After a yellow card for a foul inside the box against Zaragoza, the Blaugrana's goalkeeper, Victor Valdes, is in a precarious position. One more yellow card in league play, and he could miss the next match. This would be bad news if he gets that yellow card in tomorrow's clash vs. Levante because he would miss an all-important Clasico against Real Madrid.
Iker Casillas is considered the world's best goalkeeper, and an indispensable part of Los Blancos. In our fantasy EPL vs. La Liga match-up, our own Arron Duckling chose him over Cristiano Ronaldo, Gonzalo Higuain, and others as his pick from Real Madrid. With that said, could one even dare to argue that Valdes is as important to Los Cules?
Most people will tell you Casillas is the better "traditional" goalkeeper, but concede that Valdes is better with his feet. But just how much better is Casillas's shot-stopping? This La Liga season, Casillas has faced 101 shots, saving 73. Valdes, on the other hand, has faced 78 shots and saved 55. When you see it as a percentage, Casillas is better (72.3%), but Valdes is not too far off (70.5%).
There have been better shot-stoppers, statistically, in La Liga this season. Granada's Roberto is first with a 77.3%, then Sevilla's Javi Varas with 76%, and Athletic's Gorka Iraizoz third with 74%.
Arguably, Valdes saves more shots "with his feet" than others, by being able to sweep-up play. This is hard to reliably measure, however, so let's leave it for now. What sets Valdes apart, as it has been said, is his passing. In this respect, he is simply in a league of his own.
This season, Valdes's pass accuracy is 80.6%. That is an astounding number. How outstanding? Casillas, a good passing keeper as well, comes in with a 68.9% accuracy. Good, but significantly lower.
How do the other keepers stack up? Iraizoz comes closest at 70.7%. On the other hand, Roberto comes in at 58.4% and Varas at 55.7%, a far cry from Valdes.
How good is 80.6%? Let's put it this way. Levante are currently enjoying an incredibly successful campaign and are fifth in the table. Among players with at least one start, their most accurate passer is Ruben Suarez, coming in at 81%. That is a midfielder on a good team. Or how about Osasuna, a team sitting 6th? Their most accurate passer is Nino, at 77%. Again, an outfield player on a pretty good team.
While one can still claim that Casillas is a better shot-stopper, it's hard to say that he is by very much. One could also say Casillas has better intangiables, like leadership, but those are impossible to measure so we won't delve into them.
Valdes's passing, on the other hand, is notably superior to Casillas's. For a team like Barca, which relies on the ability to keep possession through good passing, that is indispensible. Without saying either way who is better, it is still fair to say that perhaps the gap is closer than a lot of people think.