It is incredible to think that at 38 Edwin van der Sar was named as UEFA’s goalkeeper of the year for 2009. His performances over the past couple of seasons have been outstanding and are the cornerstone of Manchester United’s defence. Last season he helped set a new club and Premier League record for consecutive clean sheets.
Alex Ferguson must be waiting with great trepidation to find out whether the Dutch shot-stopper will extend his contract beyond the end of the season. Finding someone to guard the net has led to some of Fergie’s most memorable busts: Bosnich; Taibi; Barthez and van der Gouw have all been jettisoned in his search for a worthy successor to Peter Bolesław Schmeichel’s crown.
With Tomasz Kuszczack being overlooked for Ben Foster and the latters dodgy start to the season, The Sun reports that Fergie is considering acquiring CSKA Moscow’s 23-year-old keeper, Igor Vladimirovich Akinfeev.
Playing in a position where conventional wisdom states that experience is the key, to say that Akinfeev’s rise has been meteoric is an understatement.
He broke into CSKA’s first team at the tender age of 17 and immediately became the first-choice goalkeeper at the club. In the six years he has spent between the sticks, he has won the UEFA Cup, two National Championships and the Zvezda trophy, awarded to the best football player from the former Soviet Union. No mean feat for a goalkeeper.
The 6ft stopper is known for his quick reflexes and his agility in one-on-one situations. Similarly to van der Saar he is also pretty good at saving spot kicks. His ability to deal with aerial threats is impressive, although like most modern keepers he has an annoying tendency to punch balls which he should catch.
However, his tendency to charge out his area often leads to mistakes which almost always culminate in a goal. He has also suffered from a cruciate injury to his right knee which led him to miss half a season. Nevertheless, his form convinced Gus Hiddink, an excellent judge of young players to make him Russia’s number one.
Tomasz Kuszczack’s time at Manchester United seems to have reached a dead end. Fergie may be unsure if Foster is the long term solution to his goalkeeping conundrum and may look to Akinfeev in order to provide Foster with some competition. Of course all this hinges on whether van der Sar will retire at the end of the season. If Akinfeev does not go to United, he will probably end up at one of Europe’s biggest clubs.
Video evidence of Ifor Akinfeev in action can be seen here.