Giorgi Mamardashvili – The Georgian shot-stopper fighting to keep Valencia in La Liga by Shay Hicks
Name – Giorgi Mamardashvili/გიორგი მამარდაშვილი
Nationality – Georgian
D.O.B – 29.09.2000 (22 years old)
Height – 197cm (6’5.5″)
Strong foot – Left
Current Club – Valencia CF
Position – Goalkeeper
Value – ~£22.0m (via Transfermarkt)
If you ask any football fan who comes to mind when they think of Georgian talents, the first name they think of will be Khvicha Kvaratskhelia, and for good reason. The young winger, dubbed ‘Kvaradona’ by Napoli fans, has destroyed Serie A defenses and become a household name over the course of the 2022/23 season. However, besides Khvicha, there are plenty of young Georgians who are ready to break out and become stars across Europe. In this report I will be looking at arguably the most promising Georgian player outside of Naples, the towering goalkeeper Giorgi Mamardashvili, who is currently defying all expectations and has become one of the most sought-after keepers in Europe this season.
Born and raised in the Georgian capital city of Tbilisi, Giorgi would start his young career with local side FC Gagra, where his father and former professional player David works as a goalkeeper coach to this day. He was a standout player even from a young age, earning the honour of ‘best goalkeeper’ at a local youth tournament in October 2010. Soon after, Giorgi would join the academy of Dinamo Tbilisi. The first recorded instance of Giorgi’s involvement with Dinamo is in the summer of 2013, when he attended an u-13 youth tournament in St. Petersburg, Russia. Giorgi would enjoy immediate success as a teenager, featuring mainly as a substitute as his side won the tournament with huge victories in 2 of their 3 group stage games, a 3-1 victory over Dinamo Kyiv in the semi-final and a 3-2 win over Dynamo Moscow in the final. This Tbilisi youth side was full of future professionals, with players such as Gent attacking midfielder Giorgi Chakvetadze (currently on loan at Slovan Bratislava), PAOK defensive midfielder Nika Ninua, Newcastle Jets midfielder Beka Dartsmelia and Dinamo Batumi left winger Zuriko Davitashvili (currently on loan at Bordeaux) all appearing at the tournament.
Giorgi would quickly work his way through the Dinamo youth teams, eventually becoming a regular starter for the u-15 side and occasionally featuring alongside Napoli star Khvicha Kvaratskhelia. They would both go on to compete in the Dinamo Tbilisi B-side in the first ever Vitali Daraselia International Youth tournament, eventually earning a 5th-place finish thanks to Giorgi saving the decisive penalty in the penalty shootout of a 5th-place playoff against Lechia Gdańsk. After the tournament, Dinamo’s u-15 side would experience their own success just a few months later, winning the final of their youth league with a penalty shootout victory over Saburtalo. Again, Mamardashvili would prove to be up to the challenge when the pressure was on, saving 3 of Saburtalo’s penalties. Giorgi’s penalty heroics would help him to earn his first international recognition, earning a call up to the Georgian u-17 squad for two friendly matches against Azerbaijan.
Mamardashvili would continue his successes with the Tbilisi youth sides, pushing his side to a third-placed finish in the 2016 Sheriff Cup (hosted by Sheriff Tiraspol in Moldova). Yet again, Giorgi would prove to be a great penalty saver, managing to save yet another one in a 3-0 victory over Zenit as they secured the bronze medal. Giorgi’s performances would clearly continue to impress his national side, as he was called up to his first Georgian u-19 squads in early 2017. Later that year, Mamardashvili would experience even more success, winning the u-17 Golden League with a final day victory over second-place finishers FC Zestafoni. Shortly after this success, and with Tbilisi’s u-19 already securing the top spot in their league, Mamardashvili would earn his first minutes for the u-19 side. To sum it up, to say that Giorgi had a very successful youth career with Dinamo Tbilisi would be an understatement.
Giorgi’s solid performances and penalty-saving antics would not go unnoticed by senior management, with Giorgi attending multiple winter camps with the senior squad in Turkey in early 2018. He would be named as a substitute on 13 occasions throughout the 2018 season, although naturally as a goalkeeper, he wouldn’t make a single appearance off the bench.
