10 World Football Goalkeepers on the Rise
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More than any other position on the football pitch, goalkeeping is an old man's game. Physical abilities are often the least important aspect of a good shot-stopper; mental strength and fortitude can be just as vital in keeping the net safe.
For that reason, the accepted logic is that the best No. 1s hit their prime around the age of 30.
Of course, all rules are made to be broken. Plenty of goalkeepers break through before the age of 25, making a name for themselves in some of the world's top clubs. Here are a few of the very best young glove-men currently starring in Europe and South America.
10. Agustin Marchesin, Lanus
The name of this San Cayetano native may be unfamiliar to some, but observers of Argentine football will know that Agustin Marchesin is the real deal. The 25-year-old made his debut at just 21 with Lanus and has been a regular in the first team ever since, winning over many domestic fans.
Marchesin is blessed with outstanding athleticism, which makes him a formidable shot-stopper. He has already been included several times as the third goalkeeper in the Argentina set-up, and if he continues to impress, a move to Europe and into the national team cannot be far away.
9. Wojciech Szczesny (Arsenal)
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The years that followed David Seaman's retirement were not easy ones for Arsenal fans. Several candidates tried with varying success to fill the England and Gunners legend's shoes, but Szczesny could prove to be the answer to the Emirates prayers.
At just 23, the Poland international has been in North London since 2009 and has been the undisputed No. 1 for the last three seasons. Standing at 1.96m tall he poses an intimidating figure at crosses and set pieces, while also possessing the agility to get down and cover low shots.
8. David Ospina (Nice)
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When the best young goalkeeping talents are discussed, the name of David Ospina is often absent. Strange, as the 25-year-old has turned in consistently excellent performances for Atletico Nacional, Nice and Colombia for the best part of a decade already.
Comparatively small for a keeper at 1.83m, Ospina compensates with a tremendous athleticism and speed, which allows him to react almost before the ball has left the attacker's foot. Playing at Nice has kept him out of the spotlight so far, but if he can impress with Colombia at Brazil 2014, the world will be at Ospina's quick feet.
7. Thibaut Courtois (Chelsea)
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Everyone is aware of Eden Hazard, Romelu Lukaku, Kevin De Bruyne and the rest of Belgium's new golden generation of attacking talent by now. But behind them is a goalkeeping prospect who has the potential to become just as big a household name.
Signed up by Chelsea as a teenager, 21-year-old Courtois has made his name away from the club in the Spanish capital of Madrid. The giant keeper has spent two years on loan with Atletico, becoming the undisputed No. 1 with the Colchoneros and driving them to Europa League and Copa del Rey glory in successive seasons.
6. David de Gea (Manchester United)
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The signing of the ex-Atletico Madrid stopper, then just 20 years old, was one of the bravest decisions Sir Alex Ferguson made as he looked to replace the great Edwin van der Sar. Despite a few wobbles and mistakes, De Gea is slowly growing into the role as he becomes evermore confident between the posts.
An excellent shot-stopper, the Spaniard has at times been criticised for his command of the area, especially at set pieces. He has worked hard on that facet of his game, however, and surely has a bright future at the top level of world football.
5. Rui Patricio (Sporting)
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This Lisbon native is a one-club man, having represented Sporting throughout his career. Rui Patricio has built up a sterling reputation in his home country, establishing himself as one of the most promising young goalkeepers in world football.
Aged 25, Patricio has been a Sporting starter since 2007, when he assumed the role left vacant by club and national idol Ricardo. Despite still being in his teenage years, the youngster soon made the jersey his own. He repeated the feat in the national team, racking up 21 caps.
4. Hugo Lloris (Tottenham Hotspur)
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The oldest member of our list, but a keeper who still has a great deal to prove and all the time and talent in the world to do so. Lloris fought out no less a figure than Brad Friedel for the Tottenham starting spot, and he shows every sign of being a worthy successor to the giant U.S. star.
At 1.88m the France international is not huge for a keeper but possesses terrific reflexes and agility, which makes him a natural shot-stopper. Lloris has already been capped 50 times for his country, and after a poor maiden World Cup in 2010, he will be hungry for another chance in Brazil.
3. Rafael (Napoli)
During Santos' brilliant spell between 2009 and 12, attacking stars such as Neymar and Ganso were thrust into the spotlight. That success, however, was built upon the rock-solid keeping of Rafael Cabral, who has a glittering career ahead being just 23 years of age.
Three Paulista Championships, a Copa do Brasil and a Copa Libertadores represented Rafael's haul from Vila Belmiro, in just three years as a first-teamer. His chances at Napoli may be limited somewhat at first by Pepe Reina ahead of him, but the Brazilian has time on his side and will want to impress ahead of 2014's home World Cup.
2. Marc-Andre ter Stegen (Borussia Monchengladbach)
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More than perhaps any other country, Germany has an impeccable record of producing quality goalkeepers. At 21, Marc-Andre ter Stegen is the next hopeful striving to follow in the footsteps of Sepp Maier, Oliver Kahn, Harald Schumacher and the rest of the nation's legendary glovemen.
The emergence of Manuel Neuer, only 27 himself, is a big roadblock to national team play. But Ter Stegen has already proved himself more than up to the challenge of steering a Bundesliga power from the back.
The goalkeeper is already nearing on 100 appearances for his hometown club and has been rewarded for consistent fine form with several run-outs for Germany.
1. Joe Hart (Manchester City)
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At 26, Joe Hart enters right on the limit of this list. It feels like the Manchester City No. 1 has been around for years, but there is still much more to come.
A teenage sensation with Shrewsbury Town, Hart was snapped up by the Citizens in 2006 and made his debut still short of his 20th birthday. The giant keeper has since made the City and England No. 1 shirts his own and has the chance to further enhance his reputation with a first World Cup appearance in 2014.