WILLY CABALLERO has started the season as Pep Guardiola’s first choice goalkeeper, replacing Head and Shoulders’ poster boy Joe Hart as Manchester City’s number 1.
After Zinedine Zidane, the original Ronaldo, Bobby Charlton and Ray Wilkins, we’ve become used to brilliantly bald outfield players, yet up until recently, the sight of follicly-challenged goalkeepers has been a relative rarity.
Following many years in the sporting wilderness, slap-headed stoppers are becoming increasingly common in the game, yet Caballero 34, is still one of a comparatively select band of bald goalkeepers.
However, Pep’s faith in cone-headed Argentine ‘keeper Caballero, may be short-lived with Chile’s Claudio Bravo hotly-tipped to move from Barcelona to the Etihad before the transfer window closes.
With Willy Caballero in mind, here are Six of the Best slap-headed stoppers:
#6 Gabor Kiraly
As famous for his fetching grey tracksuit bottoms as his goalkeeping exploits, Gabor Kiraly has had a varied career taking in stints at Hertha Berlin, Crystal Palace, Burnley, 1860 Munich, Fulham and hometown club Szombathelyi Haladás. Yes, that’s right, Szombathelyi Haladás.
Kiraly, 40, rolled back the years this summer as Hungary made the knock-out stages of the European Championships in his country’s first major tournament since the 1986 World Cup.
In all, Kiraly has made 107 appearances for his country and he edges Claudio Taffarel of Brazil out of our list because on balance, well, he just does.
#5 Borislav Mikhailov
It was a case of Hell Toupé for opposition strikers when they faced Borislav Mikhailov.
A national hero for Bulgaria in the country’s run to the semi-finals of USA ’94.
Whilst not strictly a badly, Mikhailov’s World Cup Finals heroics were ever more impressive for the fact he wore a wig throughout the tournament. Not a well-fitting toupé, a full on gravity defying comedy hairpiece.
Mikhailov made his name at Levski Sofia and would later turn out for Reading, having signed for a then club record £800,000. Upon ending his career, he moved into the murky world of sporting politics becoming president of the Bulgarian Football Union and a member of UEFA’s executive committee.
His son, Nikolay, formerly of Liverpool, has followed in his father’s footsteps keeping goal 33 times for the Bulgarian national side.
#4 Pepe Reina
A big personality in the dressing room and a big presence between the posts, Pepe Reina is a much-loved keeper with club and international honours to his name.
Second fiddle to Iker Casillas for much of his Spain career, Reina has 33 international caps, 2 European Championships winners’ medals and a World Cup title to his name. Whilst calm and composed on the pitch, he famously led the Spanish celebrations at each of their home-coming extravaganzas, entertaining the crowd with songs, impressions and jester like antics.
Son of Miguel Reina (who kept goal for Barcelona and Atletico Madrid in his day), Reina Jr counts Barca, Villarreal, Bayern Munich and present club Napoli amongst his club sides but it’s at Liverpool where he is perhaps most fondly remembered having made 285 appearances and won an FA Cup during his time on Merseyside.
#3 Brad Friedel
In the good ol’ US of A, “Soccer” playing children with receding hairlines are often marked out by their coaches as potential goalkeepers.
Tim Howard, Brad Guzan, Marcus Hahnemann and Kasey Keller have all brought their stream-lined scalps from the States to the Premier League; but the all time King of the American Bald Eagle ‘keepers is Phil Mitchell lookalike Brad Friedel.
Friedel was an early pioneer for American players in the Premier League as an able custodian for Liverpool, Blackburn, Aston Villa and Tottenham Hotspur. As well as making 82 appearances for the United States, playing in 3 World Cup Finals tournaments, Friedel holds the Premier League record for the most consecutive appearances with 310, across 8 years between 2004 and 2012.
FACT: The last American goalkeeper to own a comb was former Luton Town & QPR stopper Juergen Sommer in the mid-90s.
#2 Steve Ogrizovic
Oggy was the original balding ‘keeper and in a Premier League era before hair-clippers, he blazed a trail for slap headed shot stoppers everywhere.
Ogrizovic was Coventry City’s number 1 for 16 years playing more than 500 times for the Sky Blues, picking up an FA Cup Winners medal along the way.
One of the few keepers to have scored a goal in open play, Ogrizovic played in all four of England’s top divisions and remains a fondly remembered figure in 90s nostalgia forums.
#1 Fabien Barthez
The superstition of kissing Barthez’s bonce before each match at France 98 arguably delivered France and Laurent Blanc a World Cup winners’ medal. It’s a perfectly reasonable argument if you are a complete idiot.
In a glittering career, the often eccentric keeper won the Champions League with Marseille before a brace of league titles at both Monaco and Manchester United.
Nobody has kept more clean sheets in World Cup Finals matches than Barthez (Peter Shilton shares the record with 10) and at the 1998 tournament he was awarded the Lev Yashin prize for goalkeeper of the tournament.
He may be bereft of his Barnet, but that didn’t stop Fabien Barthez becoming a bona-fide world beater.
Fabien Barthez, we salute you!