When writing this article it is important to consider all of the skills, physical attributes, behaviors and mental skills that a goalkeeper must possess to become good. When thinking about this some of the obvious ones that come to mind are a physical presence. It is very difficult in the modern era to become a good goalkeeper if you are not at least 6 foot tall in the men’s game and honestly the nest in the world are in the 6 foot 2 range plus at this height it is much easier for you to be able to deal with the high balls into the penalty area, and cover the corners of the goal as you progress through the age groups. Athletic ability is something else that seems obvious but for me this is something that can be taught and learnt. Good hand eye co-ordination might be something else that comes to mind. As does the ability to communicate with the players in front of you.
Having spent some time thinking about this here are the 5 Attributes that I believe are essential for anyone looking to become a good goalkeeper or even excellent.
1.Size matters – Men over 6 foot 2 women over 5 foot 8
To become good you MUST have a presence in the goal, you must be able to reach the balls that are in the corners high and low, challenge attackers for the high balls as they come into your penalty area and get down to players feet as they race through on goal.
It is true that through time there have been exceptions. England goalkeeper Peter Shilton was not as tall as he should have been at 6 foot. He was considered as a short goalkeeper during his time. Fabian Barthez of France won the FIFA World Cup and UEFA Euro Championships with France and was 6 foot tall too. However, perhaps the most successful goalkeeper at 6 foot or below is Ika Casillas standing at just 5 foot 11.5 inches he has won it all. 5 league titles with Real Madrid in Spain. The UEFA Champions League three times, plus domestic cup, UEFA Super Cup, FIFA World Cup Club and FIFA Intercontinental Cup triumphs. With Spain he dominated the world from 2008 – 2012 winning FIFA World Cup, UEFA Euro Championships twice, FIFA World Cup Club.
However despite their dominance during their time at the top of the game none of these goalkeepers where considered to be the best in the world. These honors went to taller goalkeepers that where perhaps better because they had a presence in their goal area that provided additional confidence to the players around them.
According to a Fox Sports report in October 2016 the top 5 goalkeepers in the world are:
Manuel Neuer (Bayern Munich & Germany) 6 foot 4
David De Gea (Manchester United & Spain) 6 foot 3
Thibaut Courtois (Chelsea & Belgium) 6 Foot 6
Petr Cech (Arsenal & Czech Republic) 6 Foot 5
Hugo Lloris (Tottenham & France) 6 Foot 2
In the modern game size matters, if you are not 6 foot 2 as a man you are going to struggle to deal with the requirements of the modern game on the goalkeeper.
2. Speed of movement
This is perhaps the single most important attribute a goalkeeper has to have and continue to develop. A goalkeeper has to be able to cover short distances quickly in all directions. From side to side, back and forward and in the direction that the ball is travelling on a path towards the goal. You have to continue to develop your foot skills and quickness over 3 – 4 yards in order to make the difficult saves look easy and the impossible save possible. As a young player there should be time set aside every practice session for this either with your dedicated goalkeeper coach or at home on your own. I personally spend a lot of time working with my goalkeepers to help them understand the importance of moving to the ball quickly and across the goal to cover the angles. You can’t be quick enough in speed of movement in and around the penalty area and the quicker you are the easier the game will become.
3. Foot skills that are as good as any outfield player
Back in the early 1990’s goalkeepers could pick up a back pass from their defenders. In 1992 FIFA changed the laws to prohibit deliberately handling a back pass. At the time this rule change was greeted with skepticism but in the 25 years that have passed we have seen that goalkeepers have had to become exceptionally gifted with their feet to be able to handle back passes from team mates and in fact are now critical parts of building up play to lead to attacks. The advent of the “sweeper keeper” has meant that it is possible to allow the goalkeeper to sit higher in the field of play when your team has the ball and defend the space behind the defenders. This means that as an attacking team you are able to condense the play in the opponents half and make it more difficult for them to get out of the defensive position. Goalkeepers should be integrated into the main team practices and given the opportunity to play with the other players. If they truly wish to become exceptional they will have to work on improving their left and right foot so that they can deal with the ball on either side of their body. This rule change has had the biggest impact on goalkeeper development and training in the last 25 years.
