Sunday 01 October 2017, 09:29

Shilton: Fine line between greatness and The Best

  • Inaugural The Best FIFA Goalkeeper Award to be presented later this month

  • Peter Shilton gives his take on Buffon, Navas and Neuer

  • He helped England to Italy 1990 semis, played over 1000 English league games

Peter Shilton knows all about being No1. He had the responsibility of being England’s goalkeeper for two decades, hanging up his gloves after helping the team to the semi-finals of the 1990 FIFA World Cup™ in Italy. With over 1000 league games under his belt at several levels of the English game, he also knows about longevity – having retired from the game at the astonishing age of 47.

All of this certainly makes Shilton well-placed to give a qualified take on the candidates for The Best FIFA Goalkeeper, with the trio of Gianluigi Buffon, Keylor Navas and Manuel Neuer making up the inaugural shortlist for the award. The winner will be revealed in London on 23 October, and Shilton is in no doubt as to the quality of the candidates.

“I was really pleased to see Navas in the final three,” Shilton told “I think he’s done really well at Real Madrid. He was my goalkeeper of the last World Cup. He’s very technically good, nice style about him. Obviously, Neuer is a World Cup winner, very strong, good leader, and very hard to beat.”

Shilton has a favourite though.

“I think Buffon would shade it for me,” he continued. “I think he’s had such a fantastic career. I’ve said before that all goalkeepers make mistakes but the best ones make fewer and he’s one of those.”

The fact that Buffon is playing into his 40s perhaps tips the balance towards the Azzurri legend for the former England man. Shilton tends to agree with Buffon’s suggestion that he will retire from the game after next summer’s World Cup. There is an interesting coincidence: Shilton was aged 40 in his final England game against Italy in the 1990 match for third place; Buffon would be the same age if he did indeed retire after Russia 2018’s finale.

“I finished after 20 years with England after Italia 90 because I thought that was the right time to go,” Shilton said. “I think you want to go out on a high at international level and I think that’s important. Once you’ve finished at international level and you’ve been playing at that level for many years it’s hard to motivate yourself to go back into club football. Something tells you when the time’s right and I’m sure Buffon will know that.”

The most-capped England player thinks the recognition of goalkeepers is long overdue, with The Best FIFA Goalkeeper Award the first time that those between the sticks have been presented with their own individual award by FIFA.

“Goalkeeping is the second most important just behind being a striker because scoring goals is the most important art in football, but I think goalkeeping is a very close second,” Shilton said. “If you’ve got a goalkeeper who’s making mistakes regularly you don’t do well, you don’t win trophies and that’s how important it is.”

How far away are England’s current and future generations of goalkeepers from being considered for this award?

“There’s potential there, moment with Jack Butland and Jordan Pickford,” Shilton said. “It’s about raising your standards. There’s a fine line between being good and being great and a finer line between being great and being up there with the best. You’ve got to find that level of performance and ability. Jack Butland in particular I think has shown a lot in a short space of time, especially given that he’s had a few injury problems. Joe Hart has been steady, he’s England’s goalkeeper with a lot of caps now, too.”

Despite no fellow countryman being in the running this time, Shilton - like many current and former goalkeepers around the world - will certainly be keeping a close eye on the awards night in London on 23 October, to see who kicks off the trend of greater recognition for their profession as the first The Best FIFA Goalkeeper.

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