Italian football and goalkeepers have always been a match that is as delectable as Barolo and truffles, so this season is no different. There have been some fantastic performances and some unbelievable saves, as the artform of custodian continues to evolve.
Some of the expected performers continue to excel, but there have also been some new faces that have now come on to the scene. This season has also seen some old favourites struggle to find form, meaning that it’s has been one of the most interesting positions to observe this campaign.
The position of goalkeeper is one that often draws conversation and disagreements, so Samir Handanovic certainly manages to do this amongst Inter fans. This season however, his heroics have seen him roll back the years and displays against Tottenham, Bologna and SPAL (to name a few) have amazed many, as his athleticism has been there for all to see. He has the most clean sheets in Serie A and whilst his critics may say that this is down to Milan Skriniar and Stefan de Vrij, there is no doubt that his confidence has improved. With a goal conceded only every 122 minutes so far, it’s hard to argue he hasn’t been the best performer so far.
Wojciech Szczesny has been one of the most improved goalkeepers in Europe in the last few years and so far this term, it seems like he is just getting better. His work at Roma with the increasingly famous Marco Savorani, (who also improved Alisson Becker), has stood him in good stead. This was evident to Juventus, who quickly picked up on the fact that he had the ability and now the mentality to be Gigi Buffon’s successor. This season has seen him concede a miserly 10 goals, the best in the division, but his calmness and his confidence have been most impressive, as he has developed further, despite pressure from the excellent Mattia Perin.
Indonesian-born Emil Audero has represented Italy at all levels up to the U21s. On loan from Juventus, the 6ft 4in 21-year-old has been exemplary for Sampdoria this term, and despite conceding 23 goals, he has saved his team on many occasions, helping them look like Europa League contenders at the half way mark. A custodian with an incredible reach and good distribution, he also provides a level of calm for his defenders that shows a confidence well beyond his years. He may have to stay out on loan or look for a permanent move, as he is unlikely to jump the queue in Turin.
Fiorentina caused a stir when the captured the signature of the talented Toulouse goalkeeper Alban Lafont. The €7m fee did not look much for a 19-year-old who had played 98 times for the French outfit, an unbelievable feat for a man so young. He was the youngest keeper to debut in Ligue 1 at 16 years of age and it is no surprise that his wealth of game time has seen him hit the ground running. His athleticism is second to none, and although Fiorentina have defended well this term, conceding only 16 goals, his agility hasn’t been called on time after time. Perhaps the most impressive thing about the Frenchman is his concentration, as he can go long periods of time before pulling off a superlative save.
Salvatore Sirigu may have been forgiven for thinking that he was on the decline after he left Paris Saint-Germain, but instead he has been having a renaissance. The 16 goals conceded at Torino is an exceptional tally and with six clean sheets he is showing that he still has all the attributes needed to play at the highest level. His positioning has probably been his biggest improvement this campaign and whilst not always spectacular, he has become a rock for a Granata team threatening to qualify for Europe. At 31 he has a long career ahead of him and could continue to press for a place with the Azzurri.
There have been other goalkeepers worthy of a mention, as Parma’s Luigi Sepe and Udinese’s Juan Musso could easily have been on this list, whilst Robin Olsen is improving under the legendary Roma goalkeeping coaches. Perhaps the biggest omission is Gigio Donnarumma, who has struggled at times with Milan, whilst Alex Meret’s Napoli career has stalled amid continuing injury problems.
What is certain however, is that the relationship between Italian football and exquisite goalkeepers continues to blossom and shows no sign of slowing down.