As far as goalkeepers are concerned, conventional wisdom has almost always been to have one consistent goalkeeper and another much-less-heralded backup in the event of an injury to the first-choice keeper. However, major football clubs across Europe have been laughing in the face of that conventional wisdom, and have been buying backup keepers who could easily start for other major clubs to have as a solid backup. It’s because of this recent stockpiling of goalkeepers that we’ve made this list of the top 10 most valuable backup goalkeepers in soccer.
Need proof? All you have to do is look at the fact that Chelsea still have Petr Cech on their books despite the return of Thibaut Courtois after an extremely successful loan spell with Atletico Madrid. Furthermore, there’s the fact that Manchester City recently signed Malaga’s Willy Caballero to back up Joe Hart, and Barcelona signed both Claudio Bravo and Marc-Andre ter Stegen following the departure of longtime number one Victor Valdes – who still has yet to find a club. And then there’s Real Madrid, who recently signed Costa Rican goalkeeping hero Keylor Navas to act as backup for Spanish goalkeeping legend Iker Casillas, who is arguably on the downswing of his career. All this to say, backup goalkeepers are becoming a hotter commodity than ever in world football, and it’s becoming increasingly obvious as this transfer window comes to a close.
Not only that, but all of these 10 goalkeepers are still worth decent amounts of money despite their status of having to warm the bench more often than not, even if they could also provide a decent challenge to the guy in front of them. Here are the most valuable backup goalkeepers in soccer, ranked based on their market value on transfermarkt.com converted into American dollars.
10 Pepe Reina -- Bayern Munich ($6.6 million)
Since he was known for so long as the main man in between Liverpool’s sticks (and more recently between Napoli’s), it’s a little bit strange to see Pepe Reina act as a backup nowadays. However, at 32 years of age, it’s probably fitting that Reina would be more accepting of a role as a mentor of sorts for Manuel Neuer – arguably the best goalkeeper in world football right now. With Bayern expected to make a serious run once again for the Champions League trophy this season, that aspect was probably hard for the Spaniard – whose current market value is at $6.6 million – to turn down as well.
9 Maarten Stekelenburg -- Monaco ($7.3 million)
Currently on loan at Monaco after Fulham were relegated to the Championship, Dutch goalkeeper Maarten Stekelenburg is acting as the backup for Les Rouges et Blancs behind Danijel Subasic this season – a bit surprising, considering he’s barely entered his 30s and has gained 54 caps for the Dutch national team, who he came in second place with at the 2010 World Cup. He may be several years removed from his best days as a member of Ajax in the Eredivisie, but he still has a market value of $7.3 million. Therefore, Stekelenburg still comes with a decent price tag for any team to have – even as a backup.
8 Jack Butland -- Stoke City ($7.3 million)
He’s been considered as England’s goalkeeper of the future, and the fact that Roy Hodgson brought him along for Euro 2012 two years ago while at previous club Birmingham City is proof enough that he’s got plenty of potential. However, 21-year-old Jack Butland is likely to play the role of backup to Asmir Begovic at Stoke this season unless the Potters can secure a last-minute loan spell for him. With his market value at $7.3 million, he may not really be content to warm the bench despite his young age, but being sent on a sixth loan spell may not be something he particularly wants either.
7 Willy Caballero -- Manchester City ($7.3 million)
He’s had a very successful time as the main man at Malaga in La Liga, and has been inexplicably snubbed time and time again from the Argentine national team, but Willy Caballero’s recent signing with Manchester City means that his chances of playing for his country have decreased even more. With Joe Hart still the main guy at the Etihad Stadium, Caballero may only be called upon in case of injury or a slump on Hart’s end. His market value is currently rated at $7.3 million, so it’s uncertain as to how long Caballero will be content to just be the second-string keeper at City.
6 Michael Agazzi -- AC Milan ($8.8 million)
He may be the least recognizable name on this list, but Milan backup keeper Michael Agazzi has built up a decent reputation for himself as the main goalkeeper at Cagliari. A brief spell at Chievo Verona earlier this year then led to him moving to the San Siro, who also signed Diego Lopez from AC Milan. The 30-year-old is rated with a market value of $8.8 million, and may not have much of a chance to compete for time as the number one keeper if Lopez’s performances for the Rossoneri are consistently strong. The fact that longtime keeper Christian Abbiati is still on their books surely doesn’t help, either.
5 Michel Vorm -- Tottenham Hotspur ($8.8 million)
He’s been capped 15 times by the Dutch national team – even going to the World Cup this past summer as a member of the Oranje’s third place team – but Michel Vorm’s recent signing with Tottenham Hotspur may come back to haunt him. With Hugo Lloris firmly entrenched as Spurs’ number one man, and with evergreen American goalkeeper Brad Friedel still on their squad, Vorm may have a difficult time starting games at White Hart Lane. The former Swansea City keeper is rated at a market value of $8.8 million, so he may not stay in Tottenham for a terribly long time.
4 David Ospina -- Arsenal ($10.3 million)
Following a great run by the Colombian national team to the quarterfinals of this summer’s World Cup in Brazil, it’s clear that David Ospina needed to play for a bigger club than Nice in Ligue 1 – the club he had previously played with after moving overseas in 2008. However, Arsenal may not necessarily be the answer: although he’s clearly good enough to start for a major club, Ospina will likely have to fight for playing time with the Gunners’ longtime number one Wojciech Szczesny. With a market value of $10.3 million for Ospina, and the fact that he’s still young for a goalkeeper at 25 years of age, the competition could potentially be fierce.
3 Claudio Bravo -- Barcelona ($11.6 million)
Claudio Bravo is currently in the starting role for Barcelona, but that’s likely as a result of the fact that promising young German keeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen is out injured for the next several weeks. Once ter Stegen returns, though, Bravo may have to sit a number of games out for the Blaugrana. Thanks to his role playing for the Chilean national team that made it past one of the World Cup’s groups of death, as well as the fact that he was the longtime number one for Real Sociedad, Bravo may not be satisfied to have to be part of a goalkeeping tandem. At 31 years of age, his market value of $11.6 million is still fairly high.
2 Keylor Navas -- Real Madrid ($14.6 million)
His performances for his country at the 2014 World Cup this summer were nothing short of sensational, and his role in Costa Rica’s run to the quarterfinals was instrumental. With that in mind, it’s obvious that Keylor Navas would not be content to still be playing for a club like Levante. He was thus rewarded with a move to Real Madrid after the World Cup was finished. His market value of $14.6 million shows that he’s good enough to start for many big clubs, but it’s unknown how often he’ll have to jockey for position with Iker Casillas for the number one role at the Bernabeu.
1 Petr Cech -- Chelsea ($24.9 million)
Although he’s been linked recently to loan spells at clubs like Paris Saint-Germain, Petr Cech currently remains on Chelsea’s books, but it looks as if he’ll have to settle for a backup role behind young Belgian goalkeeping phenom Thibaut Courtois. If he doesn’t win his place back at Stamford Bridge, Cech will be certain to move elsewhere. But for now, he’s still by far the most valuable backup goalkeeper with a market value of almost $25 million. His reputation as one of the best goalkeepers in recent years is still very much intact, even if at 32 years of age he may be on the downturn of his career.