How David Raya's abnormally big hands launched his career in football

Photo || Stuart McFarlane

FOOTBALL How David Raya's abnormally big hands launched his career in football

Mark Kinyanjui 21:10 - 15.03.2024

David Raya has now established himself as Arsenal's first choice goalkeeper, but his career almost never took off were it not for the size of his hands.

David Raya has grown to become Arsenal’s first choice goalkeeper since signing on loan from Brentford, and won alot of fans’ hearts when his goalkeeping heroics against Porto sent the team into the quarter finals of the Champions League for the first time in 14 years 

However, his story to becoming a Spain international playing a vital part in helping Arsenal revive its glory days almost never happened.

When Raya arrived at Blackburn Rovers as a 15-year-old from Catalonia, he faced skepticism due to his stature. 

A coach doubted his potential, deeming him too short for the role of a goalkeeper. However, Andres Manzano, the general director of Cornella, Raya’s first club, intervened, highlighting the exceptional size of Raya's hands as a testament to his potential.

His hands are abnormally big considering Raya is just slightly above six foot tall, and for a goalkeeper, that is considerably sort,

Raya's massive palms, almost double the size of Manzano's, convinced Blackburn to give him a trial. 

“The coach said he was never going to be six foot,” Andres Manzano, the general director of Cornella, Raya’s first club, told The Telegraph.

 “But I told him, ‘Why are you taking his size from his head? Take his size from his hands’.”

Raya outstretched his hands, and it was at that point that the coaching staff change their minds.

“David showed them his hands and they said, ‘OK, we will give him a trial’,” Manzano said.

 “I can tell you, he has hands almost double the size of mine. He already had them at 15. They are not normal hands, and it was my way of convincing the coaches to take him seriously.”

Within one day of training, his exceptional talent became evident, and Steven Drench, the academy goalkeeping coach, was quick to recognize his quality.

Despite not fitting the typical profile of goalkeeping prodigies, Raya possessed explosive athleticism, agility, distribution skills, discipline, and notably, enormous hands. This unique combination of attributes hinted at his potential to excel in the sport.

“They are huge,” Drench said.

 “When he was 16 I would serve the ball at him like I would do for the 18-year-olds, and he was just catching everything. His hands were that good, and that big.”

Now, at 28 years old, Raya has realized his immense potential, becoming the first-choice goalkeeper for title-contending Arsenal and earning a call-up to the Spanish national team.

Raya is understood to wear size 11 goalkeeper gloves, produced by The One Glove. This is the largest size available on the company’s website. 

Gloves of that size are designed for palms that measure more than four inches (10.2cm) across, and are usually recommended for people who have a distance of at least nine inches (22.9cm) between the base of their palm and the tip of their middle finger.

While Raya's hands are a notable factor in his success, they are just one aspect of his game. He is also known for his excellent distribution with the ball at his feet, which boils down to his experience playing Futsal as a kid.

Raya's journey from Cornella to Blackburn, where he made over 100 appearances for the first team, and later to Brentford before joining Arsenal, showcases his remarkable progression in the sport. Despite early doubts, Raya's dedication and talent have propelled him to the highest levels of football.

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