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Manuel Almunia Rivero (born 19 May 1977) is a Spanish former footballer who played as a goalkeeper.

Manuel Almunia
AlmuniaWHU.jpg
Almunia warming up for West Ham United in 2011
Personal information
Full name Manuel Almunia Rivero[1]
Date of birth (1977-05-19) 19 May 1977 (age 42)
Place of birth Pamplona, Spain
Height 1.93 m (6 ft 4 in)[2]
Playing position Goalkeeper[3]
Youth career
Oberena
Senior career*
Years Team Apps (Gls)
1995–1999 Osasuna B 46 (0)
1999–2000 Osasuna 0 (0)
1999–2000Cartagonova (loan) 3 (0)
2000–2001 Sabadell 29 (0)
2001–2004 Celta 0 (0)
2001–2002Eibar (loan) 35 (0)
2002–2003Recreativo (loan) 2 (0)
2003–2004Albacete (loan) 24 (0)
2004–2012 Arsenal 109 (0)
2011West Ham United (loan) 4 (0)
2012–2014 Watford 76 (0)
Total 328 (0)
* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only

He competed mainly in the Spanish lower leagues in his early years, only appearing in 26 La Liga games over the course of two seasons with Recreativo and Albacete, after starting out at Osasuna.

Most of his professional career was spent with Arsenal, for which he signed in 2004, going on to play 175 official matches and winning the 2005 FA Cup.[4] He also had a short loan spell at West Ham United.

In 2012, after his contract expired, Almunia joined Watford and played there for two years, following which he retired on medical advice.

Club careerEdit

Early careerEdit

Born in Pamplona, Navarre, Almunia started his senior career with CA Osasuna's reserves in 1995, going on to spend four seasons with the team in Segunda División B. Subsequently, he stayed in the same level, where he represented FC Cartagonova and CE Sabadell FC.

In the summer of 2001, Almunia first reached La Liga, after signing with RC Celta de Vigo. He never represented the club officially however, being loaned to SD Eibar[5] (where he won the Ricardo Zamora Trophy in Segunda División for the 2001–02 campaign),[6] Recreativo de Huelva[7] and Albacete Balompié, the last two in the top flight.[8]

Playing understudy to José Antonio Luque and César at Recre, Almunia's debut in the Spanish top flight came on 17 November 2002, following a red card to the latter in a 0–3 away loss against Deportivo Alavés.[9] It was one of only two league appearances during the season, as the Andalusians suffered relegation after ranking 18th.

At Albacete Balompié, Almunia started as backup to Carlos Roa. However, after the Argentine came down with illness he became first-choice,[10] going on to help his team easily escape relegation through a 14th-place finish;[11] his first league appearance was on 9 November 2003, in a 0–1 home defeat to Málaga CF as Roa was suspended.[12]

ArsenalEdit

Almunia joined Arsenal on 14 July 2004 for an undisclosed sum, to provide backup to Jens Lehmann.[13] He made his debut for his new team on 27 October in a 2–1 win at Manchester City for the season's League Cup,[14] and his maiden Premier League appearance came on 4 December against Birmingham City;[15] the highlight of his first year came in the fifth round of the FA Cup, a replay at Sheffield United: with the game finishing 0–0 after extra time and heading to penalties, he saved Alan Quinn and Jon Harley's attempts to book his team a place in the quarter-finals,[16] and was an unused substitute in the final win over Manchester United.

In the 2005–06 campaign, Almunia continued as second-choice to Lehmann, but found himself thrust into the spotlight when he replaced Robert Pirès in the 20th minute of the final of the UEFA Champions League against FC Barcelona, as the German was sent off. He performed well for the most part, only conceding both goals in the 1–2 loss late in the game.[17]

2006–07 brought Almunia 14 appearances in all competitions. This included the League Cup final, lost to Chelsea.[18] He and Lehmann were by all accounts rivals off the pitch as well. In an interview with German television in October 2007, speaking about manager Arsène Wenger's decision to drop him in favour of the Spaniard, Lehmann said: “It’s possible that some day I’ll feel like talking about the whole issue. But at the moment I’m just swallowing it all as part of the humiliation. But I think – and this is aimed at my dear manager – one shouldn’t humiliate players for too long. I won’t just fade away quietly. Almunia has not yet showed he can win matches for us. I’ve experienced this before and know what the others are expecting from the goalkeeper.” Five months later, Almunia responded: “I treat people the way I would like to be treated myself. To have someone here who hates me is just amazing. Every morning I wake up I know it is going to be the same. But I don’t care any more. I come into training and work with Łukasz Fabiański and Vito Mannone. They are better than him anyway.”[19]

