12 Days of Football 2018: Eleven Keepers Keeping
On the 10th Day of Football, UEFA gave to me
Eleven Keepers Keeping,
Nine Ladies Playing,
Eight Managers Managing,
Six Games Amazing,
FIVE GOLDEN GOALS,
Four Calls Blown,
Three French Clubs,
Two title races and
Pep Guardiola's Manchester City
Welcome to It's Round and It's White's second annual holiday savings. Well, only for today. The other eleven days of our holiday-fixture-slash-year-in-review focussed on other aspects of football in 2018. On Day 11, however, Richard Kayode brings you a starting XI filled with shot-stoppers. Here they are.
The 32-year-old Bayern Munich goalkeeper had a 2018 filled with injury worries. A fractured foot kept him out for almost the entire year. The sweeper-keeper rushed his recovery to make the World Cup. It was a mistake. Moreso than fitness, his timing and instincts were horribly off. Germany bounced out of the group stage. Neuer was embarrassed in the final game against South Korea, giving the ball away while in the opponent's half, leading to the goal that sealed Die Mannschaft's doom.
Touted as the goalkeeper for the future when he stepped into the limelight in 2015/2016, Gianluigi Donnarumma thrilled and disgusted in equal measure during the 2017/18 season. His play came around after a shaky start but his game wasn't 100% with a struggling defence in front of him. The extended holdout before he signed a new contract upset Rossoneri fans. Milan's continued struggles in 2018/19 haven't done the young keeper any favours. Then again, he has his entire career ahead.
From being undisputed number one in goal for Real Madrid to being a second choice despite doing absolutely nothing wrong, Keylor Navas' story at Real Madrid has been the younger son no one trusts to take over. Only at Real Madrid can a keeper man the sticks in the Champions League final then be on the bench in the next Clasico.
Meet Keylor Navas' replacement. At 26, Thibaut Courtois already featured for three of Europe's biggest clubs, Chelsea, Atletico and Real Madrid. After an illustrious World Cup, he is now Los Blancos number one. All that's left is for results at the Bernabeu to start going the Belgian's way.
The erstwhile Liverpool keeper worked hard to displace Simon Mignolet in the Reds goal. It all fell apart with two major blunders in the Merseysiders' biggest game in a decade. Mishandling Gareth Bale's long-range volley and rolling the ball into Karim Benzema's path gifted the Merengue's two goals and a third consecutive Champions League title. Still on Liverpool's books despite Alisson Becker's arrival, the German is on loan with Istanbul giants Besiktas.
Relatively unknown before 2018, the former AS Roma goalkeeper earned his name as Brazil's top keeper over Ederson Moraes. Backstopping the Giallorossi's semifinal run in the Champions League impressed the team that eliminated them. The Reds moved for Alisson in the summer. It's paid off with a seven-point lead in the Premier League as 2018 turns into 2019.
When you put in the hard work, excellence finds you. Kepa was touted to join Real Madrid from Athletic Bilbao in January 2018 but the deal did not materialise. When one door closes, another opens, however. Courtois' move to Madrid left a void to be filled at Chelsea. The 24-year-old is already cementing his future for Chelsea.
Recognised as the best goalkeeper in the Premier League for his tremendous saves that lifted Manchester United into second place. This season hasn't been De Gea’s best. Coupled with a disappointing World Cup, the campaign couldn't end fast enough. The managerial change at Manchester United has breathed fresh air into the squad and the pressure is off the Spaniard. Now he can rediscover his form in his own good time.
Atletico Madrid's success story is embedded in Diego Simeone. They say a keeper is only as good as the defence in front of him. Juan Oblak is an excellent goalkeeper. Culminating in a Europa League triumph, 2017/18 was an excellent campaign. Wealthier clubs keep calling. So far the Slovenian is convinced he has a good thing going at the Wanda Metropolitano. Why leave?
Arriving from Benfica to begin last season, Ederson Moraes' play from the back transformed Pep Guardiola's Manchester City into Premier League champions. Claudio Bravo's error-strewn 2016/17 ruined Pep's English debut. Sometimes a defence is only as good as the goalkeeper behind it.
The Juventus legend prolonged his season for one more year to chase the one trophy not in his cabinet: the Champions League. A Ronaldo bicycle kick and spontaneous combustion following Michael Oliver's penalty call against Medhi Benatia produced frustration yet again. Buffon is stubborn, though. He couldn't hang up his gloves without giving it one more go even if the Old Lady wasn't interested. His dream has brought him to kindred souls at Paris Saint-Germain for one last effort.
Okay. Maybe two. Happy New Year.