Claudio Bravo’s move to Manchester City is reportedly almost complete and Barcelona have done their homework to bring in a replacement to the squad. Bravo leaves Barcelona having won all possible trophies and making most of his appearances in La Liga. He decided not to play second fiddle to Marc-André ter Stegen and thus chose Manchester City as his next destination. It was initially thought that Barcelona’s new back-up goalkeeper would be Diego Alves after a lot of speculation but it now seems like that will not be the case. Instead Barcelona sporting director Robert Fernandez and manager Luis Enrique have opted for Jasper Cillessen, the current Ajax Amsterdam number one goalkeeper.
Will Jasper Cillessen be a good signing for Barcelona? Well... the answer is we’ll have to wait and see. Cillessen is an experienced goalkeeper, having played most games for Netherlands in the 2014 World Cup and being a regular in that squad in most games afterwards. He’s also made a notable amount of appearances in the Champions League with Ajax, with the most recent spell being in the 2014-15 season where they finished third in their group and went on to play in the Europa League. He’s 27 years old, so although he’s had experience, he can still learn and get better.
One of the main requirements for being a goalkeeper at Barcelona is the ability to be comfortable on the ball and to build up play from the back. Can Cillessen do that? To a certain extent, yes. Ajax have a similar philosophy to Barcelona, which involves keeping possession of the ball and having defenders start potential attacks from the back so it is highly likely that Cillessen will learn the Barça system in no time. Cillessen’s pass success rate over the past few seasons has averaged at 63-67% which is lower than Bravo’s 80-85%. That is something he’ll need to work on. Cillessen is a very good shot-stopper and has amazing reflexes as well. But he also seems to be very inconsistent.
The Dutch goalkeeper has also been criticized for his inability to consistently save penalties. Louis van Gaal famously substituted him after a goalless 120 minutes in the 2014 World Cup quarter-final against Costa Rica and brought on Tim Krul who saved two penalties that helped secure Netherlands’ place in the semi-final. Cillessen’s inability to save penalties shouldn’t be too detrimental to Barcelona since he could be playing mostly in the Copa del Rey games, unless of course MAtS gets injured. To give him credit, he had 18 clean sheets in 33 games for Ajax in the Eredivisie last season, conceding 21. That is a ratio of 0.64 goals per game which isn’t too bad considering the fact that Barcelona almost always outscore their opponents.
A few fans were skeptical of the signing of Bravo in the summer of 2014 due to his age, but he proved his doubters wrong by having world-class performances for Barça and being an integral part of the team. Japer Cillessen might not be the best goalkeeper in the world but he is a player who seems to accept a secondary role in the squad and play his best football when called upon. We will just have to give him support and see how things pan out.