allow for van der Sar hanging up the gloves. The exception is David de Gea, the man entrusted with the responsibility of replacing the Dutchman at Old Trafford. I’ve bumped him up a couple of places based on the strength of his performances at the U21 Euros. His handling was excellent and his showed the agility and command of his penalty area he’ll need to succeed in the Premier League. There were a couple of blips, but what also impressed me is how quickly he seems to be able to get them out of his head and concentrate on the next task.

His progress is almost certainly going to be the main talking point when I look at the rankings next time around.

Goalkeeper World Rankings

Best Goalkeeper In The World Rankings – May 2011

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

Goalkeeper World Rankings

So there’s a deal done. The successor has been identified and the dotted line has been signed. You didn’t have to squint too tightly to read between the lines to see what Fergie was getting at. Whilst his team-mates had been begging Edwin van der Sar to reconsider his retirement plans, Sir Alex Ferguson responded like a man who has already bought the gold watch and arranged the catering for the retirement shindig. ‘Go away and enjoy your life, I’ve got my plans in place’ was the gist of what Ferguson was saying and such was the solemnity and unambiguity of his statements, that it was clear if he doesn’t have a replacement already secured, the process is at an advanced stage.

Having reached his forties still capable of excelling at the highest level, the calls for van der Sar to stay on are understandable. For much of this season I was worried that my assessment of the Dutchman’s performances was being coloured by over-sentimentality. Knowing we wouldn’t be seeing him for much longer, the temptation to eulogise decent performances into amazing displays of athleticism is always there, but van der Sar has been so utterly understated and reliable, the praise is warranted. He hasn’t made string of breath-taking saves (although to his credit, he still maintains the agility to do so), but his handling has generally been flawless, his command of his penalty area is supreme and his calmness has diffused throughout a defence that can do with all the reassurance it can get. As his long career reaches its final few games, van der Sar remains one of the best in the world and will be going out on a high. Just how much silverware is involved with this high will surely depend on how van der Sar maintains his level of performance throughout the month of May.

As enjoyable as van der Sar’s performances has been, there’s no doubt who remains number one in the world. Real Madrid didn’t come out of the El Classico series with huge credit, but again Iker Casillas did little wrong. He remains the world’s best and although there have been a sprinkling of mistakes in his performances, he retains a remarkably capacity to recover – both in the short-term sense of making a secondary save to cover for an initial mistake and in the long-term sense of showing mental strength when things don’t go quite right.

It’s been a controversial stance for some time (namely with Shaka Hislop who disagrees whole-heartedly!), but I still rate Gigi Buffon very highly. Throughout his injury troubles I felt it unfair to demote him down the rankings based purely on absence and I maintain that position. When he plays, he retains his talent and his form has been an important part in keeping Juventus in the hunt for an unlikely Champions League place. With Liverpool enjoying a resurgence, Pepe Reina is looking as sharp as ever. When things weren’t going well for the Reds, Reina wasn’t to blame, but playing in a more confident team has rubbed off on him. Petr Cech takes a small drop, mainly because of a couple of mistakes for Chelsea and the Czech Republic in the last few months. Overall however, he has still had an outstanding season and without him Chelsea would be struggling for European football next season, let alone a Champions League spot or even the title challenge they have somehow managed to string together. Joe Hart has dropped a few places, but that’s based on mistakes earlier in the year. It’s been a while since I’ve updated the rankings and although he has been better and still capable of producing amazing saves, those mistakes stick in the memory.

Manuel Neuer is the flavour of the month in goalkeeping circles lately. His performance in the first leg of the Champions League semi-final with Manchester United rightly earned the plaudits, but clearly the pundits who heaped the praise on him haven’t been watching him much in the Bundesliga where he has been putting in similar performances for much of the season. He hasn’t rocketed to the top of the rankings for a couple of reasons. Firstly, I try to make these rankings less knee-jerk and more long-term and as such, my views are based on watching over a reasonably extended period of time. Secondly, I still worry Neuer is more accident prone than is ideal. Every goalkeeper is allowed an occasional mistake, but there is a suspicion that for all his amazing saves, the Bayern bound goalkeeper still suffers from blips on too frequent a basis. In his defence, since first becoming aware of him a few years ago, the mistakes have been reduced dramatically and the sheer volume of work required of him behind the leaky Schalke defence means he’s in the firing line more often than some of his contemporaries on the list.

Although yet to make his debut on the list, Wojiech Szczesny deserves a mention for responding so well after disappointment in the Carling Cup final followed by injury in the Champions League. Criticism of him for going off at the Camp Nou was nonsensical as no-one truly knows the level of pain someone else his experiencing. Sure some people may have experienced dislocated fingers with little discomfort, but Szczesny’s personal physiology and medical history mean it’s may not be the same for him. He looks reliable and assured and Arsene Wenger looks to have solved his goalkeeping issues.