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.

Van der Sar Holds The Key To Man Utd Victory

One v One – Edwin Van Der Sar v Victor Valdes
Van der Sar v Valdes

Champions League Final. Barcelona. A goalkeeping legend’s last game for the club.
There’s a delightful deja vu about the European Cup decider that will at the very least, give Manchester United fans memories of that night in the Camp Nou twelve years ago. For those who like to link coincidences with fate, the stars may appear to be aligning in favour of the Red Devils, but in truth the result of the game will be decided on 7,000 odd square metres of grass rather than the vast expense of space.

If ever there was an opportunity to go out on an incredible high, Edwin van der Sar has it. Less than a week after collecting the latest Premier League winner’s medal of an astonishingly fruitful Indian Summer to his career, the Dutchman could also be bowing out as a European champion. Whilst we need to be cautious about getting swept up in the fairytale, van der Sar is one of United’s key players – arguably the key – in their attempts to win a fourth European Cup. Hyperbolic as it may seem, he’s coming up against one of the best teams to have played the game and almost certainly he’ll need to produce one of the best performances of his fantastic career if United are to achieve victory.

If there is one area where United are significantly stronger than Barcelona, its in goals. All season long, Alex Ferguson must have watched and cursed the Dutchman’s retirement under his breath. His composure and ability to do the simple things right were a huge part of why Fergie finally achieved his aim of knocking Liverpool of their perch. With his defence not always covering themselves in glory, it was often left to van der Sar to cover for the weaknesses with a well-judged intervention or a commanding claim of a high ball. And then there were the more eye-catching moments such as full stretch saves and breath-taking reflexes. van der Sar has reached his forties, but on current form there’s another half a decade of top level football there if he wants it. It’s hard to estimate just how quickly the body of an elite athlete will deteriorate when age does catch up with a player, but based on his performances, injury-record and appetite for the game, 5 more years may only be an exaggeration of only the very slightest variety. He remains one of the best in the world and the importance of his contributions are only highlighted when looking at the player he’ll indirectly be opposing at Wembley.

At times Victor Valdes gets criticised for the ‘sin’ of apparently not having much to do. The way Barcelona take a near monopoly on the ball and rarely seem to be doing anything other than create whirlwinds of wonderful attacking play seems to have given rise to the view that Valdes isn’t especially good and Pepe Guardiola could essentially name a scarecrow in goals with little adverse effect. There is some truth in the under-employment notion. I look back and my notes and very often there’s a white space beside his name due to the absence of any significant work for him to do. That doesn’t make him useless however. Valdes is a good keeper and as little as he may have to do in the numerous romps that Barca seem to manage, he has a set of skills suited to the demands of the role. He’s generally a brave, very athletic and commanding goalkeeper who is quick to close down opponents, but his greatest talent may well be his ability to concentrate – not only in terms of making saves, but in the more general sense of watching how play develops and always being alert to the needs of his defence – whether its to make a stunning save or being available to take a backpass.

That said, Valdes clearly has the capacity to make a mistake. At the Emirates, a poor piece of positioning allowed Robin van Persie to hammer in a goal that ultimately didn’t cost Barcelona, but made it a more uncomfortable passage. Equally, in the second leg, I recall Barcelona utterly dominated the second half, but Nicklas Bendtner was presented with a glorious chance to send Arsenal through. In the end, it was a poor touch that snuffed out the move, but Valdes – in conjunction with Mascherano – made life as difficult as possible for the Dane. A slight daydream or moment of hesitation from Valdes could have given Bendtner the space he required to finish and knock the Catalans out of the tournament.

Looking back at the 2009 final, the early stages of Valdes’ performance highlight the need for composure and an ability to do the basics right when it matters. In the first seven seconds, Valdes gives United a throw-in in an advanced position courtesy of a misplaced pass and about a minute later, the English side have worked themselves into a promising free-kick position. Cristiano Ronaldo hit it relatively well, but in reality it was a shot straight at Valdes which he couldn’t gather and somehow United failed to score. To be fair to Valdes it did bounce before in front of him and take one of the more erratic trajectories Ronaldo managed to achieved with his woefully over-rated free kick taking, but goalkeepers wanting to be considered amongst the elite in their profession need to deal with them in the overwhelming majority of cases. Games, ties and Champions League runs turn on such moments and had United snapped up the gift they were presented with, the pattern – and quite possibly the result – of the game could easily have been different. At the other end van Der Sar did everything that was asked at him and his stops not only prevented it from being a cakewalk for Barca, but gave United a punchers chance of taking the game.

