The most successful teams have a top class goalkeeper. The foundation of a solid defence marshalled by a top goalkeeper gives the more gifted, attacking players the freedom to express themselves.
This close season there promises to be some changing of the custodian, so to speak with goalkeepers high on the agenda of pretty much every top flight club. With the intense spotlight highlighting every mistake, it can be a lonely, unforgiving position, and many talented keepers have failed to recover from errors, or live up to the potential because of the nature of the position.
It is the top end of the table where the most radical changes could be made, which if rumour is accurate would then have a knock on effect to sides lower down the pyramid, much like the managerial merry go round instigated by the retirement of Sir Alex Ferguson.
Ferguson’s replacement, David Moyes will go through the same dilemma as his predecessor to determine whether David De Gea is good enough, and despite some impressive performances towards the end of the season, question marks still prevail.
Stoke City’s Asmir Begovic has been touted as a replacement, as he has for the increasingly unstable goalkeeping slot at Arsenal. Question marks still hang over Wojciech Szczesny and Lukasz Fabianski, and Vito Mannone could not make the most of the opportunities presented when the two Poles were injured at the start of the season.
It is likely Szczesny will remain and Fabianski and Mannone will move on, with a top quality keeper coming in creating more competition for the number one jersey. Arsene Wenger will need to keep to his post season promise that he will be splashing the cash for this to be a realistic option as Stoke will be looking for around £15mm for Begovic, and whoever is their new manager will not want to lose one of the Potters prize assets.
Liverpool, for the first time since Pepe Reina’s arrival also look to be in the market for a goalkeeper with Reina believed to be Barcelona’s preferred target to replace the outgoing Victor Valdes.
Despite not having the best season of his Anfield career, and Brad Jones now looking a solid, if not yet spectacular back up, Reina will be a huge loss if he does return to his boyhood club, and Brendan Rogers would certainly be looking for a quality replacement.
A replacement who would certainly fit the Fenway transfer policy, and is already being linked with a move to bigger clubs, is Sunderland’s Simon Mignolet.
He has been one of the plus points in an otherwise depressing season for the Black Cats, derby result apart, and whilst wholesale changes could be made under Paolo Di Canio, Mignolet could see it as time to move on and test his talents whilst furthering his Belgian World Cup hopes on a bigger stage.
The competition for the Belgium number one spot then brings us round to Chelsea, whose incoming boss has a predicament opposite to many of his counterparts.
Thibaut Courtois, Mignolet’s primary competition for the national number one jersey has had an outstanding season on loan at Atletico Madrid, and will return to Stamford Bridge with a Copa Del Rey winners medal in his kit bag. Whether this will be enough to persuade (we presume) Jose Mourinho to keep him at the Bridge and offer him game time challenging the ever consistent Petr Cech is another thing entirely.
If Courtois stays at the Bridge for the forthcoming season, Chelsea will have a wealth of talent vying for the starting spot, with Ross Turnbull ever improving and providing more than adequate back up.
In a season which the top players will have their world cup aspirations firmly in their mind, it is likely that Courtois will return to Atletico for another season, assuming Atletico do not make a bid for David De Gea to return to the Vicente Calderon, in which we would be back to where we started on the search for the best option between the posts.
Who do you expect to move where and why?
image: © Ronnie Macdonald