Willy Caballero Offers Ideal Competition to Joe Hart at Manchester City

Ian Rodgers@irodgers66World Football Staff WriterJuly 8, 2014

Atletico's Filipe Luis, right, vies for the ball with Malaga's goalkeeper Willy Caballero, left,  during their Spanish La Liga soccer match at the Vicente Calderon stadium in Madrid, Spain, Sunday, May 11, 2014. (AP Photo/Gabriel Pecot)
Uncredited/Associated Press

Manchester City have made a significant signing in the arrival of goalkeeper Willy Caballero from Malaga.

The 32-year-old Argentina international has penned a three-year deal with the Premier League champions. He follows Fernando and Bacary Sagna into the Etihad Stadium ahead of the defence of Manchester City's title.

But the importance of the move for Caballero comes with the impact it will have on City and England goalkeeper Joe Hart.

When Hart lost form last season, City manager Manuel Pellegrini replaced him with Costel Pantilimon. The move acted as an immediate catalyst for the England No. 1.

Hart himself admitted that being dropped last season hurt him, as Mark Ogden of The Daily Telegraph reported.

The City goalkeeper was quoted as saying in March:

I don’t want it to seem as though everything is fine or that it was part of my life that I will forget because I’m still living it and I am trying to live in the moment more recently.

The past is the past and we don’t know what lies ahead, so it’s better to live day by day.

We are going to get some wonderful opportunities at this clubsome I will be playing in, some I won’tand I’m just trying to look at things the best I can.

Rui Vieira/Associated Press
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There appeared to be little doubt that Hart would return to the first team at some point during last season, and Pantilimon found himself sidelined again in the wake of the 6-3 win over Arsenal in December.

But with the Romania international having been released by City at the end of the season and now with Sunderland, Pellegrini needed severe competition for Hart.

In the shape of Caballero, the City manager has found just that.

As Squawka noted, the Argentine made more saves than Hart and Pantilimon combined last season, with the ex-Malaga man stopping 132 shots compared to the aggregate total of 89 by the City goalkeepers last year.

That is an impressive standalone statistic, but the fact that Pellegrini knows Caballero well after working with him at Malaga from Feb. 2011 until the Chilean's departure for the Etihad a year ago also works in the favour of the South American goalkeeper.

And Caballero has already sounded a warning to Hart that he wants to be the No. 1 at City, as the club's official website reported.

He said:

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.

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.

According to WhoScored.com, Caballero's strengths come with shot-stopping and his passing ability from range, while, intriguingly, they note that the player has no significant weaknesses.

If Hart falls from favour again next season, his chances of a swift return might not be quite so good as last year.

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