LISBON (Reuters) - Benfica have given a clear demonstration of their confidence in 18-year-old goalkeeper Mile Svilar who was left disconsolate after his glaring mistake gifted Manchester United the winner on his Champions League debut two weeks ago.
Svilar, the youngest keeper to play in Europe’s elite club competition, caught Marcus Rashford’s long-range free kick but back-pedalled and carried it over the goalline during the match in Lisbon.
After breaking into tears at the final whistle, the son of former Serbia keeper Ratko Svilar was consoled by United striker Romelu Lukaku.
Despite the traumatic experience, Benfica coach Rui Vitoria had no hesitation in giving the Belgian goalkeeper his league debut at Desportivo Aves four days later, where he helped the Eagles to a 3-1 win, and for Friday’s 1-0 victory over Feirense.
As far as Vitoria is concerned, mistakes are part of the process of a player’s development and Svilar should get another chance to atone for his error when Benfica play United at Old Trafford on Tuesday.
“Svilar is the player who has the characteristics we are looking for at the moment,” said Vitoria, whose other choices are veteran Brazilian Julio Cesar and Portugal Under-21 international Bruno Varela.
“He gives us what we want in this context.”
“He will make more mistakes, but if older players make mistakes, then that is only natural at his age. Mistakes are
part of the evolution of any player.
“Svilar is young, he has great quality, he is going to improve a lot and he will be a top-level goalkeeper.”
Svilar was raised at Anderlecht but the closest he came to playing for them was when he sat on the bench for the Belgian Supercup match against Zulte Waregem in July.
He was signed by Benfica on Aug. 29, two days after his 18th birthday, and given his professional debut in a Cup match against Olhanense a few days before facing Manchester United.
Benfica have become specialists at signing players at a young age, developing their potential and selling them to bigger clubs.
Atletico Madrid’s Jan Oblak and Manchester City’s Ederson are among other keepers to have passed through the Portuguese champions.
Other hopes for this season are winger Diogo Goncalves and central defender Ruben Dias, who are both 20 and were promoted from the B team in the summer.
“I’m very satisfied. I’m especially happy at the way the young players have responded when they are called upon and
high demands are made of them,” Vitoria said.
“The credit goes to them and also the way in which they are developed, which makes if possible for these players to reach the first team at a high competitive level.”
Writing by Brian Homewood in Bern, editing by Ed Osmond