Asmir Begovic on Kepa, Alisson and the summer merry-go-round of goalkeepers

Asmir Begovic tells Yahoo Sport that the Premier League goalkeeping fraternity is in a very strong position right now
Asmir Begovic tells Yahoo Sport that the Premier League goalkeeping fraternity is in a very strong position right now

Cast your mind back to the end of last season, before the World Cup began, before Jordan Pickford became a national hero and before Premier League clubs started paying world record fees for goalkeepers.

Liverpool’s Champions League dream had been ended by Real Madrid in the final and the blame lay firmly at the feet – or hands – of Loris Karius.

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Prior to concussion tests conducted in the USA, Karius was blasted for his shambolic display as Liverpool lost 3-1, two of the goals quite clearly his fault.

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Not only did conversations in pubs talk about Karius’ howler, but also asked the question: why would you be a goalkeeper?

As Asmir Begovic says, it’s a ‘different’ position to the rest on the pitch and every mistake is highlighted ‘too much’. It hardly feels like the role you’d encourage your children to take up – when it goes wrong, it’s a lonely position to play.

Now, a little over two months later, it feels like goalkeepers are back in fashion. Suddenly they are being valued properly and the world record fee for a goalkeeper has been broken twice this summer.

First Liverpool shelled out £67m for Alisson Becker from Roma, then Chelsea splurged £71m on young Spaniard Kepa Arrizabalaga from Athletic Bilbao. And it didn’t stop there: In total eight Premier League clubs had debutants in goal over the opening weekend.

Alisson enjoyed a quiet Liverpool debut after his summer move from Roma
Alisson enjoyed a quiet Liverpool debut after his summer move from Roma

It feels like the importance of keepers is finally being recognised in the fees being paid, something Begovic, who only cost Bournemouth £10m last summer, is pleased to see.

“Yeah I think it’s great. Keepers are getting talked about in positive light and values are going up all the time,” he told Yahoo Sport.

“I think that is reflective of the market to a certain extent – prices for the outfield market and everywhere are much higher than they used to be.

“And then there are some really good keepers that have moved. Lots of top goalkeepers moved this summer and the domino effect takes shape. I think that is what happened and it’s good to see them in this league.”

Kepa’s record-breaking switch to Chelsea in the final days of the transfer window was one of the surprises of the summer
Kepa’s record-breaking switch to Chelsea in the final days of the transfer window was one of the surprises of the summer

What does he make of Allison and Kepa then? Two keepers who were, it’s fair to say, not that well known in this country.

“Allison has had a strong couple of years at Roma and established himself there,” Begovic added

“He has performed well in the Champions League for Roma and become Brazil’s No.1,  so he comes with big pedigree and is one of the best goalkeepers around.

“Kepa, he’s someone for Chelsea that is a long-term signing. He’s young and should be there for a good number of years. I think he’ll prove good value for money in the end.

“He’s done well coming through [Athletic] Bilbao’s youth side, putting in good performances there and getting into national team as well. He’s a good signing.”

It is not just the foreign keepers being brought into the league that Begovic is impressed by though.

The emergence of Jordan Pickford as a top class goalkeeper was one of the main stories to come out of England’s World Cup run, but Begovic believes there is a large group of quality, English keepers right behind him.

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“I think Pickford has established himself as number one and he’s made the most of the opportunity he has been given,” he added.

“There is a really good group behind him: [Jack] Butland, [Nick] Pope, [Joe] Hart, [Tom] Heaton and then the likes of Ben Foster and Fraser Forster.  There are good young keepers such as Angus Gunn [Southampton], Freddie Woodman [Newcastle] and Aaron Ramsdale [Bournemouth].

Jordan Pickford is England’s No.1, but he has plenty of pressure being applied by a group of keepers behind him
Jordan Pickford is England’s No.1, but he has plenty of pressure being applied by a group of keepers behind him

“The general depth is much improved and there are lots of good English keepers.”

And yet when goalkeepers are being discussed, it is hard not to come back to Karius and that fateful night in Kiev.

Begovic, as you would expect, has plenty of sympathy for the Pole and is hopeful that he’ll bounce back – even if that does not look like being with Liverpool.

Loris Karius’ nightmare Champions League final highlighted the difficulties of being a top-level goalkeeper
Loris Karius’ nightmare Champions League final highlighted the difficulties of being a top-level goalkeeper

“I think obviously the reaction was overblown and over the top – that’s for sure. The goalkeeper position is unforgiving, it’s different and these mistakes get highlighted way too much,” he explained.

“Loris is aware of the pressure that comes with the position at a club like that. I’m sure he’s got a great character and will be able to bounce back. I wish him well going forward.”


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