Is Caballero Good Enough to Take the No.1 Spot from Joe Hart at Manchester City

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Is Caballero Good Enough to Take the No.1 Spot from Joe Hart at Manchester City
USA TODAY Sports

The old adage is true when it comes to that special group of men born to fling themselves across the hard pitch keeping out shots. Goalkeepers are like a fine wine in that they just keep getting better with age. New Manchester City shot-stopper Willy Caballero, at 32, is further proof that date of birth has little effect on ability when it comes to shining between the posts. 

The former Boca Juniors, Elche and Malaga man has stepped up to the big leagues. Manuel Pellegrini added Caballero, as well as promising young Racing Club midfielder Bruno Zuculini, to the Citizens' growing Argentine legion as the manager looks to strengthen the squad ahead of a double assault on the Premier League and Europe in the coming season. 

The goalkeeper knows that he will have to bide his time at the Etihad Stadium. Joe Hart is the undisputed starter at the moment, a rare glimpse of local talent in a team dominated by foreign imports, and Caballero adds depth and a very decent alternative on the bench should injury or suspension limit the England international's playing time. 

“This is a new challenge and a new league for me. I have been doing well in the previous years, and my goal is to go on and hopefully perform at the same level for City," the veteran told Manchester City's official website shortly after completing a medical at the club. 

“I know I am coming to a big club with a very good goalkeeper. City already have a great goalkeeper in Joe Hart, but I will try and compete for the No. 1 spot. I will do my best in the training sessions.”

Caballero's previous relationship with Pellegrini at Malaga, where the pair helped the Andalusian club reach the Champions League quarter-finals in 2012-13, was obviously key to his arrival in northwest England. But the goalkeeper will not rely on nepotism to force his way into the first-team; his performances alone speak for themselves. 

Early indications have been promising. Sunday afternoon saw Caballero start for his new employers in a devastating 5-1 demolition of fallen Italian giants Milan. He saw little action during a one-sided friendly in Pittsburgh, but aside form Sulley Muntari's consolation, he looked comfortable and imposing throughout, giving the Rossoneri little chance to work their way back into the game. 

Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press

The Argentine gives away four inches of height to his rival Hart, but he makes up for it with athleticism and agility which allow him to make saves beyond most keepers. His experience at the top level and in Europe also gives him a big boost, which over the course of the season could prove vital for Manchester City as they seek a first-ever Champions League title. 

The coming season will be long and arduous for Pellegrini's men, with a packed schedule of domestic and European games demanding total concentration. Goalkeepers, of course, are more immune to the effects of a fixture pile-up, but even so, knowing that Caballero is on the bench and raring to go will allow the Chilean far greater flexibility as he bids for a second straight Premier League title. 

And if the new man between the posts shines when he does don the gloves, and has a little luck on the way, nobody would be surprised if he ends up giving Hart a real battle when it comes to taking the No. 1 jersey in the 2014-15 campaign. 

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