To say that André Onana has been one of the best young goalkeepers in Europe over the last six seasons is not being overzealous. Since his arrival on the scene in 2016 with Ajax, he has been sought after by several top clubs. Many world-class goalkeepers from yesteryears are singing their praises after he decided to move to Inter and the Milanese have themselves a goalkeeper for many years to come. His career has not been without controversy and settling in Serie A may not be easy, but there is no doubt that this is wise business from the Nerazzurri.
The 25-year-old custodian has won over some of Inter’s greats. Who better than Walter Zenga to be excited about your arrival at San Siro? “Onana is a great goalkeeper, he has international experience, he played a lot of Champions League football,” he stated a few months back. “He is 1.9 metres tall, he has a real aura about him.” All of this is true and his attributes and confidence for his age make it even more of a coup for Inter.
Onana has had a past that hasn’t always been easy. He was banned for doping for 12 months. However, on the outside, Ajax stood by him after he said he accidentally took his pregnant wife’s medicine, which contained Furosemide, a banned substance, but he has bounced back.
Gianluca Pagliuca, another goalkeeping great, also had his praise, although it did come with a warning. “Samir Handanovic is still a great goalkeeper. He’s been unbeaten for over 500 minutes this season. He made some mistakes at the beginning of the campaign, but he is still a great goalkeeper,” Pagliuca told Sky Sport Italia.
Pagliuca is concerned that if Simone Inzaghi alternates the two keepers too much, it will cause confusion and disrupt the defensive dynamic and the coach seems to agree with him as he made clear Handanovic will be the No.1 in 2022-23 after signing a contract extension until next June.
Onana has incredible reflexes and an ability to stand tall and not be fooled by the strikers on one on ones. One can say the same of Handanovic, but there is one major difference: one trump card that the Cameroonian holds. Distribution. His throwing is quick, long and decisive, but his kicking is one of his strongest assets.
He seems to thrive in these situations and is equally comfortable with the ball at his feet in pressure positions as he is when he has time. Short or long, he has no problems and the six-foot goalkeeper has no issues spreading the ball to either flank. Being right-footed, he favours the left-hand side, but either way, it is an asset that Inter don’t have. Handanovic is established, he is superb with penalty saves, he is strong with positioning and for an older goalkeeper, his reflexes are there. What is more, is that he is the captain. The issue is that he is not great with his feet, which has often gotten his team into trouble.
Inter have two great goalkeepers for the next campaign, but the words of Pagliuca ring true. Inzaghi has already decided, so the situation is clear from the start and no rivalry gets out of hand. Onana can learn from the veteran and prepare for the change of guard. How and when that takes place will be interesting to watch.