German international Ron-Robert Zieler is the latest goalkeeper linked with a move to the Etihad, after ESPN FC reported interest from City today.
We were recently linked with Samir Handanović and Pep’s former Barcelona goalie Victor Valdés, but Hannover 96 keeper Zieler could make more sense for a couple of reasons. He is unlikely to be as demanding as Handanović for a starting role and although Valdés may be more receptive to the idea of sitting on the bench, Zieler has something the others do not: homegrown status.
27-year-old Zieler spent five years at Manchester United from 2005 to 2010, earning him association trained status. Many City fans have the opinion that a foreign spot should not be taken by a backup goalkeeper, a good point when that role could be handed to another top-class outfield player. Quality homegrown keepers, capable of challenging Joe Hart, are not easy to recruit, and Zieler ticks many boxes.
Capped six times by Germany, most recently in 2015, Zieler was part of the 2014 World Cup winning squad. He hasn’t been able to oust Neuer as Germany’s number one, but there is no shame in that. Neuer is simply the best. Zieler’s agent intimated earlier that he would be interested in a move to City, if there was a fair opportunity to displace Joe Hart.
Neuhaus (ag. Zieler): If it was an open field — not just as a back-up — then this [City] could be an interesting option for Ron."
— City Watch (@City_Watch) February 17, 2016
This is a good thing, as it’d keep Joe on his toes and give him one of Germany’s best goalkeepers – homegrown, don’t forget – breathing down his neck. Willy Caballero is not a bad goalkeeper by any means, but Joe has rarely had to worry for his spot since Pellegrini brought his Willy over from Málaga.
Comparing the two goalkeepers statistically is difficult. Hart plays for one of England’s top clubs and Zieler for a side sitting at the bottom of the Bundesliga. For that reason, Hart has conceded fewer goals – because he plays for a better team – and Zieler has made more saves – because his team are constantly under attack. Looking beyond those things, it’s quite interesting (thanks to Squawka for the stats).
Zieler’s distribution and passing are more accurate, two things Pep Guardiola loves in a goalkeeper. Hart prefers to punch while Zieler isn’t afraid to catch the ball, and Hart sends the ball a greater distance. Few would say Zieler is better than Hart, but he does look like good competition – perhaps good enough to make Joe sweat for his place. Competition is healthy and no one at City should feel like they have a divine right to start every week.