Lionel Messi shocked the footballing world this week when it was confirmed that the man many consider as the greatest player of all time, had asked to leave the club he had been at since the age of fourteen, triggering a ferocious rumour mill of where the Barcelona man would end up.
Just to make this week even more surreal, it is reported that 2014 World Cup Golden Boot winner James Rodriguez is on his way to Everton, a story that paled into insignificance compared to the aforementioned Messi headlines, when it would typically been one of the stories of the transfer window.
Goalkeepers are not averse to making shock moves themselves and this week’s Sparta Spotlight looks at the proof.
Gianluigi Buffon Parma to Juventus - 2001
It may look like a great piece of business now, but in 2001 spending £32 million on a goalkeeper was unthinkable, even if it was Gianluigi Buffon.
Buffon’s monumental move to Turin set the record for a transfer fee paid for a goalkeeper, which wasn’t broken for another sixteen years when Ederson moved from Benfica to Manchester City.
19 years of service (with a jaunt to PSG in-between) and establishing himself as the most consistent ‘keeper in a generation, it certainly looks now like it was money well spent, but until recently the true value of a good goalkeeper has been under appreciated and at the time the fee was under much scrutiny.
The difference Allison and Ederson have made to Liverpool and City respectively has demonstrated that shelling out for a world class ‘keeper makes the world of difference, and we have since seen clubs more willing to spend big on their number one. Buffon was really the first substantial transfer fee paid for a goalkeeper.
Neville Southall to Bradford City - 2000
Although an ever-reliable custodian at Everton, Neville Southall was never the epitome of athleticism by any stretch.
This made it all the more curious that at the age of forty-two and after a spell in the fourth tier with Torquay United, he returned to the Premier League with Bradford City for a short-term deal in 2000.
Southall was only ever meant to be cover for The Bantam’s two first choice goalkeepers and to help on the coaching side, but after injuries to the duo which included Matt Clarke’s unfortunate tumble down the stairs, the overweight veteran was the only option in a crunch game against Leeds at Valley Parade.
The Welsh international certainly didn’t disgrace himself in a 2-1 defeat, but looked further from an elite sportsman as you could possibly get and didn’t play professionally again.
Julio Cesar to QPR - 2012
Having been part of the rock-solid Inter Milan side that won the 2010 Champions League, Julio Cesar was still very much held in high regard in the summer of 2012 as he made a shock switch to free-spending QPR, who had only avoided the drop on the final day of previous Premier League season.
At the age of thirty three, Cesar was still in his prime years as a goalkeeper and was seen as a massive coup for Mark Hughes’ side.
Joining a host of big money signings at Loftus Road, Cesar spoke about his ambitions to win the Premier League with the R’s but would soon find himself in the midst of a relegation battle and subsequently crashing down to the Championship the following May.
After what turned out to be an ill-fated move for the five-time Serie A winner, he made the move to Benfica and was again able to enjoy the domestic success he once had.
Peter Schmeichel to Manchester City - 2002
Peter Schmeichel is rightly considered a Manchester United great and one of the greatest Premier League goalkeepers of all time, but in 2002 United fans were left flabbergasted when it was announced that their legendary Danish stopper would be joining their cross-city rivals, following their promotion back to the Premier League.
Gary Neville famously snubbed Schmeichel in the tunnel ahead of the Manchester derby at the old Maine Road stadium, a game which City won 3-1, as the bitterness from the most ardent United men towards their former hero was there for all to see.
The man part of United’s fabled treble side only spent one season at Kevin Keegan’s City before retiring, but his son Kasper would come through the Citizens’ academy and made eight appearances for the club.