Friday, September 19, 2014

The Most Valuable Backup Goalkeepers in World Football

Once upon a time the role and status of a second choice goalkeeper at any football club was a pretty straightforward one!

Benchwarmer, emergency cover, training partner and room-mate are terms that immediately spring to mind when talking about backup goalkeepers.

However, major football clubs across Europe have been laughing in the face of that conventional wisdom, and have been buying backup keepers who could easily start as first-choice for other major clubs.

These goalkeepers are still worth decent amounts of money despite their status of having to warm the bench more often than not.

Take Chelsea's Petr Cech currently playing second fiddle to Thibaut Courtois following the Belgian's extremely successful loan spell with Atletico Madrid, culminating in 'Los Colchoneros' winning the 2013–14 La Liga title, their first since 1996.

Furthermore, there’s the fact that Manchester City recently signed Malaga’s Willy Caballero as back up to England's number one Joe Hart, and Barcelona signed both Chilean international Claudio Bravo and German international Marc-André ter Stegen for a combined total of €27 million, following the departure of longtime number one Victor Valdes – who still has yet to find a club.

Then what about Real Madrid, who recently signed Costa Rican goalkeeper Keylor Navas for €10 million to act as backup for Spanish goalkeeping legend Iker Casillas, who at 33 years-old is arguably in the twilight of his career.

In the English Premier League you have, to name just a few, the likes of Shay Given, Thomas Sørensen, Costel Pantilimon, Artur Boruc, Boaz Myhill and Brad Jones who are without a first-team start between them this season! All very capable goalkeepers, but simply unable to establish themselves as first-choice at their respective clubs.

Backup goalkeepers are becoming a hotter commodity than ever in world football, and it became increasingly obvious during this summer's transfer window.

Here is a list of the most valuable backup goalkeepers in world football, based on their market value courtesy of

# Pepe Reina - Bayern Munich - €4.5 million

The son of famed FC Barcelona and Atletico Madrid goalkeeper Miguel Reina, Pepe Reina began his career with the Barcelona youth team and made his La Liga debut in the 2000–01 season. He signed for Villarreal in 2002 and moved on to Liverpool and made his debut in 2005. He went on to win the 2005 UEFA Super Cup, the FA Cup in 2006. In 2007, he reached the Champions League Final with Liverpool, matching the feat achieved by his father in 1974, but they lost to A.C. Milan.

Following eight consecutive seasons as Liverpool's first-choice keeper, Reina spent the 2013–14 season on loan at Napoli, where he was reunited with Rafa Benítez, the coach who signed him to play for Liverpool in 2005. During his loan tenure at the Italian club, Reina was part of the side that won the 2014 Italian Cup and finished third in the domestic league.

In August 2014, Reina joined the German club FC Bayern Munich on a three-year deal, as backup to Manuel Neuer – arguably the best goalkeeper in world football right now!

# Maarten Stekelenburg - AS Monaco - €5.0 million

The 31 year-old Dutchman plays for French club AS Monaco (on loan from English club Fulham), and for the Netherlands national team.

Stekelenburg is a product of the Ajax youth system, where he followed in the footsteps of Edwin van der Sar, who he succeeded in the Dutch national team and with whom he reached the final of the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa.

He made his debut for Ajax in February 2002, and became their first choice goalkeeper during the 2005–06 season. That season Ajax won the KNVB Cup (the Dutch equivilent of the English FA Cup).
Stekelenburg was named Ajax 'Player of the Year' at the end of the the 2007–08 season.
In 2010-11 Ajax won the Eredivisie for the first time since 2003-04 and Stekelenburg was again named Ajax 'Player of the Year' - for the second time in his career.

This season Stekelenburg is acting as the backup for 'Les Rouges et Blancs' behind Danijel Subasic, the former Hajduk Split and Croatia goalkeeper, despite having represented the Dutch national team on 54 occasions.

# Jack Butland - Stoke City - €5.0 million

He’s been considered as England’s goalkeeper of the future, and the fact that Roy Hodgson brought him along to the European Championships two years ago while at previous club Birmingham City is proof enough that he’s got plenty of potential.

Butland began his career with Birmingham City, and made his debut in the Football League in September 2011 while on loan to League Two club Cheltenham Town.
Butland established himself as first choice keeper at St Andrew's in 2012–13 and was transferred to Premier League club Stoke City in January 2013 for a fee of £3.3 million. He was loaned back to Birmingham and went on to play in every league match in 2012–13. Butland then spent time out on loan at Barnsley before making his Premier League debut in January 2014.

However, 21-year-old Butland is likely to play the role of backup to Asmir Begovic at Stoke this season.

# Willy Caballero - Manchester City - €5.0 million

Caballero started his playing career with Boca Juniors in 2001.
The Argentine spent most of his career in Spain, representing Elche and Málaga and competing in La Liga with the latter club.
He joined Elche CF of Spain in 2004, playing nearly 200 games for the 'Los Franjiverdes' outfit. In February 2011, Caballero was transferred to Málaga CF in La Liga for €900,000 as an emergency transfer.

In the summer of 2014, he signed for Manchester City, but the 32 year-old has only made one appearance so far this season for City, in the 2014 FA Community Shield at Wembley.

Despite being snubbed time and time again by the Argentine national team, Caballero is highly thought of and it’s uncertain as to how long Caballero will be content to just be the second-string keeper at City, behind Joe Hart.
Hart, the England goalkeeper has come under much scrutiny in the last twelve months, following some high profile errors and he conceded a soft goal in City's last league game, a home defeat to Stoke, so maybe manager Manuel Pellegrini will consider giving Willy Caballero a chance sooner rather than later!

