Gordon is the best keeper in Europe, claims Preston

FORMER Hearts winger Allan Preston believes Sunderland or Aston Villa will secure the best goalkeeper in Europe if they can complete the £9 million purchase of Craig Gordon.

The 24-year-old has both Roy Keane and Martin O'Neill vying for his signature as he prepares to enter contract discussions with the English Premiership clubs.

Both are prepared to pay Hearts an initial 6m with the rest in add-on fees.

Gordon's transfer should be completed by the weekend and Preston has praised the defiance shown by his former club to ensure they receive significant compensation for the loss of their captain.

He said: "I reckon it's a fair price, 100 per cent. You have to pay for quality and Craig Gordon is quality, without a doubt.

"He's Scotland's No. 1 and has been one of Hearts' best players in recent months. He's club captain and has led by example so he deserves everything he gets.

"Whoever gets him is getting one of the best goalkeepers in Europe."

Homegrown star Gordon has become a hero amongst the Tynecastle support since first making his debut five years ago but Preston expects him to excel further in England.

"Goalkeepers mature a lot later than outfield players so his best years will still be ahead of him," said the former Livingston manager.

"I was talking to Andy Goram about that at the weekend and he was a prime example, playing at a good level late into his 30s.

"Sunderland and Villa are both massive clubs. Roy Keane has done a terrific job in the north-east and they're on the way up.

"Martin O'Neill is another great manager and he'll get things right at Villa.

"The funny thing is, both the guys who are in for Gordon have played or managed against him. They exactly know how good he is."

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