Best goalkeepers outside of Europe – data analysis
When it comes to searching for new players, top teams don’t often look outside of Europe. This is because the standard of football outside Europe is much lower than the leagues inside it. However, as has been evident in recent transfers from elite clubs, some teams do look outside of Europe to increase the potential of their squad. Notable examples range from Barcelona signing Neymar from Santos in Brazil, Manchester City taking Aaron Mooy from the A-league in Australia, and Manchester United recently signing Facundo Pellistri from Argentina.
This data analysis will look at good options from outside of Europe in the goalkeeping position. Although it would take time for goalkeepers to get used to an improved standard of football, there are a lot of players with big potential outside of the top leagues. We will look at different aspects of goalkeeping, including shot-stopping, sweeping, and passing to find the best all-round players. We have included goalkeepers who have played over 10 matches and who are 27 or under. This gives us goalkeepers who play regularly, but who are not yet hitting their peak.
A goalkeeper’s main job is to prevent the opposition from scoring goals. Therefore, this section is technically the most important. Whereas sweeping and passing are more bonus attributes of the modern-day keeper. We will look at how each goalkeeper performs and how their team’s defensive ability has an effect on their stats.
The best performing goalkeeper on this graph has already been signed by a team within the European leagues. Paços de Ferreira have recently signed former Vasco de Gama keeper Jordi. The Brazilian had a great 2019/20 season, saving 78.95% of the 6.02 shots per 90 he faced.
Lucas Chaves, who plays for Argentinos Jrs has the second-highest save percentage with 78.21%. However, the Argentinian plays for a much better team, meaning he only faces 3.16 shots per 90.
Another goalkeeper that is above average is New England Revolution’s, Matt Turner. The 26-year-old faced 5.23 shots per 90 throughout the 2019/20 season and he saved 76.06% of these. He was called up to the USA national team in 2019 but is yet to make his debut. Another up and coming keeper on this graph is Cleiton Schwengber. The 23-year-old plays for Red Bull Bragantino in Brazil. He faces 4.27 shots per 90 and has a save percentage of 76.99%.
Ezequiel Unsain, Manuel, Iván Arboleda, and Agustín Rossi all have very good stats too.
The above graph includes prevented goals per 90, which is more advanced. It takes into consideration the goals each keeper was expected to concede, and how many of these they saved. The best performing players also appeared in the previous graph.
Jordi has prevented the most goals with 0.41, whilst he has also conceded 1.27 goals per 90. Although Jordi played for one of the better teams in his league, he was still able to save more goals than he was expected to. Turner shows up just behind, preventing 0.37 goals per 90.
Arboleda stops the third-most goals per 90 with 0.21. The Colombian international is 24-years-old and plays for Banfield. Near him is Claiton with 0.17 goals prevented per 90. Jesse González is a new name that shows up well. Although he is currently without a club having been released by FC Dallas due to off-field problems, he had a great 2019/20 season. He prevented 0.16 goals per 90.
Unsain, Cháves, and Rossi show up well once again.
This graph measures each goalkeeper’s sweeping ability. Being able to take pressure off defenders is a huge asset in the modern game. Some goalkeepers are confident in taking crosses and corners whilst others will look to defend the space behind their defensive line. We use aerial duels and exits per 90 to assess this area.
Jordi impressed in the shot-stopping graphs and he also stands out here. He has by far the most aerial duels and exits per 90. The Brazilian has 1.09 aerial duels and 3.45 exits per 90. Previously mentioned Cleiton also appears well. He has 0.68 aerial duels and 2.68 exits per 90, showing he is very confident coming off his line.
At the age of 27, Rongze Han has only just broken into the SD Luneng first team. So far in the 2020/21 season, he has played 12 games keeping four clean sheets. However, it’s his sweeping abilities that make him stand out. He has the second-most aerial duels per 90 with 0.99 and also has 1.97 exits per 90, both stats being above the average.
Keisuke Osako is the youngest goalkeeper on this list. At just 21-years-old he’s already starting for Sanfrecce Hiroshima in Japan. He’s kept six clean sheets in 13 games this season. But other than his shot-stopping abilities, he’s also very adept at sweeping. He makes 2.6 exits per 90 and is involved in 0.58 aerial duels per 90. 26-year-old Canadian Maxime Crépeau also impresses. The Vancouver Whitecaps shot-stopper is very active off his line. With 0.75 aerial duels and 2.46 exits per 90, he likes to take pressure off his defenders.
A goalkeeper’s passing abilities are usually reflected in their team’s tactics. The data below will show us which goalkeepers have a tendency to pass out from the back and which look to hit the ball long to avoid any trouble.
The above graph shows us the tendencies of each keeper to pass laterally and long. Those in the top left quadrant prefer to pass the ball laterally and play out from the back, whilst those in the bottom right prefer the no-nonsense approach and often decide to go long.
Cháves stands out as he has the highest long pass tendency and lowest lateral pass tendency, 71.31% and 17.56% respectively. Stats as one-sided as this often means that his team have a more direct approach, rather than keeping possession. They look to win second balls rather than patiently advance up the pitch. Previously mentioned Jordi has the second-highest long pass tendency but opts to play more lateral passes when he can.
According to this graph, González is the most modern passer. He has the second-highest lateral pass tendency with 49.36% and lowest long pass tendency with 25.05%. These stats are what some European teams look for as it identifies goalkeepers that can fit easily into their tactics.
Crépeau is perhaps the most interesting player in this graph. The Canadian has the highest lateral pass tendency with 49.41% but also has an above-average long pass tendency with 42.34%. He is the most adept at both styles at passing, meaning he is the most versatile in terms of passing.
This graph is very similar to the previous one. This time we can see how good their passes are through their pass percentage, we can also see the average length of their passes in metres.
Cháves and Jordi have the furthest average pass with 48.19m and 43.58m respectively. However, Cháves has a much better pass percentage than Jordi with 76.77% compared to 72.73%. However, both players pass accuracy is significantly below the average. Similarly, we see González and the opposite side of the graph. The Mexican has the second shortest average pass length with 28.26m and he has the highest pass completion percentage (90.10%). And it’s three new names that impress on this graph.
Current Manchester City goalkeeper Zack Steffen impressed in his time in MLS before being picked up by the Premier League giants. The 25-year-old international is a great fit for his team because of his terrific passing abilities. He has the second-highest pass percentage with 88.51% and his average pass is just 30.88m. This shows that he is a great asset when building from the back, and his high pass completion means that he can be trusted on the ball.
As this analysis has shown, there is a pool of talent worth scouting outside of Europe. However, this may not be as easy as scouting within Europe. As the quality of play outside isn’t too high, each player will need time to settle and improve in the respective league. It is a good idea to find youngsters with good potential in an attempt to boost the future prospects of the club, as Manchester City have done with Zack Steffen. We believe that Steffen is worth keeping an eye on as a loan option for another team within the top five leagues.
A player that was one of the best performers in shot-stopping and sweeping, but doesn’t have the best passing stats is Jordi. He could be an option for a lower quality team in Europe as he doesn’t have the skills to play possession-based football. However, one of the most exciting players in this sample is 25-year-old Agustín Rossi. His passing abilities are very mixed, however, he is a great shot-stopper.