Manchester City’s summer transfer activity continued yesterday, as the club confirmed the signing of Malaga goalkeeper Willy Caballero on a 3-year deal. Now aside from the expected plethora of atrocious puns linked to his forename, the Argentine is in fact a very shrewd signing for City and has already been taken to well by the city contingent.
With City’s Romanian giant Costel Pantillimon not big enough to fully fill the boots of Joe Hart and with the 27-year old leaving on a free transfer, The Blues were in need of a reliable keeper in his prime who would keep Joe Hart well on his toes; Caballero ticks all the boxes. Admittedly, Pantilimon has performed well when called upon, mainly in cup competitions, but it was still apparent that Hart was the primary choice for Pellegrini. Even in that spell where Hart’s form faltered and Pantilimon had a string of games, you always felt that the England man would win his place back at some point. Yet Caballero is seemingly not here to make up the numbers and will provide healthy competition for Hart; something City can only benefit from.
First and foremost the former Boca Juniors man is a player trusted by Pellegrini, with the two working together in a relatively successful stint at Malaga; Willy’s previous club. In fact, the 32-year old said: “The most beautiful moments of my career were under Manuel Pellegrini in Malaga, where we achieved big things and we made Malaga’s name known around Europe. But I also like the way he works, I think his best quality is giving players the confidence to achieve their potential.”
Caballero comes in with a wealth of experience, having played in his native Argentina with Boca, before moving on to Elche where he spent seven years until Pellegrini brought him to Malaga, where he produced some exceptional performances; most notably in games against Dortmund in Malaga’s Champions League quest. Standing at just over six feet tall, Caballero is a keeper who does not overcomplicate things, preferring to handle things simply. While Hart may have more about him in terms of ability, it can be argued that Caballero is a far steadier keeper. Inevitably shot-stopping is a huge feature of a keeper’s game, however it is worth noting that the presence, organisation skills and distribution are fundamental for any team’s backbone; Willy has this in abundance, which means Joe Hart won’t have it easy by no means.
That isn’t to say Hart will be out of the picture, but him being the number one this season is far from a full-gone conclusion. Pellegrini is the sort of manager who picks players based on merit, as seen last season with Pantilimon; therefore if Willy has the edge over Hart, you would expect the Engineer to opt for whoever has the upper hand. Having two goalkeepers of a high calibre is great in the sense that Pellegrini has the ability to chop and change to bring about freshness, but it is also likely to drive both players, increase their hunger and desire to succeed; ultimately meaning they are utterly focused and that when called upon, they make the most of their opportunity. To challenge in all four competitions this season, depth is required, including in between the sticks, so to have two more than competent goalkeepers is refreshing. There is also the likelihood of both keepers learning from one another, for instance Caballero has more experience than Hart so can offer valuable advice, whereas Hart could be a crucial factor in Caballero’s understanding of the English game.
All in all, City’s latest Argentine is not here to merely make up the numbers. He has proved his worth at a top level for a while now and appears to have the trust and faith of Pellegrini. Caballero himself has already acknowledged that Hart is a great goalkeeper, but a bit of competition won’t do either of them any harm. We're anticipate a great tussle for the starting berth at City this coming season, whoever comes out on top remains to be seen.