With Dean Henderson set to return to Manchester United, an epic battle for supremacy looms. The new season is likely to be the ring for a gloved fight which involves being United’s first choice goalie between upstart Henderson, who has spent two years on loan at Sheffield and kept thirteen Premier League clean sheets last season and the now often error-prone De Gea, who kept just two less but made several costly errors.
At most football clubs, especially in the elite leagues, the goalkeeper position is usually uncontested. A lot of the time, the first choice is significantly better than his deputy and thus gets to play in the league and more competitive cup competitions, while the second choice is relegated to only going in between the sticks for domestic cup matches, or if the first choice gets injured or sent off.
However, occasionally, as is likely to be the case at Old Trafford next season, two first-class keepers find themselves jostling for space in the starting eleven. These are four of the most memorable times this has happened.
Four times football teams have had two first-choice goalkeepers
4. Petr Cech and Thibaut Courtois (Chelsea, 2014/15)
Petr Cech was already a legend at Stamford Bridge by the time the teenage Courtois left a three-year loan spell at Atletico Madrid to become a member of Jose Mourinho’s squad.
Just two years earlier, the former Czech Republic international had contributed heroically in Chelsea’s run to the Champions League title and was part of four different league winning teams having arrived ten years earlier just in time for Chelsea’s iconic first two titles of the 21st century.
He’d also shared the Golden Glove the previous season but found himself ruthlessly dropped by Mourinho, who elected to go with the potential of Courtois, rather than the experience of Cech. The veteran warmed the bench for a year and ended up moving across London to Arsenal in the 2015 summer transfer window where he ended his career four years later.
3. Keylor Navas and Thibaut Courtois (Real Madrid, 2018/19)
It does seem like Thibaut Courtois is a big fan of unseating first-choice goalkeepers at elite European clubs. Four years after ousting Petr Cech, he found himself moving to Real Madrid, where he instantly set about forcing out a Keylor Navas who was a fan favourite, having been a key part of a Real team that had just lifted the UEFA Champions League trophy thrice in a row.
The two usually shared first-team responsibilities during Real’s dire 2018/19 season but returning manager Zinedine Zidane chose the new signing over his old soldier, and installed the Belgian as first choice, prompting Costa Rica international Navas to leave for PSG.
Courtois went on to have a rocky start to in the last season and found his place threatened by Alphonse Areola but later ended the campaign in fine form behind a stingy defence that led Los Blancos to their first league title in three years.
2. Gianluigi Buffon and Wojciech Szczesny (Juventus, 2017/18)
Gianluigi Buffon had been Juve’s undisputed number one for 17 years, having joined the Old Lady as a promising 23-year-old for a world record fee of €52 million back then for a goalkeeper in 2001, before establishing himself as one of the greatest keepers of all time.
When Wojciech Szczesny was signed from Roma in the summer of 2017, it was purely for back up reasons. However, the former Arsenal academy graduate’s fine form whenever he was called upon prompted Massimiliano Allegri to consider him as a potential long term replacement for Buffon.
Buffon’s departure in 2018 opened the door for Szczesny to inherit the great man’s number one shirt, as well as his place as the first choice. A position he has kept even after the World Cup winner returned to Turin after just one year in Paris.
1. Claudio Bravo and Marc-Andre Ter Stegen (Barcelona, 2014/15, 2015/16)
Both goalkeepers were signed to replace the departing Victor Valdes in 2014. Claudio Bravo had been signed from Real Sociedad, with the plan being to have him as an experienced back up for the clearly more talented Ter Stegen, who had been purchased from Borussia Monchengladbach.
However, the latter suffered a back injury before the season started resulting in Bravo establishing himself as the first choice, a status that he wouldn’t relinquish even after the German recovered.
The two jostled for playing time, with coach Luis Enrique playing Bravo in the league, and Ter Stegen in the cups. The battle extended into the next season when the German finally started to get game time in the league. Bravo’s move to Man City in the summer of 2016 marked the end of a truly enthralling fight for the main custodian at the Camp Nou.
Author: Timothy Ainebyoona
Timothy is a dynamic analyst passionate about news and all things sport.