Willy Caballero culminated as an incredible goalkeeper for Manchester City after his extraordinary penalty save in the 5-3 Champions League victory over Monaco. One year ago, there was an online petition signed by the City fans in order to persuade the then-boss Manuel Pellegrini to leave the cup keeper out of the Capital One Cup final. They asked him to select Joe Hart instead. Caballero played in the match, collected his Winners’ medal and became the City No.1.
In the span of 12 months, Pellegrini and Hart have moved on to China and Italy respectively. Caballero is now the first choice keeper of Pep Guardiola at the Etihad. His contract is ending this summer and there are speculations that the City boss could offer a new deal to the 35 year old at the end of the season.
This has been an incredible turnaround for a keeper who was considered as a competition to Hart after his move in July but became a nervous and hesitant flop.
Pallegrini picked out Caballero knowing about his qualities from the time together at Malaga. They were a part of the run to the quarter finals of the Champions League in 2013. The Chilean considered him as a potential rival to Hart and thought that he would push the highly rated England keeper to get better.
Willy had to struggle during the first 18 months due to individual errors and indecision that created uncertainty throughout the defence. Pellegrini believed in him as a keeper for the domestic cup competitions. But he committed mistakes on their run to the Capital One Cup final in the third round win over Sunderland and semifinal first leg defeat at Everton.
He was blamed for the 5-1 defeat FA Cup defeat at Chelsea one week before the Wembley final against Liverpool. Pellegrini was put under pressure to make a change but he refused saying that he would rather lose a title than to lose his word and there was no chance of Willy not playing the match.
He made the right decision as Caballero became the unlikely hero in the penalty shootout victory. His spot kick saves from Lucas and Philippe Coutinho helped to put City ahead. When Adam Lallana arrived to take the fourth penalty, Caballero was indomitable. He was fluently diving full length to his right in order to keep out the effort of the England midfielder.
It was a spectacular moment for the Keeper and he received a lot of affection from the City fans after the Capital One Cup final. It looked like a glorious ending to a difficult two season at the Etihad and he was expected to move with his old ally Pellegrini as Guardiola came in. But surprisingly he allowed the England keeper Hart to go on loan to Torino and Caballero remained in the team.
He was driven in to the action for the Champions League clash with Barcelona when Bravo was suspended in November. In January he was chosen over Bravo for the Premier League clash with West Ham. There were flaws in his performance and Caballero took responsibility for Radamel Falcao’s fist goal. But he made up for it with the penalty save that put Monaco 3-1 ahead and another save at the dying minute which provided a two-goal advantage to City. This has been quite a turnaround for a keeper whose future looked desolate at the initial days.