I also wonder if his defence fully trust Valdes. I’ve seen him get involved in mix-ups with his defenders who at times seem anxious not to have to resort to him (case and point would be this goal against Levante from a couple of weeks ago – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xe2-ACui1hk). The frequency of misunderstandings may have a lot to do with the difficulty in communicating in the atmosphere of the colossal Camp Nou, but it seems to be an issue. Maybe it’s trust, more likely it’s just a breakdown in communication – either way, they afford too much of it in the Champions League final.

It’s a true goalkeeping great versus a good goalkeeper. Where van der Sar is strong, Valdes sometimes struggles. Barcelona may well have the talent to render the discrepancy null and void, but the stage might be set for van der Sar to make it count.

Ex. Man Utd Keeper, Roberto Has A Nightmare Moment

On a night when the PFA celebrate footballing excellence throughout the season – or roughly three weeks in the case of Gareth Bale – it seems only fitting that the Ministry Of Glove do the exact opposite and salute a moment of sheer calamity. I make it a point of not ridiculing any person brave enough to be a goalkeeper for any mistakes that might occur during the course of the bizzare collection of tasks required of the custodian, but it was impossible not to have a small chuckle at this.

If you’ve got a very precise memory, you may remember Ricardo from a brief spell at Manchester United. It was so brief in fact that anyone who has ever bought an overpriced replica jersey has spent significantly more time in a United shirt than he did. Now approaching the age of 40, he remains first choice for Osasuna in La Liga – although that may change after this. With the score at 1-1 with a couple of minutes to go in one of the lesser known, but equally passionate Basque derbies, he did this – handling a goal and all three points to Athletic Bilbao.

CHECK OUT RICARDO’S MOMENT OF MADNESS HERE (about 2 minutes in)

The Manchester United Goalkeeper Hunt Continues

Paper talk over the last couple of days have attempted to shed more light on who’s likely to replace Edwin van der Sar at Old Trafford, but if anything, it’s only highlighted how messy the picture has become. Here’s the latest attempt to cut through the double-talk and go through Sir Alex Ferguson’s likely wishlist.

Pepe Reina
1. Pepe Reina
As unthinkable as it might be to Liverpool fans, Reina joining their most despised of rivals isn’t as far-fetched as some may think. The Spaniard’s fiercely competitive nature is evident on the pitch and he wants to win trophies. Fernando Torres’ conclusion that aspirations of silverware were best served by moving elsewhere will have got Reina thinking about something similar. A move back to Spain has been spoken about, but only to Atletico Madrid where his father played for much of the 70s, even reaching a European Cup final. His contemporaries at Barcelona and Real Madrid would seem to have those plum goalkeeping berths locked down and the move to the Mattress Makers is more likely to happen towards the end of his career.

Not for the first time in his life, Liverpool’s recent upturn in form won’t be to the satisfaction of Sir Alex, but on this occasion it has nothing to do with rivaling the Red Devils for silverware or honours. The Anfield club are about as far away from a title challenge as at any point during Fergie’s reign at Old Trafford, but their resurgence under Kenny Dalglish may convince Reina to hang tight for at least another season. Ferguson and his goalkeeping coach, Eric Steele are said to be big fans of Reina, but with improved form and the promise of further investment over the summer, extending his stay on Merseyside could be worth the risk. Time would appear to be on his side. He’ll only turn 29 towards the start of next season and such is the peak physical condition that Reina keeps himself in, it’d wouldn’t be a surprise to be talking about him in 2020. Reina has the option of having his cake and eating it by giving Liverpool another chance to return to the top of the English game. If it doesn’t work out and Man Utd are still the dominant force in the Premier League in a couple of years, he could move then and still enjoy an extended stay at Old Trafford.

