Premier League is finally discovering the value of goalkeepers

Author: DUNCAN CASTLESID: 1520884596073231600Tue, 2018-03-13 01:51LONDON: 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.
Main category: SportsTags: footballsoccerPremier leagueEPLEnglish football

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