Two years ago, I wrote about some sets of goalkeepers most people probably didn’t know played together. The piece featured some of the biggest names in goalkeeping, including Jan Oblak, Gianluigi Buffon and Nelson Dida.
The piece did surprisingly well — better than I expected it to when I first published it. It did so well, in fact, that it was even plagiarized by a YouTube channel with nearly two million subscribers.
Two years after publishing that piece, I think now is the perfect time for a part two. I did some more digging, and I found seven more goalkeeper pairs most people probably forgot played together.
In case you need a refresher of the ground rules, here are the rules I followed to build my shortlist:
-I only considered goalkeepers who played together at the club level. I didn’t consider goalkeepers who only played together on the same national team because I think that would make finding obscure goalkeeper pairs easier.
-I only considered goalkeepers who played together at the senior club level. Goalkeepers who were teammates on a youth team or a reserve team were not considered, so don’t expect to see one-time FC Barcelona B teammates Víctor Valdés and Pepe Reina, for example.
-This is not a ranking. I’m not ranking these goalkeeper pairs from best to worst or vice-versa. I’m only listing seven pairs that I found obscure enough and interesting enough to be considered.
With that out of the way, let’s start with one of the goalkeepers who kicked off part one.
Júlio César / Ederson Moraes; SL Benfica
As I pointed out in my first piece, Ederson Moraes never played with Jan Oblak at SL Benfica. But while they never shared a Benfica locker room, Ederson did share one with another 21st-century goalkeeping great: Júlio César.
Júlio César had already played a season with the Lisbon-based club by the time Ederson joined the team in 2015. The Brazilian was signed in August 2014 to replace the departing Oblak, and he put up some of the best numbers of his career in his debut season, including a personal best in clean sheet percentage. That season, Benfica retained the Primeira Liga title and Júlio César won the league’s best goalkeeper award.
So when the 21-year-old Ederson joined Benfica from Rio Ave in 2015, it’s no surprise that the veteran Brazilian remained the club’s number one goalkeeper.
But Ederson was no passenger. Ederson made 10 appearances in the Primeira Liga in the 2015-16 season, including a substitute appearance in a 1-0 win over Sporting Lisbon that saw the eventual champions Benfica go top of the table. He also made his debut in the UEFA Champions League, and he backstopped Benfica to a Taça da Liga win.
Those appearances set the stage for Ederson to take over starting duties the following season. In 2016-17, Ederson made a then-career-high 40 appearances and conceded just 27 goals in those games; while the 37-year-old Júlio César was limited to 15 appearances, his lowest single-season appearance total in more than a decade.
Benfica won the domestic double of the Primeira Liga and the Taça de Portugal in that season — the club’s first domestic double since 2014. But that would be the last season the two Brazilians would share in Lisbon. In June 2017, Manchester City paid Benfica €40 million for Ederson’s services, the second most expensive fee for a goalkeeper at the time.
Ederson has cemented himself as one of the world’s top goalkeepers since joining the Citizens. As for Júlio César, he remained at Benfica for one more season, continuing his role as mentor to new acquisitions Bruno Varela and Mile Svilar. He then joined Flamengo in 2018 and retired soon after.
koen Casteels / Thibaut Courtois; KRC Genk
Belgian goalkeepers Thibaut Courtois and Koen Casteels are practically carbon copies of each other. Their birthdays are separated by a month and a half, their heights are separated by an inch, and their goalkeeping styles — which focus a lot on their tall, lanky frames — are practically the same.
Given their similarities, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to learn that the two goalkeepers also started at the same club, KRC Genk.
The two Belgian prodigies were promoted to Genk’s senior team in 2009 after spending seven years together as youth academy teammates. The two were teenagers when they were promoted to the first team, but they were both expected to be the next big things (literally and figuratively) in Belgian goalkeeping.
Even though Casteels was viewed as the more talented goalkeeper at the time, it was Courtois who was given starting duties first. He made his professional debut during an injury crisis in the 2008-09 season, and he was given full-time starting duties after László Köteles ran into registration issues ahead of the 2010-11 season.
That season, Courtois proved the hype was real; he backstopped Genk to their first Belgian league title win since 2002. Along the way, he received Goalkeeper of the Year and Genk’s Player of the Year honours after conceding just 32 league goals and keeping 14 clean sheets.
Courtois’ exploits led to a €9 million transfer to Premier League giants Chelsea that off-season. He’s since developed into one of the world’s top goalkeepers, and he’s won league titles with the likes of Atletico Madrid, Chelsea and Real Madrid. He’s also become Belgium’s most-capped goalkeeper of all time and starred for the national team in two World Cups.
Casteels wasn’t quite as lucky, as Courtois’ performances limited the chances he had to prove himself during his Genk stint. But his potential attracted the interest of German club 1899 Hoffenheim, who signed him in 2011. He’s since bounced between a few Bundesliga teams, never hitting the same highs as Courtois but still developing into a respectable Bundesliga goalkeeper.
