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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Ex Arsenal Keeper Praises Celtic Target

Johannes Hopf

Former Arsenal and Swedish international goalkeeper, Rabi Shaaban has heaped praise upon club-mate and rising star Johannes Hopf. Hopf (24) was scouted heavily by Celtic as well as clubs from Germany and Greece after a string of impressive performances towards the end of last season and the glowing words of Shabaan are sure to spark a resurgence in interest.

Shaaban is better placed than most to judge the rise of the young Swede. The former Gunner joined Hammarby back in his native Sweden back in 2008 after stints in England and Norway. He was first choice for the 2009 season, but in 2010 was relegated to the role of back-up by the emergence of Hopf. He hung up his gloves at the conclusion of last season after the form of Hopf played a huge role in saving the Stockholm club from relegation to the third tier of Swedish football. Since then, Shabaan has assumed the role of assistant goalkeeping coach at Hammarby and he has been impressed by what he has seen from his former rival for the starting goalkeeping berth.

“Johannes has an incredible attitude and desire,” said Shabaan reinforcing attributes that were noted by the Celtic scouts. A bid was made with a view to signing him in the January transfer window, but it fell well short of the price the Swedish club want for one of their most prized assets. With Tim Krul now firmly established as first choice for Newcastle, it seems highly likely that Alan Pardew will let Fraser Forster go for the right price and will more than likely join the Bhoys on a permanent basis from next season. Neil Lennon is still looking to strengthen his goalkeeping options and Hopf would represent a reasonably priced option with the huge potential, a view backed up by Shabaan.

“Hopf can go very far. It’s up to him. It feels good to him, I’ve been training goalkeepers a lot in the preseason. He is attentive, listens, and thinks for himself. He will now need to apply it and it will be interesting to see if he can manage it, as I hope and believe,” explained Shabaan in an interview with http://www.fotbolldirekt.se.

One club repeatedly linked to Hopf are Hoffenheim. The German outfit have developed a reputation as a club with an ability to uncover young talent missed by others and Shabaan believes his former team-mate would have little problem succeeding in the Bundesliga or another major European league. “It will suit him and it’s only a matter of time before a big move comes along. He has to keep working and learning with each workout,” he added.

For more on Hopf, here’s a highlights reel of him in action and an interview conducted with him back in October.

Celtic tracking Hammarby’s Hopf

Celtic are said to be tracking the highly-rated Hammarby goalkeeper, Johannes Hopf.

Sources within Swedish football have revealed scouts from the SPL club have watched Hopf on numerous ocassions in recent months with Celtic’s director of football development, John Park receiving regular updates on his progress.

Fraser Forster is the current first choice at Celtic Park, but with his second loan spell at the club coming to an end at the culmination of the season and Newcastle likely to demand a large fee to make the move permanent, the Glasgow club are likely to be in the market for a less costly alternative. Neil Lennon has turned to Łukasz Załuska for brief periods in the past, but despite backing the Pole publically, it’s thought the Celtic boss would prefer a more reliable option in the longer term.

Hammarby endured a difficult season in the 2nd tier of Swedish football, but Hopf emerged with immense credit following a string of impressive displays. With the strikeforce failing to fire at one end, he produced several top quality saves in the run-in which earned his team crucial points in helping avoid relegation and the division’s relegation play-off. Despite his youth, the 24 year old Swede has a good deal of first team experience under his belt and usurped former Arsenal goalkeeper Rami Shaaban as first choice for the Stockholm club in 2010, going on to be voted the club’s Player of the Season for that year.

Hopf was the subject of a failed transfer bid from an unamed Barclay’s Premier League club during the summer transfer window. On that ocassion his club rejected a bid thought to be in the region of £300,000, but with the club’s financial situation having deteriorated in recent months, sources inside the club have indicated a bid of between £200,000 to £250,000 may be enough to secure the transfer, most likely in January before the Swedish side commence their preparations for the new season. A very high profile Bundesliga side and one of Serie A’s major powers are also rumoured to be tracking him.

For more on Johannes Hopf check out:
highlights video
an analysis of Hopf

Everton would be a dream move says sought-after Hopf

Introducing the first in what I hope will be a long and insightful series, this is a feature I’m calling ‘State Of The Union’ – providing it doesn’t infringe on copyright. In the coming weeks and months, I’ll be asking goalkeepers across all levels and abilities about the pressures, challenges and general observations they have on the life of a goalkeeper.

First up is a goalkeeper I’ve raved about in the not too distant past; one who I think is genuinely destined to end up in a top league playing for a top club (impressive video evidence here). In recent months, several Premier League, Bundesliga and Serie A clubs have been following his progress, so he’s a man you may be hearing a lot more about in future.

