Competition for places has been a burning issue ever since clubs began to have larger squads. For some players, it serves as an extra source of motivation, while for others, it can signify a spell on the substitutes' bench.
When talented players also have strong personalities, competition can often turn into rivalry, and nowhere more so than for the goalkeeper's jersey. FIFA.com takes a look at some of the more striking examples of where two into one simply would not go.
In any team, there are ten outfield positions to occupy but just a single goalkeeping one. The number one jersey has always been one of the most coveted at club and international level, and it stands to reason that the better the team is, the fiercer the competition will be.
This season has seen one of the most stylish footballing clubs in Europe plunged into goalkeeping controversy. Arsenal sit proudly atop the English Premier League, but not everyone is happy with this situation. Quite apart from the likes of Chelsea and Liverpool who are struggling to keep pace with the Gunners, there is Jens Lehmann - the former first-choice keeper who is currently kicking his heels on the bench. The German got off to a rocky start at the beginning of the season and soon found himself on the outside looking in as Spain's Manuel Almunia took his spot.
Germany 1-1 Spain
At the age of 38 and with the UEFA Euro 2008 getting ever nearer, the German international is nevertheless managing to remain positive, despite not relishing his current status as back-up keeper. "I know that I'm going to play again," the former Schalke and Borussia Dortmund custodian said. "I've been in this situation before and I know how the number one choice reacts to it as well. It can't help his confidence."
This fierce competition has resulted in all contact between Lehmann and Almunia being kept to the strict minimum, as the Spaniard explains: "We keep our distance, there's no real dialogue." The atmosphere may be tense in north London, but the results on the pitch are more than enough to make up for this, with the Gunners top of the Premier League and still involved in the UEFA Champions League, FA Cup and League Cup.
There seems to be something about goalkeeping that brings out German-Spanish rivalry, with Santiago Canizares and Timo Hildebrand in a similar situation at Valencia. Hildebrand won the Bundesliga title with VfB Stuttgart and though he joined the Spanish club as second choice, he soon replaced veteran Canizares after the latter's performances dipped. "It's not an easy situation to be in, but you have to keep on believing in yourself," said Hildebrand. "I think I've played well whenever I've been called upon and I haven't made any real mistakes."
Canizares, who has fallen out of favour under Ronald Koeman, knows all about competition, having been in the same squad as legendary custodian Paco Buyo while at Real Madrid. "When I was transferred from Celta Vigo, I soon found out that to be a success at the highest level, you need to have character," the Spanish international recalled. "In football, it's not necessarily the best players who make it to the top but the ones who are the most professional, so I decided that I'd be a model pro." Canete, as he is known, already put this motto into practice when he joined Valencia, spending his early years as Andres Palop's understudy.
Klinsmann's Kahn snub
Palop, who is currently first choice keeper at Sevilla, found out at an early stage in his career that rivalry can also be friendly and filled with mutual respect. Back in 1995, when he made his debut in goal for Valencia, he found five brand new pairs of gloves waiting for him in the dressing room after the match courtesy of the man he had replaced in goal, Andoni Zubizarreta.
Oliver Kahn on the other hand was probably less inclined to hand out gifts upon hearing that coach Jurgen Klinsmann intended to play Lehmann in goal for the Mannschaft at the 2006 FIFA World Cup™ in his native Germany. However, the legendary Bayern Munich stopper, who has since hung up his gloves, decided that the interests of his country should come first and was a model team-mate throughout the competition.
The host nation finished third at their home tournament, with Lehmann pulling out all the stops in the quarter-final win over Argentina, while Kahn signed off in style, winning his 56th and final cap in the third-place match against Portugal. 'King Kahn' still had to have the last word of course. "If I'd have been in goal, Germany would have got further in the competition," said the keeper a few months after the tournament.
Entente far from cordiale
Had Germany got further in the competition as Kahn suggested, then they would have faced France in the Final. Raymond Domenech's men experienced their own keeper controversy in the build-up to Germany 2006. In one corner was Fabien Barthez, winner of the 1998 FIFA World Cup and UEFA European Championship in 2000 and indisputable number one until he incurred a lengthy ban for spitting at a referee in 2005. In the other there was Gregory Coupet, who had always rose to the occasion whenever Les Bleus called upon him and was an integral part in Lyon's incredible run of success in Ligue 1.
Coupet would have been most observers' choice, but Domenech decided not to change a winning team. The Lyon keeper found it tough to come to terms with the verdict, but again the coach's decision initially seemed to have been justified as the eccentric, shaven-headed Barthez helped the team through to the Berlin Final. However, given France's subsquent loss to Italy on penalties in the decider, it has been argued in hindsight that Coupet might have been more suited to the task.
Rivalry among goalkeepers is by no means a new phenomenon. In the 1970s, a number of countries witnessed a clash of the titans in the quest for the number one jersey. Argentina had Hugo Gatti and Ubaldo Fillol to choose from as the 1978 FIFA World Cup on home soil approached. To add even more fuel to the flame, El Loco Gatti was at Boca Juniors while El Pato Fillol played for arch-rivals River Plate. Cesar Luis Menotti finally opted for Fillol, who would go on to raise aloft the trophy while Gatti was at home with an injured knee.
This incident went down in the Argentinian footballing annals as the "excusa de la rodilla" - the knee excuse - and debate still rages to this day. "Menotti chose me so El Loco said he was injured," proclaimed Fillol. "It was nothing but an excuse." "The truth is I injured my knee," replied Gatti. "I was the undisputed number one in 1978. If I hadn't have got injured, Fillol would have been on the bench."
Shilton tended to be the one preferred for the big occasions and ended up becoming the most-capped player in England's history with 125 appearances. Clemence, however, was not one to bear a grudge. "Peter and I used to room together when England were playing," recalled the former Liverpool and Tottenham keeper who himself won some 61 caps. "There was a great understanding between us and in a certain sense, the rivalry spurred us on to greater heights."
Clemence and Shilton were brothers in arms at the 1982 FIFA World Cup, as were Victor and Vyacheslav Chanov of the USSR, who became the only ever siblings to appear as goalkeepers in the same FIFA World Cup squad. As it transpired, however, there was to be no fraternal showdown as Rinat Dasaev, first-choice in the Soviet goal for over a decade, played every match.