Football: It's only right goalkeepers get more recognition, says Atletico Madrid star Jan Oblak

Atletico Madrid goalkeeper Jan Oblak is delighted that the footballing world is now giving players in his position the respect they deserve.
Atletico Madrid goalkeeper Jan Oblak is delighted that the footballing world is now giving players in his position the respect they deserve.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

SINGAPORE - Goalkeepers seldom find themselves in the limelight unless they make superlative saves like Belgium's Thibaut Courtois at the Russia World Cup, or commit glaring mistakes like Liverpool's Loris Karius in the Champions League final defeat by Real Madrid last season.

It is also worth noting that only one goalkeeper - Russian legend Lev Yashin in 1963 - has ever won the prestigious Ballon d'Or, now known as the Best Fifa Men's Player award.

However, the man between the sticks has in recent years taken on an increasingly pivotal role in the team, as coaches eye goalkeepers who suit their preferred playing styles.

A case in point is Brazilian Ederson, who was signed by Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola because of his ability to play from the back and launch attacks with his goal-kicks.

The value of custodians has also skyrocketed, exemplified by the world-record fee of £65 million (S$116 million) Liverpool splashed out on Brazilian Alisson, eclipsing the previous record of £34.7 million Man City paid for Ederson.

Atletico Madrid goalkeeper Jan Oblak is delighted that the footballing world is now giving players in his position the respect they deserve.

Speaking to reporters at a media session on Saturday (July 28) at Mandarin Oriental, Singapore, the 25-year-old Slovenian said: "I think previously they didn't recognise so much the (importance of a) goalkeeper.

"The goalkeeper is an important part of the team and not just one guy with gloves. In a match, everything starts from the back so I am happy that the goalkeepers are getting the recognition that they deserve."

The 1.89m Oblak has earned a reputation for keeping clean sheets since his arrival in LaLiga four years ago.

Last season, he managed to keep the opposition at bay in 22 of his 37 games for Atletico. In 116 domestic games for the club, Oblak has managed an impressive record of 68 clean sheets.

It is no wonder that Chelsea are rumoured to have made Oblak their top target if Courtois departs for Spanish giants Real.

Oblak was also linked to Liverpool before they signed Alisson, but Reds manager Jurgen Klopp revealed last week that the shot-stopper's buy-out clause proved too expensive for the Premier League side.

Oblak confirmed on Saturday that the release clause in his contract was set at €100 million (S$160 million). He did not want to comment on transfer speculation, preferring to focus on preparations for the new season with Los Rojiblancos.

"I don't speak about other clubs. I only speak about my club and my club is Atletico Madrid. My contract is with them and, as long as I am with Atletico, I can only speak about them."

Despite the departure of Portuguese superstar Cristiano Ronaldo to Juventus, Oblak refused to rule out Real as contenders for the LaLiga title this season.

Oblak, who counts Arsenal's Petr Cech, Paris Saint-Germain's Gianluigi Buffon and Spaniard Iker Casillas as his idols, said: "Ronaldo is gone (from Real) and he is one of the best players in their history."

"They lose an important piece, but I am sure they are going to replace with him a great player.

"It's difficult to speak about Real before the season starts because we have to wait and see what they do before the window closes."