London – Ederson made sure he left Benfica for Manchester City with a bang. In the goalkeeper’s penultimate league match for the Portuguese champions, not only did he keep his 17th clean sheet of the season, he also got an assist.
A goal-kick from the 23-year-old led to Benfica’s second goal in a 5-0 defeat of Vitória Guimarães. It was a kick that found the forward Raúl Jiménez on the edge of the Vitória penalty area, the Mexican controlling it with his feet before turning it into the goal with his head. But not only was Ederson’s kick enormous, it was clever. It took advantage of the fact that his forward, dallying so far upfield, could not be found offside from a keeper’s dead ball. It is a little-known rule but understandable; after all, who is going to kick it that far anyway?
Prowess with the ball at his feet is thought to be a central reason why Pep Guardiola has made Ederson, depending on how you interpret historical exchange rates, either the most or the second most expensive goalkeeper in history. It is an incredible accolade either way, given that the record is held by Gianluigi Buffon, perhaps the greatest goalkeeper of all time. It is even more impressive when you consider Ederson has played only a season and a half as a regular at a major club.
The Brazilian played as a youth for his hometown club of São Paulo, before Benfica took him to Portugal at the age of 16. Not uncommonly, the move did not work out and the teenager moved on, first joining the second-division side Ribeirão then Rio Ave. His performances with the Primeira Liga minnows persuaded Benfica they had made a mistake. The club brought Ederson back in a deal that cost them only €500,000 up front but granted Rio 50% of any future transfer fee (20% of which, in a not entirely surprising development, then goes to Ederson’s agent, Jorge Mendes).
Ederson arrived as understudy to his fellow countryman Júlio César, but when César was injured in March 2016 the younger man seized the gloves and never gave them back. His performances in domestic competition have been consistently assured but it was his display against Borussia Dortmund that got Europe’s elite talking.
Eventually humbled 4-0 in the return leg at the Westfalenstadion, Benfica won the first leg 1-0, but they would have lost that too were it not for the Brazilian. The standout moment was a penalty save from Pierre-Emerick Aubemayang. Ederson not only out-thought the striker by staying on his feet as the ball flew down the centre of the goal, but he completed the save with a club of a punch that drove the ball clear of goal.
This was the second penalty that Ederson had saved in the competition but it was far from his only moment in the match. His speed of movement denied Ousmane Dembélé a goal from six yards out and the length of his reach allowed him to turn a Marco Reus 25-yard effort round a post. Best of all was a save from Christian Pulisic. The American’s fierce volley from outside the penalty area took two deflections but still Ederson found a strong hand to turn it wide. Within a month, the Portuguese press reported that Guardiola had made a personal call to Ederson to persuade him to come to City.
“Ederson has all the talent to become a top-class goalkeeper,” says Vitor Alvarenga, editor of the Portuguese magazine Maisfutebol. “The special ability that made Guardiola pay attention is that he is very strong with his feet, but Ederson also has not only the agility of a great keeper but the security too. I believe he will soon be the No1 keeper with Brazil.”
All the noises are that Ederson will soon graduate to the Brazil team. This, combined with his age, his footballing ability and the fact he recently renewed his Benfica contract, has meant his price is high.
Paradoxically, given the travails of City’s last big-money goalkeeping recruit, Claudio Bravo, it is Ederson’s confidence on the ball that could be his weak spot, says Alvarenga. “The risk is that he has to show he can cope with the pressure of a top league. In the Primeira Liga, he is facing minor teams 80% of the time. Ederson has a great game with his feet but in some matches he has shown overconfidence. He will have to learn how to be able to control that.”
The Guardian Sport