When Ademola Lookman put the ball through Claudio Bravo legs to round off a 4-0 win for his new club Everton, Pep Guardiola knew he had a serious problem in his defence. Lookman’s strike was the 14th goal Bravo had conceded from his last 22 shots. The Chilean keeper only kept 4 clean sheets all season and even lost his place to his understudy Willy Caballero, who Guardiola would later release at the end of the season.
Bravo, a £9.7m buy from Barcelona, was nothing short of a disaster for Man City and a big reason why they struggled to get near Chelsea and contest the title. For the second season in a row, Pep Guardiola is on the hunt for a new No.1 and has his sight set on Benfica star Ederson Moraes and is willing to break the bank to get his man.
Gianluigi Buffon holds the record for most expensive goalkeeper when Juventus paid Parma £32.6m in 2001 but that remains the only time a keeper has be bought for over £20m. Having played for Juventus for 16 years (with absolutely no signs of stopping), Buffon might well be the best pound for pound signing ever made. However, this remains the only time a club has paid serious money to sign a goalkeeper.
A goalkeeper will win your club more points over a season than a right-back or a reserve striker, so why are goalkeepers so undervalued?
Perhaps as they do not grab the headlines and sell thousands of replica shirts, their prices remain modest. For all the money in the Premier League, only Man United (David de Gea) and Arsenal (Petr Cech) have spent over £10m on their keepers. Incredibly, eight teams in the Premier League signed their first choice keeper on a free transfer.
The £35m that Man City are rumored to be paying for Ederson is roughly the same they paid for Fernandinho and less than they paid for centre backs John Stones and Nicolas Otamendi. City are happy to spend big money on improving their defence but everyone gets upset when they spend similar amounts on an actual goalkeeper. As Bravo performances have shown, a keeper is one of the most important positions in the team and yet somehow the last line of defence rarely command big fees which seems odd given a) that the role of a keeper is usually undisputed with the No.1 playing almost every minute of every game, b) due to the lack of contact with other players and unlikelihood that they will run great distances they are rarely injured and c) the longevity of a keeper means most play on until they are nearly 40 years old unlike outfield players.
Eddie Howe’s Bournemouth massively struggled in defence last year, with only four teams conceding more, two of which were relegated. Howe has now splashed out £10m on Asmir Begovic from Chelsea to beef up his defence. Having scored more goals than Man United last season and now with a serious upgrade in goal, expect big things from the Cherries next year.
Given their importance and influence, its crazy that prices for keepers haven’t skyrocketed in recent years. City had to find out the hard way just how important a keeper is, so maybe Ederson and Begovic will be the start of a new wave of huge spending for goalkeepers.