With the arrival of goalkeeper Stefan Sicaci alongside Tbilisi already having established backup keepers, Mamardashvili was loaned out to FC Rustavi for the 2019 season. As the youngest club in the Erovnuli Liga (they were only formed 4 years prior to this season in 2015), Rustavi would struggle throughout the season, but Giorgi would still manage to start 28 games and keep 7 clean sheets as his side reached a 9th place finish. This would force them into a two-legged promotion play-off with Erovnuli Liga 2 runners-up FC Telavi. Unfortunately, in one start and one substitute appearance, Giorgi would be unable to help his side to retain their status as an Erovnuli side, with his team losing 3-1 on aggregate. Giorgi’s performances for Rustavi would subsequently earn him his first call-up to the Georgian u-21 squad, making the bench for 3 separate European U-21 Championship qualifying games.
Whilst Mamardashvili’s next loan move would see a decline in his game time due to the pandemic cutting the league short, he did have the added bonus of playing in a much more successful side in fellow capital city club Locomotive Tbilisi. Whilst nowadays the club is fighting to regain it’s Erovnuli Liga status after being relegated in the disastrous 2022 season, the 2020 season would see Locomotive and Giorgi secure a very respectable 4th-placed league finish, as well as an exciting run to the final of the Georgian cup, where they would unfortunately lose 3-1 to FC Saburtalo. On a personal level, Giorgi would have a particularly good year, conceding 11 and keeping 4 clean sheets in 11 league games. He would also be handed his first Georgian u-20 cap, although it would be a debut to remember as Giorgi would be sent off on the stroke of half time.
After his impressive performances in the previous season, Locomotive and Giorgi both agreed to extend his loan move to the club for the 2021 season. His first matches of the season would come in the Europa League qualifying stages, and whilst Locomotive would somewhat defy expectations with back-to-back wins over Romania’s SC U. Craiova and Russia’s Dynamo Moscow in the first two rounds, their European story would ultimately end with a 2-0 loss to Granada in the third qualifying round. Back to the Erovnuli Liga, Mamardashvili would start every single game he was eligible to play in, only missing Locomotives’ two games against his parent club. Whilst he would only manage two clean sheets, Giorgi’s impressive performances still helped Locomotive to secure a fifth-placed finish in the league, narrowly missing out on a European Conference League qualifying spot by 4 points.
Giorgi’s impressive shot-stopping exploits had not gone unnoticed by clubs across Europe, La Liga side Valencia were the first side to jump at the chance to secure his services for the 2021/22 season. He would initially join the youth squad, but would quickly prove his worth and force his way into the first-team squad. Whilst most young goalkeepers would struggle to force their way past experienced keepers such as Jasper Cillessen and Jaume Doménech, Giorgi took his opportunity with both hands and was eventually named the starter in Valencia’s first game of the season.
Giorgi performed well, managing an impressive clean sheet in a 1-0 win over Getafe. Giorgi would keep one more clean sheet in August in a victory over Alavés before being handed his first senior cap for Georgia in September. Sadly, it would be another international debut to forget for Mamardashvili, conceding 4 in a heavy defeat to Bulgaria. On his return to La Liga he would start 3 games, before being dropped in favour of Cillessen after a 3-1 loss to Sevilla. Giorgi would have to wait until February to regain his position in the starting 11, starting the vast majority of Valencia’s remaining league and cup matches. Their La Liga campaign may have ended with a fairly mediocre 9th-place finish, but their form would be much better in the Copa del Rey. Giorgi would step in and help his side to overcome Athletic Club in the semi-finals, before losing the final to Real Betis on penalties. Overall it was a difficult season for Giorgi, but Valencia were clearly impressed by the young keeper. Despite having a full season to make their decision, they chose to take up the buy option on the loan move, announcing they had signed Giorgi to a contract until 2024 with a club option for a further year on 31st December.
