Football managers around Europe in the last few seasons have spent big to add a high-quality goalkeeper to their squads. Why are these clubs spending high amounts on goalkeepers when they can rather spend the same on a quality outfield player?
This is because goalkeepers are usually the markers of how good a team is. A top keeper can bail a team out in desparate situations or when the stakes are high. The quality of players in this position becomes especially crucial in close games that are decided by a goal or two.
Goalkeepers may not get a lot of credit for their contributions since they are mostly away from the action. But they are the last line of a team’s defence and hence comprise a crucial part of teams.
On that note, here is look at the top 5 goalkeepers in Europe in the 2019-2020 season.
# 5: Thomas Strakosha (Lazio)
Lazio have the best defensive record in the Italian top-flight in 2019-20. This is no small part due to their custodian Thomas Strakosha who has conceded only 23 Serie A goals this season.
The Italian capital club have conceded nine goals less than their expected 'goals against' tally at this stage of the season, and Strakosha takes a lot of credit for that. Not only has the Lazio custodian been superb with his ball-handling, his anticipation has also been world-class.
Strakosha, who organises the defensive lines and watches the play, is a true leader on the pitch. It is not easy to score against him as his positioning is generally impeccable.
The 25-year-old shot-stopper is having the best season of his life, in the process attracting interest from Premier League clubs Tottenham Hotspur and Leicester City.
With age on his side, Strakosha will only see his stock go up with every game that he plays.
# 4: Thibaut Courtois (Real Madrid)
Thibaut Courtois had an underwhelming first season for Real Madrid in La Liga, fighting for the no.1 position in the team with Keylor Navas.
However, this season the Belgian has made the Merengues' top spot his own since the Costa Rican’s departure. Making clutch saves in crucial moments of games has become a hallmark of the tall Belgian custodian.
Courtois has managed over Real Madrid fans with his impressive performances. However, one of his highlight of the season came at the other end of the pitch. Courtois ventured into Valencia’s penalty box for a 95th-minute corner, with Real Madrid trailing 0-1. The Belgian won the header and laid the ball perfectly for Benzema to score an equaliser.
Combining his height with impeccable positioning, Courtois hasn’t conceded a single goal from outside the box this season. It is fair to say that the Belgian goalkeeper has become a fan favourite at the Santiago Bernabeu.
# 3: Jan Oblak (Atletico Madrid)
Atletico Madrid have been going through a rough period with a rebuild. But one man, Jan Oblak, has continued to pull out consistent performances, none more so than in Atletico's Round of 16 Champions League tie with defending champions, Liverpool. Diego Simeone summed up Oblak's brilliance in these simple words:
“Jan Oblak is the Messi of goalkeepers.”
The Slovenian has won a record four consecutive best goalkeeper awards in the La Liga. Despite impressive attributes for a top custodian, one area where Oblak lacks is with the ball at his feet. With just a 54% passing success rate, it is an apparent weakness in his game.
# 2: Wojciech Szczesny (Juventus)
Wojciech Szczesny found it hard to get game time when he first arrived in Turin in 2017. However, with Gianluigi Buffon moving to Paris St Germain, Szczesny stepped up to ensure that the Bianconeri did not miss their legendary keeper. This season, the Polish keeper has taken his game to the next level.
Juventus have a formidable backline. But with an impressive 80% save rate, the Juve no.1 has made it even harder to score against the Turin side.
Perhaps the only thing tougher than scoring against Szczesny is probably spelling his name perfectly on the first go.
# 1: Alisson Becker (Liverpool)
Alisson Becker is by far the best goalkeeper in the world at present. Despite missing a large part of the season due to injury, Becker has managed to secure ten clean sheets in just twenty appearances. The Brazilian custodian had a substantial save rate of 81% and an 84% passing rate to go with his clean sheets.
Becker is the second most expensive goalkeeper in the world and for a good reason. In the Champions League Final in 2018, Liverpool realized the hard way the importance of a quality keeper following Loris Karius's twin blunders. Unfortunately for the Anfield club, when Alisson Becker was injured in the Champions League Round of 16 game against Atletico this season, Adrian repeated Karius’ disaster show.
When fit, Becker is a complete goalkeeper as he ticks every box for a top custodian. He has showcased his impressive attributes in the limited appearances in various competitions he has managed this season.