Goalkeeper | Benfica | Belgium
Svilar has so far made precisely thirteen professional appearances in his fledgling career and nearly a quarter of them have come in the Champions League. British audiences will be familiar with at least two of them.
Against Manchester United in October 2017 he broke Iker Casillas's record as the youngest goalkeeper to ever play in the tournament and blotted an otherwise excellent copybook by carrying Marcus Rashford’s long-range free-kick over the line. That the mistake grabbed the headlines was unfortunate. That it detracted from a highly promising performance was just plain unfair.
The return leg at Old Trafford was as eventful. The Antwerp-born teen saved a Martial penalty early doors but prior to the break a speculative Matic effort ricocheted off a post and hit the alice-banded keeper on the back, trickling in for an own goal. Once again the summation was mostly sublime with a smidgen of ridiculous.
Agile, brave and anticipatory, the Under 19 international – who is eligible to play for Belgium or Serbia – is all the adjectives of a traditional number one. That though barely covers it. He is also supremely confident even in the most perilous of situations, he’s accomplished with the ball at his feet and looks to start attacks at every opportunity.
He is then a thoroughly modern sweeper-keeper, making direct comparisons with his club predecessor Ederson inevitable. Those comparisons may yet bear fruit.
2018 has been…
…relatively quiet and away from the public gaze which is hardly in keeping with his playing style. Consigned to the bench for Primeira Liga commitments Svilar has gained valuable game-time in both the Taca de Portugal and Taco de Liga and done his prospects absolutely no harm in the process.
Preceding this the year began promisingly when his main rival Bruno Varela fell out of favour and it looked briefly as if the Lisbon giants might be willing to go into the new campaign with a kid holding the fort. Only then they signed Greek international Odisseas Vlachodimos from Panathinaikos and this presents a potential roadblock. Had the Eagles brought in a veteran for the short-term, all well and good. But the steady-eddie Vlachodimos is 24 and still approaching his peak. He’s going to take some dislodging.
Goodness knows and that makes the viewing from a distance of his development all the more intriguing. Signed from Anderlecht for €4.5m, the son of a Yugoslavian international (who kept nets in the 1982 World Cup) has already packed more into the first twelve months of his career than some do over two decades. Now though comes the need for patience, at both his club and whichever country he opts for.
As Svilar forlornly booted the ball centre-circle bound in the immediate aftermath of his Rashford gaffe commentator Ian Darke said: “He’s a story all by himself’. He is and that makes him exciting. The best chapters are yet to come.