|Forget Messi and Ronaldo's wizardry or the spectacular volleys from James Rodríguez or Tim Cahill. Heck, even Luis Suarez doing his best impression of The Count from Sesame Street couldn't even evoke the type of reaction that Tim Howard's heroics at the World Cup got from that a nation that are probably not even aware they have their own football league. Finally soccer has arrived in the US and it was the art of goalkeeping that grabbed their attention.
It was like watching Sylvester Stallone bravely fend off the Nazi's in Escape to Victory all over again.Maybe the American's have the right idea. You often hear commentators and pundits comment that a good goalkeeper can earn you 20 points a season alone. Tim Howard certainly earned himself a whole lot of love
I guess goalkeepers have and always will remain the unsung heroes of the game and perhaps that is why it took me so bloody long to research the best goalkeepers in CM/FM over the past 20 years. There were one or two obvious candidates that immediately sprang to mind, but I very much had to be led by the Champ Man community on this one. I guess deep down we're all a little bit guilty of showing more love for Kennedy Bakircioglu than we ever did for Igor Akinfeev.
Arguably the best goalkeeper on CM93 was one Tim Flowers who if memory serves me correctly was still available to buy from Southampton at the start of the game. I went back and forth with this one, but in the end I have to start as I mean to go on which means Tim is ineligible for the vote as I believe he lived up to his CM hype in the real game.
However, I started this post talking about a goalkeeper who caught the imagination of the American public so it seems apt that the first pick for best CM/FM goalkeeper is a fellow American who paved the way for his countrymen in world football.
Up next is Alan Fettis and Mattias Asper. Northern Ireland keeper Fettis could be picked up for a couple of hundred grand at the start of the game from the Nottingham Forest reserves in CM2 (96/97 season), whilst Asper was touted as the next Peter Schmeichel in CM 99/00. Both would serve as steady stalwarts in between the sticks but the reality was less impressive. Fettis enjoyed his best spells with Hull City and York City in the lower leagues of English football and Asper struggled to find any form outside of his native Sweden.
But the talent conveyor belt didn't end there for goalkeepers in CM 01/02. From extensive research on CM/FM community forums like The Dugout, I found that there was a lot of love for two keepers called Hugo Pinheiro and Dionisis Chiotis who I'd not come across in the game before, but learned they could be picked up on the cheap. It just goes to show you the power of the game that when you search for Pinheiro on Google, you get more references to his CM/FM fame than his actual career, whereas Chiotis fared slightly better and would have had Champ Man fans smiling back in 2012 when the man from Greece saved two penalties in a Champions League shoot-out against Lyon to send APOEL into the last 16.
Maarten Stekelenburg (CM4) threatened to be the next Edwin van der Sar before proving he wasn't quite going to make the grade after a failed stint with Fulham, and even though Mexico's Guillermo Ochoa has impressed recently in the World Cup he still finds himself without a club in real life while his Football Manager 2005 persona had his pick of top clubs to play for. But the guy I always opted for in this version of the game was Sweden's Andreas Isaksson. This is a tough one as the guy has well over 100 caps for his country but unsuccessful spells at Juventus and Manchester City is enough for me to put him on the list.
And it is the FM05 version where my personal favourite goalkeeper made his name. Shakhtar Donetsk stopper Jan Lastuvka could be picked up for £2m and would be the complete opposite to the keeper that turned up on loan in the Premier League in 2006/07 for Fulham and West Ham. Hmmmm, there seems to be a pattern emerging here with legendary CM/FM keepers and the team from Craven Cottage.
Another keeper who impressed in Brazil at the World Cup was Nigeria's Vincent Enyeama who was voted fourth best keeper at the tournament. But at 31 years of age, it is highly unlikely Enyeama will go on to enjoy anywhere near the amount of success you would get if you snapped up the player in Football Manager 2007 (although it could be said he was at his best in the FM 2011 game) for around £150k.
One season later in Football Manager 2008 and you had the tough choice to choose between going for Finland's Jukka Lehtovaara or Bogdan Lobont from Romania in between the sticks. It's fair to say that Bogdan has had the greater success of the two, winning the Eredivisie with Ajax in 2003/04, and although plenty of gamers jumped at the chance to sign Lehtovaara, the big Fin has never left his hometown club TPS Turku.
Three keepers make the list from Football Manager 2009 when we had the choice between Oscar Ustari, Igor Akinfeev and Sergio Asenjo. The standout name for most CM/FM fans is probably Akinfeev who from my internet searches certainly grabbed his fair share of plaudits which is a far cry from the criticism he received for his recent World Cup performance. But only time will tell if the Russian - who has only ever played at CSKA Moscow in real life while Real Madrid and Barcelona would be queuing up for his services in FM09 - will top the vote here. As for Ustari, he hardly set the world alight during his brief spell with Sunderland last season, and Asenjo is yet to realise his potential when he was a clear replacement for Iker Casillas in Champ Man.
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