Iker Casillas / Jerzy Dudek; Real Madrid
Many respectable goalkeepers served as Iker Casillas’ back-up during his 16-year spell at Real Madrid, including Bodo Illgner and Diego López. But the goalkeeper I’m going to focus on here is another UEFA Champions League winner: former Liverpool goalkeeper Jerzy Dudek.
Dudek was just a couple of years removed from Liverpool’s famous 2005 Champions League win when he signed for Madrid in 2007. But a lot had changed since his heroic night in Istanbul; he lost the Liverpool starting position to Pepe Reina in the 2006-06 season, and made just two Premier League appearances in 2006-07.
When he put pen to paper on a Madrid move, the 34-year-old was joining as extra insurance for the goalkeeper position, not as a legitimate challenger to Casillas.
Still, Dudek had his moments. He made five appearances in his debut Madrid season, and was named Man of the Match in his only league appearance, a 2-2 draw with Real Zaragoza.
The plaudits followed the next season in a 3-0 win over Zenit Saint Petersburg; Dudek was praised for his shot-stopping and called a “magnificent player” by new manager Juande Ramos.
Despite his performances, the goal belonged to Casillas, and Dudek knew this. There was speculation that he’d move to Feyenoord following his contract’s expiration at the end of the 2008-09 season. But a move never materialized, and Dudek signed the first of back-to-back one-year extensions with Madrid that summer.
Dudek’s appearances became even scarcer following his extension, but he was involved in a historic Spanish football moment — just not one he’d be proud of. In the round of 32 of the 2009-10 Copa del Rey, Dudek was Madrid’s starting goalkeeper in Alcorconazo, a historic 4-0 win by third-tier club Alcorcón.
Dudek retired following the conclusion of the 2010-11 season. He was 38 at the time, and he had only made 12 competitive appearances for Madrid across four seasons. (For reference, Casillas made 193 appearances in that same span.)
He made his final appearance in an 8-1 win over Almeria in 2011. He was substituted in the 77th minute to a guard of honour from his teammates.
brad Guzan / Víctor Valdés; Middlesbrough FC
Middlesbrough FC’s squad for the 2016-17 season was comprised of the most random cast of characters I’ve ever seen on a football team: Adama Traoré, Álvaro Negredo, Marten de Roon, Gastón Ramírez and Cristhian Stuani, just to name a few.
Even their goalkeeping department was pretty random. That season, the club boasted a goalkeeper duo of three-time UEFA Champions League winner Víctor Valdés and former Aston Villa stalwart Brad Guzan.
Valdés and Guzan joined the club in the same summer in practically the same circumstances. On July 7, 2016, Valdés signed a two-year deal with Middlesbrough on a free transfer after falling out with Manchester United. A few weeks later, Guzan also signed a two-year contract with the club on a free, though his availability was sparked by Aston Villa’s relegation from the Premier League.
Even though both goalkeepers made their competitive Middlesbrough debut in August, it was Valdés who was given the bulk of appearances. He appeared in 28 Premier League games that season and kept eight clean sheets. In comparison, Guzan only made 14 total appearances.
But even with a Spanish football legend in their ranks, Middlesbrough struggled to get results. They won just three of the 28 games Valdés played in (compared to 4 of the 14 Guzan made an appearance in), and they spent the last 12 matchdays locked in the relegation zone.
It wasn’t all bad though, especially not on the defensive end. Middlesbrough was involved in the second most ties that Premier League season (13, behind only Manchester United’s 15), and their 53 goals conceded was the lowest among the bottom 10 Premier League teams. Guzan & Valdés also combined for 11 clean sheets, the 9th most in the Premier League that season.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough to keep Middlesbrough up — or to convince the duo to stick around for another year. Both Valdés and Guzan left Middlesbrough in July 2017 for greener pastures. Guzan went to MLS’s Atlanta United, where he’s since won an MLS Cup; and Valdés retired, which allowed him to focus on getting his coaching license.
Robert Enke / Víctor Valdés; FC Barcelona
Sticking with Víctor Valdés, the Spanish goalkeeper was also part of an interesting duo during the early days of his FC Barcelona career. When he was promoted to the first team midway through the 2002-03 season, Valdés had to share the goal with the late Robert Enke.
Enke joined the Catalans in 2002 after a turbulent three seasons with SL Benfica in Portugal. Enke had some pedigree to his name, but he was coming off the back of some of the least successful Benfica sides of all time — they finished a club-worst 6th in 2000-01, and they failed to win a single trophy during Enke’s stint there.
Enke’s struggles followed him to Barcelona. On his club debut, Barcelona was humiliatingly knocked out of the Copa del Rey by third division club Novelda CF, leading to teammate Frank de Boer to publicly criticize him. Furthermore, he had to wait until March 2003 for his La Liga debut, a 20-minute appearance as a substitute in a 2-2 draw with CA Osasuna.
