I have grown up supporting a team I watched as a young boy and that support has never wavered through both the good and bad times of football, I have been there through thick and thin. However even though I am an avid supporter of my club I do look out for the results of certain other teams, whether that be because I have friends or relatives who support them, or in the case of Barcelona, because of the number of great holidays to this beautiful part of the world, almost making Barcelona feel like a second home. That coupled with my good understanding of the Spanish language allowing me to read a good chunk of the words in the Spanish press, especially my favourite paper the Sport (This is not in any way the same as the UK boob filled newspaper, this is actually about sport!) allows me to follow Barcelona in more ways than one. Not just from reading the papers whilst on holiday, but also through their App and Facebook site, meaning I am flooded with information on the team, giving me yet more reasons to practice my Spanish whilst reading about the latest rumours in the Barcelona camp.
When it comes to rumours, often the Sport out-trumps our press. They called it right on the transfers of Thierry Henry, David Villa and most recently Alex Song from Arsenal. So as a fan of Goalkeeping a number of stories recently have really caught my eye… That Victor Valdes is not looking to renew his contract with Barcelona when it expires in 1.5 years.
The UK press are all over this story too, already throwing names in the frame as their own potential ‘Exclusives’. With one rumour being that Liverpool and Barcelona could be looking to do a swap for Spain’s 2nd choice goalkeeper, Valdes, for Spain’s 3rd choice keeper, Pepe Reina. Which would make sense as Reina was a former Barcelona scholar and would probably like a return. However, when you read the Spanish press there is a different name being touted, one which make’s more sense, Thibaut Courtois.
Courtois, is someone Barcelona have been able to see up close, from his time on loan from Chelsea in La Liga at Atletico Madrid. Seeing Courtois in very impressive form… Last season (2011-2012) saw him keep 23 clean sheets 52 appearances for Atletico Madrid and this season (2012-2013) to date he has kept 14 clean sheets in 24 games! No wonder he appears to have caught their eye, and no wonder why Chelsea want to hold contract talks with him… However, even though this impressive form ought to see him get more first team appearances with his current employer on his return from loan, there is the issue of the also impressive Petr Cech being in his way. With Cech as the first choice keeper, would Courtois really be happy as the second choice, when this Summer he could be guaranteed first team action? All of which means there is a lot more to this rumour than just paper talk…
It will be a shame for Barcelona to lose Valdes, who according to the Sport will be sold in the Summer. He has been such a great Goalkeeper for them over the many years as their number 1. Indeed, he has had his low points, his critics and dropped the odd clanger, but which keeper hasn’t (including those at the highest level). His stats over the years show that he deserves the praise and recognition he is getting. Most notably his best form was in 2007, when he entered the Barcelona record books after not conceding a goal for 466 minutes, followed by winning the best goalkeeper in Spain in the 2008-2009 season beating the Spanish 1st Choice Goalkeeper Iker Casillas – some feat. It is part of the reason why Barcelona will remain fond of him. I wish him well and perhaps maybe… he will decide to come to the Premiership. If so then I for one can’t wait to see him in action! 😉
The Goalkeepers to Watch in this tournament (if they get their chance)… A quick guide to the Goalkeepers at Euro 2012
PART THREE – GROUP C
Stipe Pletikosa, FC Rostov, Age 33 – Squad Number 1 – 91 senior international appearances prior to this tournament
Ivan Kelava, GNK Dinamo Zagreb, Age 24 – Squad Number 12 – 0 international appearances
Danijel Subašić, Monaco, Age 27 – Squad Number 23 – 4 international appearances
Gianluigi Buffon, Juventus, Age 34 – Squad Number 1 – 114 international appearances
Salvatore Sirigu, Paris St Germain, Age 25 – Squad Number 12 – 3 international appearances
Morgan De Sanctis, Napoli, Age 35 – Squad Number 14 – 5 international appearances
Republic of Ireland
Shay Given, Aston Villa FC, Age 36 – Squad Number 1 – 122 international appearances
Kieran Westwood, Sunderland FC, Age 27 – Squad Number 16 – 10 international appearances
David Forde, Milwall FC, Age 32 – Squad Number 23 – 2 international appearances
Iker Casillas, Real Madrid, Age 31 – Squad Number 1 – 131 international appearances
Victor Valdes, Barcelona, Age 30 – Squad Number 12 – 8 international appearances
Pepe Reina, Liverpool, Age 29 – Squad Number 23 – 25 international appearances
This group boast a lot of experience Goalkeepers with all the teams Number 1’s having over 90 caps each. Will experience count? Or will we see more un-characteristic mistakes from the more experienced? So will any of these be your pick of the tournament…