David de Gea
2. David de Gea
With the Reina option looking less and less likely with each improvement King Kenny gets from his team, Man Utd have been exploring the possibly of raiding the next generation of Spanish custodian. David de Gea is at the forefront of the generation after reportedly impressing Steele on several scouting missions in the recent past. Purely of terms of talent, de Gea has exactly what it takes to succeed in the Premier League right now and with the potential for further improvement he could excel for Man Utd. At the age of 20, he’s a hugely exciting prospect, but his youth is something of a double-edged sword for Man Utd.

On one hand, snapping up a player barely out of his teens who has a proven track record of success has the potential – if the best of the dream-like best scenario’s comes to pass – of sorting out the Man Utd goalkeeping position for a decade and possibly more. On the other, de Gea is reported to have misgivings about moving abroad quite so young. De Gea seems to be a young man of uncommon maturity and attitude, but the option of staying with Atletico to develop further prior to a big move is said to be tempting him into staying put for the next couple of years.

One concern may centre around the step up in expectations. In terms of media attention and pressure, his time at Atletico Madrid will have given de Gea at least an idea of what he will go through in the spotlight of Old Trafford, but the expectations at each club are vastly different. With the team in front of him regularly misfiring, on the occasions when de Gea has made mistakes, the consequences haven’t been too grave. That won’t be the case at Man Utd where – regardless of the opposition or the competition – he’ll play two high pressure games a week with virtually zero margin for error. With silverware expected, allowing the goal that turns three points into just one and could in turn prove costly at the end of the season will not be tolerated and de Gea has to decide if he’s ready for that level of scrutiny at this early stage of his career.

Manuel Neuer
3. Manuel Neuer
Neuer would be a great option for Man Utd, but he has made noises about preferring to stay in Germany and wanting to win a Bundesliga title. The interest from Bayern Munich would give him an option to complete both of these stated goals.

There had been hope that Thomas Kraft would be the long-term solution to Bayern’s goalkeeping issues, but for all his potential, he may not be the immediate remedy that the Bavarian club require. Attention has been turned back to Neuer and for good reason. He has always been highly rated, but over the last season and a half, the Schalke keeper has come along in leaps and bounds. Mistakes have been less and less common and his has become a more commanding presence around the penalty area. He is strikingly similar to the great Peter Schmeichel in terms of style and pure effectiveness and the experience he has amassed in six years of first team football make him vastly more tried and tested than the typical 25 year old. He has the talent to make a big impression at Old Trafford, but the signs are he’s staying put in the Bundesliga for the time-being. With age on his side, a move may again be discussed in the future, but for the moment – barring a change of heart or bags of money – it’s looking unlikely.

Maarten Stekelenburg
4. Maarten Stekelenburg
In the midst of all the speculation, Stekelenburg has remained a constant in the background. Rumours have trickled through consistently and the lack of agitation for a move and comment from Stekelenburg hints at a man confident in the knowledge a deal has been struck and where he’ll be playing his football next season. The Dutch connection makes the narrative of this particular option all the more appealing, but rest assured it has little influence on how Ferguson and Steele are assessing their options – Stekelenburg is being considered simply because he’s good enough to be considered and similarities with the departing Van der Sar are purely coincidental.

Technically good and physically robust, the current first choice for the Oranje would be well suited to the challenges of the Premier League and he comes across as the type of level-headed personality who will take the move to Old Trafford in his stride.

Gianluigi Buffon
5. Gianluigi Buffon
I’d be stunned if Buffon turns up at Old Trafford next season, mainly because it’s his agent who has been doing most of the talking about a possible move to England and purely on a personal basis, moving to the Premier League wouldn’t make a whole lot of sense. Having spent his entire career in Serie A, moving to England would require uprooting a young family to a completely new culture for a few years. Otherwise he could try the commute, but that’s only likely to meet with disapproval from Sir Alex and eventual homesickness. It would appear that Buffon’s agent has looked at the only two major European clubs in need of a top quality goalkeeper in an attempt to frighten Juventus into offering him a much improved contract. My guess would be Buffon will get his contract, stay in Turin for the next couple of years before moving to one of the Gulf states for one last lucrative pay-day.

