If ever there was a late bloomer in football, then it is Malaga goalkeeper Willy Caballero, a player rising to fame in his early 30s. Until three seasons ago, the Argentinean was perceived in Spain as an odd-looking fellow with an amusing first name. But now, rumours that Manuel Pellegrini wants to bring his former No. 1 to Manchester City, courtesy of the Daily Mail, must be taken very seriously indeed.
Malaga’s big project got going during the summer before last with some famous names such as Santi Cazorla and Isco, amongst others, coming in for some big fees. It was expected that a super stopper would be purchased as well to replace the rather mundane figure between the sticks.
Caballero had had a fairly unspectacular career before really rising to fame in last season’s Champions League, where he outshone the club’s more illustrious names. Wilfredo—as his mother may well call him—began his career at Boca Juniors before moving to Elche in the Spanish second division in 2004,
The Alicante club is where Caballero stayed, aside from one year spent at Arsenal de Sarandi, until Malaga came along and brought him into La Primera in January 2011 for a first taste of top-flight football after six seasons in Spain. It was a freak knee injury to Sergio Asenjo that gave Caballero the chance to show he was a hidden gem just waiting to be unearthed.
The goalkeeper is by no means a spectacular show-off, as some are in his particular profession. Instead, the Malaga man is tremendously competent, consistent and ever so reliable. The calming figure of Caballero is one of the key reasons why Malaga rose from near the bottom end of La Primera to being seconds away from last season’s Champions League semi-finals.
Caballero’s role in that competition was crucial. Malaga were not the most prolific of sides, so when the going got tough in the knockout stages, the goalkeeper’s performance was vital. Just one goal being conceded in the last 16 first-leg clash against Porto kept Malaga in the match.
A clean sheet in the second tie put the Spanish side through after two goals at the other end. The Malaga keeper was the star of the show in an epic quarter-final match in La Romareda to frustrate Borussia Dortmund time and time again to keep the Spaniards in the competition.
The Argentinean may not quite be the man to immediately take over from Joe Hart at Manchester City. However, it is easy to see why Pellegrini may wish to bring over an immensely safe pair of hands as backup. Big Willy will certainly offer a big challenge to the England international’s place.