A bull and a matador – Man City’s Ederson is unlike any other goalkeeper


There’s something distinctly different about Ederson, and that’s been apparent to everybody at Manchester City from the very start. 

“It was in Nashville,” an eye-witness tells Catalan journalists Lu Martin and Pol Ballus for their upcoming book on City. “Whenever we travel, we take three security guys with us. One of them is enormous, his name’s Okon. 

“I remember on the second or third day, in the dining room, Ederson went up to him and tackled him. A rugby tackle. We don’t know why, we still haven’t asked him. He did it because he felt like it.”

His old coaches nicknamed him ‘The Bull’ because of his tendency to charge at loose balls and he lived up to that reputation, too; in Houston, he raced out to meet Romelu Lukaku, only to miss and allow the Manchester United forward to score.

Things have generally gone much better for the unorthodox Brazilian since then and that was best summed up on Monday night. 

After speeding out of his area and meeting the ball on his chest, he chased it all the way towards the half-way line for good measure. Wolves’ Morgan Gibbs-White beat him to it but a well-timed star jump averted the danger, and thrilled fans.

The best was yet to come, however.

When he found himself in possession 40 yards from his goal, he did not just lay off a calm pass to a team-mate, he actually waited to be closed down before doing so. Never mind ‘The Bull’, this was ‘The Matador’.

His team-mates know what he can do with the ball, so Fernandinho gave it back to him, and then a second time. Guardiola was not happy with the showboating but glossed over it in public: “We love Ederson the way he is and that is why it’s not a problem.”

And that’s the thing, it hardly ever is a problem. Quite the opposite.

Think back to Southampton over Christmas when he played nerveless short passes to his defenders inside his own six-yard box, springing a quick attack that should have ended in a goal.

Then, there was the Cruyff-turn on his own goal line, all in a game that City really had to win after two consecutive defeats. 

In short, Ederson is fearless. He views risk-taking as an essential part of the game; his game, anyway.

“I might have made mistakes because of my way of playing but mistakes are part of football,” he has argued. “I never let that influence my game.”

Which is why watching Ederson in full control is such a sight. It’s no different when he’s out of control, actually.

At one point last season, he fumbled a shot backwards onto his own line, and instead of instinctively panicking at the thought of a howler and throwing himself backwards to claw the ball away, he just turned around and picked it up.

The cameras zoomed in on him. Nothing. Not a flicker of emotion. There almost never is.

Whether he’s inviting pressure in midfield or recovering from mistakes (successfully or otherwise) there is barely a flicker of emotion. He did smile recently, in fairness; when he came out for a punch and left a team-mate and an opponent needing medical treatment.

These things are not quite normal. He is certainly not normal, as far as goalkeepers are concerned. 

When Gabriel Jesus missed a penalty last season, Ederson said he would have scored it, and that he hoped he would be afforded the opportunity. Guardiola, ever cautious of being seen as arrogant, ruled that out immediately.

The thought of giving him the opportunity to score from 12 yards seems a little unfair, anyway. He scored twice at youth level from his own area, with massive goal kicks straight out of his hands. He finally got an assist this season with a giant goal kick, this time off the floor. It was hit like a golf shot directly into Sergio Aguero’s path.

It is not just the distance of his kicks that catches the eye – although he has an actual Guinness World Record for that – it’s the accuracy.

Last season at Everton, he picked a spot in the centre circle for Leroy Sane to come inside and meet, setting up another goal out of nothing.

And then there’s the style of his kicks, whether chipped, clipped or drilled.

That range of kicking worried Guardiola so much when he was Bayern Munich coach that he held a specific meeting about it ahead of a Champions League game with Benfica. When the two teams first faced each other, Ederson had only played five senior games.

“After the Sporting win, we played Zenit,” one of his former coaches told the Daily Mail of Ederson’s second ever game with Benfica. “With the weather in Russia – freezing cold – he played like it was summer in Brazil.”

Not normal. 

He is not a pioneer, either. Rogerio Ceni, a hero of Ederson’s, and Rene Higuita added new dimensions to the art of goalkeeping in South America.

Peter Schmeichel caught the eye at Old Trafford by bowling the ball out with his hands, before Fabian Barthez came along and introduced the Premier League to goalkeepers more comfortable with their feet.

Manuel Neuer is probably the most similar to Ederson, in terms of his antics outside the box and unorthodox style. Victor Valdes lived outside the Camp Nou penalty area under Guardiola and Marc-Andre Ter Stegen is nearly flawless with his feet there now.

Alisson, a rival for Liverpool and team-mate for Brazil, plays similarly unusual passes, the kind that travel half the length of the pitch but no more than just a couple of feet off the floor.

Yet surely nobody comes close in the nerveless stakes. It does not make him infallible, of course, but it does make him unique; back in October he cleaned out Harry Kane with a mammoth slide tackle, inside his own box.

Ederson is not unlike a lot of goalkeepers, but there is no other quite like him.

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