The current 2022/23 season has seen Giorgi become one of the most sought-after young goalkeepers on the planet. With the aging Cillessen leaving Spain to join NEC Nijmegen in the summer, it was clear that the plan was to name Giorgi as the permanent first-choice keeper. This decision came along with a healthy new contract for Giorgi in September, signing a much-improved deal to stay with the club until 2027 despite only signing his existing deal 9 months beforehand. Valencia were smart to extend his contract however, as it allowed them to raise Giorgi’s buyout clause to a hefty £88 million amid reported interest from other clubs. His performances have continued to improve by keeping 5 clean sheets in 26 games this season. Despite his efforts, Valencia are still struggling, currently sitting in the relegation zone and with no guarantee that they will survive this season. Behind the scenes they are also a complete mess, with financial issues and poor decision-making from the board and owners pushing the fans to their limit. He is only one man, but Giorgi will have to continue to bring his absolute best every single match to keep Valencia from an absolute disaster.
For this section of the report I will be analysing Mamardashvili’s performances against Getafe (20.02.23), Real Sociedad (25.02.23), Barcelona (05.03.23), Osasuna (11.03.23) and Atlético Madrid (18.03.23).
Giorgi’s goalkeeping ability relies heavily on his lightning-quick reaction times, something that is highlighted regularly by his reflex saves. Here, he drifts acrossto save a potential shot by the Atlético attacker, who smartly decides to square the ball across the 6 yard box instead of shooting himself. A Valencia defender is unable to intercept the passbut makes a good effort to disrupt the shot attempt, but Giorgi still deserves credit belongs as he gets back across goal to save the shot.
Whilst some taller goalkeepers can struggle to save low shots at times, Giorgi is capable of getting down quickly and pushing shots wide. The Atlético attacker finds himself in plenty of space and elects to hit a quick shot towards the bottom left corner of the goal. Giorgi sets his body early, which allows him to make a fairly comfortable save down to his right.
His defence doesn’t always help him, but Giorgi routinely bails them out of difficult scenarios. With an off-ball player making a dangerous run towards the penalty spot, theon-ball Atlético attacker keeps the ball and chooses to run into the box himself. The Valencia defence are caught in two minds, struggling to decide whether to track the run of the off-ball player, run out to challenge the on-ball player, or even to sit back and defend the box. This gives the Atlético attacker a great look at the goal, but Giorgi stays composed and pulls off an impressive save down to his left-hand side as the ball moves away from him.
This is a great example of Giorgi reacting quickly to potential danger and quickly looking to push Valencia to attack. The initial long shot of a Atlético attacker takes multiple reflections and eventually floats towards goal. Giorgi reacts first to get ahead of a potential Wrial battle and claim the high ball. Without hesitating, Giorgi looks for an open man and quickly rolls the ball out to a midfielder, which leads to Valencia catching Atlético off guard and gaining great field position.
Given his large frame, it is no surprise that Giorgi can fight through traffic to punch away crosses from corners. He moves towards the back post and gets to the ball first, managing to get enough power behind his punch to relieve any immediate pressure.
It may not happen very often, but Giorgi will leave his box to defend long balls over the top when necessary. Here, a long through ball ends up causing pressure on the defence, but Giorgi cuts out any potential danger quickly. He does the right thing by aiming his clearance away from the centre of the pitch but stillgets slightly lucky with his header, as a Valencia defender beats an Osasuna attacker to the ball.
His overall distribution still needs work, but Giorgi is still capable of playing accurate long kicks at times. He rolls the ball out in front of him and smashes the ball towards the final third. A Valencia player brings the ball down and they retain possession, but the attack eventually comes to nothing.
Giorgi made an early mistake in this game that lead directly to a Barça goal, but he recovered well and still had a good overall performance. He tracks a looping high ball as it travels into the box, keeping his eyes on the ball at all times. He looks uncomfortable trying to keep the ball out of the path of an oncoming attacker, but just does enough to turn the ball behind for a corner kick.
Personally I think Giorgi’s best saves come from close-range chances, but he is also very comfortable when dealing with long shots. Here a Barça attacker drives a low long shot towards the right corner of the goal, but whilst it does travel through some traffic in the box, Giorgi has a clear enough view to set himself and make a strong save down to his left.
