Today, Andriy Lunin was announced as Real Madrid’s first summer signing. The 19-year-old joins the European champions for a fee of 14 million Euros.
Lunin is part of the rarest brand in football–a teenage goalkeeper who starts for his club. You don’t find too many. Most who do tend to get a random chance, and then their brilliance shines so bright that the coach is forced to start him. Lunin’s beginning was not merely of an uptick in quality, but of financial turmoil.
Just a year after making it to the Europa League Final, Dnipro became riddled with debt and FIFA sanctions due to their financial insecurity. With owner Ihor Kolomoyskyi refusing to pay debts, Dnipro had to sell, and with first-choice goalkeeper Jan Luhanska out the door, Lunin, at the mere age of 17, replaced him.
As Dnipro treaded the line between not only bankruptcy, but extinction, Lunin led Dnipro to 6th place. However, after being leveed with point deductions due to Kolomoyskyi’s refusal to pay ex-players and coaches, Dnipro lost a total of 42 points and dropped to the 3rd division.
With the club in the 3rd division, and with the club’s finances in the toilet, Dnipro were forced to sell Lunin to Zorya Luhansk, where he would dip his feet into the Europa League, and become not only the most promising, but the best goalkeeper that Ukraine has to offer.
Andriy Lunin still has some flaws–he doesn’t shuffle across his line quick enough–but he’s putting together a solid portfolio in a world where coaches are continuously asking more and more from their goalkeepers.
After a solid debut Europa League campaign, Lunin became linked with Real Sociedad, in need of an upgrade on the error-prone Geronimo Rulli. Soon, the links grew from one club to another: Napoli followed, and soon, Inter and Liverpool did as well. But it is Real Madrid who will be snapping up the teenager for a hefty price for a player who, at 19, has only played in the Ukrainian Premier League.
Still, that price could very well be worth it soon. Young sweeper keepers like Lunin are at a premium these days–Real Madrid know that from their extensive pursuit of Roma’s Alisson Becker, and even if he never manages to make it as a starter, he could pick up form elsewhere on loan, and go for a half-decent profit.
Lunin is a wise player for his years, and while it’s tempting to say this move comes too early (Lunin may very well leave on loan this summer), there’s every chance that, with his mentality and skill, he can be the next #1 as Real Madrid prepare for Keylor Navas decline or sale.
By: Zach Lowy