Enke’s failure to challenge Roberto Bonano for the club’s starting position is partly why the 20-year-old Valdés was promoted from Barcelona B. For the first half of the season, it was Valdés, not Enke, who was seen as Barcelona’s official back-up goalkeeper; and following the appointment of Radomir Antić as the new manager in January 2003, the young Spaniard was promoted to full-time starting duties. It’s a position he would hold onto for the next 11 seasons.
Unfortunately, Enke’s post-2003 career was more tragic. He was loaned to Fenerbahçe and then CD Tenerife for the 2003-04 season, but he failed to impress at either club. He eventually made his way to Hannover 96, where he found some more individual success. He won a couple of Bundesliga Goalkeeper of the Year awards there and earned eight international caps for Germany.
But on November 10, 2009, Enke committed suicide after standing in front of an oncoming train. He had struggled with depression and anxiety throughout most of his career, including for the last six years of his life. He was 32 at the time of his death.
Jens Lehmann / Sebastiano Rossi; AC Milan
Jens Lehmann and Sebastiano Rossi are two of the greatest goalkeepers of the 1990s and early 2000s — and for a single season in the late 1990s, their worlds collided at AC Milan.
Lehman joined Milan in the summer of 1998 after 10 seasons with German club Schalke 04. He was at the peak of his powers at the time of his arrival; he backstopped Schalke to UEFA Cup glory over Inter Milan in 1997, and was awarded UEFA’s Goalkeeper of the Year award that same year.
He seemed the ideal candidate to replace the legendary Rossi, whose form had started to dip in the second half of the 1990s. But despite a 2-0-0 (wins-draws-losses) start, Lehmann’s honeymoon soon came to an abrupt end.
On matchday 3, Lehmann was humiliated by Argentine sharp-shooter Gabriel Batistuta. The German conceded a hat-trick to the attacker in a 3-1 ACF Fiorentina win over Milan — and the goalkeeper looked pathetic on all three goals. He let the first goal squirm beneath his grasp, conceded the second one through his legs from a tough angle, and conceded the free kick that led to the third by picking up a back-pass.
Lehmann briefly shook the humiliation off through a 2-0 win over Venezia FC, but it was not enough to stop the bleeding. In a match against Bologna FC 1909 not long later, Lehmann was subbed off after giving away a penalty. A few matchdays later, Lehmann was sent off and banned for five games after striking AC Perugia Calcio’s Cristian Bucchi.
Lehmann had enough of Milan, and Milan had enough of him. In January 1999, mere months after signing a multi-year deal with the club, Lehmann left Milan for Borussia Dortmund, with whom he’d go on to win a Bundesliga with in 2002.
Milan, meanwhile, had to rely on Rossi and a young goalkeeper named Christian Abbiati to carry them through the rest of the season. It ended up being the right decision, as they went on to win the Serie A title that season by a single point.
Gianluigi Buffon / Christian Abbiati; Juventus FC
Speaking of Christian Abbiati, let’s end this piece by highlighting the time he teamed up with the iconic Gianluigi Buffon at Juventus FC for the 2005-06 season.
The story of how Abbiati found himself in Turin for a season is actually an intriguing one. In August 2005, Abbiati’s AC Milan and Buffon’s Juventus met in the Trofeo Luigi Berlusconi, an annual preseason match hosted by Milan and usually contested against Juventus.
Despite it being a preseason game, both teams fielded some of their best players. For example, star midfielder Kaká started for Milan, and Buffon was in goal for Juventus.
These line-up decisions, though seemingly insignificant at the time, set the stage for both teams’ season. In the second half of the friendly match, Kaká and Buffon collided during a regular football play.
Kaká left the collision unharmed, but the accident was enough to dislocate Buffon’s shoulder. He would require surgery to fix the damage, and the injury would keep him out of action for a few months.
Milan felt partially responsible for Buffon’s injury, given it happened in a friendly they organized and hosted. So the Rossoneri took it upon themselves to compensate Juventus. They let Juventus borrow Abbiati, who by then had lost his starting position to Nelson Dida and desired more playing time, for the entirety of the 2005-06 season.
With Buffon out for half the season (due to the dislocated shoulder and a second injury he suffered in November), Abbiati finally had regular playing time at his disposal again — and he flourished as the Bianconeri’s temporary number one. He made 27 total appearances that season, his highest tally in four seasons, and he helped put Juventus in a good position to challenge for (and later win) that season’s Serie A title (although it was later revoked due to the Calciopoli scandal.)
Alas, for as good as Abbiati was, he was merely a temporary replacement. When Buffon returned in January 2006, he reassumed starting duties and finished the job Abbiati had started. Abbiati returned to Milan when his loan deal expired that summer.
What do you think of the list? Which obscure goalkeeper pair is your favourite? Let me know in the comments below.
Mouhamad Rachini is a journalist and goalkeeper enthusiast. You can find him on Twitter via @BlameTheKeeper.