Another day, another Uruguayan to meet!
Yesterday we got to know a somewhat new face on the Uruguayan fútbol scene, youngster Gastón Ramírez. Today we introduce you to a much more established, yet still relatively young face in the sport. In the past, we’ve introduced you to goal scorers and defenders, but today you get to meet the last man standing between the ball and the goal, Uruguayan goalkeeper Fernando Muslera.
Néstor Fernando Muslera Micol was born on June 16, 1986. Unfortunately for him, he wasn’t born in Uruguay. He was actually born across the river in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Don’t worry, friends. His parents are both Uruguayan. They must have found themselves in Argentina in a moment of weakness. Or maybe they just wanted to see Maradona… either way, we forgive them for letting Fernando be born there.
Anyway, Fernando began his youth career with the Montevideo Wanderers in 2001 and eventually moved to the big club as an 18 year old in 2004. He made 44 appearances there from 2004-2007, before being loaned out to perennial championship contenders, C.F. Nacional for five months. Despite not being there for very long, Muslera contributed to a league title in that 2007 season and getting himself noticed by European clubs in the process.
During that summer’s transfer season, he signed a deal with Lazio of the Italian Serie A for €3 MM (that’s Euros, yo), and debuted for the team in a 3-1 win against Cagilari on September 16. Despite a somewhat rocky start to his tenure with Lazio, by January of his second season, the man fans called “Castorino (little beaver)” had a stronghold on Lazio’s starting goalkeeper job. He helped Lazio win the Copa Italia that season, stopping two penalties in the shootout final against Sampdoria. Muslera would go on to have two more successful years for Lazio.
I was firs introduced to Muslera during the 2010 World Cup, which was his first as the first string netminder for the Uruguayan national team. He had made his international debut in 2009, but had obviously never played in a high pressure environment like the one in Africa in 2010, but the then 24 year old shone pretty brightly on the stage. He helped Uruguay through the group stage by keeping a clean sheet through the three games. He gave up a goal to South Korea in the round of sixteen, but not before he set the record for longest un-scored upon goalkeeping in the World Cup. In the quarter-finals against Ghana, he managed to save two penalties during the shootout that Uruguay won to move to the semi-finals. While Uruguay lost that following game to the Netherlands, and Muslera allowed three goals (not all his fault, of course), his overall performance in that World Cup really cemented him as one of the better goalkeepers in the world.
In the summer of 2011, Muslera helped Uruguay to it’s record 16th Copa America title with some great goalkeeping in that tournament as well. In fact, he was named Man of the Match for his quarter-finals performance against Argentina, who was hosting the tournament, by making some amazing saves and stopping another penalty to seal the shootout win (lo siento Argentinos!). During that tournament, he worked out a €12 MM deal with Galatasaray of the Turkish Süper Lig, making him the highest paid goalkeeper in Turkey, and the fifth most expensive goalkeeper of all time. Not bad, right? He has enjoyed a solid career there, scoring his first career goal on a penalty kick, helped Galatasaray win the Süper Lig championship and was named the Süper Lig Goalkeeper of the Year in his first season. His success has continued this year as well.
As good as Muslera has been, he’s still relatively young. Because of this, he sometimes makes mistakes when coming out for the ball, or seems to lose focus a bit here and there as well. The talent is certainly there, and you know that if you get into a shootout situation, he’s going to stop one or two big ones and give your team a chance to win. You know for sure he’s gonna get one. There’s not a lot of goalkeepers you can say that about in the world. If his focus and maturity catch up to what I believe is his elite talent in net, all the world will soon get to know Fernando Muslera.
Muslera’s 2011 Copa America Performance:
Featured image courtesy of: Gscimbom.com
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