The financial situation at Juve is often cited as a reason why Buffon’s departure is a possibility, but how much is a 33 year old – admittedly top class – increasingly injury-prone goalkeeper likely to fetch in a depressed transfer market? Whatever figure you arrive it, it’s unlikely to be enough to chase the financial gloom away. The benefits of hanging on to Buffon almost certainly outweigh the benefits of selling him on. Possibly adding fuel to the rumour is a fractious relationship with head coach, Luigi Del Neri. After recovering from the injury sustained at the World Cup, Buffon declared himself fit and ready to return for Juventus. Rather than immediately reinstate Italy’s number 1, Del Neri kept faith with Marco Storari for an extended period of time and that didn’t go down well with Buffon. As he was one of Del Neri’s first signings when taking charge last summer, there may have been an element of politics involved in the manager’s decision to stick with Storari, but whatever the reason, it’s judgment like that which makes it likely Buffon will be at Juventus next season whilst Del Neri will not.

The ‘all things considered’ most likely options list
1. Stekelenburg
2. De Gea
3. Reina
4. Neuer
5. Buffon

Goalkeeper World Rankings

Goalkeeper World Rankings
Jan. 27th 2011

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. (6) Victor Valdes (Barcelona and Spain)
7. (8) Hugo Lloris (Lyon and France)
8. (9) Joe Hart (Man City and England)
9. (10) David de Gea (Atletico Madrid)
10. (-) Manuel Neuer (Schalke and Germany)

Casillas
“31st in the world my ass.”

These rankings are my opinion.
Unabashed, possibly biased and undoubtedly debatable opinion.
There’s not much in the way of statistics, data analysis or science.
It’s nothing more than my gut feeling after watching mountains of football and paying nerd-like attention to the goalkeepers. I fully acknowledge they’re flawed, open to discussion and quite possibly wrong.

They’re still not the worst goalkeeper rankings I’ve seen. In my own slightly biased opinion.
That honour goes to Castrol World Rankings. They were brought to my attention this week and after deciding the overall rankings weren’t completely laughable i.e. Lucas Leiva isn’t at the top with Emile Heskey pushing him close, I checked out how they rated the world’s goalkeepers. ‘Bizarrely’ is the short answer.

Now everyone is entitled to an opinion, but if it’s so wrong it’s borderline gibberish just don’t bother. Daniel Aranzubia is a good pro, but rarely in his career has he looked like one of the world’s elite. Maybe being exposed to those fumes all day long is affecting the people at Castrol. Likewise Mariano Andjuar (3rd best in the world apparently) has impressed me on occasion, but his lack of consistency over a long period of time rules him out as one of the world’s best. Here’s certainly one of the top keepers in Serie A but gone are the days when that honour automatically qualifies you as one of the word’s best. With Curci, Storari and Sorrentino to also feature towards the top of the list all of a sudden you’ve got 5 Serie A goalies in the top 11, a figure which is wrong by in the region of 4 to 5. Other major queries I’d have would be:

Julio Cesar at the top is just wrong. Ceasr is an excellent goalkeeper, but at no point in the last year, month or even week has he been better than the likes of Iker Casillas, Petr Cech, Edwin van der Sar etc.
Craig Gordon at 7 – he’s playing very well, but it’s only been for a few months. Needs to have done it for a longer period of time to be that high on my list.
Cesar Sanchez at 12 – I’m not even convinced he’s the best goalkeeper at Valencia.
Marcus Hanneham at 17 – this makes him better than Petr Cech, Joe Hart and Heurelho Gomes. Again, he’s probably not even the best keeper at Wolves.
Petr Cech the 20th best goalkeeper on the planet? Which planet? He’s one of the top two on earth.
Finally – Iker Casillas at 31 in the list of keepers and 145th best player in the world overall?? Ok, now you’re just coming out with utter garbage to get attention – it’s the Sepp Blatter approach.

I didn’t actually get around to compiling my best goalkeeper of the year list last month, but regular readers will know how highly I rate Iker Casillas. It probably sounds a bit like man-crush. He should have been a genuine contender for the Ballon d’Or rather than the obligatry afterthought he appeared to be. He has carried his World Cup excellence back to Real Madrid and his crucial saves have facilitated a smooth transition to the Mourinho era at the Bernabau. One negative was the amount of picking the ball out of the net he had to do against Barcelona, but it was Barcelona at their rampant finest and concrete wall would have struggled to keep them at bay for 90 minutes. He was the best goalkeeper in December and of the Ministry’s Goalkeeper of 2010.

