The role of substitute goalkeeper can be the loneliest in football. Unlike their outfield counterparts, they do not reap the benefits of squad rotation or on field replacements and are often limited to appearances in the early rounds of domestic cups, barring a horrific loss of form or injury for their club’s number one.
Many are unfairly pigeon-holed in their position as a back-up ‘keeper, to the extent that many substitute goalkeepers are amongst the best in their respective divisions, without the privilege of showcasing their talents on a regular basis.
Sparta Spotlight looks at the best bench warmers in the business.
Despite being in his fifth season with Manchester United, Sergio Romero has made just seven Premier League appearances in half a decade at Old Trafford, playing second-fiddle to David De Gea.
Romero has however been a mainstay in United’s cup side (until the final where De Gea takes over) and has impressed so much recently that many are calling for the Argentine international to be given his first team opportunity in less sporadic form, with De Gea enduring a spell of inconsistency.
His Manchester United future may well depend on what the club decide to do with Dean Henderson upon his return from Sheffield United at the end of the season. Should Ed Woodward and co opt to keep the young England star, Romero’s position, even as number two, may be under threat. This could be a blessing in disguise for the Argentine, who could find first team football and a chance to impress on a regular basis ahead of the 2022 World Cup.
At the tender age of 42, the evergreen Gianluigi Buffon announced he would be returning to Juventus after just one season away from Turin, spent with PSG.
Slightly different to his initial move to the club in what was then a record fee back in 2001, the Italy legend was comfortable standing in as backup for Wojciech Szczęsny, so much so that Buffon was unwilling to take the number one shirt back from his Polish counterpart.
“I just want to do my bit for the team. It's only right that the starting goalkeeper, Szczęsny, has the number one jersey.” Buffon is reported to have said upon his second coming.
Buffon has made seven league appearances this season and kept his 51st Champions League clean sheet in a 2-0 win over Bayer Leverkusen, putting him second in the all-time list.
It will be a sad day for the goalkeeping union when he calls it today, but Buffon, arguably the most consistent goalkeeper of our generation, has no plans to retire yet.
Highly-rated Englishman Angus Gunn attracted the attention of Manchester City at the age of just fifteen, enough for them to shell out £250,000 in a tribunal for the youngster back in 2011.
After a loan spell at Norwich (the club he started his career at and where his father is a club legend) Gunn left for Southampton in the summer of 2018.
For the most part the England Under-21 international has been backup to Alex McCarthy for the duration of his time at St Mary’s, but has made a very respectable ten appearances in the league this season and although the current second choice at Southampton makes the list, he is hot on the tail of his England counterpart.
Dislodged in the first team following the return of Hugo Lloris from injury, Paulo Gazziniga proved himself more than capable stand-in for the World Cup winner, with the Argentina international an ever-present in the Tottenham team after Lloris suffered a dislocated elbow in the game against Southampton back in October.
Despite a horrific challenge on Marcos Alonso to gift Chelsea a penalty in Spurs’ 2-0 reverse against their London rivals, Gazziniga has impressed, keeping four league clean sheets in the Premier League.
It remains to be seen if he will play a role similar to that of Michele Vorm, who started the majority of Spurs’ cup fixtures when second choice to Lloris, but Gazziniga has eased Jose Mourinho’s worries on the goalkeeping front, with several outfield players out of contract in the summer.