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Gordon good enough to be the best - McLeish

Scotland manager Alex McLeish not only has faith in Craig Gordon's ability to hold his own in the Barclays Premier League, he believes the Hearts goalkeeper has the potential to outshine many of his contemporaries.

Gordon, 24, was given leave of absence from last night's 1-0 derby defeat to Hibernian to travel to England to thrash out a long-awaited move to the top tier of British football, with Sunderland and Aston Villa believed to be the suitors.

Black Cats manager Roy Keane is understood to have rekindled his interest in the Tynecastle captain but faces competition from Martin O'Neill, who is an admirer of Gordon's from his time as manager of Celtic.

Talks with both clubs are expected to take place this week, with reports last night suggesting Manchester City had also joined the chase and were willing to pay up to £10million.

The courtship of a trio of Premiership clubs is a ringing endorsement in itself but McLeish went further, claiming his Scotland number one is probably the most naturally gifted British keeper in the game right now.

Asked how Gordon compares with the goalkeepers in the squad of his England counterpart, Steve McClaren, he responded: 'I wouldn't swap him, put him that way.

'He's a terrific goalkeeper. I think he's cool, I like his temperament.

'He has handled some tricky situations in his Hearts career, which is a sign of maturity for such a young guy. He's level-headed, he doesn't get carried away and he is courteous, with a good professionalism.

'What can I say? It's a hell of an endoresment on his CV.

'We've had some terrific goalies over the years, Andy Goram, Jim Leighton, Alan Rough, guys of that standard.

'Craig Gordon is now the latest and it's fantastic for those who brought him through the ranks when he started as kid. Great credit to them and the coaches he has worked with at Hearts since.'

With the new Premiership campaign set to get underway this weekend, there will be little bedding-in time for a player who will suddenly find himself thrust into an elite group which includes the likes of Petr Cech, Edwin Van der Sar, Jose Reina and Jens Lehmann.

But McLeish argued: 'On paper, he compares favourably. The next stage is how the big fella does in the Premiership.

'If he is as consistent as he was in Scotland, and as a national team goalkeeper, he going to be rated very highly among the top goalkeepers in England.

'Playing in the Premiership is a feat in itself because of the spending power the clubs have.

'Let's face it, none of them are going to want to waste £9million. He doesn't have to do anything different down there, he just has to do what he did at Hearts and with Scotland.'

A £9million switch would make Gordon the most expensive goalkeeper in British football history.

'I don't think he has to worry about the price at all,' said McLeish. 'A few years ago, we would have balked at that kind of figure but these days it's like '£9million? Yeah, no problem.'