Words: Rob Hemingway
Image: Offside Sports Photography
We’ve got a bit of a thing for keepers with great passing.
You know the sort. The time shifters, the game splitters, the ‘will they, won’t they’ balls that curve and fade, meeting their target’s first touch without breaking stride as if it was how fate always intended it. And since Allison and Ederson came to the Premier League, everyone went distribution mental, and the levels are getting ever higher...
Here’s a countdown of the best five, based entirely—as always—on our own incredibly subjective and correct criteria. This'll probably be an endlessly updated list, so get your suggestions in for ones we've missed.
EDERSON TO AGÜERO, 2017
In the days before the world got serious, the beach was full of feckless students looking for some one-upmanship. And there was no better litmus test than skimmers. Wilfully endangering the life of any bather nearby, I flung those shitty bits of rock into the waves for hours on end. I think my record was somewhere in the twenties.
Whether the de Moraes family took their young son out to the beaches east of São Paulo on a weekend to do the same is not known, but Dougie Isaacs*, eat your heart out. The fact Ederson can direct a much larger object through a much smaller gap—with his foot—while making to look so easy that the commentator doesn’t even acknowledge it, both impresses and fucks me off enormously.
*Isaacs is widely considered to be the best competitive stone-skimmer in the world. Do your research.
KHUNE TO... WELL, TAKE YOUR PICK, 2013
I saw a South African blogger saying Khune is a better passer than Ryan Shawcross, which I thought was a bit harsh. We’ve all got different strengths. Can Itu batter the shit out of anyone who comes near him on a pitch while looking, at once, 31 and 13? No.
The pass at 36 seconds is the one that does it for me, but you could take your pick from these nonchalant fizzers interspersed with some proper PS1 ball-bouncing set to the instrumental of Mos Def’s ‘Do It Now’.
TER STEGEN TO NEYMAR, 2015
This one’s in despite the fact it wouldn’t have counted anyway. The German goalie’s kicked it eighty yards over the head of the defender—a defender who, you can only presume, is shitting a brick as this ball flies over him—as Neymar runs through and away. If it had counted, you can only imagine the bloody rampage Diego Simeone would've gone on. Real beserker mode.
SCHMEICHEL TO SOLSKJÆR, 1996
How far can you throw a ball? Might be a decent way. All that cricket in your youth. Playing catch with your old man. You probably can’t do this, though. Logic doesn’t really have much of a place in football. The events of 21st December 1996 are a case in point. Specifically: How did Big Pete propel a soggy Mitre Ultimax to the centre circle of Old Trafford—from his own line—with a one-step run-up? How is it possible to do that?
BEIRANVAND TO REZAEI, 2014
AND HOW ON EARTH IS IT POSSIBLE TO DO THAT? Can’t lie and say that we keep up with much of the action from Iran’s Persian Gulf Pro League, but if this is the sort of thing they’re up to, we might have to start.
You can talk about a foot like a traction engine or the ability to ping a ball in that ever-so-professional way that looks both easy and difficult at the same time, but there is nothing quite as good as watching the Naft Tehran goalie do that. Box to the other end of the pitch in just a couple seconds, all thanks to The Arm. Beiranvand must have deltoids and pecs like iron.
The finish wasn’t so bad, either.