4. Train more than anyone else
In the early days of the 1980’s and 1990’s when I was playing soccer in England, the person that went in the goal was the slow kid or the kid that didn’t want to run, or the kid that couldn’t play. As I grew up I had asthma so running was always difficult for me so I was that kid. I remember many practice sessions happening where I just wasn’t doing anything I would be standing there because the ball was on the other end of the field and I wasn’t engaged. Today the goalkeeper has to be the most technically gifted player on your team. Let me say that again for those of you that are not sure what I just said. The goalkeeper is the most technically gifted player on your team. Here is why – the modern day goalkeeper has to be able to pass the ball with total accuracy short and long from distances of say 5 yards out to 60 yards. They must be able to deliver the ball to their team mate within playing distance across those distances and the ball MUST arrive before an opponent can close the space and win the ball. This means that the ball must be delivered in such a way that the receiver can play it first time if they need to. How many of you can pass a ball with accuracy over 15 yards so that the receiver can then in turn play it first time in the direction they want to go? If you can that is a wonderful start, can you do 20, 25, 40 or even 60 yards? David De Gea can deliver a ball off his foot to his full back left or right standing inside the opponents half with total accuracy that is how good he has leant to become. You have to work on your goalkeeper skills, ball handling, catching, punching, diving, gathering and deflecting. You need to improve your communication all of the time with your team mates to give the clear precise information that quickly. You have to be working on your concentrations skills there will be times in the game where you will not be involved, how do you stay involved? You have to work on being fitter than anyone else on the field. You have to cover the ground as quickly as an Olympic sprinter in the body of an NFL wide receiver. You have to be able to leap and “fly” through the air, you have to be prepared to put your body in where the cleats, knees, elbows and heads are all flying around and still keep focused on the ball and make the catch or save. If you are not working 30 minutes before practice and 30 minutes after practice change your regime get to practice early and stay late you have to do more work than an outfield player because you have more techniques that need to be perfected than an outfield player. ‘
In the modern game goalscorers are usually the most expensive players, Neymar for instance cost Paris St Germain 220 million euros to buy from Barcelona and he will score 50 goals this season for them most likely. How many goals does a very good (world class) goalkeeper save? In the same transfer window Manchester City signed a goalkeeper from Benfica Called Ederson they spent 40 million Euros on signing a goalkeeper regarded as one of the best in Europe and certainly the best that was available to buy. That is more than 5 time less than what PSG paid for Neymar. I believe that Ederson will have every bit as much of an impact on Manchester City’s season as Neymar does for PSG. The difference is that Neymar will get all the headlines because goals win matches, games, championships and trophies, saves just stop you from losing. Remember train more and work harder at your game than anyone else on your team. YOU MUST CONTRACT A GOALKEEPER COACH TO WORK WITH YOU ADDITIONALLY TO YOUR TEAM PRACTICES.
5. Possess no memory (Good or Bad)
This is the hardest skill I belief for any young goalkeeper to learn but it is the skill that will make or break you as a goalkeeper. We sometimes refer to this as mental toughness or short term memory loss. This is where nothing that happens good or bad affects you. Yes I did say good or bad. I was watching a young goalkeeper playing for Benfica yesterday against Manchester United at Old Trafford in the Champions League group stages and he was brilliant in saving a penalty in the first half, he was rightly delighted with his save as it kept the score in the game at 0-0 the ball went out for a corner and he was working hard to get his team mates to react to the corner. See he knew that the game wasn’t over, there was a corner to defend so instead of getting set to defend the corner his team mates are celebrating not conceding a goal from the penalty. What they should have been doing is getting into position to properly defend the corner kick. Later in the half Namanja Matic of Manchester United takes a shot from outside the penalty area that strikes the foot of the post, comes back into play and hits the young goalkeeper on the back and goes into the net. His reaction was EXACTLY what you want from a young goalkeeper, in both of these instances, one of high joy one of huge disappointment, there was none. He simply and efficiently collected the ball from the goal and sent it back to the half way line. There was no jumping around or verbal commentary to himself he just got on with the game. I have saved the Youtube clip of the game highlights so that you can see what I saw.
Now if you watch the goal that is scored off his back you will notice that he is slow to get across to the post and as a consequence as the ball comes back off the post he is just arriving and hasn’t covered a sufficient amount of ground to get his body out of the path of the ball as it strikes the post. Had he been quicker getting there and gets only the slightest of touches with his glove on the ball it strikes the outside of the post and goes away from the goal. This is why speed across the goal area is so critical.
This goalkeeper is 18 years old, he has a long way to go in the game before he reaches his maturity and has the experience and understanding of the game to become great however I believe with this mental toughness and approach to the game, he has every chance of one day being one of the best goalkeepers in the world. Remember the name Mile Svilar.
Please visit www.just4keepers.com to find the nearest highly qualified goalkeeper coach in your area that can help you develop your skills and understanding of the best position on the soccer field.
Written by Mark Phillips State Director Idaho Just 4 Keepers