Very few countries have such an intense goalkeeper controversy heading into the World Cup than the one that Spain has. Although, the question is really between the guy that you thought would’ve been your starter after the retirement of Iker Casillas, and the guy who’s taken the spot over and more or less performed well. There’s a third candidate that could come into the picture. I’m talking about David De Gea as the goalkeeper who we all thought was going to start for at least a good 8 years for Spain. Unai Simon, though, has taken over those duties, and performed well. Then we have Kepa who is finally living up to the expectations that Chelsea had put on him way back when they put so much money down to get him.
Right off the bat it must be said that this is actually a good problem to have. You’d much rather be in a situation where you can pick between good players than having to scrape the bottom of the barrel to find a decent option. What sometimes confuses fans though, particularly when it comes to goalkeepers is that the guy who seems to be in the shape doesn’t always start. We saw that with Germany for example when Neuer got the nod to start in Russia over Ter Stegen who was coming into the tournament in better shape. What should Luis Enrique do? Who should start for Spain at goalkeeper during the World Cup?
Could We Say That Unai Simon Is The Safe Pick?
The criticism that most people have of Unai Simon may just be that he’s not flashy. He’s not necessarily the goalkeeper that’s going to grab headlines at all. Usually he’s in a good position, and he has safe hands. What can you hope for other than that? As I mentioned he may not have that big save ability that we see a lot of from DeGea, and even Kepa. There is a reason though, other than the massive fee that Chelsea paid of course, that Athletic Bilbao did not suffer greatly when they let go of Kepa. Remember this is a team that can only play players that were born in, or have some type of lineage tracing back to that Basque region. So they think twice when it comes to getting rid of players, particularly because even with the money they can’t necessarily go out and buy replacements.
Of course there’s literally a new training ground for Athletic Club that we could call the field that Kepa built. He built it by leaving though, and handing the team over to Unai Simon. It’s just incredible how things have worked out. Kepa was once the biggest promise of Spanish goalkeeping, and now he may not even make the World Cup roster, and have to watch Unai Simon play from his couch. Simon is very much the prototypical basque keeper, tall, not flashy, but very safe across the board.
It’s hard to make a case for DeGea at this point. I was actually going to try and make one, and he made another mistake literally the day that I’m writing this article. DeGea has all of the tools. If we were making a ranking of these 3 based strictly on talent there’s an argument to be made that DeGea would be on top of that list. In fact, Simon may be at the bottom of the list when it comes to talent. If there’s one thing though that you can count on DeGea to do is to make mistakes in key moments. We saw that in Russia, and we’ve seen it with United for years.
Has he played great games with Manchester United, and the Spain National team over the years? Yes, more with United than with Spain, but yes. His talent is not what’s being questioned. I’m not just talking about my question for this article. Fans across the globe and particularly in Spain will probably be able to point out key mistakes that DeGea has made with the national team over the years. At this point in his career that’s basically who he is. An extremely talented goalkeeper that can go toe to toe with the best in the world on a good day. Yet, you’re pretty much guaranteed a major mistake in a big moment.
Can Kepa Make A Late Surge And Start For Spain?
At this point it does seem like if anyone is going to make a late push it’s Kepa. I have to point out that he was not part of the last call up to the international break games before the World Cup. Robert Sánchez and David Raya were the 2 goalkeepers that accompanied Unai Simon to those games. Robert Sanchez has certainly surprised a lot of people in the Premier League, he’s a young guy that seems to have a bright future ahead of him. At this point it doesn’t seem like he’s threatening Unai Simon all that much. A lot of times what happens in these major tournaments with goalkeepers is that coaches don’t want to take second string options that are breathing down the starter’s neck.
Spain had a whole issue with this going back to the 2016 Euros. They had taken both Casillas and David DeGea to the tournament. Essentially this was the tournament where we saw the changing of the guard. David got the start over Iker. Luis Enrique may be wise to just go ahead and avoid this type of scenario with either DeGea or Kepa. It’s a position where you don’t necessarily need a ton of competition anyway. Particularly with a goalkeeper like Unai Simon. My prediction is that Unai Simon is going to start, and that Luis Enrique will not end up taking any of the players that I mentioned in this article. DeGea’s had his chance and blown it. Kepa could be in the running for the position going into the Euros if he finds consistency at Chelsea. Unai Simon is a quiet guy, but he’s a damn good goalkeeper!