What next for Caoimhín Kelleher? Why the keeper's options are limited

When Jürgen Klopp described Caoimhín Kelleher as "the best number two goalkeeper in the world" after his Carabao Cup final heroics in 2022, there may have been a hint of hyperbole about his comments.

Having said that, when you dig a little deeper, it's quite hard to disagree with the sentiment.

When you look around Europe, who could you say were contenders for this dubious crown?

In the Premier League, it's only really Manchester City's Stefan Ortega, West Ham's Alphonse Areola, Tottenham's Fraser Forster or Newcastle's Martin Dúbravka that you might be confident could "do a job" as a first-choice keeper elsewhere. This list itself shows how low the bar is set.

But that's not to take anything away from Kelleher. The role of a second-choice keeper is one that no-one wishes to fill. You spend an eternity playing second fiddle, and then, when your opportunity comes (even if you win your team a cup final, like the Irishman did), you're unlikely to displace the first-choice — especially one of Alisson's abilities.

In the worst-case scenario, you come into the team, have an off day and you're never seen again.

So, when you have a second choice of Kelleher's calibre, you have to do your best to keep hold of him.

Only bids of £25m+ to be considered

Fighting to retain Kelleher seems to be Liverpool's stance this summer, with only a bid in excess of £25m likely to tempt the club to sell, according to The Athletic. While this figure may seem inflated, it's worth noting that England under-21 hero James Trafford – a player without any top-flight experience – looks set to join Burnley for a fee of around £19m.

And it seems Liverpool aren't bluffing. With Adrián signing a new deal and only tenuous links to Hannover's Ron-Robert Zieler, there doesn't seem to be any appetite to change up the goalkeeping department this summer. In fact, when asked about whether Kelleher would be moving on, Klopp said: "We look in all departments apart from goalkeeper at the moment."

That said, now at 24 years of age and with just four appearances last season, Kelleher is at a stage in his career in which he needs first-team football.

But, if he were to leave the club, where could he get his wish?

Brentford, Spurs and Brighton linked

© Proshots - Caoimhin Kelleher

There's no shortage of suitors for the Republic of Ireland international. Brentford, Tottenham Hotspur and Brighton & Hove Albion have all been credited with interest but, in each case, there's an issue.

At Brentford, Kelleher would only get game time should first-choice David Raya find a new club. At present, the Spaniard's options seem limited, too, with Manchester United seemingly prioritising the signing of André Onana from Inter, links to Chelsea going cold, and Spurs having already signed Guglielmo Vicario from Empoli.

This would leave Brighton as the primary remaining option.

However, there has to be movement on this front, too, for a spot to be freed up for Kelleher. After Robert Sánchez, also linked to Chelsea, fell out of favour with coach Roberto De Zerbi, it seems the Spaniard is likely to be on the move. But Jason Steele's unexpected emergence at the end of last season wouldn't leave Kelleher a clear run at a starting berth at Brighton either, especially with the signing of Bart Verbruggen from Anderlecht.

Therefore, barring a transfer-window chain reaction, Kelleher's options — in England at least — appear limited at the current moment.

Style of play

Once a forward in his youth days, it comes as no surprise that one of Kelleher’s biggest strengths is his ball-playing ability. For someone so young, he is incredibly composed with the ball at his feet and isn't scared to take risks in trying to pick out players in half-spaces.

Additionally, in the mould of all modern goalkeepers, Kelleher commands not only his penalty area, but with his proactive approach and quick feet, he also takes control of the space between it and a high backline.

So, even if Aston Villa were to part company with Emiliano Martínez, for example, the deep-lying compact style of an Unai Emery team wouldn't best suit the abilities of the Cork-born stopper.

While Chelsea and Manchester United are looking for keepers and may well be stylistic matches, neither are realistic options for obvious reasons.

In fact, there are only a select few clubs that play a style of football that matches his skill set.

One more year at Liverpool?

So, unless he considers an adventure outside of England, it would appear that circumstances have conspired against a move away for Kelleher this summer.

One more year at Liverpool, especially with the prospect of a run of games in the Europa League, might not be the worst option for the 24-year-old.

After all, a bad move may do his long-term career prospects more harm than good.

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