David de Gea & Maksym Koval

Maksym Koval

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The full Don Balon list (from the Spoiler)