If Fantasy Football is anything to go by, Stoke City’s Jack Butland has been the Premier League’s top goalkeeping performer over the first 14 games of the season.
The 22-year-old custodian has played the full 90 minutes of every league fixture for his club so far this term. In doing so, Butland has kept a total of five clean sheets – conceding an average of only one goal per game, overall.
On the Premier League’s official site, the youngster is currently averaging an industry-leading 4.8pts per matchweek, outstripping a number of more established goalkeepers in the process.
In this article I will compile the best of the tabloid media stories surrounding the in-form Butland, from the month of November. I’ll allow you to sort the fact from the fiction yourself.
He doesn’t regret turning down Chelsea
In 2013, Butland’s then-employer Birmingham City accepted a reported £3.5m bid from Chelsea for the well-spoken goalkeeper. However, Butland, opted for the greater prospect of first-team football at Premier League rivals Stoke.
I’ve never regretted my decision
He told Alex Harris of the Daily Star, this past month.
After beginning his Brittania Stadium career as second fiddle to Asmir Begovic, ironically it was Chelsea that opened the door to a first team place for Butland. The West Londoners paid £8m for Begovic, to fill the gap left by the outgoing Petr Cech.
In another layer of irony, Butland and Stoke have outperformed both Begovic and Chelsea over the course of the season so far. The ‘Potters’ having recently strung together a run of five wins in seven games, including three Butland clean sheets in a row.
In the Harris interview, Butland expanded on his thoughts of turning down the bright lights of London to opt to stay in Stoke:
It was difficult to start with, but I never lost my head or enthusiasm, I knew [first team football] was going to come around.
It’s taken a while, but I’m really happy with how things are. I’m 22, it would have been wrong of me to look for first-team football at 19.
Maybe I would have bitten off a bit more than I could chew. It’s a blessing in disguise, I’ve had a lot of opportunities to work with great keepers since I’ve been [at Stoke].
He wants to beat Joe Hart at his own game
Butland’s excellent club form has put him firmly back in the England picture, with the European Championships in France fast approaching.
The Bristolian won his 3rd cap against France this past month, on a memorable night at Wembley, where La Marseillaise was sung by the French and English supporters in unison.
Butland replaced incumbent number one Joe Hart at half-time in this fixture, underlining his status as a Hodgson-era squad regular.
In a subsequent interview with Sky TV, Butland indicated that he sees himself as being in a direct battle with Hart.
A lot of comparisons have been drawn between the two keepers, both of whom spent time developing at, the aforementioned Birmingham City. A club that also had a hand in producing past England international keepers David Seaman, Gil Merrick and Ben Foster. Jack Butland told Soccer Saturday
As I’ve progressed I’ve tried to model myself on [Joe Hart]. Having him in the England set-up is brilliant.
I want to try and make more saves than him and he tries to do it to me. It’s a good battle and it’s something that makes us both better.
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Newly appointed Liverpool manager Jürgen Klopp would be keen to have Butland at Anfield, according to The Sun.
The paper explicitly describes current Reds keeper, Simon Mignolet as “bungling” and speculates that a £20m bid for Butland is imminent. However, the Merseysiders would be willing to wait until the summer to complete the move.
A £20m price tag would exceed Butland’s market value, as estimated by Transfermarkt, by more than 700%. Although, the paper suggests that Klopp considers Butland to be the Premier League’s best young goalkeeper.
As such the German ranks him alongside former Dortmund charges Neven Subotic and Lukasz Piszczek amongst his top transfer targets.
The ‘red-top’ goes on further, to state that Stanley Park rivals Everton may also see Butland as a long-term replacement for their ageing American international keeper, Tim Howard.
Butland certainly has an age advantage over Mignolet and Howard – 27 and 36-years-old respectively. One could also argue that he’s better with his feet and more suited to Klopp and Martinez’s styles of play than the current options.
However, Stoke will be eager to retain Jack Butland’s services and he could benefit from settling at a club after a number of moves in his young career.
In his current form, maybe a big money move to a top club isn’t too far away. Again, you can sort the fact from the fiction yourself.