# Michael Agazzi - AC Milan - €6.0 million

He may be the least recognizable name on this list but Michael Agazzi built up a decent reputation for himself as the main goalkeeper at Cagliari.
In July 2009 Cagliari signed the goalkeeper from Serie B club Triestina in a joint ownership deal, for €575,000. However, he continued to play for Triestina until June 2010.

He became first choice goalkeeper for Cagliari at the start of the 2010-11 season, and went on to make well over 100 appearances for the Sardinia based club.
Following a brief spell at Chievo Verona earlier this year he moved to the San Siro in May 2014.

However three months later, Real Madrid and Milan reached an agreement over the transfer of Diego López, the Spanish born stopper, demoting Agazzi to Milan's backup keeper as López went on to start this season as number one, making his competitive debut in the first matchday of the new season in Serie A.

Agazzi may not have much of a chance to compete for game time at Milan if Lopez’s performances for the 'Rossoneri' are consistently strong.
The fact that longtime Milan servant Christian Abbiati is also still on their books at the age of 37 surely doesn't bode well for Agazzi, as he aspires to establish himself as first-choice stopper.

# Michel Vorm - Tottenham Hotspur - €6.0 million

He’s been capped 15 times by the Dutch national team – even going to the World Cup this past summer as the Oranje’s third choice keeper – but Michel Vorm’s recent decision to sign for Tottenham Hotspur may come back to haunt him. With the French international captain Hugo Lloris firmly entrenched as Spurs’ number one man, and with the evergreen American goalkeeper Brad Friedel still at the North London club, Vorm may have a difficult time starting games at White Hart Lane.

Vorm began his career at FC Utrecht in 2005. In order to gain more experience he spent the 2005-06 season on loan to FC Den Bosch. In August 2006 Vorm established himself as first choice keeper at FC Utrecht.

In August 2011, Vorm joined Swansea City for a fee of around £1.5 million. During his first season with Swansea his performances were so impressive that he won three awards at the club’s end-of-season dinner, including Players’ Player and and Supporters’ Player of the Year. He signed a four-year deal with Spurs in July 2014 for a fee of £3.5 million.

# David Ospina - Arsenal - €7.0 million

Following a great run by the Colombian national team to the quarter-finals of this summer’s World Cup in Brazil, it was clear that David Ospina needed to play for a bigger club than Nice in Ligue 1 of France – the club he joined in 2008 as a 19 year-old. However, Arsenal may not necessarily be the answer!

Although he’s clearly good enough to start for a major club, Ospina will likely have to fight for playing time with the Gunners’ longtime number one Wojciech Szczesny and their 22 year-old Argentine youngster Damián Martinez, who joined the 'Gunners' back in 2012.

With a market value of €7.0 million, and the fact that Ospina is still young for a goalkeeper at 25 years of age, the competition could potentially be fierce.

# Claudio Bravo - Barcelona - €8.0 million

Claudio Bravo is currently in the starting role for Barcelona, but that’s likely as a result of the fact that promising young German keeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen is out injured for the next several weeks. Once ter Stegen returns, though, Bravo may have to sit a number of games out for the Blaugrana. Thanks to his role playing for the Chilean national team that made it past one of the World Cup’s groups of death, as well as the fact that he was the longtime number one for Real Sociedad, Bravo may not be satisfied to have to be part of a goalkeeping tandem. Watch this space!

Bravo signed for Real Sociedad in a reported €1.2 million deal back in 2006 and played 229 times for the San Sebastián based club.

Bravo joined FC Barcelona this summer for €12 million (£9.7 million) thus becoming only the second Chilean ever to play for the Catalan giants after Alexis Sanchez, now an Arsenal player.

# Keylor Navas - Real Madrid - €6.0 million

Navas' performances for his country at the 2014 World Cup this summer were nothing short of sensational, and his role in Costa Rica’s run to the quarter-finals was instrumental.

He only conceded a single goal in the three Group games as Costa Rica qualified for the knockout stages as group winners. In the round of 16 match against Greece, Navas was named 'man of the match,' and was so again in the quarter-finals, despite his country being eliminated by the Netherlands in a penalty shootout.

Needless to say as a result of his World Cup heroics his reputation was enhanced immeasurably, and his Valencia based club Levante were always going to struggle to keep a hold of the 27 year-old.
On 3rd August 2014, Real Madrid came knocking and triggered Navas' €10 million buyout clause, and he signed a six-year contract with the 'Galácticos.'

His market value of €6.0 million shows that he’s good enough to start for many big clubs, but it’s unknown how often he’ll have to jockey for position with Iker Casillas for the number one role at the Bernabeu.

# Petr Cech - Chelsea - €17.0 million

Born in Plzeň, Czechoslovakia Petr Cech played for Chmel Blšany, Sparta Prague, and Rennes before joining Chelsea in 2004 for £7 million.

Although he was linked to moves away from Stamford Bridge in the summer, Petr Cech currently remains on Chelsea’s books, but it looks as if he’ll have to settle for a backup role behind young Belgian goalkeeping phenom Thibaut Courtois.
If he doesn’t win his place back at Stamford Bridge, I'm sure Cech will be looking to move elsewhere. His reputation as one of the best goalkeepers in recent years is still very much intact and for now, he’s still by far the most valuable backup goalkeeper in world football, even at 32 years-old.

Since joining 'The Blues' ten years ago, Cech has made over 450 appearances for the club and won a staggering array of silverwhere - three Premier League titles, four FA Cups, three League Cups, one UEFA Europa League and one UEFA Champions League.

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