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The making of Ederson
Pep Guardiola was a few months into his Manchester City adventure when his team lost 4-0 at the Camp Nou. City had done OK until the 52nd minute when the goalkeeper, Claudio Bravo, tried to play the ball out of defence. It backfired terribly as possession went straight to Luis Suárez and Bravo made
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matters even worse by handling the Uruguayan’s attempted lob outside his area to get sent off.
It was not Bravo’s first mistake in City
colours, nor his last. But Guardiola made clear that night that he would never abandon his strategy of playing from the back. “I’m sorry but until the last day of my career as a coach I will try to
play from our goalkeeper,” he said.
It may not have worked in 2016-17when the Catalan played Bravo and then Willy Caballero in goal, ending the season trophyless, but in the summer he spent £34.9m on Ederson from Benfica and City have not looked back. They have won their first trophy of the season – the Carabao Cup – are one victory away from securing the Premier League and go to Liverpool on Wednesday for the first leg of their Champions League quarter-final. Finally they have a goalkeeper good enough for a club with aspirations to be among the world’s best.
Perhaps it is no wonder that Ederson, who has conceded 26 goals in 38 City appearances, ended up playing for Guardiola. The Brazilian grew up idolising Rogério Ceni, the former Brazil international who is the top-scoring goalkeeper of all time with 131 goals in his 25-year career at São
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Paulo. “He is my only idol and will always be my main inspiration,” Ederson said. “I still watch many of his videos making amazing saves and showing his quality to start his team’s play from the back. His quality was extraordinary.”
As a boy Ederson spent
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hours watching Ceni on TV from the family home in Osasco, a rough area in Greater São Paulo, but he started as a left-back at a football school called Champions Ebenézer FC.
“He came because his
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older brother was playing with us,” says Gilberto Lopes, better known as Giba and one of its founders. Giba created the charity team to help youngsters growing up in one of the most violent parts of the suburbs of São Paulo. “As Osasco is a very dangerous town, we have to give a lot of attention to the children. Football is weapon that I use until this day to get the boys off the street.
“As he is left-footed, I started playing Ederson at left-back. He already had a powerful shot but he did not carry ginga [the rhythm] for dribbling, so I pulled him back to be a keeper. With the first shot he caught the ball without dropping
it, and that was the beginning.”
Giba was impressed with the progress of this thin (5ft 9in and 123.4lb aged 13) but promising pupil, whose nickname still is, ironically, “Gordo” (Fat boy), and recommended him to a friend at São Paulo’s academy. “I was told that Ederson was already standing out as a goalkeeper,” says Antonio Rodrigues, Ederson’s first coach in the under-13 team, who has been at the club for 18 years. “I was impressed with the precision he had with the ball at his feet and his quickness and agility in goal.”
Ederson’s talent with his feet had been shaped in futsal. “That helped him a lot,” says Victor Severo, a childhood friend from Osasco who also played for São Paulo’s academy and lives with the Ederson family in Cheshire. “He used to play as a goleiro-linha [the so-called ‘fifth man’, a goalkeeper who joins the outfield players] to take advantage of his powerful shot. Due to that, our main tactic was to clear space so he could come from his box to shoot. He was so good with his feet he was challenging to become the top scorer.”
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