Almunia finally won the battle for first-choice duties in the 2007–08 season. Highlights included saving a penalty from Robbie Keane to help Arsenal beat Tottenham Hotspur 2–1.[20] He was given the number one shirt after Lehmann left for VfB Stuttgart at the beginning of the 2008–09 campaign, and he saved another important penalty on 21 March 2009, this time from Newcastle United's Obafemi Martins in a 3–1 victory.[21] In June 2008 he signed a new four-year contract with the English club,[22] but his subsequent performances were highly inconsistent, with brilliant displays in the Champions League semi-final first leg against Manchester United[23] and the 2010 Champions League quarter-finals against Barcelona,[24] and poorly received ones which resulted in rumours arising that he would be sold.[25]

 
Almunia warming up for Arsenal in 2006

Despite the speculation, Almunia started 2010–11 as first-choice. However, on 25 September against West Bromwich Albion, he conceded a penalty (which he saved), let a weak shot slip through the near post and was caught out of position in the opposition's third goal;[26] he lost his place through injury and, upon his return, found himself third-choice behind the Polish duo of Fabiański and Wojciech Szczęsny.

Almunia made a return to the team on 30 January 2011 against Huddersfield Town in the FA Cup,[27] and went on to play both games in the next round against Leyton Orient.[28][29] On 8 March, he came on as a 19th-minute substitute for the injured Szczęsny against Barcelona in the UEFA Champions League last-16 stage, and made a series of saves as Arsenal lost 1–3 at the Camp Nou to exit the tournament, 3–4 on aggregate; he was voted man of the match by fans on the club's official website.[30]

With Szczęsny (dislocated finger), Fabianski (shoulder) and Mannone all out with injury, Almunia again became Arsenal's first-choice. On 19 March, during a 2–2 draw at West Bromwich, he was caught out of position along with Sébastien Squillaci, gifting the home team their second goal;[31] already with Lehmann back in the club as an emergency signing, he injured his knee during warm-up of the fixture against Blackpool,[32] and did not appear in any more matches for the rest of the season.

On 30 September 2011, Almunia signed an initial one-month emergency loan deal with Championship club West Ham United after Robert Green was ruled out for six weeks with a knee cartilage injury.[33] He made his debut for the Hammers on 1 October in a 2–2 away draw against Crystal Palace[34] but, at the end of October and with Green's return to fitness, he returned to Arsenal.[35]

On 22 May 2012, Arsenal announced that Almunia and six other players would be released from their contracts as of 30 June.[36]

WatfordEdit

In July 2012, aged 35, Almunia signed a one-year contract with Championship's Watford, replacing Scott Loach who had moved to Ipswich Town.[37] He played his first game on 11 August in a League Cup tie at home to Wycombe Wanderers, and kept a clean sheet.[38]

Having appeared in all thirty four of Watford's league games, Almunia injured his hamstring against Derby County on 23 February 2013. He missed the next six contests as youngster Jonathan Bond deputised in his absence,[39] returning in a 0–0 home draw against Cardiff City on 6 April 2013.[40]

On 12 May 2013, in the play-off semi-final second leg at home to Leicester City, Almunia made a double save from Anthony Knockaert's penalty in injury time, with Watford leading 2–1 but still level on aggregate. The Watford counter-attacked from the resulting saves and Troy Deeney's goal to put his team in the decisive match against Crystal Palace, where a Kevin Phillips penalty in extra time resulted in a 0–1 loss.[41]

Watford announced that Almunia had signed a new twelve-month deal on 5 July 2013, to keep him at the club for one further season. Manager Gianfranco Zola commented: "His experience and influence are so important for us and the impact he had at Watford last season was magnificent."[42] He left in June of the following year, as his link expired.[43]

Almunia retired on 28 August 2014 on medical advice, after a rare heart condition was picked up during a medical with Serie A side Cagliari Calcio.[44]

International careerEdit

Almunia did not represent Spain at any level. He stated on more than one occasion his desire to play for England, only provided that he did not receive a call-up from his nation of birth first.[45][46]

Personal lifeEdit

Almunia, whose brother served in the United Nations Peacekeeping Operations in Kosovo, has an interest in the Second World War and regularly visited sites associated with the conflict before European games with Arsenal.[47][48][49]

