‘Very difficult’ – Sir Alex Ferguson’s six-year Manchester United mistake that Erik ten Hag is trying to avoid

The goalkeepers. The outcasts. The strange balls. They ran aground.

It’s a position that is so integral to football that yet was somehow undervalued, and still is to some degree. The transfer fees normally considered acceptable to spend on them have supported this.

Gianluigi Buffon’s £47.6 million move from Parma to Juventus in 2001 was an astonishingly high fee for the time, but it was not uncommon to see players go for that much at the time, and it stood as the record for the most expensive goalkeeper, until it was broken twice in the same summer in 2018. Buffon remains the third most expensive goalkeeper of all time, but ranks 89th when outfielders are added to the mix.

Kepa Arrizabalaga tops the goalkeeper chart as Chelsea spent a ridiculous £71.5 million to sign him, but he is still only 26th in all transfers. For such a crucial role, it is remarkably underrepresented in the biggest transfer of all time, as teams consider players like Wesley Fofana, Raphina and Luka Jovic more important. Large sums of cash will be splashed on away players without much thought, but when it comes to those between the sticks, the purse strings tighten.

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This is bizarre because teams have proven that a great goaltender can be one of the smartest investments you can make and often lead to success. Six of the ten most expensive goalkeepers – Buffon, Alisson, Ederson, Thibaut Courtois, Manuel Neuer and Francesco Toldo – have all won multiple trophies, including domestic titles and Champions Leagues.

Likewise, getting your goalkeeper signing right can have disastrous consequences, as Manchester United discovered.

Legendary goalkeeper Peter Schmeichel could not have left Old Trafford on a higher note. He was the undisputed best goalkeeper in the world and had collected the goals for a treble-winning side, even captaining the Champions League final triumph with Roy Keane suspended.

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