I agree with most of what Kristian wrote yesterday. Good saves are fun to watch on YouTube – speaking of which I challenge you to find me anything better than this ludicrous double save by Gregory Coupet – but there’s much more to a goalkeeping than that.
In searching for the perfect man between the sticks in my team, I looked for three main qualities: leadership, consistency and experience. In the fundamental of goalkeeping skills – shot stopping – there is little to seperate those that make up the elite: Petr Èech, Iker Casillas, Julio Cesar and Gigi Buffon. Their reactions and anticipation are of similar quality, and while Casillas is the smallest, he makes up for it with his supreme agility.
But it is in the other skills of goalkeeping that gives Iker Casillas my Number 1 jersey. Leadership is the first point. Casillas may not wear the captain’s arm band for Real Madrid, but he is the side’s vocal leader and talisman in a way that the spoilt Raúl has not been for years. Last summer he became the first goalkeeper to captain his country to a major international trophy since Dino Zoff in 1982. His leadership was as responsible as anything else for Spain finally being able to shake off their ‘chokers’ tag.
Casillas is also phenomenally consistent. It is slightly unfair to praise players for staying injury free – it is not Arjen Robben’s fault, for example, that he is injury prone – but I do think there should be some positive recognition for those, such as Frank Lampard, who are impervious to injury. Iker Casillas has missed five league games since the start of the 2002/03 season, which is a magnificent record – playing 241 of a possible 246 La Liga matches. The 2002/03 season started, by the way, just months after his 21st birthday.
And with so much football at such an early age, comes experience. He’s only 27 but he’s won four La Ligas, a European Championship and two Champions Leagues (aged 19 and 21). Only the grizzled Dida and Edwin van der Sar can match his two European Cup medals from goalkeepers of the modern era. 327 league appearances for Real, 436 in all competitions and 88 international caps. I know this is based on recent form, but just think about potential too here for a minute. Casillas has got until May 2011 while he’s still in his twenties. His thirties are going to be terrifying.
Jack’s World XI
- GK Iker Casillas (Real Madrid and Spain)