Club statisticsEdit

Source:[2][50]
Club Season League FA Cup League Cup Other Total
Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals
Osasuna 1998–99 0 0 4 0 - 0 0 4 0
Cartagonova 1999–2000 3 0 0 0 - - 3 0
Sabadell 2000–01 29 0 0 0 - - 29 0
Eibar 2001–02 35 0 0 0 - - 35 0
Recreativo 2002–03 2 0 1 0 - - 3 0
Albacete 2003–04 24 0 1 0 - - 25 0
Spain total 93 0 6 0 0 0 0 0 99 0
Arsenal 2004–05 10 0 2 0 3 0 1[a] 0 16 0
2005–06 0 0 2 0 5 0 6[a] 0 13 0
2006–07 1 0 5 0 6 0 2[a] 0 14 0
2007–08 29 0 0 0 0 0 9[a] 0 38 0
2008–09 32 0 0 0 0 0 12[a] 0 44 0
2009–10 29 0 0 0 0 0 7[a] 0 36 0
2010–11 8 0 4 0 0 0 2[a] 0 14 0
Arsenal total 109 0 13 0 14 0 39 0 175 0
West Ham United 2011–12 4 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 4 0
Watford 2012–13 39 0 0 0 1 0 3[b] 0 43 0
2013–14 37 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 38 0
Watford total 76 0 1 0 1 0 3 0 81 0
Career total[c] 328 0 20 0 15 0 42 0 405 0
  1. ^ a b c d e f g Appearance(s) in UEFA Champions League
  2. ^ Appearance(s) in Football League play-offs
  3. ^ Almunia played 46 times for Osasuna B between 1995 and 1999, but this is not listed in the table above. This means he appeared in 328 league games in his career as opposed to 282 as listed before, and 405 in all competitions.

