Loris Karius’ first appearance for Newcastle United was almost two years in the making, and it’s a performance that might just earn him a similar length contract on Tyneside.
Prior to the 29-year-old’s Magpies debut in Riyadh last night, Karius’ last senior outing was in February 2021 having spent his final year at Liverpool in the under-21s.
Yet you wouldn’t have thought that was the case. Only a friendly, we know, but Karius looked sharp, like the goalkeeper the Reds once signed as their No.1 before a fatal Champions League final date in 2018.
Karius was kept busy in the first-half by Al-Hilal but dealt with everything that came his way. He started off his evening with two routine enough saves either side of the goal before showing incredible reflexes to keep our former Watford and Manchester United striker Odion Igahlo from six yards out.
Karius produced another outstanding stop moments later by tipping Andre Carrillo’s shot, another player formerly of Watford, around the post before registering a fifth and final save. After the game, Howe also praised Karius for his distribution.
In truth, his only disappointment on the night was his substitution at half-time after Howe pre-planned to give Mark Gillespie a runout. On a night where everything was going right for Karius, you can bet he was eager to stay on.
The timing of his impressive display couldn’t have been better timed either with a contract decision on the horizon. The short-term deal Karius signed at Newcastle in September expires next month and Howe has seen enough to want to keep him.
Karius has immediately fitted into the tight-knit dressing room by providing support to his teammates, in particular Nick Pope and the GK Union. Last night’s performance simply reminded everyone that beyond the ‘nice guy’, he is also a good, experienced goalkeeper.
People have been quick to dismiss the German and define his career on that Champions League nightmare. But every goalkeeper has made mistakes, it just so happens his were on one of the biggest stages of them all.
But it’s time to stop talking about that, he’s been ridiculed enough. He’s done his time, if that’s what you can call it, and the possibility of Karius sticking around at St James’ Park longer-term is more likely than not.
Pope is United’s undisputed No.1 but a crack at another Premier League club could well present a redemption story for Karius yet.