As you can probably tell, I love writing ! One of my favourite subjects is definitely Football and to be more specific Manchester United. I’ve been a regular writer on Manchester United Supporters Club Malta’s magazine The Echoes from Old Trafford for the last 4 years and for this Christmas edition I wrote about United’s great goalkeeper; David De Gea.
Is David De Gea the world’s best goalkeeper?
Being a lifelong Man Utd fan I might be a bit biased. I will answer to that question that Man Utd has always had a strong keeper whenever they had a successful team. Just look at the last two decades and you’ll find that whenever United had Peter Schmeichel and Edwin Van Der Sar on top of their game, United were simply unstoppable. Regarding De Gea however, is he currently the world’s best goalkeeper?
In order to answer that we need to first and foremost assess what qualities would make someone the world’s best goalkeeper? After that we need to see the competition and only then we can start discussing this title.
Let’s start with the qualities and values of what makes a top keeper. In my humble opinion a great goalkeeper needs to be a great communicator, posses good handling, good passing and ball distribution, excellent reflexes, brave and commands respect. Those are just some of the qualities that a goalkeeper needs in order to have a successful career.
Communication – When De Gea joined United back in 2011 he was a frail looking teenager. You might think that he was still going through puberty! Yet the great Sir Alex trusted this kid and threw him immediately in the first eleven. It might have been the language barrier, however at first De Gea couldn’t communicate well with his defence, however within a few months he established a great telepathic communication with Vidic and Rio and over the years De Gea continued to improve his communications with the ever changing backline.
Handling & Reflexes – What’s a goalkeeper if he can’t handle a ball? Who can doubt that De Gea is today one of the world’s best ball handlers? His gravity defying saves are world class and he can win points on his won. Definitely De Gea is up there on the merits of his handling and reflexes.
Good with his feet – De Gea’s skills with his feet are second to none. Some of his best saves have been with his feet and he’s also known for his great ball distribution sometimes converting a save into a counter attack within one pass. De Gea’s distribution has improved over the years and today he’s surely up there with anyone else in the world!
Respect and bravery – Everyone respects De Gea, even more so his opponents! When you’re such a good goalkeeper everyone will look up to you with awe and you’ll command respect. De Gea is also very brave and its not the first time that he puts his body in harms way in order to prevent a goal.
As we can see from here, De Gea ticks all the right boxes for a top goalkeeper. One might also want to look at his passage of time with United. As I said earlier, he joined as a young goalkeeper and he had his difficult moments. Ironically enough, it was Mata’s last minute free kick for Chelsea in 2012 during United’s 3-3 draw that changed De Gea forever and propelled him to new heights. You could see it in De Gea’s face, he expelled his demons with that save and ever since that super save, De Gea never looked back.
Going back to the list of contestants for this prestigious title, who else can be considered as the world’s best goalkeeper?
In my opinion we need need to mention the following at the very least; Manuel Neuer, Gianluigi Buffon, Jan Oblak, Samir Handanovic, Thibaut Courtois and Hugo Lloris.
All of the above mentioned can claim their case to be the world’s best however if we had to do a final shortlist I would say that it must be between De Gea, Buffon and Neuer.
Manuel Neuer has been exceptional for club and country for many years. As Bayern Munich and Germany’s No. 1 goalkeeper, he’s been an inescapable presence in football even for the most casual of football fans.
It’s also impossible to not notice him on the pitch, as his unorthodox style of play has assisted in changing the way we view the entire position.
He’s a consistent winner; you have to go back to 2010 to find a year in which he did not win a trophy for either club or country. His sweeper-keeper style revolutionised Bayern’s game under both Jupp Heynckes and Pep Guardiola, and his brilliance with the ball at his feet has inspired (or resurrected) an entirely new coaching style with No. 1s.
At the ripe age of 39, Gianluigi Buffon is still a top-five goalkeeper in world football. He’s stood the test of time and then some, performing superbly in every season since debuting back in 1995.
As far as commanders go, Buffon is the No. 1. He’s been blessed with some remarkable defensive lines during the course of his career, but he still whips them into shape and isn’t afraid to tell the likes of Giorgio Chiellini they’re in the wrong.
His mobility and reaction times have faded just a tinge; the latter stages of last year’s Champions League campaign proved that. But it’s a measure of how good Buffon is that, even in slight decline, he’s still better than the large majority of the field.
In conclusion, I don’t believe that it’s fair to try and choose between these three giants. Buffon has been one of the world’s best goalkeeper for almost two decades, Manuel Neuer won every single trophy available to men in a very short period of time and De Gea has won an uncountable amount of points for Man Utd.
I believe that we’re very lucky to be witnessing these great men playing the beautiful game. We’ll do well if we treasure these moments because one day very soon we will have football without the likes of Buffon, Neuer and De Gea. In fact Buffon already said that this is his last season and since Italy won’t be playing in the World Cup, Buffon won’t have his World Cup swansong either. Neuer and De Gea still have at least 10 more years ahead of them, till then we can enjoy some very memorable moments from both of them, hopefully we’ll get to enjoy De Gea’s moments with Man Utd for the remainder of his career.