It’s fair to say the definition of a goalkeeper’s role has taken on a new meaning across these past few decades.
No longer is their job simply to keep the ball out. It’s curiously evolved to a point where the shot-stopper is expected to be involved greatly in the build-up play.
This created a sub-genre known as the ‘sweeper-keeper’, with renowned proponents including Edwin van der Sar and Manuel Neuer. Yet ball distribution aside, even with those guys, you still rarely see a goalie pick up a goal or assist.
In fact, across Europe’s top five leagues this season, only Alberto Brignoli of Benevento has scored. Spectacularly, in his case, having netted in the 90th-minute against AC Milan in December 2017.
Regarding ‘chances created’, 44 ‘keepers have produced at least one goalscoring opportunity, with Burnley’s number one Nick Pope leading the way on three. Across the Bundesliga, La Liga, Ligue 1, the Premier League and Serie A, however, he’s not among the five assist-making goalies this season…
1. Aaron Ramsdale
- Southampton 1-3 Bournemouth (September 20, 2019)
Of the quintet detailed in this article, two are Premier League-based. Aaron Ramsdale had to wait for his chance at Bournemouth after joining as a promising teenager in January 2017. Since then, though, he’s cemented himself as Eddie Howe’s first choice between the sticks and hasn’t looked back. There’s now a strong case to be made as to whether he’ll eventually challenge Jordan Pickford at international level.
Ramsdale has been very busy in 2019/20, a season in which the Cherries have been under consistent pressure. To date, he’s shipped 44 goals and kept only four league clean sheets, but his moment of the season came away to south coast rivals Southampton, when his stoppage time pass found its way to leading marksman Callum Wilson, who pounced on a poor communication between centre-back Jan Bednarek and his goalkeeper Angus Gunn.
- Liverpool 2-0 Man Utd (January 19, 2020)
Anything Ramsdale can do, so can (arguably) the world’s best goalkeeper. And what an occasion for Alisson to register his first league assist for Liverpool than when arch-rivals Manchester United rocked up at Anfield earlier this year.
Jurgen Klopp’s men never like dropping points after Virgil van Dijk headed them in front inside the opening 15 minutes, but you can never be sure. Especially in a hotly contested derby. And the sigh of relief came when Mohamed Salah – with Alisson having quickly picked him out after United’s last roll of the dice turned up snake eyes – confidently slotted past David de Gea. Incredibly the moment occurred nearly two years to the day of his last attacking contribution. Back then it was Stephan El Shaarawy opening the scoring in AS Roma’s 1-1 draw at Inter Milan.
3. Ionut Radu
- Genoa 2-1 Fiorentina (September 1, 2019)
The first goalkeeper to fill his assist column this season was Genoa’s latest signing Ionut Radu, who signed on loan from Inter Milan last summer. And it proved very decisive. Radu’s name will be familiar to some, as he was part of the Romania U21 side who edged out their English counterparts in that entertaining 4-2 win at the 2019 Under-21 Euros.
He carried that form into the new Serie A season, though would have been disappointed to have conceded three times in their opening game away to Roma.
The Bucharest-born shot-stopper eventually made amends when hosting Fiorentina the following matchweek. After intercepting a cross, his immediate clearance found Christian Kouamé, who drove towards Bartlomiej Dragowski’s goal, before doubling the hosts lead.
4. Marc-André ter Stegen
- Getafe 0-2 Barcelona (September 28, 2019)
The most productive goalkeeper this season is Barça’s very own Marc-André ter Stegen, who impressively has more assists to his name than Eden Hazard and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. A remarkable (if a little selective) statistic, even when you consider he’s playing for a club where attacking football is the be-all and end-all.
His primary job is starting those waves, and he most certainly did so away to Getafe last September, when he sprinted from goal to close down Ángel Rodríguez before unleashing a fierce left-footed pass into Luis Suarez’s path, culminating in a delicate chip over David Soria from the Uruguayan.
- Barcelona 5-2 Mallorca (December 7, 2019)
Though not quite exactly in the race to be crowned La Liga’s ‘assist king’ this season, it’s nonetheless surreal to see Ter Stegen level with Iker Muniain and Frenkie de Jong while being ahead of Álvaro Morata and Vinícius Júnior in the current standings. To say Barça are getting sufficient bang for their buck is an understatement, which could explain these latest contractual rumours (could you blame the German ‘keeper if he now demands an assist bonus clause is inserted in his current deal?).
Ter Stegen’s most recent effort came in a 5-2 win over Mallorca on matchday 16 and, like the previous occasion, it ultimately broke the deadlock. On the receiving end was Antoine Griezmann, who at this point was still finding his feet at the Camp Nou. The Frenchman latched onto Ter Stegen’s quickly taken goal kick before chipping the ball over an onrushing Manolo Reina. The camera would then pan to a smiling Gerard Pique offering his goalkeeper a hearty handshake.
5. Jasper Cillessen
- Valencia 2-0 Granada (November 9, 2019)
The presence of Ter Stegen consigned undisputed Dutch number one Jasper Cillessen to a back-up role. Given his stature, playing the understudy wasn’t the right fit at this point in his career so a move to Valencia ensued, which saw Neto head the other way. The former Ajax ‘keeper has yet to set the Mestalla on fire – though, to be fair to him, he’s been dogged with injuries – but he did play a key role in their 2-0 win over Granada last November.
Given how chaotic things were at Los Che, this also marked a rare clean sheet for Cillessen, who had at that stage avoided conceding in only two of his previous 10 league outings. Daniel Wass had put the hosts in front on the 74th-minute mark but the points were not truly sealed until Ferran Torres converted an effort deep into stoppage time. After collecting a pass from Cillessen just inside his own half, the highly-regarded teen raced towards goal against tired legs and unleashed a ferocious shot past Rui Silva.