The rehabilitation of Peter Cech is complete. Not only has he returned to the heights of earlier in his career, but he has exceeded them. He is wiser with experience and combined with his supreme reflexes, agility and bravery he is awesome. With Chelsea struggling, there’s not much positive comment about any members of the team, but Cech has been simply outstanding. He’s a joy to watch and regardless of what happens with the Blues season, if he maintains his current levels he deserves to be considered for all end of season awards, not just the ones for goalkeepers. Reina maintains the good form that has kept Liverpool out of some serious trouble whilst Van der Sar still looks perfectly comfortable at the highest level of the game. The Dutchman’s retirement will be a huge loss to United and the fact that goalkeeping coach, Eric Steele was only half-jokingly asked by a BBC interviewer if he could convince Van der Sar to change his mind and stay for another year reflects how well he’s still playing having reached the big 40.

After a long spell out injured and an unseemly argument with the Juventus manager who suggested his reinstatement to the first team wasn’t a mere formality, Gigi Buffon has returned to action. Eyebrows were raised when he maintained his heady place in the rankings, but it’s unfair to demote someone due to injury. Sitting on the bench because you’re getting paid truckloads of money is a different matter …

That brings me on to Shay Given. I’ve been a huge fan of Given for many years, but the lack of activity in the transfer window does not paint him in the most ambitious of lights. Of course I understand that a football career is short and players need to feather their nests for a long period of earning a mere fraction of their professional days, but would the Irishman really be on the receiving end of a self-inflicted financial knee-capping if he moved to another Premier League club or major European league? Having such talent yet watching on from the bench isn’t right and Man City’s number two needs to play to prove he’s still one of the world’s best. Sporadic Europa League and international games are a start, but he should have bigger ambitions than that. Given isn’t suddenly a bad goalkeeper, we just haven’t seen enough of him. Joe Hart has been making mistakes of late and Roberto Mancini should give him a quick taste of the bench. It may not be a long term arrangement. The type of errors seem to come from complacency and a reminder that he’s not undroppable, wouldn’t be a bad idea. Hart is still a top quality keeper, but maybe we shouldn’t tell him quite so often.

Given has been dropped from the top 10 for Manuel Neuer. Ironically he hasn’t been playing a great deal lately either, but that’s got more to do with the Bundesliga winter break than anything else. His form has been crucial in Schalke’s recent surge from relegation candidates to European contenders.

Do you think any other goalkeepers deserve to be included? Leave your suggestions, abuse or praise in the comments section.

Man Utd Goalkeeper Options

Originally written on 1st Dec. for BackpageFootball.com

As responses go, the reaction to Manchester United’s signing of Anders Lindegaard has been colder than a face full of snow. Peter Schmeichel questioned if Lindegaard is of a high enough standard to command the club’s number 1 spot and several other commentators have questioned the price tag and the pedigree of the Dane. Despite his handful of caps for the Danish national side, it looks likely he’s been signed primarily for his bench-warming ability and the occasional Carling Cup or European dead rubber outing. With Edwin Van der Sar likely to hang up his gloves at the end of the season, it’s very unlikely Sir Alex will head into the new season with his goalkeeping division so devoid of top class talent – surely he’s learned his lesson from the Massimo Tiabi incident. But who’s likely to come in? Here’s a look at some of Fergie’s goalkeeping options.

David de Gea

1. David de Gea
So interested is Sir Alex in signing De Gea that he missed his first United game since the ‘you don’t win anything with kids’ era to go and watch him. At the time Fergie passed it off as a routine scouting mission to look at Valencia and Atletico Madrid talent in general, but the repeated visits of his scouts to the Vicente Calderon stadium would suggest the interest is more specific. Having broken into the first team last season, De Gea has gone from strength to strength in an inconsistent Atletico side and the reasons for Fergie’s interest are obvious. He’s agile, got good hands and commands his penalty area with an authority uncommon in goalkeepers only a handful of weeks into their twenties. As a bonus, having cut his teeth in the glare of the Madrid sports media, he should be well accustomed to the scrutiny he’ll encounter as United’s number 1.