HonoursEdit

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ "List of players under written contract registered between 01/09/2011 and 30/09/2011" (PDF). The Football Association. Archived from the original (PDF) on 28 April 2012. Retrieved 5 October 2012.
  2. ^ a b Manuel Almunia at Soccerbase  
  3. ^ "Manuel Almunia". Barry Hugman's Footballers. Retrieved 27 July 2019.
  4. ^ Okike, Tony (24 April 2012). "Tribute to Arsenal's Manuel Rivero Almunia: Loyalty against all odds". Bleacher Report. Retrieved 12 August 2019.
  5. ^ Mínguez, Antonio (30 July 2001). "La cesión de Boban empieza a tomar cuerpo" [Boban loan starting to gain shape]. Mundo Deportivo (in Spanish). Retrieved 2 June 2014.
  6. ^ Muntané, Eduard (27 May 2002). "Liga a la baja" [League on the low]. Mundo Deportivo (in Spanish). Retrieved 2 June 2014.
  7. ^ Izquierdo, David (7 July 2002). "Guerrero, muy cerca del Recreativo de Huelva" [Guerrero, very close to Recreativo de Huelva]. Mundo Deportivo (in Spanish). Retrieved 2 June 2014.
  8. ^ Líbero, Pedro (23 July 2003). "El Albacete se interesa por Jordi Cruyff y Almunia llega cedido" [Albacete ask about Jordi Cruyff and Almunia arrives on loan]. Mundo Deportivo (in Spanish). Retrieved 2 June 2014.
  9. ^ Gil, Felipe (18 November 2002). "Baño de autoconfianza" [Bathing in self-confidence]. Mundo Deportivo (in Spanish). Retrieved 2 June 2014.
  10. ^ Fonseca, Joseba (22 December 2003). "Lacruz y Prieto, con problemas gástricos" [Lacruz and Prieto, with gastric problems]. Mundo Deportivo (in Spanish). Retrieved 2 June 2014.
  11. ^ Urrutia, Carlos (24 May 2004). "El Valencia va de fiesta en fiesta" [Valencia cannot stop partying]. Mundo Deportivo (in Spanish). Retrieved 2 June 2014.
  12. ^ Muntané, Eduard (10 November 2003). "Mal partido en el Carlos Belmonte" [Poor match at the Carlos Belmonte]. Mundo Deportivo (in Spanish). Retrieved 2 June 2014.
  13. ^ "Almunia joins Arsenal". BBC Sport. 14 July 2004. Retrieved 29 May 2007.
  14. ^ "Man City 1–2 Arsenal". BBC Sport. 27 October 2004. Retrieved 2 August 2012.
  15. ^ "Arsenal 3–0 Birmingham". BBC Sport. 4 December 2004. Retrieved 2 August 2012.
  16. ^ "Sheff Utd 0–0 Arsenal (aet)". BBC Sport. 1 March 2005. Retrieved 2 August 2012.
  17. ^ a b "Barcelona 2–1 Arsenal". BBC Sport. 17 May 2006. Retrieved 27 July 2019.
  18. ^ a b "Chelsea 2–1 Arsenal". BBC Sport. 25 February 2007. Archived from the original on 7 November 2007. Retrieved 26 July 2019.
  19. ^ The Arsenal Companion (2nd ed) – Paul Donnelley (Pitch Publishing 2011)
  20. ^ McNulty, Phil (22 December 2007). "Arsenal 2–1 Tottenham". BBC Sport. Retrieved 26 November 2013.
  21. ^ Hassan, Nabil (21 March 2009). "Newcastle 1–3 Arsenal". BBC Sport. Retrieved 26 November 2013.
  22. ^ "Almunia agrees Arsenal deal". Sky Sports. 3 June 2008. Retrieved 12 August 2009.
  23. ^ McNulty, Phil (29 April 2009). "Man Utd 1–0 Arsenal". BBC Sport. Retrieved 30 September 2011.
  24. ^ "Arsenal 2–2 Barcelona". Arsenal F.C. 31 March 2010. Retrieved 3 June 2014.
  25. ^ "Arsenal set to move for Udinese goalkeeper Samir Handanovic". Goal. 9 July 2010. Retrieved 10 July 2010.
  26. ^ Roopanarine, Les (25 September 2010). "Arsenal 2–3 West Brom". BBC Sport. Retrieved 26 September 2010.
  27. ^ Darling, Kevin (30 January 2011). "Arsenal 2–1 Huddersfield". BBC Sport. Retrieved 19 June 2018.
  28. ^ Bevan, Chris (20 February 2011). "Leyton Orient 1–1 Arsenal". BBC Sport. Retrieved 19 June 2018.
  29. ^ Whyatt, Chris (2 March 2011). "Arsenal 5–0 Leyton Orient". BBC Sport. Retrieved 19 June 2018.
  30. ^ "Man of the Match against Barcelona – Almunia". Arsenal F.C. 8 March 2011. Archived from the original on 4 February 2014. Retrieved 3 June 2014.
  31. ^ Medlicott, Phil (19 March 2011). "Almunia error dents Gunners title aspirations". The Independent. Retrieved 19 June 2018.
  32. ^ "Arsenal enjoy day out at the seaside". The Irish Times. 10 April 2011. Retrieved 19 June 2018.
  33. ^ O'Rourke, Pete (30 September 2011). "Hammers land Almunia on loan". Sky Sports. Retrieved 12 August 2019.
  34. ^ Montgomery, Alex (1 October 2011). "Crystal Palace 2 West Ham 2: Sub Carew to the rescue for Hammers". Daily Mail. London. Retrieved 1 October 2011.
  35. ^ "Almunia returns to Arsenal". Sky Sports. 31 October 2011. Retrieved 7 November 2011.
  36. ^ "Almunia released". ESPN Soccernet. 22 May 2012. Retrieved 22 May 2012.
  37. ^ "Official: Hornets delighted with a magnificent seven signings". Watford F.C. 30 July 2012. Archived from the original on 2 August 2012. Retrieved 30 July 2012.
  38. ^ "Watford 1–0 Wycombe". BBC Sport. 11 August 2012. Retrieved 3 June 2014.
  39. ^ "Watford keeper given protective mask for play-offs". BBC Sport. 8 May 2013. Retrieved 19 June 2018.
  40. ^ "Reaction: "Happy with clean sheet"". Watford F.C. 7 April 2013. Archived from the original on 6 June 2014. Retrieved 3 June 2014.
  41. ^ Sanghera, Mandeep (15 May 2013). "Watford 3–1 Leicester (agg 3–2)". BBC Sport. Retrieved 15 May 2013.
  42. ^ "Watford goalkeeper Manuel Almunia signs new one-year contract". Sky Sports. 6 July 2013. Retrieved 8 July 2013.
  43. ^ "Manuel Almunia: Watford goalkeeper among departures". BBC Sport. 4 June 2014. Retrieved 19 June 2018.
  44. ^ "Manuel Almunia: Ex-Arsenal keeper retires with heart problem". BBC Sport. 28 August 2014. Retrieved 28 August 2014.
  45. ^ "Almunia eyes international call". Sky Sports. 16 January 2008. Retrieved 12 August 2019.
  46. ^ Silván, Nacho (1 May 2009). "Wenger pide a Capello que cite a Almunia" [Wenger asks Capello to call Almunia]. Marca (in Spanish). Retrieved 2 June 2014.
  47. ^ "History buff Almunia can't wait to return to the battlefields of Europe". Evening Standard. 17 September 2008. Retrieved 9 January 2019.
  48. ^ Pentol, Andrew (19 September 2008). "Arsenal star moved by Holocaust tale". The Jewish Chronicle. Retrieved 9 January 2019.
  49. ^ "My Secret Passion: Manuel Almunia". English Football League. 14 February 2013. Retrieved 9 January 2019.
  50. ^ "Almunia: Manuel Almunia Rivero". BDFutbol. Retrieved 14 February 2014.
  51. ^ "Arsenal 3–1 Man Utd". BBC Sport. 8 August 2004. Retrieved 27 July 2019.
  52. ^ "Arsenal 0–0 Man Utd (aet)". BBC Sport. 21 May 2005. Retrieved 27 July 2019.
  53. ^ McNulty, Philip (27 February 2011). "Arsenal 1–2 Birmingham". BBC Sport. Retrieved 27 July 2019.
  54. ^ "La temporada en números" [The season in numbers] (in Spanish). SD Eibar. 11 June 2014. Retrieved 12 August 2019.

External linksEdit