This is another example of Giorgi making a long-range save with slightly limited vision. The Sociedad attacker takes a fairly hopeful shot, driving the ball hard towards the left side of the goal. Giorgi is positioned well to deal with the shot, but still does well to turn the powerful shot away from his goal.
Giorgi’s quick reaction time primarily helps him when dealing with shots from inside the box, but this is an example of how it comes in handy in other scenarios. The Sociedad player attempts a cross, but it is awkwardly redirected towards goal after taking a deflection off a Valencia defender who is attempting to block the cross. He has no time to set himself but still manages to improvise a save and push the ball out for a corner.
This is just one of those saves that Giorgi has no right to make, but still manages to anyway. From a corner a Sociedad player somehow shakes off the Valencia defenders and finds himself in more than enough space to make an attempt at goal. To make things even harder, the shot travels through the legs of a Valencia defender, giving Giorgi a much harder chance of seeing the ball. With limited time to react, Giorgi stretches out and makes an amazing save down to his right-hand side.
A combination of height, strength, focus and composure makes Giorgi very effective when claiming high balls through traffic. A Sociedad player whips a high, curling ball towards the back post. Two Sociedad attackers rush towards the 6 yard box to challenge Giorgi in the air, but he maintains his focus and watches the ball into his hands. He jumps slightly earlier than the Sociedad attackers, allowing him to catch the ball at a higher point and bring it down safely.
The following two examples both happen in the span of around 30 seconds. In this first moment, Giorgi does well here to deal with a driven header at goal. A Getafe attacker hits an early cross into the box towards another attacker, who manages to direct a diving header towards goal. Giorgi stays on his feet and palms the ball out for a corner.
In this second moment, Giorgi combines his reflexes and his athleticism to keep his side level. He does well to push the initial header away, but is only able to push it as far as the edge of the 6 yard box. The ball rebounds off the Getafe player who made the initial header and loops into the air, but Giorgi is then able to leap and secure the ball.
Here, the Getafe attacker has isolated his opposite man and is running towards goal. He feints one way then uses the outside of his foot to flick the ball to the right, just engineering enough space to attempt a shot at goal. Giorgi sets himself and makes a good save down to his left.
The highlighted moments above perfectly showcase some of Giorgi’s best traits. He has brilliant reflexes, can use his larger frame to stretch out and make big saves yet is still strong in areas that other taller keepers struggle with, most notably saving shots aimed towards the bottom corners of the goal. He commands his area well in set pieces, fighting through traffic and claiming high balls safely. He can even distribute the ball fairly well at times, although this is something he is still working to improve. Overall, Giorgi is a very well-rounded goalkeeper for his age and experience level.
Goals conceded: who is to blame?
Goal 1 – Atlético Madrid 1-0 Valencia – Antoine Griezmann:
In the first part of this play, an Atlético attacker plays a forward pass into the path of Antoine Griezmann, catching a Valencia defender off-guard flat-footed in the process. In a moment of genius, Griezmann takes his first touch with the heel of his back foot, catching everyone off guard and knocking the ball into the box. He sets himself nicely for a 1-on-1 finish and sends Giorgi the wrong way, coolly slotting the ball into the net. Verdict: Not his fault, a moment of improvised beauty from Griezmann.
Goal 2 – Atlético Madrid 2-0 Valencia – Yannick Carrasco:
There is a lot to break down here, but essentially a few minor errors add up and lead to Atléti’s second goal. After an initial save from Giorgi (where he rebounds the ball towards an attacker, who is unable to direct the ball towards the net), a Valencia defender attempts to clear the ball. Unfortunately heis slightly off-balance and his clearance falls into the path of another Atlético attacker. The first Valencia defender rushes out to defend the on-ball player, whilst a second defender is unfocused and doesn’t pick up the man stood on the edge of the box in front of him. Whilst these two players play a deadly one-two, the first defender is caught ball-watching and is unable to get back to challenge the attacker effectively. Giorgi doesthe right thing, positioning himself on his near post to defend a potential shot, but Carrasco opens his body up and slots the ball into the far corner of the goal. Verdict: not his fault, a poor clearance combined with an array of minor defensive errors.
