FFT100 2018: No.9, Jan Oblak (Atletico Madrid)
As Atletico Madrid’s defence has declined, Oblak has only improved and continued to cement his place as the world’s best goalkeeper.
David de Gea and Thibaut Courtois preceded him in the Spanish capital, but he’s surpassed both in the eyes of Colchoneros. The Slovenian shot-stopper played 37 La Liga matches last season and conceded just 22 goals; an average of 0.59 per game. Astonishingly, it was only as recently as October that Oblak had managed more clean sheets (74) in La Liga than he had conceded goals (72).
Oblak also became the first goalkeeper in Atleti history to win the Zamora trophy – awarded to the goalkeeper who concedes the fewest goals in Spain – three times in a row. His dominance in La Liga is all the more impressive given the strength of rivals such as Keylor Navas and Marc-Andre ter Stegen.
A claim often made was that Oblak had the luxury of being protected by Atleti’s fierce defence. While that’s partly true, more often than not recently he’s been saving his backline instead, regularly producing key saves to rescue team-mates. He was particularly impressive in last season's Europa League-winning run, dazzling in Atleti's semi-final second-leg triumph at Arsenal.
The Slovenian stopper may not be the biggest, but he makes the goal seem tiny for his opponents. Oblak is agile, commanding, adept with his feet and boasts the ability to make improbable saves. Then there’s that quickness, particularly in how he skids across his goal-line as if being controlled like a table footballer.
Simply, he is the complete goalkeeper – and yet, aged 25 his peak is still many years away. It’s difficult to imagine how much better he can actually get, such has been his remarkable consistency for several years.
All signs point towards Oblak eventually leaving Atleti, though; quite possibly in the near future. His contract expires in 2021 and no extension is in sight, although Diego Simeone confirmed in November that “we talked… he knows what he wants and needs”.
Atleti certainly need him, but Rojiblancos might want to make the most of his spectacular performances while they can.