Football Features

Jasper Cillessen’s options as Barcelona’s back-up goalkeeper seeks exit

By Mohamed Moallim

Published: 18:08, 17 June 2019

It’s understandable that Jasper Cillessen, or any player for that matter wants a regular starting berth.

Since joining Barcelona from Ajax in 2016, where he established himself as the Netherlands number one goalkeeper, Cillessen has accumulated just 2,880 minutes of playing time.

Of the 158 times he’s been included in Barça’s matchday squad, Cillessen has made just 32 appearances and the majority of those (24) came in the Copa del Rey. A reliable back-up, the Nijmegen-born shot-stopper is no longer willing to be Marc-André ter Stegen’s understudy.

So, with an exit looming this summer, below are four contenders to become his next club; a dream option, a realistic choice, a wildcard move and a club that Squawka recommends that’s best suited for him.

Dream: Manchester United

Old Trafford is bracing itself for another pre-season dominated by rebuilding. Manchester United have, with the greatest of respect, been a chaotic mess following the resignation of legendary manager Sir Alex Ferguson in 2013 after guiding the Red Devils to a historic English 20th championship.

One player who could make an exit is their most consistent performer during that period. David de Gea – even if the 2018/19 campaign saw him lose a layer of lustre – remains among the elite goalkeepers of world football. He’s been linked with a departure before, famously to Real Madrid before a dodgy fax machine scuppered that move, and with a year left on his present deal he could very well be saying goodbye this summer.

There’s no shortage of interested parties. Paris Saint-Germain being the most prominent. If he were to leave, then United will undoubtedly seek a ‘keeper of similar repute. Cillessen might not be in the same conversation as De Gea, but it’s unlikely they’ll be able to hire those who are, so the Dutchman – who has collected 48 international caps and played in a World Cup final – isn’t a bad shout.

But even if a move to English football’s most decorated league champions doesn’t transpire Cillessen could still end up in the Premier League, with both Everton and West Ham reportedly interested.

Realistic: Valencia

Cillessen’s present deal with Barça expires in June 2021 and chances of him leaving on the cheap this summer are slim. There are conflicting reports on how much the Spanish champions are willing to let him go for. Cillessen, himself, recently commented that he feels his current employer’s asking price is putting off potential suitors.

However, recent reports from Spanish outlet Marca suggest Barça are currently negotiating a transfer with fellow La Liga club Valencia over a possible swap deal involving Los Ches’ Brazilian shot-stopper Neto. A deal here would make perfect sense for Cillessen as he would effectively be succeeding the club’s current number one, who would go the other way, though it seems surprising Neto would want to swap a starting berth at the Mestalla to play second fiddle to Ter Stegen in Catalonia.

Either way, you can’t blame Barça for trying to replace Cillessen with another elite level ‘keeper, given their ambitions. Next season Ernesto Valverde’s men will be fighting on three fronts so having a squad deep with quality is paramount. Meanwhile, Cillessen would be swapping the Camp Nou bench for regular Champions League football.

Wildcard: Juventus

Juventus are seemingly happy with Wojciech Szczęsny who had the unenviable task of succeeding the great Gianluigi Buffon and to be fair he’s done a credible job. He’s one year younger than Cillessen (30) but there’s a quality gap especially when it comes to what Maurizio Sarri will require from those between the sticks.

Cillessen, like Sarri’s two previous ‘keeper’s Pepe Reina and Kepa Arrizabalaga, is good with his feet – a modern sweeper-keeper if you will. Szczęsny, while not terrible, cannot be classified in that regard. So, with Sarri recently confirmed as the Old Lady’s new head coach, expect the Bianconeri to give him the tools to implement his vision which he spectacularly did at Napoli more so than Chelsea.

Squawka Suggests: Benfica

For someone of Cillessen’s class and experience, he needs to be playing for a Champions League side regularly challenging for honours at home. A return to Ajax could have been on the cards if Barça weren’t pricing him beyond the Dutch club’s spending limit on a single player, and his successor André Onana wasn’t committed for another season.

A team operating at Ajax’s level, which perfectly suits Cillessen, is Portuguese champions Benfica who currently boast Odisseas Vlachodimos, Mile Svilar and Ivan Zlobin as their options. Vlachodimos has been linked with a move away from Lisbon whilst Svilar (19) remains a prodigy. Cillessen, with all due respect, is an upgrade hence the strong interest from the Eagles.