Goal 3 – Atlético Madrid 3-0 Valencia – Thomas Lemar:
With his side already 2-0 down Giorgi almost makes a great save, but is ultimately unable to prevent a third goal on a terrible night for Valencia. Initially Álvaro Morata does very well, rather surprisingly making space for himself on the left wing with a smart fake cross. He then swings a ball towards the back post, but his cross goes further back than the Valencia defender marking Thomas Lemar expects, giving him more than enough space to attempt a header at goal. He elects to drive a header low into the floor, and whilst Giorgi is seeminglngly inches from pulling off another great save, the ball is just out of reach as it bounces past him and hits the back of the net. Verdict: not his fault, a good attacking move from Morata and a smart header from Lemar.
Goal 4 – Barcelona 1-0 Valencia – Raphinha:
This moment is hard to excuse, especially early in a game against a tough opponent. A Barça player swings a ball into the box, and Raphinha makes a well-timed run off the inside shoulder of his defender. Giorgi rushes out to punch the cross away but judges the moment poorly as Raphinha reaches the ball much earlier and heads the ball into an empty goal.Verdict: his fault, an avoidable lapse in judgement.
Goal 5 – Getafe 1-0 Valencia – Borja Mayoral:
This moment is unfortunate, but the Valencia defence could’ve done slightly better. The initial delivery of the corner is met by a Getafe player, who’s header somehow loops towards the back post. With an unmarked Getafe player waiting for the ball, Giorgi finds himself in a very difficult position and ultimately has tomake himself as big as possible to block the header. The ball hits the underside of his arm but still falls into the face of the open goal, where Borja Mayoral manages to beat two challenging Valencia defenders and push the ball into the back of the net. Verdict: not his fault, a stroke of luck all around for Getafe.
This may be a small sample size, but in recent weeks Giorgi has not been at fault for the majority of the goals he has conceded. The Valencia defence hasn’t been great, which combines
“Mamardashvili told me I’m sorry and I gave him a blast. Many games he has saved us. Here I don’t feel anything. He has the maximum confidence of the coach and the whole team. I told him to get rid of the word ‘sorry’ from his mind.”Former Valencia manager Gennaro Gattuso on why he told Mamardashvili to stop apologising for mistakes after a draw against Elche in October. Mamardashvili gave away a penalty when attempting to punch the ball away from a set piece delivery, then got a hand to the resulting penalty but was unable to keep the ball from crossing the line. (Source – https://www.tribalfootball.com/articles/valencia-coach-gattuso-why-i-blasted-mamardashvili-for-saying-sorry-4433247)
In just his second season in La Liga, Giorgi has already cemented himself as one of the premier goalkeepers in the league with an extremely high potential. With interest from overseas, the question doesn’t seem to be whether or not he will leave Valencia, but rather how much a top club is willing to spend on the Georgian shot-stopper. His future will weigh heavily on whether or not Valencia are relegated this season, as moving down to La Liga 2 would most likely give clubs a much better chance of securing Giorgi for a much lower price than his current buyout clause (rumoured to be set at around £88.0m). Even if Valencia do survive this season, their woeful financial situation would most likely push them to sell at a cut price anyway.
The clubs that have been linked with Mamardashvili the most are Manchester United and Tottenham. With star keepers David de Gea and Hugo Lloris both reaching the twilights of their respective careers, either club would be a great challenge for Giorgi. However, the majority of reports seem to suggest that Manchester United are looking to extend David de Gea’s current contract, and even before that they had narrowed down their goalkeeper search to one of Brentford’s David Raya and Porto’s Diogo Costa. This leaves Spurs as the leading candidate to land his signature.
Whilst the step up to a ‘top 6′ club in the Premier League is a rather big one, I firmly believe that Giorgi is more than ready for the job. He is more than capable as a pure shot-stopper, his reactions are top-class already, his ball distribution is steadily improving and he has a remarkable record when facing penalties, despite rarely saving them himself (something he credits to his huge frame and unique training practices). On top of all this he is still only 22 years old. With his best football ahead of him, I don’t think it would be a stretch to say that Giorgi could become one of the best keepers in Europe, as well as Spurs’ first-choice keeper for the next decade if he does choose to join them in the summer.