The art of goalkeeping has never been easy, especially among Premier League and Champions League shot-stoppers when every save and mistake is witnessed by television audiences with performances often intensely scrutinised. It has also been generally assumed that the better goalkeepers are usually employed by the more successful teams but does that necessarily entail that they offer the best value for money? Scottish Friendly have devised a method for measuring the cost-effectiveness of Premier League goalkeepers by introducing the annual 'Super Saver' awards, the results of which offer a fresh insight into the their performances at the top level.
Under the guise of commentator and mascot Bob Friendly, and in association with Twitter (#supersavercup), UK mutual life and investment firm Scottish Friendly used data sourced from the Premier League, Champions League and Sports Interactive to calculate the value of a goalkeeper by comparing the number of saves against their respective weekly salaries and minutes on the pitch. Last year, Sunderland 'keeper Vino Mannone was deemed the best value 'keeper, but it was announced on 30th July that Tom Heaton of Burnley had scooped the award for the 2014/15 Premier League season, with his each of his saves costing the club £6,000.
Adrian of West Ham and Sunderland's Costel Pantilimon were the nearest challengers to Heaton proving that the less high-profile 'keepers can demonstrate their worth. In the case of Pantilimon, he was considered surplus to requirements at Manchester City before joining Sunderland on a free transfer and then became undisputed first choice between the posts.
Tom Heaton began his senior career at Manchester United where he stayed for ten years, but which included several loan moves primarily to gather first team experience. There followed spells at Cardiff and Bristol City before signing for Burnley in May 2013 and he never missed a league match throughout the successful Championship promotion campaign that following season.
Heaton was also ever present during Burnley's brief Premier League appearance last term during which 53 goals were conceded, but with only four opposition goals being scored from April onwards and ten clean sheets registered during a difficult ten months. It could be argued that goalkeepers employed by teams striving to avoid relegation will receive more practice at saving goal bound efforts, but Heaton's good performances in his attempts to prevent Burnley's slide towards the Championship were being favourably noticed. England manager Roy Hodgson selected the Chester-born keeper for the England squad to face Slovenia in the UEFA Euro 2016 qualifying match during May this year. Such recognition adds real credibility to the findings of the Scottish Friendly research.
It is also ironic that Heaton was chosen as cover for Joe Hart, who cost £47,000 per save at Manchester City with none of the goalkeepers associated with the top four Premier League teams among the leading positions. David De Gea of Manchester United was highest placed among the Champions League qualifiers in occupying 20th position with a cost per save of £38,000.
Another issue worth noting was that 'keepers considered as second choice for first team selection occupied the five bottom positions in the Premier League table with each of Petr Cech's saves at Chelsea costing £325.000. The Czech international was also among the worst rated players within the value for money calculations for Champions League goalkeepers. Jasmin Handanovic of Slovenian team Maribor was the recipient of that award after completing 37 saves in six games, despite his team finishing fourth in a Group G won by Chelsea. Each of his saves was deemed to have cost just £703, although his alleged weekly salary of £500 is considerably less than that of his Chelsea equivalent.
Nevertheless, the annual 'Super Saver' awards do offer an opportunity to assess the performances of goalkeepers receiving fewer accolades than their equivalents at clubs with significantly more media exposure. As Scottish Friendly investment expert Callum Bennie highlighted: "It’s interesting to see that the most valued players are not necessarily providing the best value for money for their clubs."
Scottish Friendly's annual award will certainly provoke discussions as the merits of goalkeepers and their respective value to a team, and it is also expected that next year's calculations will be eagerly awaited by those 'keepers directly involved for whom these awards may yield a degree of competition and rivalry.
Disclaimer: Written in collaboration with Scottish Friendly. Scottish Friendly is a leading UK mutual life and investments organisation. It provides investors and their families with a wide range of investment solutions (including Investment ISAs and Junior ISAs). We are based in Glasgow and our staff is dedicated to providing the best in customer service. The value of your investments can go down as well as up, so you could get back less than you have paid in. Tax treatment depends on individual circumstances.