Being a backup goalkeeper is a strange life. Some players build an entire career on being happy to be second fiddle. Up and down the footballing world there are players who accept that they will never be first choice at their club. At the top level, they are usually treated to a few cup outings throughout the season so they remember how to stop the ball if they are ever needed on a regular basis.
Those outings extend if the club continues to succeed; at least they do most of the time. Some managers revert to their ‘number one’ once the latter rounds appear, but it seems increasingly common that managers continue to twist with their backup rather than the supposedly safer alternative.
David Ospina is in line to start for Arsenal in the FA Cup final in the same week Sergio Romero was preferred to David de Gea in the Europa League final. Both of the South American goalkeepers are exceptional backups, though neither have the slightest of chances of superseding de Gea or Petr Cech. Reputation holds for a long time as a goalkeeper.
Ospina will leave Arsenal this summer, while Romero remains firmly in de Gea’s shadow with Manchester United destined to sign another goalkeeper should the Spaniard finally return to Madrid. Their careers are unorthodox, and unlike any other position in football. Ospina has 77 caps for Chile, Romero has 87 caps for Argentina, yet they had a combined four Premier League appearances this season.
They each enjoyed their cup berths, with Romero collecting 12 matches in the Europa League and Ospina playing eight in the Champions League. The role as second choice is not as clear cut as it is at other clubs, but is this really what these two talented, experienced internationals envisaged their career to be?
They are superb assets for Arsene Wenger and Jose Mourinho. Both are unruffled by tense situations and have proven themselves to be up to more than an acceptable standard. Neither, though, can truly fill fulfilled by a campaign of being so obviously a secondary option as this, however much professionalism they show.
In a summer when Asmir Begovic is set to leave Chelsea and Willy Caballero has left Manchester City, goalkeepers may just be realising their own value. Caballero, Begovic, Romero and Ospina would walk into the majority of European teams, maybe contributing on the pitch will take priority over fledgling cup outings.