The Brazilian goalkeeper is expected to move to the Etihad in the coming days and his party piece will become a regular sight in the Premier League
Ederson is ready to say goodbye to Benfica after the Taca de Portugal final against Vitoria Guimaraes on Sunday, two weeks after he downed the same opposition with the kind of party trick which could be Manchester City’s secret weapon next season.
City could pay a world record fee for a goalkeeper – in pound sterling at least – because they are convinced Ederson has the potential to become one of the best in the world. More importantly, they believe he is perfect for Pep Guardiola’s system.
Ederson is likely to be on the bench on Sunday as Julio Cesar has played in most cup games this season, but he certainly made his mark against Vitoria earlier this month when he showed off one of the most unique sights in world football, something which is destined to become a regular occurrence in the Premier League in years to come.
Ederson’s massive goal kicks have become commonplace during his time in Portugal and, against Vitoria with the league title on the line, the Brazilian finally managed an assist – from his own six-yard box.
With the 23-year-old between the sticks, Benfica’s strikers know more than most that you cannot be offside from a goal kick, and when the opportunity presents itself they charge forward, paying no attention to the last defender, and wait for the 23-year-old to pick them out.
The keeper has one of the longest kicks world football – he once scored from his own box in his youth career – and on this occasion he launched the ball the best part of 100 metres without it touching the ground. After leaving his boot on Benfica’s six-yard line, it did not hit the turf again until it dropped inches outside Vitoria’s 18-yard-box. Raul Jimenez ran onto it, flicked it past the goalkeeper and headed it into the net.
Ederson does it regularly but this was the first time it resulted in an assist, and it is a tactic Guardiola is sure to exploit if City can tie up a deal in the coming days, as is expected.
Guardiola instructed Sergio Aguero to take up ‘offside’ positions at goal kicks at times last season and with a goalkeeper capable of finding the Argentine – or his even faster team-mates – City could really be onto something.
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Yet there is more to Ederson’s game than a freakishly long pass. His overall distribution – it will come as no surprise – has caught the eye of City’s scouts. Whether it be his direct passes into opposition territory, his ability to start attacks quickly with direct throws, or a willingness to receive back-passes in tight spots, he has exactly what Guardiola is looking for.
But those traits will not necessarily excite City fans, or those who doubt Guardiola can be successful in England. After all, Claudio Bravo shares many of those traits, and the Chilean is now facing up to life as a back-up goalkeeper, perhaps even a mentor, to a young man more than 10 years his junior following an extremely testing first season at City.
What Guardiola and the City fans alike will want to know is whether Ederson can keep the ball out of the net. Guardiola may have defended Bravo to the hilt this season, but he has hinted at his frustration at times: “I like goalkeeper to save the goals. When the ball comes… save it.”
Ederson put in a number of eye-catching performances last term, most notably in the Champions League against Borussia Dortmund, when he kept out a penalty and made another five impressive saves. “Goalkeepers are there to defend and save the team when circumstances require it,” said Jose Mourinho, another big fan. “The kid Ederson did it.”
Yet there is room for improvement. There have been a fair few moments that would raise plenty of eyebrows were he to repeat them in England. Another one of the Brazilian’s strengths is that he is incredibly quick off his line, and he is almost always on hand to mop up any danger when opposition teams get in behind. He has been caught out a couple of times, however; he has been known to race out and leave himself stranded, while untimely slips have allowed strikers to get the better of him.
There is also a tendency to go to ground early when faced with one-on-ones, allowing strikers a relatively simple finish. City fans will be no stranger to that, of course.
But City’s scouting and coaching staff believe he has all the right characteristics to become the perfect Guardiola goalkeeper. Director of football Txiki Begiristain has been working on a deal for months, which is why the Brazilian is likely to say goodbye to the Benfica fans after tonight’s cup final and quickly fly to Manchester.
He has become a firm favourite during his time at the Estadio da Luz and his performances in the league and in Europe have ensured he is now recognised as one of the most promising keepers in Europe, but next season he will embark on a new adventure, one which unexpectedly proved too much for Bravo, a veteran of Copa America finals and league titles with Barcelona.
Bravo’s struggles go to show there are no guarantees when it comes to these things, but Guardiola is convinced he has found the perfect man for the job. If Ederson can contribute to City’s build-up play and keep the ball out of the net, the City boss will be proven right. Any assists would be a bonus.