Date: 12 May 2017 03:03
The Seagulls shot-stopper is just one name to be linked with the west London club as they look to replace the out-going Asmir Begovic
"My future will be decided at the end of the season," Chelsea goalkeeper Asmir Begovic told Sky Sports this week. "We're preoccupied chasing two trophies, nothing else really matters besides that. Everything else will sort itself out."
Conte expecting Chelsea stay
The Bosnia-Herzegovina international has been restricted to just one Premier League start under Antonio Conte this season. While his words mirror an unexcitable exterior, Begovic — a goalkeeper with almost a decade of experience in the English top tier — will almost certainly leave Stamford Bridge this summer.
Begovic is fancied as one of the most talented and professional goalkeepers in the Premier League, and far too valuable to settle for a No.2 slot. His status as back-up is through no fault of his own — Thibaut Courtois is one of the finest in Europe. As speculation surrounding the future of both continues, a re-shuffle over the close-season now looks inevitable.
The search for a goalkeeper strong enough to be called upon if needed — yet content as second choice — has led Conte to a number of options, with Brighton & Hove Albion starter David Stockdale thought to be one of them.
The 31-year-old sees his current deal with the newly promoted Seagulls expire in June, and though Goal understandsan improved extension has been tabled to retain his services after an initial deal was turned down, a switch back to west London may be too lucrative for the former Fulham keeper to dismiss.
Stockdale registered 20 clean sheets this season, more than any other goalkeeper in the top four English divisions. In turn, he was named in the Championship Team of the Year and was a decisive part of Brighton's promotion to the top flight for the first time in 34 years. Should he opt to leave the south coast next month, however, then his final moments in an Albion shirt will be bitter-sweet.
Following the club's title-clinching victory against Wigan in April, they squandered three opportunities to secure the Championship title. Following a number of fine stops on the final day against Aston Villa, it was an error by Stockdale in the 89th minute that led to Newcastle United officially being named as champions. The draw at Villa Park did little to sour the taste of promotion for Albion fans, however, who hold Stockdale in the highest regards.
Gutted to go out like that. Big thank you to all my teammates and staff. @BenJamesRoberts for everything. Thank you to all the fans— David Stockdale (@stockogk1313) May 8, 2017
Stockdale joined the Seagulls from Fulham in 2014, signing a three-year deal. He does, then, have Premier League experience, albeit scattered across a number of seasons as second-choice for the Cottagers until his final season at Craven Cottage, in which he made 21 appearances.
Chelsea were said to be interested in agreeing a deal for Stockdale in January following a failed bid for Celtic's Craig Gordon, as Begovic pushed for a move to Eddie Howe's Bournemouth. Neither transfer materialised, however, and plans were forcibly put on hold.
Albion boss Chris Hughton does not want to lose Stockdale, neither do the fans. However, interest in arguably the finest goalkeeper outside the Premier League was expected to be high, even moreso due to his contract status.
You'll be pushed to find a better goalkeeper with more spectacular distribution than Stockdale. Kicking is a major part of the 31-year-old's game, with fans frequently enjoying long, but unusually accurate, through-balls from their goalkeeper.
What can we expect from Brighton?
Stockdale's leadership is something which transmits to his team-mates, and he has also been praised for his penalty-stopping. Only Preston goalkeeper Chris Maxwell has saved more spot-kicks than Stockdale this season, while the latter's double stop from the spot against Sheffield Wednesday in Albion's 2-1 victory in January was seen as a turning point for the club's campaign.
Stockdale has made a number of individual errors over the campaign, not least the one leading to Jack Grealish's leveller on the final day of the season. Stockdale has been criticised for his inability to dominate certain situations, while a number of meek claims from crosses have caused problems for his defensive team-mates at times.
There is no doubting that Stockdale earned Hughton's men more points than he lost in the season, however, and without his presence the Seagulls may very well have been preparing for the upcoming play-offs.
Stockdale has everything in place to secure hero status at Brighton, though those affiliated with the club will hold no grudge should he decide to move on. Stockdale has unquestionably earned his place as a Premier League goalkeeper once again and will be looking to fight his way into England contention. For that, though, he will need to be playing regular football, something which Hughton can offer.
Crystal Palace, Watford and boyhood club Leeds are also said to be chasing his signature — all of whom would make more sense than a switch to Chelsea in terms of game time. Brighton fans, though, will be hoping he remains in Sussex.