In 1995, Wembley Stadium witnessed one of its most memorable moments. In an International friendly between England and Colombia, goalkeeper René Higuita produced his infamous ‘scorpion kick’ save. It had to be seen to be believed.
The then Coventry City boss Ron Atkinson wasn’t impressed and quickly defused transfer speculation linking his club with the Colombian ‘‘We’ve got absolutely no interest in him. We’ve got a goalkeeper with a better trick – he stops the ball with his hands.’’
Higuita was something of a pioneer and was the first real sweeper-keeper – he would take risks outside his penalty area. He scored 41 career goals including seven for the national side but one of his forays outside the box at the 1990 World Cup was to prove costly – Roger Milla stole the ball from him and Cameroon went on to defeat the South Americans 2-1.
Manuel Neuer, widely recognised as the world’s best goalkeeper, has often been compared to Higuita and is often commended for his pro-active approach. His relationship with Pep Guardiola during the Spaniard’s three year tenure in Munich was a marriage made in heaven – Neuer would be encouraged to continue and develop his sweeper-keeper style – while Guardiola would be able to work on even more tactical connotations due to Neuer’s ability to play almost as an extra defender.
Roll on a few months and Guardiola has given up Munich for Manchester and traded in the German national keeper for England’s number one. Or so it seemed.
Within weeks of taking over at the Etihad, Guardiola has already made it clear to Joe Hart that his footwork isn’t up to the level required and Manchester City have been heavily linked with Claudio Bravo.
In the Oulala infographic above it’s easy to see some of Hart’s inadequacies when it comes to ball distribution. This may seem a bit harsh on Hart, who ironically produced one of his best ever displays for City against Guardiola’s old club Barcelona in a Champions League tie in March 2015, with Lionel Messi describing his performance as ‘phenomenal’.
Even though his days at the Etihad seem to be numbered, finding another English Premier League club shouldn’t be a problem for Hart, so long as they value traditional goalkeeping skills.
That might not be sufficient for his replacement between the sticks at Manchester City though – to win Guardiola over, it may well require an extra trick or two!