In a review I wrote on the Top 20 Young Footballers to Watch in 2009 (2009 Top Young Players) there was a notable absence of goalkeepers. This was not done deliberately but, in truth, most of the young players that catch the headlines between the ages of 16 and 20 are invariably flare players: strikers, wingers and midfielders. Defenders typically get less of a look-in too.
The goalkeeper, of course, is a very different breed in footballing terms. At the very least goalkeepers need to be big in stature and need arguably more coaching than outfield players. It’s a very specialist role that needs time to grow into.
So it’s hardly a surprise then that people are loath to predict greatness for young goalkeepers under the age of 20. The fact is that goalkeepers mature later and last longer than their outfield colleagues. How many of the top keepers have still been doing the business well into their late 30’s? The answer is a lot of them.
Therefore, in reviewing the best young goalkeepers in world football today we need to raise the age bar a little. 26 or under seems a reasonable benchmark to me. Of course mistakes are frequently made and sometimes those touted for greatness fall by the wayside but that’s no different to the young outfield players.
Let’s go then with 10 of the best from around the globe. As always, let me know who I’ve missed or who you think is over-rated and between us we can come-up with the best future talent.
1. Manuel Neuer; Age: 22; Club: Schalke 04; Country: Germany
Now a regular with Schalke, he played every minute of every game in the 2007-8 season, only 1 of 3 players in the Bundesliga to do so. Had an outstanding game in the first knock-out stage of the Champions League last season against Porto and saved two penalties to help his team progress. Capped 13 times at under-21 level for Germany
2. Guillermo Ochoa; Age: 23; Club: Club America; Country: Mexico
Made his debut at 18 and has 157 appearances for his club to date, winning the title with them in 2005. 47 caps for Mexico and widely regarded as one of the best young goalkeepers in the world.
3. Juan Pablo Carrizo; Age: 24; Club: Lazio; Country: Argentina
Played 89 times for River Plate before moving to Lazio last summer. 19 appearances to date for Lazio, he has been capped at every underage level by Argentina and has 7 full international appearances to his name.
4. Renan Brito Soares; Age: 24; Club: Valencia; Country: Brazil
Started his career at Internacional in Brazil where he played 51 times for the 1st team. Moved to Valencia in August 2008 and has become their regular No. 1 this season. Capped 3 times at U-23 level for his country.
5. Rene Adler; Age: 24; Club: Bayer Leverkusen; Country: Germany
Made his debut in February 2007 and now the regular shot-stopper at Leverkusen, with 66 appearances to his name. 4 senior caps for Germany.
6. Igor Akinfeev; Age: 22; Club: CSKA Moscow; Country: Russia
Made his debut at the tender age of 17 and has been a regular at CSKA ever since with 136 appearances to date. Has captained the side twice in Champions League games and has a UEFA Cup and 2 Russian Championship medals to his credit. 29 caps for Russia, since making his debut in 2004.
7. Sergio Romero; Age: 22; Club: AZ Alkmaar; Country: Argentina
Transferred from Racing Club to AZ in 2007 and has made the No.1 spot his own this season, keeping 18 clean sheets into the bargain. Recently broke a hand which hopefully will not keep him out for too long. 23 caps at U-23 level for Argentina and 4 appearances in the Olympic winning team.
8. Sergio Asenjo; Age: 19; Club: Real Valladolid; Country: Spain
Came though the juniors at Valladolid and made his debut in December 2007 only conceding one goal in his first 5 appearances. Has established himself as first choice this season. 13 caps at underage level for Spain.
9. Hugo Lloris; Age: 22; Club: Lyon; Country: France
Started his career at Nice making his debut in March 2006. His appearances at Nice attracted the attentions of Lyon, AC Milan and Spurs and he finally chose Lyon, who paid 8.5m Euros for his services. Now the regular No. 1 for France’s most successful club of recent years, he has represented France at underage level and has 1 full cap.
10. Steve Mandanda; Age: 23; Club: Olympique Marseille; Country: France
Started at Le Harve where he made his first appearance in August 2005 and went on to play for them 67 times before Marseille came knocking. This followed an unsuccessful trial at Aston Villa in 2007. Signed a 4 year deal with Marseille in March 2008 and has been on the radar of a number of English clubs lately. Made his senior debut for France in September 2008 and now has 6 full caps to his name.
Oscar Ustari, 22, Getafe, Argentina.
Rhys Taylor, 18, Chelsea, Wales
Joe Hart, 21, Manchester City, England
Lukasz Fabianski, 23, Arsenal, Poland
Ben Foster, 25, Manchester United, England
So which of the above will be among the cream of goalkeepers when they reach 30, a good age for maturing goalkeepers? Some are from the same countries and will have to battle it out for supremacy at international level and many will be the subject of transfer speculation and moves, as their careers progress. There may even be an all time great lurking in there somewhere.
So let’s have your opinions and suggestions!