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Johannes Hopf

Name: Johannes Hopf
Age: 24
Club: Hammarby IF (Superettan)
Nationality: Swedish

There’s the general impression goalkeepers are a different breed to others. In life do you feel like you’re part of the mainstream or a little different?
Goalkeepers are often a little different. As I see it, goalkeepers are the ones most determined to win and who really really hate to lose. The ones I’ve met in my career have been either totally mad or the nicest and calmest people ever. I absolutely consider myself a goalkeeper in mind too and I mix between the totally mad and the nice, calm guy. I wouldn’t see it as being very different.

Do you think the outfield players you’ve played with down through the years fully understand what you go through as a goalkeeper?
No, no one that has not played a game as goalkeeper knows or understands.

Do managers and coaching staff you’ve worked with fully understand it?
Luckily enough we have goalkeeper coaches but often in video analysis before games the head coach will comment on the opposing keeper and say that he is weak at crosses and then show some corners or crosses that no keeper in the world should ever try to attack.

With the responsibility that comes from being a goalkeeper, do you suffer from nerves before or during games?
I am a very calm guy and I usually don’t get that nervous before games but when I do I try to convert the nervousness into focus during pre match warmup. During games you’re usually too busy controlling your team so you don’t have time to worry over what might happen. It’s when you start to over think situations you make mistakes.

Does your mind wander?
No, I really try not to let my mind wander. It’s up to you as a goalkeeper to control your team so you’re always busy screaming at and talking to your team mates. If they’re too far away, then it’s up to you to keep your body warm and your mind cool. It’s a hard job being a keeper and you are often totally exhausted after a game, even if you haven’t been running as much as your team mates you have to be 100% focused every single second of the game.

Are there times when you’d prefer to be the one banging in the goals?
I started playing football at center back and enjoyed scoring goals but what I really miss now as a goalkeeper is the physical game, to make a perfect sliding tackle in wet weather. You can never compare the life of a striker with the life of a goalkeeper. A striker can do nine horrible misses and score once and become the hero and the keeper can do nine super saves and do one mistake and become the scapegoat for a long time. But hey, we all know that is reality, life between the posts isn’t always fair!

How do you feel the fans treat you?
I love my fans and I know that they love me. They are very supportive and thankful towards me and I get a lot of comments like “what would we do without you” and “you are our only hope”. I’m very lucky, because I’m sure it’s not the same for everyone.

What to you think of the way the media treat goalkeepers?
It is quite clear that the members of the media are no experts at goalkeeping. This summer one of Sweden’s biggest newspapers’ leading expert wrote an article on how keepers shouldn’t “take a chance” at attacking crosses or breakaways but instead stay on the goalline and just wait and hope to be hit. We do love our ice hockey and handball in this country but that article was a real joke. They pay absolutely no attention to the keepers who command their box and avoid the drama by stamping out chances before they arise, but if you stay on the line and make one decent save you’ll automatically get at least 3/5 stars.

What’s the one save of ours that sticks in our memory?
I´ve got a couple of important saves and some not so important but great looking that sticks. The most important ones must be from the two penalty shootouts in the swedish cup quarter and semi-finals last year. A save that has stuck is a top corner reflex save in muddy conditions last fall where I managed to fly and deflect a hard volley shot just over the top right hand corner. Another one that stuck is a top left corner save in the swedish cup final where I didn’t see much due to the green mist of dozens of flares, I managed to fly and get a hand up to deflect the ball on the crossbar and out.

Is there one mistake that still haunts you?
No, I haven´t had any great “Green-mistakes” in my career so far that will haunt me forever. If you make mistakes, and you will do, being a great goalkeeper is all about forgetting, forgiving yourself and moving on. There’s always a ball coming in your direction!

If everything goes to plan, where will you be in 5 years?
In 5 years time I plan to be an established goalkeeper in Britain. I can see myself in clubs like Everton, Stoke, Newcastle or Tottenham. They’re all great clubs and I really think I could offer them something. It might seem big-headed and I need some luck to get there, but I know I’ve got the potential and I know that I got the will to make it happen and I will give it my all to make it so.

What is the one piece of essential advice you’d give to a fellow goalkeeper?
Always train harder than everyone else, identify your weak spots physically, technically and psychologically and try to remove them. And most importantly, keep humble and never let a mistake take you down.

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This is intended to be the first of many explorations into the mind of the goalkeeper. If you’re a goalkeeper at any level and you’d like to answer some questions along the lines of the above. Email me or contact me on twitter (@MinistryOfGlove)

Johannes Hopf: Video Update

The other day I wrote about Johannes Hopf, a young Swedish goalkeeper I think has the fundamentals to go far in the game. At the moment he’s plying his trade with Hammarby in the Swedish 2nd division, but I’ve been watching him for a few weeks and his performances have been very impressive. If the scouting networks of clubs around Europe are working correctly, he must surely be on the radar of several clubs. As I say in the piece, gauging a goalkeeper’s level is arguably more difficult than that of an outfield player, so although

Anyway, since writing the piece, I’ve been pointed in the direction of this video. I’m always reluctant to draw too many conclusions from YouTube videos that are doubtless carefully edited to make the subjects look as good as possible, but this one really does provide a good summary of his abilities. Athletic, agile, sound handling, top drawer reflexes, strong technique, good awareness – he has a lot going for him.

