La Liga destination could come down to who plays best between the sticks in the year of the goalkeeper

A number of changes at Spain's top clubs have seen the face of the La Liga goalkeeping scene alter drastically

The big bucks may have been spent on bringing some of the best attacking talent in the world to La Liga this summer but just where the title ends up next June could boil down to the big, and somewhat less publicised, changes at the other end of the pitch.

Antoine Griezmann, Ivan Rakitić, James Rodriguez, Luis Suarez, Mario Mandžukić and Toni Kroos are amongst the star names from this summer’s World Cup to bolster’s Spain’s top three clubs during the close season. Champions Atletico Madrid, Barcelona and Real Madrid have not rested on their laurels and have spent big on acquiring some of the world’s top goalscorers and the players that put those goals on a plate.

While those additions will leave La Liga fans licking their lips at the attacking quality on show next season, the more crucial changes may well have come in the goalkeeping department with all three title chasers set to start the campaign with new No.1’s.

Atletico were forced to see Thibaut Courtois return to Chelsea after a superb three-year loan stint at the Vicente Calderon, Victor Valdes and José Manuel Pinto left Barcelona and Iker Casillas looks set for more time on the Bernabeu bench after Madrid spent big on Levante’s Keylor Navas. Last year may have been the year of the manager with Gerardo Martino and Carlo Ancelotti taking the reins in Catalonia and Madrid respectively but this year is the year of the goalkeeper in Spain.

The biggest test may well be with the champions, who enjoyed the services of Belgium international Courtois for the past three seasons. Alongside Bayern Munich’s Manuel Neuer, the Chelsea stopper was the best between the posts in Europe last season and his departure from Diego Simeone’s side left a big hole that has been plugged by Benfica’s Jan Oblak.

Courtois was a crucial part of a strong defensive unit at Atleti that conceded the fewest goals in La Liga with just 26 and one that helped Los Rojiblancos all the way to the final of the Champions League. His form saw him collect the Ricardo Zamora Trophy, the end-of-season award in La Liga for the goalkeeper with the lowest goals-to-games ratio, for the second year running. Atleti may have managed to hang on to star centre-back pairing Diego Godin and Miranda but the need for the back four to forge a new relationship with a young goalkeeper, albeit talented in Oblak, is key.

Back-up shot-stopper Dani Aranzubia also left the club this summer meaning it’s all-change on the goalkeeping front for Simeone, with the Argentine also bringing in Miguel Ángel Moyà from Getafe. The £13 million spent on Slovenian international Oblak may suggest a regular starting role for the former Benfica man but Moya, who arrived for the more modest £2.5 million, has pushed him all the way with some fine performances in pre-season.

While Atleti’s hand was forced with Chelsea recalling Courtois to Stamford Bridge, their neighbours look set to enter a new era between the sticks with Costa Rica World Cup star Navas arriving on a six-year deal from Levante. Lopez was manager Carlo Ancelotti’s goalkeeper of choice in the league last season, with club legend Casillas having his opportunity in the Copa del Rey and Champions League. Los Blancos won both of those competitions but an error in the European final and poor performances for Spain in the World Cup have left 33-year-old Casillas looking at more time on the bench in light of Navas’s arrival.

Trouble has been brewing at the Bernabeu with fans’ favourite Casillas and Lopez both believing they are good enough to start for the European champions. An £8 million fee for 27-year-old Navas, who helped Levante to the best defensive record outside of La Liga’s top-four last season, suggests otherwise. Lopez has been linked with moves to AC Milan and Monaco but Casillas is keen to stay put and fight for his place. He will, at least, start the UEFA Super Cup clash against Sevilla in Cardiff.

There are problems at Barca, too, as Luis Enrique weighs-up who to start in goal following the departures of two long-standing clubmen in Valdes and Pinto. Marc-André ter Stegen was earmarked early on from Borussia Mönchengladbach and cost £10 million but Los Blaugrana also brought in Real Sociedad’s Claudio Bravo for a similar price following a good World Cup with Chile.  Both have had their chances in pre-season but an error from Bravo in Barca’s 1-0 defeat against Napoli could swing things in the favour of Ter Stegen for the opening Liga game of the season.

It’s not just at last season’s top-three where there have been changes in goal. Malaga lost Willy Caballero to Manuel Pellegrini’s Manchester City and replaced him with Guillermo Ochoa, one of the stand-out performers for Mexico in Brazil. Real Sociedad replaced Barca-bound Bravo with Gerónimo Rulli on a season-long loan from Uruguayan club Club Deportivo Maldonado SAD. Replacing Moya at Atleti is Valencia’s Vicente Guaita while Jonathan Lopez adds competition after arriving from Greek club Veria. Valencia’s quest for a huge upturn in fortunes included the signing of Celta Vigo’s Yoel Rodríguez, although Los Che secured regular starter Diego Alves to a new five-year deal.

Some clubs have stuck with what they have, notably Espanyol who managed to hang on to the impressive Kiko Casilla, who had been linked with Real Madrid, and Rayo Vallecano, who conceded more goals than any other in La Liga last season but have kept faith with Ruben Martinez. Athletic Bilbao will return to Champions League action with Gorka Iraizoz in goal when they face Napoli in the final Qualifying Round.

When La Liga kicks-off on Saturday, August 23 most eyes will be on players such as World Cup Golden Boot winner Rodriguez and former Liverpool star Suarez if his appeal with the Court of Arbitration for Sport against his fourth month ban is successful. Last season Atleti proved the championship can be won with a stubborn defence, however, making the changes in goal just as crucial as the extra firepower, even if the transfer fees paid out do not mirror it.

Voices
There will be a chance to bid for a rare example of the SAS Diary, collated by a former member of the regiment in the aftermath of World War II but only published – in a limited run of just 5,000 – in 2011
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm today
News
people
News
Elton John and David Furnish exchange marriage vows
peopleSinger posts pictures of nuptials throughout the day
News
File: James Woods attends the 52nd New York Film Festival at Walter Reade Theater on September 27, 2014
peopleActor was tweeting in wake of NYPD police shooting
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
Martin Skrtel heads in the dramatic equaliser
SPORTLiverpool vs Arsenal match report: Bandaged Martin Skrtel heads home in the 97th-minute
Arts and Entertainment
The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit director Peter Jackson with his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame
film
Life and Style
tech
News
people
News
Billie Whitelaw was best known for her close collaboration with playwright Samuel Beckett, here performing in a Beckett Trilogy at The Riverside Studios, Hammersmith
people'Omen' star was best known for stage work with Samuel Beckett
Arts and Entertainment
Mark Wright has won The Apprentice 2014
tvThe Apprentice 2014 final
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'