Last updated on February 17th, 2021
You may have seen Buffon playing as goalkeeper for Juventus, even at the age of 42!
How is this possible, when the average age of retirement for a footballer is 35?
Why do goalkeepers retire later?
Here are 4 reasons why goalkeepers retire later:
- There is only one goalkeeper position in the team
- Goalkeepers do not move as much as outfield players
- Goalkeepers peak at an older age
- Managers favour older goalkeepers who have more experience
There is only one goalkeeper position in the team
In a football team, there is only one goalkeeper position. If the goalkeeper continues to perform well and is in good form, he is less likely to be dropped by his manager.
Moreover, the fans may question why the goalkeeper is not playing if he is performing.
It is hard for the second choice keeper to break into the team
The second-choice keeper may play really well in the first choice’s absence. However, they will usually be back on the bench after the first choice is available again.
For example, Adrian played really well for Liverpool when Alisson was injured in the 2018/19 season. However, once Alisson returned, he immediately started a crucial game against Manchester United.
As such, it is very hard for the second choice keeper to break into the team.
Goalkeepers can still be dropped if they play poorly
However, if the goalkeeper is in poor form, they may get dropped. This was seen when Kepa Arrizabalaga (Chelsea) was dropped after a string of poor performances.
They could be dropped after making embarrassing mistakes, such as scoring an own goal!
Goalkeepers are rarely rotated
Most clubs do not regularly rotate their goalkeepers during matches. This may be more common for outfield players where players get tired more easily.
Even if the second choice goalkeeper is a quality goalkeeper, he will not be able to prove his worth to the team!
However, most clubs will only rotate between competitions. Usually, the first choice keeper will play in the league matches.
Meanwhile, the second-choice keeper will play the cup matches. For bigger clubs, winning the league is their main priority. As such, they will not be too fazed if they lose the cup.
You can see my comparison between Spain’s league (La Liga) and cup (Copa del Rey) competitions to understand their differences.
However, it is possible that the second choice keeper can play all the way to the final too! Sergio Romero started all of Manchester United’s games in the 2016/17 Europa League.
Goalkeepers do not move as much as outfield players
Goalkeepers do not experience the same physical toll as their outfield counterparts. They do not need to run up and down the pitch, and only require a few moments of action each game.
If the defence in front of him is playing well, he may not even need to touch the ball at all!
This gives goalkeepers 2 advantages:
#1 They are able to play every game
Since a goalkeeper does not tire as easily as an outfield player, it is possible for him to play every game.
Out of the 15 players who played every single minute in the 2019/20 EPL season, 8 of them were goalkeepers!
Goalkeepers will have the stamina to last every single game. This makes them undroppable if they are performing well.
#2 They are less likely to get injured
Since they are not moving around as much, goalkeepers will have a lower injury risk compared to outfield players.
This will help them to continue to retain their spot in the team!
These help to cement the goalkeeper’s place in the team
A goalkeeper will not be physically fatigued as compared to an outfield player. What’s more, they have lower chances of getting injured.
If they are able to continue playing, they will be able to retire at a much older age.
Goalkeepers peak at an older age
Most people would think that a good keeper is one who has good reflexes. However, there are many other areas that a goalkeeper needs to be good at too!
Some of these attributes will improve with age:
#1 Situational awareness and positioning
Having good situational awareness means that you are the right place at the right time. This will help you to know where to be in any situation to defend your goal.
There are times when rushing out to defend an attack is not the wisest decision.
Jan Oblak believes that positioning is one of the most important skills that he has developed.
When you are in the right place in the right time, you require less energy and effort to save a ball. As such, it will be less physically demanding for you to save any ball.
This means that you still are able to play as a goalkeeper even when you are much older!
A good goalkeeper has to be confident, both on and off the ball. This allows him to make split second decisions
Being confident also allows the goalkeeper to command his box during set pieces. A goalkeeper needs to be very vocal to tell his players where they should be to defend the set pieces.
These skills take time to develop
These skills don’t just come to the goalkeeper overnight. You will need to gain this experience over many matches.
Since goalkeepers reach their peak at a much later age, this allows them to retire even later!
Managers favour older goalkeepers who have more experience
Have you seen a young goalkeeper start for a big club?
Miguel Angel Moya and Jan Oblak arrived at Atletico Madrid at the same time (2014/15 season). Moya was 30 years old while Oblak was 21.
It was no surprise that Moya was chosen to be the first-choice keeper ahead of Oblak. It was only when Moya was injured, Oblak was given his opportunity to shine.
Oblak has since became one of the best goalkeepers in the world!
Most managers would rather place their trust in a goalkeeper who has more experience. As such, it is very hard for young goalkeepers to make it big, especially in a big club.
A goalkeeper is a very unique position in football. This is because there is only one such position in a team, and they do not get injured so easily.
As such, they are able to play up till a much older age. Brad Friedel played in the Premier League all the way until he was 44 years old!
This could be the reason why many goalkeepers can have a long and illustrious career until their 40s.
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