Villarreal are almost certainly going to sign a new goalkeeper in the next two transfer windows. With Sergio Asenjo out of favour and out of contract at the end of the season, and Geronimo Rulli still making questionable errors on occasion, Unai Emery may turn to the market to find a new number one.
Emery’s style requires the keeper to be comfortable further up the pitch and on the ball than average, and ideally would be adequate at claiming crosses.
The January window may be limited but there are options which can be explored, should the club deem it a priority position like a lot of fans have.
There are three factors to consider for Villarreal when signing a new goalkeeper: is he an upgrade on the existing options, can he play Unai Emery’s way, and can a deal be done with minimal hassle?
Rulli arrived from Real Sociedad in 2020 as a second-choice keeper and took a season to eventually become #1 after his heroics in the Europa League final. This should be kept in mind when looking at different options: a keeper on the bench at another club may grow into a viable first choice for Villarreal.
This should be applied in particular to one of the potential signings for January:
Currently #2 in the pecking order at Juventus behind Wojciech Szczesny, Perin does have plenty of experience to his name at both domestic and continental levels.
With nearly 250 Serie A appearances for Genoa and Juventus, Perin was a reliable performer for Genoa for over 5 years before making the big move to Juventus in 2018.
As he has played a backup role since, appearing in just 14 games for the club since his arrival, Perin may be keen for a move to become the first choice, and with six months left on his contract, it would be a fairly straightforward deal now or in the summer.
Perin spent the previous 18 months before this season back on loan at Genoa, where he was the first choice, and conceded 44 goals in 32 league games as his side finished 11th.
His shot-stopping ability is impressive, with a PSxG-GA value of +0.29, placing him in the top 2% of goalkeepers in Europe’s top leagues over his last 21 games.
However, one concern is his footballing ability beyond the goalkeeping fundamentals. Perin scores lowly on defensive actions outside the penalty area, and if he is to play under Emery, this may prove to be an issue. He is in the bottom 3% of keepers when it comes to the average distance of his defensive actions, indicating that he may not come off his line enough to play in a sweeper role.
Overall, his shot-stopping ability would definitely prevent some goals that Rulli has poorly conceded, and would be a cheap and easy deal to do, but in the long term there are doubts as to how he can fit in Villarreal’s way of playing.
The Osasuna goalkeeper looks impressive on paper and has been a standout performer in La Liga, but would be a difficult deal to pull off. The 28-year-old recently signed a long term contract with his club, and it would likely take a serious offer for Osasuna to sell in January.
Herrera remains a standout pick because of his remarkable ball-playing ability. His long passes, where he ranks in the top 10% of keepers in Europe, would be a useful tactical addition to provide more service further up the pitch, whilst he is also highly capable of playing with the ball at his feet outside his box.
He may have his moments of madness, but the Spaniard would be a clear upgrade on Rulli and could potentially take Villarreal’s playing out the back tactic up a level.
Herrera exceeds Rulli in defensive actions outside his box, kicking and shot-stopping, and would likely be willing to make the step up from Osasuna.
He’s also capable of pulling off wonder saves…
It finishes 1-1 at El Sadar!— Premier Sports (@PremierSportsTV) November 29, 2021
The home side have this Sergio Herrera save to thank for securing a point ️ pic.twitter.com/QPA6CnFF0B
The Serbian goalkeeper, currently at Stade Reims in Ligue 1, has been on the radar of clubs across Europe since his days at Maccabi Tel Aviv, and at 26 years old, would likely jump at the chance of potentially playing European football at Villarreal.
The physically imposing goalkeeper is strong off his line, and is consistently solid with his distribution and shot-stopping, potentially opening up as a left-field option for Villarreal.
Rajkovic would not cost more than £8m or so, and whilst questions remain about whether he can handle such as step up, is a full Serbian international and could be worth a gamble.
Probably the biggest unknown on this list, Ortega is a 29-year-old German goalkeeper playing for Arminia Bielefeld in the Bundesliga.
His performances have been so good that he has attracted interest from Bayern Munich as a backup to Manuel Neuer, but a first-team role at Villarreal could be more appealing.
Ortega averages over 56 touches per game, which is in the top 1% of goalkeepers across Europe, and higher than anyone else on this list. Rulli by comparison, averages over 45 per game, which still puts him as one of the highest in Europe, but also shows that Ortega would be more than capable of playing in Unai Emery’s system.
At 29, Ortega may prove handy for a few seasons, would likely not be too expensive, and shows up particularly well as a keeper comfortable playing as a sweeper. His shot-stopping numbers are similar to Rulli’s, but would be a clear upgrade in his distribution, something which has let Rulli down on multiple occasions.
Conceding 26 goals in 18 games this season for a relegation candidate, as their standout player, highlights how Ortega may be ready for a move to a team higher up the table, and could turn out to be a scouting masterstroke should Villarreal move in for him.
In conclusion, Villarreal may wait until the summer to sign a goalkeeper, where more options may appear on the market, but should Emery want to act now, these options could be low risk, high reward, shrewd signings.