BEST YOUNG GOALKEEPERS

FROM JUSTIN BIJLOW TO ROBERT SÁNCHEZ

Goalkeepers are becoming an increasingly more dynamic position in football. Long gone are the days of the simple shot-stopper and long-range kicker. Nowadays, goalkeepers must be proactive in defence and a protagonist in attack. Here are some profiles on some of the best emerging goalkeepers in football. Each cover their backgrounds, styles, strengths and weaknesses.

You can find more in-depth player reports in the Scouted Football Handbook, our quarterly magazine in which we profile 25 of the world’s best up-and-coming talents, with additional original features and exclusive interviews included.

LAST UPDATED: JANUARY 2, 2022

Justin Bijlow

DETAILS

STRENGTHS

WEAKNESSES

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Justin Bijlow has battled a number of serious injuries to emerge as the Feyenoord and Netherlands number one. Elbow, foot, knee, thigh, groin and toe injuries, plus a bout of COVID, have seen him miss over 50 games for Feyenoord since 2018. But his great form when he was on the pitch was undeniable.

STYLE OF PLAY

Bijlow projects confidence on the field. He is athletic and aggressive, throwing himself into packs to claim crosses and putting his body on the line to get anything he can in the way of a shot.

He is a strong shot stopper, whose good body shape puts him in strong positions to propel himself. His quick feet get him set, and he is explosive off the mark. This extends itself to when he is drawn outside of his six-yard box to make saves one-on-one – he is quick to leave his area and can make quick adjustments to the movements of the onrushing attacker.

With the ball, he is an adept short passer but can at times be reluctant to propel the play forward directly with his distribution. He is also a confident claimer of crosses at 6’3” – even if he can be a little erratic in doing so, it is always better than having a ‘keeper rooted to the goal line.

JUSTIN BIJLOW FEATURES IN VOLUME XII OF THE SCOUTED FOOTBALL HANDBOOK – BUY IT NOW

Illan Meslier

DETAILS

STRENGTHS

WEAKNESSES

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Illan Meslier recently made his 50th Premier League appearance at the age of 21, becoming the youngest goalkeeper in the competition’s history to reach that particular milestone. Meslier has been Leeds’ No. 1 for almost two years, and lately acceded to become first-choice for France’s U-21 side.

Meslier turned down offers from Chelsea while still at local club Lorient in 2018, before signing for then-Championship side Leeds in 2019 on an initial loan. A £5m option-to-buy was triggered upon the team’s promotion to the Premier League and neither party has looked back since.

STYLE OF PLAY

Meslier is tall and spindly; he looks fragile but is largely unshakeable, both in mind and body. The Frenchman is consistent, unperturbed by physical attackers who attempt to expose the increasingly incorrect assumption that Meslier is flimsy.

He claims well in the air, pulls off improbable saves and distributes expertly. A key reason Meslier’s place under Marcelo Bielsa has remained unthreatened is his willingness to play out from his own penalty area, clipping passes into full-backs and wide midfielders with ease and regularity, despite occasional errors.

Meslier’s footwork is to a high standard, and allows him to cover ground surprisingly quick for a man of 6ft 5in. This is particularly useful when stretching to prevent efforts which ordinarily would be out of another goalkeeper’s reach.

How he uses his wingspan is another impressive element to Meslier’s game. His arms are freakishly long, which coupled with a tendency to be proactive in smothering attackers as they converge on his goal, is particularly useful.

Matvei Safonov

DETAILS

STRENGTHS

WEAKNESSES

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Russia have a strong history when it comes to goalkeepers, and it appears as though Matvei Safonov is the next in line to be the country’s long-term number one.
Safonov assumed the role during Euro 2020, and seems to have it now locked down, alongside his position as first choice with Krasnodar.

STYLE OF PLAY

Safonov is a goalkeeper that has strong fundamentals. He is a good shot-stopper that uses low body position to spring for the ball, and he has strong hands and wrists that allow him to properly parry the ball away from danger.

He specialises in quick double-saves as well, with great agility allowing him to quickly reset and redouble his efforts.

Like the traditional goalkeeper of old, he is not very proactive. He is not a goalkeeper that will be off his line to clear the ball or look to be part of the build-up. It is definitely something he needs to work on if he strives to move to a bigger club in the future.

He does excel distributing the ball with his hands though, creating counterattacks from deep with long throws that look to exploit space out wide.

Robert Sánchez

DETAILS

STRENGTHS

WEAKNESSES

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Robert Sánchez has had an interesting development pathway, leaving Spain as a 16-year-old after Brighton poached him from UD Levante. He subsequently spent loan spells at Forest Green Rovers and Rochdale in League Two and League One respectively, where those clubs’ progressive style of play helped nurture the qualities that now help the Spanish goalkeeper star in the Premier League.

STYLE OF PLAY

Sanchez is a force. He is 6’6” and strongly built; he is made to claim crosses and does so confidently and dominantly. He routinely tops cross claiming metrics among all Premier League goalkeepers.

But with the ball on the deck, he is equally effective. He has an expansive and accurate passing game, both in the short and long range. He is comfortable receiving the ball to feet, and stepping outside his box to aid in the progression of the ball.
As a shot stopper, he again ranks very highly for important metrics like save percentage and post-shot xG saved numbers.

Perhaps most impressive is his ability to step off his line and act as a sweeper ‘keeper. A notable moment this season was his red card on Callum Wilson, who was clean through on goal, that rescued a point for Brighton – though normally his defensive actions outside the area are much cleaner.

it’s difficult to look past Gianluigi Donnarumma as the best young goalkeeper in the world – even if his skillset is fairly traditional and limited. Beyond that, it’s much less definitie. Aaron Ramsdale, Robert Sánchez, Illan Meslier, Justin Bijlow and Altay Bayındır are among the best of the rest.

Giorgi Mamardashvili at Valencia is one of the best value goalkeeper to buy on FM22. Move quickly though, because Valencia have an option to buy on his loan deal from Dinamo Tbilisi.