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    Calcio Debate: Is Julio Cesar The Best Goalkeeper In The World?

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    Ali Swaidan
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    Calcio Debate: Is Julio Cesar The Best Goalkeeper In The World?

    Post by Ali Swaidan on Sat Feb 28, 2009 8:18 pm



    During Inter's often panic-stricken first-half damage limitation exercise against Manchester United in the Champions League, Julio Cesar cemented his place as one of the finest goalkeepers in the world.

    As almost everyone around him lost their heads, the Brazilian in the No. 12 shirt produced a string of superb, typically iron-handed saves to keep his side on level terms. Point-blank headers, bullet-like free kicks, the best Cristiano Ronaldo could throw at him, all were repelled by the inspired shot stopper.

    Indeed, his performance was so impressive that it prompted former Lazio and Italy goalkeeper Luca Marchegiani to say that he ranks him above the likes of Gianluigi Buffon, Iker Casillas and Peter Cech on current form.

    "Being the best [goalkeeper] is always dependant on a particular moment and his current performances make him the best in the world," the Sky Italia pundit told
    La Gazzetta dello Sport.

    It's not easy to disagree. Ever since he first joined the Nerazzurri in 2005 as a back-up to Francesco Toldo, Julio Cesar seems to have made giant steps with each passing year. The 29-year-old was instrumental in Inter's successful push for the Scudetto last season and seems to have grown in confidence and stature ever since.

    And, with Buffon still struggling to reach the standards he set before his injury, Casillas suffering an inevitable dip in form following his heroics at Euro 2008 and Cech's decision-making and catching prowess deserting him, it is Cesar who has emerged as global football's most consistent performer between the posts.

    His attributes are many. He may not have the height or the flawless technical and positional skill of Buffon but Cesar is spectacularly athletic, almost gymnastic. Standing at a little over six feet tall, he has an extraordinary leap and can throw his hands to the top corners of the net. Quite simply, he makes saves that he has no right to get anywhere near.

    The Brazilian international is also a superb catcher of the ball and has an almost freakish ability to cushion and parry even the most ferociously hammered shots. And, when the ball is hanging in the air above his head, he attacks it, smashing it ruthlessly and decisively away from the danger area.

    Like all great 'keepers, Cesar is also brave - dangerously brave. He throws himself around his own six-yard box with the reckless abandon of a soldier pouncing on hand-grenades to save his colleagues. His willingness to use his arms, legs, feet, knees or shoulders to stop the ball from going into the back of the net is, at times, reminiscent of Peter Schmeichel or a less wobbly Bruce Grobbelaar.

    Since taking over from the hapless, hopeless Dida for Brazil two years ago, the former Flamengo shot-stopper has also transferred his club form to the international arena. In fact, he has gone on to set the longest consecutive clean sheet record for Brazil, going over 10 hours without conceding a goal.

    So does Julio Cesar Soares de Espíndola, to give him his more spectacular full title, deserve to be considered as the greatest goalkeeper in the world right now?

    On current form, you’d have to say yes. Below, however, is a list of five other contenders...

    Edwin van der Sar (Manchester United) - The giant Dutch twiglet has surprised us all, and probably himself, by having the finest season of his career at the ripe old age of 38. He has broken Danny Verlinden's 19- year-old European clean sheet record in the process.

    Jose Cevallos (LDU Quito) - The Ecuadorian legend spent 2008 proving himself to be his country’s greatest ever goalkeeper. He was voted the best in South America by El Pais newspaper and made number 6 in the IFFHS (International Federation of Football History & Statistics) top ten goalkeepers of 2008.

    Gianluigi Buffon (Juventus) - If form is temporary and class is permanent then it won’t be long before the Juventus No. 1 reclaims his place at the top of the world goalkeeping hierarchy. Technically, Buffon is probably the finest goalkeeper to ever pull on a pair of gloves.

    Iker Casillas (Real Madrid) - After a flawless, trophy-winning European Championship, the inspirational Spanish captain came fourth in the 2008 FIFA World Player of the Year awards and overtook Buffon as the most highly ranked goalkeeper in the world. His form may have dipped somewhat, his ability, however, is not in doubt.

    Sebastian Frey (Fiorentina) - Despite being routinely ignored by eccentric French national team coach Raymond Domenech, Sebastian Frey has long been one of Serie A’s most consistent and most valuable ’keepers. A shot-stopper extraordinaire.

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