On the negative side, he will cost a pretty penny. He’s good and Atletico know it. They’re under little pressure to sell and hung on to Fernando Torres for a couple of seasons longer than expected. Likewise, they’ve withstood the temptation to cash in on Sergio Aguero. Fergie would have to part with around £20 million for De Gea and with that pricetag comes real pressure. One bad game would bring a blizzard of criticism and for a young man in a strange country, it’d be interesting to see how he would react. He hasn’t really endured a significant dip in form to date and if he made some errors early on in his Old Trafford career, it would be interesting to see how he responds. He’d be a great signing for United and if all goes well, could make the spot his own for the next 15 years. But if it doesn’t, it would be a costly error.

Manuel Neuer

2. Manuel Neuer
Let’s get this clear – making a comparison to the Great Dane, does not necessarily mean he’s in the same class as the United legend. Neuer is merely very similar in style to Schmeichel. You won’t find pictures of either in books about goalkeeping technique, but they get the job done. The German has the unorthodox effectiveness that made Schmeichel such a world class keeper. He’s aggressive, his reflexes are top drawer and his physique will be well suited to the demands of the Premier League. He stays big in one on ones and will throw himself courageously at the feet of opponents when the situation requires it. One negative may be his handling, both in dealing with shots and collecting crosses. It’s not always perfect and he sometimes needs a couple of grabs to secure a ball. Similar to the De Gea however, his club are in no hurry to sell and will come with a substantial price tag. Judging by their recent recruitment policy and their loyal following, Schalke are in a healthy financial state. He’ll be expensive, but for such a young goalkeeper, he’s got the high level experience that could justify such an outlay.

Hugo Lloris

3. Hugo Lloris
Followers of the rumour mill will know that Europe’s top clubs have been sniffing around Hugo Lloris for the last couple of years. Moves to Serie A and La Liga have been mooted, but for a time during the summer, a move to a certain French enclave in North London was looking likely. Nothing came to pass and Lloris remains a big fish in the relatively small pond of Ligue 1. He has obvious appeal because despite being just 23, Lloris has amassed over 150 senior appearances and – thanks to his time at Lyon – has sampled plenty of Champions League football. This season has been more of a struggle for the French giants, but Lloris has avoided much of the criticism. He is without doubt a world class goalkeeper. He’s an excellent shot-stopper and his reflexes are superb. His hands and footwork have the technical hallmarks of the famed French coaching system and if there is an Achilles heel, it comes in the form of the difficult-to-teach area of judging crosses. When he does get there, he’s usually good to catch the ball or get a vital hand to it, but he has on occasion completely misjudged the flight of the ball and been left a spectator to the action in his own goalmouth. There’s a potential problem for Fergie if he’s serious about Lloris. If word gets out that he’s available – and club chairman Jean Michel Aulus isn’t exactly renowned for keeping quiet – it’s likely to trigger a bidding war and seriously inflate the price. In this case however, Lyon are renowned as a selling club and they may decide to cash in sooner rather than later. The last time Fergie opted for the French number 1, the results were very much mixed. It’s interesting to know if he’s tempted to go back to this particular well another time.

Shay Given

4. Shay Given
The most controversial and left field of Fergie’s options. The United/City rivalry has moved beyond something Sky Sports emphasize to flog a generally meaningless game. The cash injection has meant City’s aspirations go beyond bragging rights and as such United are a genuine rival rather than a Goliath waiting for a bloodied nose. That may be one obstacle in a potential move, but if selling to a direct rivals was a concern, then the move to Arsenal probably wouldn’t have been mentioned as seriously as it was. In the end it appeared to be Arsene Wenger’s reluctance to do business that scuppered the move. The situation at City has been rough on Given. He remains better than about 85% of the goalkeepers in the Premier League, but it just so happens that Joe Hart is better than about 90% of goalkeepers in the Premier League. The Irishman turns 35 next year, but that shouldn’t be a worry for Fergie as there’s no real depreciation in his talents. Any fumbles or slight mishaps he has had for Ireland or on the rare occasion he does get a game for City look to be as a result of rustiness rather than the onset of age. He should come quite cheap and he’s a proven Premier League performer. He may not be seen as a long term solution, but then again, people were probably saying the same thing about a certain Dutchman a few years back.

