Premier League is finally discovering the value of goalkeepers

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Manchester United's David de Gea. (AFP)
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Chelsea's Thibaut Courtois. (AFP)
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Manchester City's Ederson Moraes. (AFP)
Updated 12 March 2018

Premier League is finally discovering the value of goalkeepers

LONDON: In an era of extraordinary transfer fees, goalkeepers remain bizarrely undervalued. When Manchester City laid out €40 million ($49 million) on Ederson Moraes last summer so long had it been since the investment of a record fee on the position that the young Brazilian’s was misreported as such.
Ederson’s price tag remained well shy of the €52 million Juventus paid Parma for a 23-year-old Gianluigi Buffon in 2001. As remarkable as Buffon’s continued assured presence in the Italian champions’ defense is the relatively low cost of individuals who handle the game’s hardest currency — goals.
The same age as Buffon on his switch from Benfica with at least a decade of high-level performance ahead of him, Ederson’s fee equated to just 18 percent of the release clause that enabled Paris St.Germain to spirit Neymar out of Barcelona. Amid the unprecedented largesse with which City bought a new defense this season, the Brazilian’s price ranked only fourth — behind two fullbacks and a central defender.
Yet there is no question over which of Pep Guardiola’s gilded acquisitions has been most important to City’s march to the Premier League title. Ederson’s shot stopping has won multiple points, his comfort and bravery on the ball facilitated the Catalan’s dogmatic attacking tactics.
Saves at key moments have deflated opponents already enervated by City’s obsessive possession, carousel passing and smart tactical fouls. Ederson’s interventions have prevented victories collapsing into draws, draws slipping into defeat, and, in the case of a barely credible double save at Old Trafford, broke the belief of City’s sole serious challenger for the title.
Contrast all that with Guardiola’s first attempt at buying a better keeper; a benighted Claudio Bravo dropped mid-season after going almost a month without making a save. Around that time Bravo’s save rate for the Premier League season stood at 11.1 percent. Ederson’s this term is 69.7 percent.
As Jose Mourinho noted earlier this season, Guardiola had gone through three national team goalkeepers in a year to find the right solution. “Pep arrived, he had the goalkeeper of England; he doesn’t like. He buys the goalkeeper of Barcelona; he doesn’t like him. He buys another one; now he likes him.”
The one Guardiola likes is to be rewarded by an upgraded contract. His status as the second-most expensive goalkeeper of all time, however, may not survive the summer window.
At least three elite keepers are waiting to see what that market brings them. At Chelsea, Thibaut Courtois is stalling on signing a new contract worth £200,000 ($277,000) a week. At Manchester United, David de Gea is waiting for a club that has grown dependent on his goal-saving prowess to bring his salary to a similar level as Paul Pogba and Alexis Sanchez. At Atletico Madrid, they are worried that Jan Oblak will be bought out of his contract by one of Europe’s more affluent outfits.
Both Courtois and De Gea have long been courted by Real Madrid, whose president is no fan of current stopper, Keylor Navas. In 2015 Madrid were a delayed fax away from getting De Gea out of Old Trafford and they know that the Spaniard wants to return to his hometown at some point in his career. Mourinho, though, has already publicly stated his opposition to a transfer that would easily surpass Ederson’s in cost.
If Courtois does not commit to a contract extension, Chelsea will adopt their usual pragmatic approach to cashing in on a valuable asset. The London club’s asking price is expected to be €100 million, they will hope De Gea stays at United, then try and draw PSG into a bidding war with Madrid for the Belgian.
Atletico are trying to work out if one of Oblak’s admirers is ready to pay his €100 million release clause. PSG flirted with the Slovenian last summer before UEFA brought down the Financial Fair Play hammer. Arsenal and Juventus like him, while Liverpool consider the 25-year-old the best available solution to one of their glaring defensive deficiencies.
If one defensive domino falls, all three could end up changing clubs. The fees will not reach Neymar-Mbappe-Coutinho levels, but they should come closer to reflecting the real value of an elite keeper in the modern game.

Algeria ready for ‘match of a lifetime’ — Guedioura

Updated 19 July 2019

Algeria ready for ‘match of a lifetime’ — Guedioura

  • The Cup of Nations showpiece marks the climax not only of Algeria’s campaign on the field, but of their fans’ recent political campaign in the stands

CAIRO: Algeria midfielder Adlene Guedioura says Friday’s Africa Cup of Nations final against Senegal represents the “match of a lifetime” as his country bids to capture the title for a second time.

The Desert Foxes lifted their lone trophy on home soil in 1990 but coach Djamel Belmadi has reinvigorated a team that crashed out in the group stage two years ago and then flopped in World Cup qualifying.

“I think it’s the match of a lifetime for a lot of players in the team and for Algeria,” said Guedioura, who at 33 is the oldest member of the squad.

The Nottingham Forest journeyman has started five of six games in Egypt and insisted much of the credit for Algeria’s eye-catching performances must go to former national team midfielder Belmadi.

“He really knows the players and what he wants. The good thing is he knows how to get through to the players and how to listen,” said the 48-time international.

“If you don’t have a good cook you can’t have a good recipe. With that we realize we can be all together and it’s important to be a team.

“It’s important for Algeria because we used to have good individuals and now we feel very strong as a team and we want to achieve as a team.”

A Youcef Belaili goal earned Algeria a 1-0 victory over Senegal in the group stage, but Belmadi was quick to point out the statistics were heavily weighted in their opponents’ favor.

“Of course we can lose this match. We have an opponent that is number one in the FIFA rankings for Africa. They were at the World Cup. We were eliminated in the first round in 2017,” said Belmadi.

“If you get to the final, the aim is obviously to win it. The game in the group stage wasn’t decisive but now it is and that’s the difference.”

He added: “The most important is to stay concentrated and determined yet calm at the same time.”

Algeria will have the backing of an additional 4,800 fans for the final.

Some of them will arrive in Cairo on military planes organized by Prime Minister Noureddine Bedoui.

The Cup of Nations showpiece marks the climax not only of Algeria’s campaign on the field, but of their fans’ recent political campaign in the stands.

In April, long-standing president Abdelaziz Bouteflika resigned after weekly Friday protests against his expected candidacy for elections, and football fans have been heavily involved in demonstrations.

“We know what’s happening. The people we represent have been wonderful,” said Guedioura

“It’s magnificent what is happening. We’re focused on football but we want to win the final for the people,” he added.