There’s a good chance that Benfica’s Mile Svilar will become the youngest keeper to appear in the Champions League tonight at the age of 18 years and 1 month. Along with his dad, former Yugoslavia and Royal Antwerp keeper Ratko Svilar, he’ll be very happy about that.
Less happy will be the Anderlecht management – who bent over backwards to keep the player there – and Gert Verheyen, manager of the Belgium U19 team. Verheyen has said he tried to contact Svilar many times in September but the young keeper never called him back.
Svilar Senior claims that the Belgian Football Federation never called him and that he thinks his son will now choose between Belgium and Serbia, with the former in pole position. Remember, Svilar wants fame quickly and he will have notice that Thibaut Courtois is only 25.
Verheyen says he wants mature players who don’t decide everything through their parents. He won’t be contacting Svilar Junior anymore.
It was never easy at Anderlecht. When Silvio Proto left the club after 11 seasons and almost 400 games, the smart money was on Svilar to be his successor and eventually put a lot of euros into the club’s coffers.
To keep Team Svilar happy, Anderlecht’s Operations Manager Herman Van Holsbeeck told them that Svilar Junior would get first team opportunities in the 2017-18 season.
The problems started when new Anderlecht coach René Weiler entered the scene. Weiler had a look at Davy Roef – Proto’s replacement – and decided he didn’t like what he saw.
By November, Weiler had dropped Roef and called up journeyman keeper Frank Boeckx, who had once planned to buy a camper van and drive around the world. Weiler put Boeckx in the nets for a Europa League game and he stayed there for the rest of the season in the Anderlecht title-winning side.
But Boeckx needed a back operation in the summer and Weiler was still not ready to put Roef under pressure in the first team and, importantly, he didn’t see Svilar as a number one.
Weiler’s answer was to bring in Matz Sels on loan for a season from Newcastle United. Sels had been elected Best Goalkeeper in Belgium in 2015 but his move to England has not worked out.
So Svilar became number three – at best – despite the club seeing him as a player who could have two or three years as number one before moving on a to a big club for 15-20 million euros. That was Van Holsbeeck’s game plan.
But Team Svilar wanted first team football immediately. They had seen Milan’s Gianluigi Donnarumma receive the number one spot and a mouth-watering salary. Donnarumma is only six months older than Svilar and I’m sure Team Svilar bracket the two players together.
The inevitable happened and Svilar joined Benfica for a few million euros. No one was happy except his new club – for a while – and Team Svilar.