Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini was criticised by many pundits ahead of the final of the Capital One Cup at Wembley for choosing Argentine goalkeeper Willy Caballero ahead of his number one shot-stopper, Joe Hart, for the tie against Liverpool.
Caballero had been in goal a week earlier for City’s 5-1 defeat away to Chelsea in the FA Cup where Pellegrini named a weakened team which included many of his youngsters as he felt the game fell too soon before an important Champions League tie away in Kiev. The 34-year-old was criticised for a number of mistakes in that game as Chelsea breezed into the quarter-final of the competition.
Despite the call for pundits and some fans to recall Hart for the Capital One Cup final, Pellegrini remained loyal to Caballero who had played in every round of the League Cup in the run up to the final and this loyalty was rewarded as Caballero proved the hero for City during a penalty shoot-out where he saved three spot-kicks in their win.
Caballero moved to Manchester City in July 2014 where he was signed by his former Malaga boss, Pellegrini, for a fee thought to be in the region of £6million. During his two-year spell at the club, he has had to settle for the number-two role as Hart has excelled between the sticks, rarely giving the Argentine a chance to earn the position.
But Caballero has been given opportunities in the two domestic cups in England and proved why his manger still had faith in him as he was not only superb during the shoot-out, he also kept his side in the game as he pulled off a couple of crucial saves near the end of the regular 90 minutes to ensure the final went into extra-time.
With Pellegrini’s pending exit in the summer, the future of Caballero now looks to be away from the Etihad Stadium. It was therefore crucial he took his chance in the final to convince other clubs around Europe that he is worth taking a chance on at the end of the campaign.
Caballero’s destination next season could be in Italy as Juventus and AC Milan have both been linked with the player. He could therefore be joining the Italian champions as Juventus are at the time of writing at 1/2 in the Serie A betting to win the title.
The final at Wembley could well be the Argentine’s final game for the club as Pellegrini is unlikely to change Hart for their Premier League run in where they are chasing leaders Leicester in the league standings, while in the Champions League, he has also opted to play the Englishman.
Pellegrini will be delighted with the confidence his number two goalkeeper would have gained in the Capital One Cup final and he knows that if Hart did pick up an injury at any time in the remainder of the 2015/16 season or if a suspension kicked in, he could rely on Caballero to step into the starting XI.