The past few months have seen a string of woeful performances from Simon Mignolet, who eventually found himself dropped by Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers due to a lack of confidence in his ability. His error-strewn displays prompted the manager to opt for Brad Jones against Manchester United as he removed the Belgian for “an indefinite period”. That came to an abrupt end however, as the deputy was struck by injury forcing a sooner-than-expected recall for Mignolet, although that has been far from the end of his problems.
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Liverpool have clearly been searching for an alternative, linked with a variety of shot-stoppers in recent weeks, ranging from Norberto Neto of Fiorentina to Chelsea back-up Petr Cech. “I think we need a goalkeeper,” Rodgers confessed to reporters earlier this month, clearly perturbed by the fact his side have kept just seven clean sheets this term.
In early December, just two days before Mignolet looked on helplessly as Fabian Frei and FC Basel eliminated the Anfield side from the Champions League, Mattia Perin was serving notice to all of Europe that he was ready for the big stage. Genoa – having made a surprisingly good start to 2014-15 – welcomed AC Milan to the Stadio Luigi Ferraris hoping to hold on to third place in Serie A. While the once-mighty Rossoneri have endured their own struggles, they tore into the home side, carving out no fewer than 15 shots on goal thanks to a thoroughly dominant display.
Yet Perin stood tall in goal, repelling each assault with a calm assuredness that belied his young age. Still only 22, he has been with the club six years, making his debut back in 2011 and now has made more than 100 first team appearances. He spent some time away on loan, a year of which was with Pescara, and that experience certainly benefitted the Latina native as the undermanned side immediately relegated back to the second tier.
The young goalkeeper was perhaps the stand out player of their ill-fated campaign however, delivering some stunning displays and earning his maiden international call-up. The comparisons to Gigi Buffon inevitably came, but it would be some advice from the Azzurri legend that would have much more impact upon Perin after Juventus handed his Pescara side a brutal 6-1 thrashing. “He told me not to worry about it, to be carefree,” he said a few days later and he certainly did just that.
Spoiling Buffon’s 500th Serie A appearance in November with a clean sheet that helped lift Genoa to victory, all the while making some incredible saves that only served to add to the buzz building up around him. The Rossoblu are undoubtedly a selling club and have proven in recent years that they know when best to cash in on their assets, just as they did with Perrin’s close friend Stephan El Shaarawy three years ago.
With Roma and Anfield currently touted as potential destinations, Genoa know the pair could drive the price higher than expected and that Perin could well leave the Grifone for one of European football’s truly giant clubs. Watching him closely, it is clear that whoever won that potential bidding war would be acquiring a special talent as – much like Thibaut Courtois – Perin’s playing style seems ideally suited to the Premier League.
During his time in Serie A he has regularly displayed the strength that is a prerequisite for goalkeepers in England, while he also boasts a 6ft 2in frame and impressive leaping ability that has seen him excel at claiming rather than punching crosses. His handling stands out too, making full use of his superb speed and reflexes to already become a fine shot-stopper, improving his footwork to make less spectacular saves just as David de Gea has done.
Tantissimi auguri al nostro @MattiaPerin che oggi compie 22 anni! Orgogliosi di vederti di nuovo in @Vivo_Azzurro. pic.twitter.com/ylLsuGzDjm
— Genoa CFC (@GenoaCFC) November 10, 2014
Indeed, statistics show that he has made more saves (70) than all but one goalkeeper in Serie A, having faced just 90 shots, numbers which compare favourably with the Manchester United star who has made 62 stops from 83 attempts on goal. His distribution statistics remain poor however, connecting with just 45.7% of his pass attempts, though it must be noted that Genoa are hardly a proficient passing side as only three Italian clubs have had less attempts this season.
But, having cut down on the number of errors he makes, Perin has steadily improved over recent seasons, cementing himself as one of the favourites to succeed Buffon when he eventually retires. Indeed, despite only having just one full international cap, he has been a regular member of the Italy squad for the last two years, including the World Cup in Brazil last summer.
With Liverpool’s goalkeeping situation going from bad to worse, the player’s agent has revealed any domestic rival could be priced out of a move for Perin. “I can see his future being abroad, because the Rossoblu want at least Dhs 62 million (€15m),” his representative Moreno Roggi told RAI earlier this month. Having regularly performed heroics as the vociferous Genoa crowd sing “You’ll never walk alone,” Mattia Perin could be forgiven for feeling right at home should he eventually move to Anfield.