Martin Dúbravka (Slovak pronunciation: ; born 15 February 1989) is a Slovak professional footballer who plays as a goalkeeper for Newcastle United and the Slovakia national football team.
As a child, Dúbravka enjoyed playing ice hockey as well as football, and could have moved into the former sport were it not for a leg injury he sustained when he was five years old.
Dúbravka made his senior team debut in a 5–2 home win against Dubnica on 26 May 2009. In the next season he played 26 Corgoň Liga games, finishing as a league champion. He became a first choice after the transfer of Dušan Perniš in January 2010. He qualified with Žilina to the 2010–11 UEFA Champions League and played all 6 group games. He kept a clean sheet in the play-off round against Sparta Prague. On 30 January 2014, he signed a 3½ year deal with the Danish Superliga club Esbjerg fB.
Dúbravka joined Slovan Liberec of the Czech First League in July 2016 on a one-year contract. He joined Sparta Prague in June 2017, signing a three-year contract.
In January 2018, Newcastle United showed interest in Dúbravka, initially offering Sparta Prague a loan for €500,000, with an option to sign in the summer for €4.5 million. He finally joined the Premier League side on 31 January 2018, the final day of the winter transfer window on a half-year loan deal, due to expire at the end of 2017–18 season. According to isport.cz, he joined the club for €2 million, with an option to sign in the summer for €4 million. He made his debut on 11 February, playing a pivotal role and keeping a clean sheet in a 1–0 win against Manchester United. He became the sixteenth Slovak player and only the second Slovak goalkeeper, after Ján Mucha, to start in a Premier League fixture.
After a very successful loan spell, he signed permanently for Newcastle on 30 May 2018 for an undisclosed fee of around 5 million euros. On 17 February 2019 in Durham, Dúbravka was recognised as the Player of the Year 2018 by North East Football Writers' Association, joining the likes of Alan Shearer, Kevin Keegan or Shay Given. He became the 7th goalkeeper to win the award, in its 39 seasons. Dúbravka stated that he was happy to win the award because "amazing players have won this trophy before".
Spanish sporting magazine Marca had ranked Dúbravka as the 20th best player of the Premier League, in the 2018-19 season. He was the highest ranked goalkeeper, even overcoming highly valued goalkeepers such as Liverpool's preferred goaltender Alisson or David de Gea of Manchester United, or in-field players, like Christian Eriksen, Aaron Ramsey, Marcus Rashford or Dele Alli.
Dúbravka, a former under-19 and under-21 national player, was selected for the Slovakia national football team for the UEFA Euro 2012 qualifying home game against Republic of Ireland.
Dúbravka made his national team debut against Montenegro on 23 May 2014 (2–0 win).
In January 2017, he played his first full game for the national team, having played 45 minutes in both of his previous matches. While he was benched against Uganda (1–3 loss), on 12 January he was fielded in an unofficial friendly match against Sweden in Abu Dhabi, UAE. Slovakia lost the game 0–6, despite only trailing 0–1 at half time. This match also marked the first time Dúbravka conceded in the national team and he was also Slovak captain for the game, being the most experienced with international football.
He made his competitive debut in a 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifier, against Lithuania (2–1 win), on 10 June 2017, when the preferred goalkeeper in the qualification, Matúš Kozáčik, was unavailable due to injury. He however achieved his first competitive clean sheet on 1 September in a home qualifier against Slovenia. Slovakia won thanks to an 81st-minute goal by Adam Nemec. Just as in the previous cap, Dúbravka was chosen due to a prolonged injury of Kozáčik. After Kozáčik's return to the squad, Dúbravka remained preferred for the remaining matches against England, Scotland and Malta. In the match against Scotland, Dúbravka made a series of saves before he was finally beaten by an own goal from Martin Škrtel.
Ján Kozák's resignation incident
Dúbravka was nominated for a double fixture against Czech Republic and Sweden on 13 October and 16 October 2018, respectively. He played the entirety of both games, but was also involved in an incident, that had led to resignation of Ján Kozák, then Slovakia's longest-serving and most successful coach, who introduced him to the national team.
Dúbravka violated the code of conduct of national team players, along with Michal Šulla, Norbert Gyömbér, Ľubomír Šatka, Milan Škriniar, Vladimír Weiss and Stanislav Lobotka. On the night of 13 October 2018, after loss in Slovakia's second UEFA Nations League fixture and a derby match against Czech Republic (1–2), they left the hotel and went out, missed the bedtime and violated the wellness policy, regarding regeneration and rehabilitation. They were allegedly discovered by Ján Kozák at about midnight, admitting to the incident and apologising during the next day. Ján Kozák resigned from the national team during the afternoon of 14 October, revealing the details of his decision in a press conference on 18 October, to avoid distractions during the preparation for the fixture against Sweden, that was managed by his former assistant Štefan Tarkovič on a caretaker basis. Kozák cited his inability to work with such squad under these conditions as the primary reason, as almost a third of the team was concerned, including players, those Kozák described as crucial, with Dúbravka being a part of this group. President of SFZ, Ján Kováčik, said that the players will be punished by not receiving any financial rewards for future nominations and performances in the national team during the upcoming qualification cycle. During the press conference, Kozák also revealed that Dúbravka had claimed "difficult times at Newcastle" as one of the reasons for his conduct.
On 19 October, SFZ published Dúbravka's official statement. He acknowledged that missing the bedtime was a violation, but maintained that the rest was within norms. He accepted any sanctions and stressed that the conduct was not aimed against Kozák, commenting that he regrets that Kozák didn't accept an apology from the trespassers. He also stated that Kozák's resignation surprised him, because of the good relations within the team.
Style of play
Dúbravka is a third-generation goalkeeper: his father and grandfather also played in the position. Dúbravka has been dubbed the "quintessential sweeper-keeper" due to his "outstanding footwork" and he believes "in modern football the keeper's almost like a libero. You need to play with the ball, not just kick it long".
Louise Taylor of The Guardian christened Dúbravka the "reluctant keeper" after he admitted his favourite position to play is right wing; he sometimes plays as an outfielder in training and coaching staff have suggested that he switch to a midfield role.