Van der Sar

5. Edwin Van der Sar
United’s current first choice is now in his fourth decade of professional football, but on the outside at least doesn’t seem to have lost his appetite for the game. It’s thought to be an open secret that Van der Sar will be retiring at the end of this season (so open that one of United’s coaches was talking about it openly a couple of months back)but in terms of ability, he’s got at least another season of top class football in him. With his wife suffering health problems last year, the Dutchman has a vaild reason to feel it’s time to call it a day and go about the business of enjoying life, but if it’s a possibility, Fergie could do worse than testing the Dutchman’s resolve. Much was made of his costly error against West Brom earlier in the season, but that was the type of concentration based mistake van der Sar was making in his twenties and thirties and not a result of age. Aside from that, he has been in fine form and his saves have directly earned United several points they would have otherwise dropped. Such has been the strength of his displays, that if he was still available to Bert van Marwijk, there’s every chance he’d remain first choice for the Oranje. It may only postpone a difficult decision about a long term successor for another season, but sticking with an old hand wouldn’t be the worst of options.

England’s Goalkeeping Crisis

Ben Foster

International friendlies are football’s version of elections. There’s a bit of a fuss, they get a lot of attention, but regardless of the outcome, no-one’s happy and very little seems to have changed. Win a friendly and it’s nice, but largely insignificant. Losing isn’t good, but it’s easy to turn a blind eye and concentrate on future competitive matches. More resounding victories or defeats may be harder to ignore, but ultimately it’s the qualifying campaigns for the various international tournaments that are the yardstick for progress.

So despite that inauspicious summary, England’s performance against France is a major cause for concern. With suspiciously timed vague injuries again ruling out many starters and several newcomers in the team, taking the easy option and writing it off is understandable, but a lack of quality in depth was apparent across the team. And a lack of quality in shallow according to some.

The goalkeeping division is a major concern. Ben Foster isn’t yet an international standard goalkeeper. He got beaten at his near post for the first goal and his handling looked untrustworthy a couple of time. He’s young and may yet develop, but for the moment, relying on him isn’t ideal. True enough, England may not have to be should Joe Hart maintain his form and fitness over the long term, but it’s clear England’s well of goalkeepers is remarkably dry. When Hart pulled out through injury, things got so bad that Fabio Capello had to draft in Scott Loach who the day before had been playing for the England U21 side in Germany. We’ve got nothing against Loach, but it illustrates the lack of options available to the Italian.

Elsewhere, other countries don’t have such difficulties. Spain’s goalkeeping ranks are the envy of the world, whilst elsewhere Germany, Italy and France seem to have numerous possibilities should they be denied their first choice. So why the lack of options? Well, in a rare burst of hard-work, we’ve had a look at the respective top flights of Europe’s top 5 leagues to look at the breakdown of goalkeepers eligible for that country’s national team versus those who aren’t – i.e. foreign goalkeepers. It doesn’t look good.

We’ve gone with the squad data available on UEFA.com. Flawed it may be, but at least it’s flawed for everyone. And when it comes to tricky questions regarding nationality or dual nationality, we’re side-stepping any possible controversy by going with what UEFA say. Blame them, it’s their fault.

England's Goalkeeping Crisis

It shows there are a shockingly low number of opportunities being given to English goalkeepers in the Premier League. There’s a huge over reliance on foreign talent. Although the fact that the stats mean relatively locals such as the Scottish, Welsh, Irish and Northern Irish are included as foreigner, it still paints a grim picture and suggests in the interests of the national side, Premier League sides should be producing far more indigenous talent. Admittedly, just because they’re in the squad doesn’t mean they’re close to first team football, but the fact they’ll be exposed to top class goalkeepers and coaching talent on a daily basis should stand to them and improve them over the course of a career.

Have a look at the more detailed version of the data here, but it’s not for the faint-hearted.

There needs to a serious sea-change in England or else they’ll get a serious kick in the ballots over the next few years.