Chelsea: 5 Possible Goalkeepers to Play Understudy to Petr Cech in 2013-14
When it comes to goalkeepers, few clubs find themselves in a better position than Chelsea.
Not only do the Blues have Petr Cech in their ranks, widely considered one of world football's elite shot-stoppers, but they also possess the next big thing in Thibaut Courtois.
It is now all but certain that the Belgian international Courtois will be spending the next season in Spain with Copa del Rey holders Athletico Madrid, and that should allow him to continue his steady progress ahead of the FIFA World Cup in 2014. That, of course, leaves Jose Mourinho and the club with an important decision to make.
Ross Turnbull and Henrique Hilario were both released by the club recently, leaving Cech as the only senior custodian on Chelsea's roster.
Cech, 31, continues to be Mr. Indispensable for the West Londoners, and started in 36 of the Blues' 38 Premier League games in 2012-13.
But he too is only human.
Not only may he need a rest once in a while, but even Mourinho needs to have at hand a suitable deputy for Big Pete in case of an injury to the Chelsea No.1.
Here are five possible candidates the club might consider to serve as understudy to the mighty Petr Cech for the season 2013-14.
Schwarzer needs no introduction. He's been around for years, plying his trade for Middlesborough first and then Fulham. He sits eighth on the all-time Premier League appearances list.
In spite of his age, Schwarzer still has one of the safest pair of hands in the business, while possessing a wealth of international experience. My guess is he'd be willing to accept a bit-part role at a big club if it gives him a last shot at silverware.
QPR had a woeful season, and were relegated to the Championship. Their fate was sealed after just 35 games, and when one considers that they had some household names like Julio Cesar in their ranks, it is all the more perplexing.
Back in his prime, Cesar was considered the best in the world and Inter Milan was considered lucky to have him. Time changes things though, and while Cesar is not the player he once was, he's still good enough to be a first choice at a mid-table Premier League club.
Or a second choice at a title-chasing club. Julio Cesar has in the past been spotted wearing a Chelsea jersey, but that happened just once, and it was at David Luiz's birthday bash a couple of months ago. Could he be set to don it for real?
One thing's for sure: It would be odd to see a keeper of his caliber staying on at Loftus Road.
Diego Lopez was a January transfer window signing for Jose Mourinho at Real Madrid, at a time when Iker Casillas found himself on the treatment table with a broken finger.
The former Villarreal keeper quickly established his place in the starting XI, and even when Casillas did return from injury, he couldn't displace Lopez.
Having become something of a Mourinho favorite over the past six months, Lopez might be tempted to join his former manager at Chelsea, should Jose come calling. Given his ability, he would really push Cech to the limits, and in an ideal situation that would bring out the best in both shot-stoppers.
If signed on a one-year contract, Lopez would be the perfect understudy to Cech.
Although he recently turned 42, Brad Friedel is not a keeper I'd describe as over-the-hill. He continues to be a reliable backup to Hugo Lloris at Tottenham, and featured 20 times for the club in all competitions in 2012-13. He is indeed the kind of keeper Chelsea are looking for: A solid stop-gap custodian for times when Petr Cech may need to sit out.
In December last year, he signed a contract extension which will keep him at White Hart Lane till 2014. Friedel would have no great incentive to join Chelsea, as he'd still be condemned to be a second-choice. If nothing else, maybe an opportunity to for once play for a Premier League winners' medal?
Already on Chelsea's cards, Blackman is still just a teenager, and turns 20 in October. In spite of his tender age, he trained with the first team goalkeepers on a regular basis last season.
While he has yet to make a senior debut, Blackman has the makings of a Premier League-caliber goalie. A key figure in the FA Youth Cup-winning team of 2011-12, Blackman is the undisputed No.1 for the Chelsea Under 21s.
Still, I beg to ask the question: Is Jamal ready to fill in for Petr Cech, should, God forbid, Chelsea's experienced custodian face an extended period on the sidelines?