One of the subplots of this summer, lost amid talk of Kylian Mbappé, a €100million incoming midfielder and Champions League-winning defender, was the situation in Real’s goal. Madrid.
There’s no doubt that Thibaut Courtois is the undisputed first choice at the Estadio Santiago Bernabéu – and for good reason – but that leaves Carlo Ancelotti with a problem to solve. How do you keep Andriy Lunin, 23, happy?
The Ukrainian has reportedly made it clear that he wants more first-team opportunities this season, whether at Real Madrid or elsewhere, after seeing Courtois start 50 out of 54 games in all competitions in 2021/22.
It looks like the Italian mastermind will be looking to give Lunin minutes in cup competitions to make up for his hunger for opportunities, but that presents a long-term challenge for Los Blancos to retain his services, or even to start thinking about an alternative replacement for 2022/23 or beyond.
Here, we’ll look at the five different goalkeeper profiles that could play the role and the options and precedents that Real Madrid could follow to solve any of the team’s potential problems.
It’s the budget option that offers, arguably, the least protection against Courtois injury or suspension, but it’s unlikely to end up with too much criticism from a fan base. who like to see theirs succeed.
The example: It’s been a while, but the last one was Antonio Adán. Adán took advantage of his emergence at the same time as Jose Mourinho turned to anyone but Iker Casillas. This benefited Adan – a boy who had joined the club when he was 10 years old. He made 18 appearances for the club in total before moving to Italy in search of regular first-team football following a controversial decision by Mourinho, where, in a match against Ajax, he opted to give Pepe the captain’s armband – unaware of Adán’s time in the club’s youth system.
The solution: Toni Fuidias. With the club since the age of 12, he was Raúl Gonzalez’s first-choice goalkeeper with Castilla and was often seen on the first-team bench throughout the campaign as Carlo Ancelotti called him up 29 times.
He would be a talented youngster who is not yet at his best and could benefit from a second-choice spell while learning from one of the best in the world. It’s a win-win situation, as it provides invaluable player experience and worthy club support, but it’s often a short-term fix.
The example: This is the case of Andriy Lunin. Arriving at 19, he has made five first-team appearances in four years, with loan spells at Leganés, Real Valladolid and Real Oviedo. However, he’s now reached the point of frustration where he wants his own playing time, but Real Madrid can’t afford to give it up.
The solution: Giorgi Mamardashvili. His debut campaign with Valencia was impressive and he went on a permanent loan move to Mestalla this summer. The Georgian is a big presence in goal, just like Courtois, and although he was error-prone at times, he kept eight clean sheets in 18 appearances last season. It seems unlikely that Real Madrid will pursue such a transfer, especially since it seems very likely that Lunin will stay at the club for the long term.
In this case, the “medium” option takes the form of a goalkeeper, usually Spanish, to help fill local quotas, and said player may do an acceptable job elsewhere as a first choice, but he compromises on playing time to join Real Madrid.
The example: Recent examples include Kiko Casilla or Diego López. Both of these players have gone on to reasonable careers as top-flight goalkeepers in Spain and abroad, both before and after spells with Los Blancos.
The solution: David Soria. The Getafe keeper may be an available option as Quique Sánchez Flores is also pursuing a deal for relegated Alavés’ Fernando Pacheco. His form has fallen off a cliff over the past two years, as it has for many at Getafe, but only three or four years ago he was considered one of the best Spanish goalkeepers in LaLiga. The club’s good relationship with Getafe and their president Ángel Torres would lubricate any negotiations for a goalkeeper who came through La Fábrica.
This is the hardest option to maintain and the most expensive to own at all times. It involves paying two high-quality options their corresponding salaries and maintaining two happy goalkeepers who could be the only first choice at just about any other club in the world.
The example: Here, we are talking about Keylor Navas. This type of solution is more common during a transition period for a number one spot, as we saw when Courtois originally arrived. In this last season in 2018/19, he played 20 games, compared to 35 for Courtois, despite starting the campaign. as the first choice for the first two games of the season. In the end, it was obvious that neither Navas nor Courtois were happy with the situation and the Costa Rican moved to Paris Saint-Germain.
The solution: Nobody. Right now, it appears to be the only option completely off the cards. The financial impacts of COVID-19 on the club’s budget and the simple fact that very few goalkeepers in the world can match Thibaut Courtois means it’s next to impossible. That’s without even beginning to consider the fact that truly elite goalkeepers at this level are rare these days.
It’s been a while since Real Madrid took this route, but they rely heavily on market opportunities. This involves looking for a proven professional whose best days are behind them, but who still wants a taste of silverware.
The example: The best example might well have been Jerzy Dudek, who joined Los Blancos just two years after winning the Champions League with Liverpool in 2005. He spent four years at the club, making just 12 appearances. But Dudek was a big influence and is still recognized to this day. Ahead of the Champions League final, he said: “Liverpool are a huge club, but Real Madrid are on another level. It’s so much more, on and off the pitch.
The solution: David Ospina. The 33-year-old former Arsenal man was first choice for Napoli for much of last season and is still playing at a high level, with few players able to match his talents on a free transfer . Available after his contract expired in Italy, he may be reluctant to take on a secondary role just yet, but with no other offers tempting him yet, the Bernabéu may be too tempting a proposition to ignore.