By Far The Greatest Team

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Done Deal – United Signings World Cup Winner, Gets Criticized By Chelsea Star

Manchester United recently announced the capture of free agent, Victor Valdes on an 18-month contract. The former Barcelona shot stopper whose contract expired at the end of last season penned a contract worth £60, 000 a week. The World Cup winner had been training with the Red Devils at their Carrington Training facility for a couple of months and most feelers had known that it would only be a matter of weeks before a deal was announced.
However in the wake of the Spaniard’s move to the Premier League, Chelsea’s number one, Thibaut Courtois has predicted that Valdes,32, would find it difficult to cope with life in the English top flight due to his height.

The Belgian, who spent a couple of stellar seasons at Athletico Madrid on loan from Chelsea insisted, “It is a difficult question. For example, the Chelsea goalkeeping coach doesn’t want any keeper at Stamford Bridge shorter than 1.95m. That tells you a lot. “But it depends. Maybe Victor Valdes and Iker Casillas come here and do very well. When I was in the La Liga, people used to tell me the same, that if I came to the Premier League, I would have problems.”

However, a cursory look at the honorary list of premier goalkeepers would reveal that height does not necessarily translate into good shot-stopping ability. Tunisia’s Chokri El Ouaer, at one point the best keeper on the continent, stood at a respectable 1.89m (6ft 2½ inches). Yet his cat-like reflexes earned him over 100 caps for the Tunisian National Team as well over 300 caps for Esperance of Tunis whom he captained to many domestic and continental titles.

Another goaltender of legendary status from yester-years, Peter Shilton made the England #1 jersey his exclusive preserve for 3 decades. Shilton, who stood at a mere 1.83m (6ft)managed to rack up over 1000 appearances while representing both country (the Three Lions) and clubs like West Ham United, Leicester City, Stoke City, Southampton, Derby County and Nottingham Forest. With Nottingham Forest, he won in addition to a raft of trophies, 2 European Cups (now re-christened UEFA Champions League), in the 1978/79 season and most notably the next season.

As a matter of fact it was in that 1979/80 edition of the competition that his outstanding saves ensured that Nottingham Forest beat Hamburg of Germany 1-0 at the iconic Santiago Bernabeu stadium, home of Real Madrid. The legendary keeper made about 125 appearances for the Three Lions and featured in Euro ’80, Espana ’82, Mexico ’86, Euro ’88 and Italia ’90. He even managed to keep a record of 10 clean sheets at the World Cup finals.

At 6ft 1inch, Dino Zoff didn’t exactly win any awards for heights. However what he lacked in inches he more than made up for in goalkeeping ability as he amassed an impressive club appearance of over 600 caps for Juventus, Napoli and Udinese. For the Azzurri, the Italian National team, he amassed a staggering 112 appearances, ultimately leading them to World Cup glory in Espana ’82 at the age of 40.

At the end of a group match between England and Brazil at the 1970 World Cup in Mexico, one astounding event during the match ate up column inches of sports papers around the world while having sports commentators referring to it for many years, long after the competition had ended. During the game, Pele, the Brazilian maestro headed in a cross to one end of the goal while Gordon Banks, the England shot stopper stood rooted at the other end of the post. However, in a save that FIFA has tagged ‘The Save Of The Century’, Banks leapt to the other end of the goal and incredibly thumbed the ball over the bar. Gordon Banks, at 1.85m (6ft 1inch) would definitely not be counted among tall goal keepers, yet he remains #2 on FIFA’s list of the greatest goalkeepers of all time.

Fabian Barthez, Claudio Taffarel and Vincent Enyeama have variously earned plaudits for their respective clubs and national teams while winning many trophies. At 1.83m (6ft 0inch), 1.83m (6ft 0inch),and 1.82m (5ft 11inches) respectively, these shot-stoppers have statistically proven that height is not directly proportional to goalkeeping prowess. This inevitably shoots serious holes into Thibaut Courtois’ assertion that Victor Valdes would find it tough playing in the Premier League.

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