He may not be playing at the highest standard at the moment, but he really does stand out as a player operating at a completely different level (the save after 2:06 if amongst one of the best I’ve ever seen). Whether or not that amounts to the sort of transfer he deserves remains to be seen, but Hopf certainly has something about him worth taking note of.

Rising Star: Johannes Hopf (Hammarby)

The Nets Big Thing?

Johannes Hopf

Is a shot in the top flight more difficult to save than in the lower divisions? It’s not the football equivalent of the ‘tree falling in the woods’ philosophical riddle, it’s a question faced by scouts, coaches and managers in leagues all over the world. With outfield players pace, touch and strength can be judged in a more quantifiable way, but assessing a goalkeeper isn’t as straightforward. You may be watching a lower level, but that doesn’t necessarily translate into needing less agility or slower reactions to deal with it.

After seeing Johannes Hopf in action, the internal debate continued with renewed intensity. The second tier of Swedish football doesn’t feature highly on most people’s radars, but Hopf came to my attention recently whilst playing for Hammarby a few weeks ago when a string of high quality saves made the difference between victory and dropping points against Varnamo. Every time I’ve seen Hopf since I’ve been impressed and left with the distinct impression that he is capable of performing at a far higher level. The result wasn’t very flattering when his team took on Landskrona, but individually he was superb and his efforts stopped the scoreline having more rugby-style look to it. You may have your own ideas about the differences between various standards of football, but whatever the level, the core requirements of the goalkeepers remain the same and he performs them with absolute aplomb. This is a goalkeeper really capable of going somewhere.

What was so impressive? Well, it feels like a cliche to say it, but the young Swede strikes me as a very well rounded keeper, adept in virtually all the duties a goalkeeper is likely to encounter. He’s got the agility and athleticism to deal with the shot-stopping aspect of the job. He regularly seems to throw his body at the ball, stretch out one of those long arms of his and save a shot seemingly destined for the back of the net. In this day and age, we should be beyond the point of expressing surprise when someone of height also shows an ability for dexterity and movement, but there’s something about the ease with which Hopf does it that seems remarkable. His reflexes are superb and he’s capable of making breath-taking saves in close combat. In one on one he’s aggressive, stays big to give himself the best chance and shows good adaptability to make the save by whatever means possible. His hands are good and he exerts a real command and calmness on his penalty area. He uses every inch of his 6ft 5 frame to great effect to take control under the high ball and it seems to breed confidence throughout his defence. His awareness is strong. He’s not afraid to play the role of sweeper if the situation requires and likewise, he’s alert to the possibilities of setting up quick counter attacks and at times looks Schemiechel-esque with his throw outs. It’s a mightily impressive box of tricks to have at your disposal.

If that’s not enough by way of gushing praise, another major advantage is his experience. He won’t turn 25 until next summer, but already in his short career he has amassed a good deal of experience and he’s already closing in on having made 200 senior appearances. Again there may be those who question the level at which he’s playing, but there’s a maturity to his game that you rarely see in keepers of a similar age. Moreover, it’s encouraging because he has consistently shown a capacity to rise to the top at each of his clubs and establish himself as first choice (most recently usurping former Arsenal keeper, Rami Shaaban) that almost makes the level irrelevant. At the bare minimum it shows this is a young man capable of learning, developing and consistently improving himself.

Physically, he has the height, but he’s also got a certain bulk that should mean he’ll handle the physicality of the British leagues with little difficulty. Technical strength is also in his favour. His footwork is good and he likes to catch the ball where possible and it’s apparent that his style would be suited to the English game. It’s no surprise to hear a move to the UK has been close in the past, but fell through late on in the horse trading. I’ve been told by a very reliable source that Preston and QPR have also made approaches deemed insufficient by his club and Bayern Munich and AEK Athens are amongst the continental clubs who’ve been taking a long hard look at him. In my opinion, his likely fee and ability to progress would be perfect for Arsene Wenger. Clearly the Frenchman doesn’t like spending big and places an emphasis on improving players, so Hopf would be right up his alley.

Maybe the scouts suffer from the same problems of assessing the standards of various leagues around Europe, but at the very least he deserves a chance at a higher level and a small risk now could potentially pay off many times over. Everyone has to start somewhere and it’s folly to dismiss talent on the grounds of not being at the highest level at that particular moment in thime.

Hopf looks to have the fundamentals plus a lot more, so don’t be surprised if you see him making upwards progress in the very near future.