The transfer market for the goal keeping position has always been under-priced (or rightly priced) in comparison to the rest of the positions on the pitch. The highest price ever paid for a goalkeeper, was at the beginning of the new millennium as Juventus bought Buffon from Parma. A thankless job, and being in the limelight for the slightest of error, the goalkeeping job has never been a tougher proposition. However the presence of a young duo at the biggest clubs in the English Premier League has certainly raised the standard of goalkeeping and has ignited the debate of who is the better amongst the two; De Gea or Courtois?
Manchester United’s David De Gea
At a relatively young age of 24 years, David De Gea has been the star performer for a struggling Manchester United Team. Not only has he cemented his place in front of a competitive duo of Anders Lindegaard and Ben Amos, he has also been the lynchpin of an otherwise vulnerable Manchester United defense.
David De Gea came through the ranks at Atletico Madrid and made 57 appearances during 2009-11 for the reigning Spanish La Liga champions. In 2011, he was bought by the Champions of England; however he had to step in the shoes of the legendary Dutchman Edwin Van Der Sar. It was never going to be an easy task, and the physical nature of the league didn’t help him either. In his debut season, he was bullied by opposition on set pieces and he succumbed to the tactics and made blunders which didn’t allow him to settle at Manchester United. An eye surgery in the debut season coupled with goalkeeping errors ensured he was replaced by Lindegaard and talks of him returning to Spain gathered pace. A lucky break came as Lindegaard got injured, and De Gea made the most of it with a stunning display against Chelsea and as they say he has never looked back. His spectacular performances during 2012 season helped him bagging his first Premier League medal and an entry into the PFA Premier League Team of the year. The 2013-14 season, as for all related to Manchester United, was a nightmare, however De Gea was a standout performer. His maturity and a calming influence also ensured him a berth at the World Cup Finals with the Spanish National Team.
Chelsea’s Thibaut Courtois
Surprisingly at a young age of 19 years Chelsea bought Belgium shot stopper Thibaut Courtois and as soon as he made his transfer, he was sent on loan to Atletico Madrid to replace Manchester bound David De Gea.
Courtois is probably one of the most gifted goalkeeping talents in world football. With a cool demeanor he quickly adapted to La Liga and replaced the first choice goalkeeper Sergio Asenjo. He also won his first European medal in his debut season. With the world best goalkeeper Peter Cech operating at Chelsea, Courtois loan was further extended, raising fear that probably he will never be back at the bridge. His Man of the Match performance against Real Madrid in the Copa Del Rey Final in 2012-13 season ensured Atletico beat their fiercest city rivals for the first time in 14 years. His performances ensured that Atletico Madrid won their first league title in almost eighteen years, and to everyone’s surprise he was immediately back at Chelsea to replace Peter Cech.
Plying their skills in Different Leagues : 2013-14
The last season was of contrasting fortunes for the two brightest goalkeeping prospects in the world. While Courtois was in line to win La Liga and Champions League, fate of Manchester United was set in stone even before the finale to the season.
Thibaut Courtois kept twenty clean sheets in the league, in comparison to De Gea’s paltry twelve. De Gea made a higher number of stops in comparison to Courtois, which also showed he was guarding a shaky and old defense at Manchester United. In terms of claiming the ball there was nothing really to choose out of the two and in terms of distribution which is of significance; Courtois was slightly better than De Gea, in reaching out to his teammates and hence contributing significantly.
Competing in the same league : 2014-15 (Till Round 11)
With probably the best goal keeping talent at display in the Premier League (adding the likes of Lloris and co), it will be a fair yardstick to judge both in 2014-15. De Gea has a better clean sheet record, but whenever he has conceded, Manchester United have allowed a bucket full of goals. In terms of stops, De Gea reflexes have been nothing short of being extraordinary, while Courtois is playing behind a solid and injury free defense. De Gea’s distribution has been slightly better, although the attacking prowess at Manchester United has not been able to capitalize much upfront.
Goalkeepers definitely get better with age and it will be unfair to judge goalkeepers, who are in their early twenties, but it is anybody’s guess that De Gea and Courtois, are destined to achieve greater milestones, if they continue their current development. Courtois has made a great start with Atletico and now with Chelsea, while it was a stuttering start for De Gea. Thibaut Courtois also has the advantage of a solid experienced defense in front of him, which slightly puts him ahead of De Gea. While it still remains too early to call, we can conclude that the first round goes to Courtois, while De Gea still remains one of the best in Europe. In the end, it would be interesting to see the battle unfold in the longer run, as Courtois settles in London displacing Cech, while De Gea might be heading to Santiago Bernabeu next season to replace Madrid’s favorite son.
Data Source: Squawka
Image Courtesy: Express.co.uk