The rise of Ederson, the kicking king with Man City goalkeeper on the brink of Champions League glory


In Brazil, the undisputed master of those goalkeepers who look good on the ball considers Ederson’s impact at Manchester City.

“A modern goalkeeper,” says Rogerio Ceni, who has scored no fewer than 131 goals in his 23-year career in Sao Paulo, mainly from free kicks and penalties. He now manages Flamengo, where he won the Brazilian Serie A title last year.

When it comes to passing, Ederson is the Brazilians’ most complete goalkeeper, if not in the world. Short pass, long pass, you name it. City, of course, has Kevin De Bruyne and midfielders who smooth the game, open up spaces, but the beginnings of a lot of play are being built by Ederson. He’s foundational to the City plan and has a coach who motivates him, making him part of the game in long and short strides.

It was not an easy ride to the top for Ederson, who is now on the verge of European glory

The short pass is essential and the grass is good, making it easier to face the game with your head up, not the ball. And Ederson has the virtue of the long stride because he is very strong. If opponents slide up to create an offside line, he can kick it back 15 meters and counterattack.

The tall ones do catch the eye. In the second leg of the Champions League against Paris Saint-Germain, his precision goal for Oleksandr Zinchenko created a goal for Riyad Mahrez.

Against Tottenham in the Premier League, one pass cut the game in half for Ilkay Gundogan. He may not have the prolific goalscoring ratio of his hero Rogerio, but Ederson has redefined goalkeeping in Europe.

Few Brazilian guys dream of becoming a goalkeeper and Ederson was no different.

He was a budding left back when he came to play on the orange sand field of Champions Ebenezer, a club founded by ex-pros Gilberto Lopes, known as Giba, and Ozias Matos, to keep guys off the streets and out of trouble in the municipality of Osasco, in Sao Paulo.

Ederson showed a powerful left foot but had little else to his advantage, said Giba, who died last year after suffering from Covid-19.

“He was a bit clumsy and I sent him to play in goal,” Giba said in a 2017 interview with Brazilian news website UOL. ‘He didn’t like it that much, but he closed the mark and soon we realized he had natural talent.’

Ederson felt warm about the role, using skills he didn’t know he had, and soon came to the attention of Toninho Rodrigues, a Sao Paulo coach.

“I saw him practice with Ebenezer on Saturday and on Tuesday he trained with Sao Paulo,” says Toninho. “We called him” Gordo “(fat) because he was very thin. You could see his bones. He was very quiet and humble. ‘

Ederson continued to learn his trade at the club where Rogerio was a hero and the legendary goalkeeper came by the day after practice to talk to the kids on Toninho’s team.

In 2005, when Sao Paulo beat Liverpool in Yokohama to become world champions – and Rogerio scored 21 goals in all competitions – Ederson traveled to Japan with the Under 12s club for a tournament in Shizuoka.

Ederson started out as a burgeoning left back, but soon found his calling in between posts

Ederson started out as a burgeoning left back, but soon found his calling in between posts

All of this was an inspiration to a young goalkeeper who was eager to show how gifted he was with a ball at his feet.

But the dream ended abruptly when the teenager was released without warning, via a phone call to his mother. “I cried a lot,” said Ederson. “I was away from football for a month.”

Even now, Toninho cannot explain Sao Paulo’s decision.

“It was difficult to understand and there was a lack of humanity to send him away like that,” he says Sportsmail. ‘I still get sad today when I think about it. Ederson was so humble and it probably ruined his expectations. I couldn’t call him. I was ashamed. ‘

Ederson was training again with Giba and Ozias in Osasco when Toninho learned that the Benfica scouts were searching Brazil for a good young goalkeeper. He told them to go and see Ederson. “I knew Gordo would still get his chance,” says Toninho. “Maybe it worked out best because it prompted him to become what we see now.”

In Portugal, the coaches tried to add a sense of position and tactical awareness to Ederson’s natural gifts and Brazilian technique.

“He was very calm,” says Paulo Marques, goalkeeper coach at Benfica since 2007. “That stood out. The world could fall around him and he would be okay. He was taller than the other boys. Very confident. Great power, with a good, long pass. A game against Braga, he kicked the ball out of his box, strong, very strong, we watched as the ball passed the whole field … Goal!

‘He wanted to be like Rogerio Ceni, his idol. He likes to score goals, take free kicks and penalties. We helped him, but we were concerned. We couldn’t get him on and off the field 10 or 15 times in a game. We had to keep him behind bars so we didn’t make him our official free kick taker. ‘

Ederson made a name for himself on his return to Benfica in 2015 before moving to Man City

Ederson made a name for himself on his return to Benfica in 2015 before moving to Man City

Ederson left Benfica for Ribeirao, then in the second tier of Portuguese football, and a season later joined Rio Ave, who was coached by Nuno Espirito Santo. He was a backup to Jan Oblak, who was loaned from Benfica and is now with Atletico Madrid.

“We called him” Duck “because of the way he walked,” laughs Brazilian fullback Lionn, a teammate at Rio Ave. “It’s still hard for me to call him Ederson. We had a lot of fun together. We would hang out and have dinner, get to know places in Portugal. ‘

They also shared a passion for tattoos, and Lionn reveals that since moving to Manchester City, Ederson has bought a machine to do some of his own inking work.

“He doesn’t draw, but he can do nice things,” says Lionn. ‘He loves it. We went together for tattoos a few times. He’s the kind of guy who sees a nice drawing on his phone and says, “Hey, I’ll tattoo it.” So he gets ink and life goes on.

‘I was with him when he got the rose tattoo on his neck. He slept on the table, man. I asked him how he could sleep through it and smiled at me and said, “I don’t feel any pain, you idiot”. ‘

Ederson stepped down when Oblak returned to Benfica and Nuno’s Rio Ave team had a memorable season in 2013-14, reaching the final of both the Portuguese Cup and League Cup.

They were beaten both times by Benfica – heading for a domestic Treble with Oblak in goal – although the young Brazilian goalkeeper impressed his Rio Ave teammates.

The goalkeeper, arguably the best in the world, has been married to his wife Lais since 2014

The goalkeeper, arguably the best in the world, has been married to his wife Lais since 2014

“Ederson was very motivated,” says former striker Joao Tomas. ‘Always with the ball after training, trying to learn. He was creative and made small bets on how to score. ‘

Marcelo dos Santos Ferreira, a Brazilian defender who now plays for Pacos Ferreira, recalls a bet with Ederson about kicking the ball higher than the towering stands at Braga’s Municipal Stadium, built in a quarry.

“Of course he could kick the ball above the stadium,” says Marcelo. He was so strong when it came to kicking the ball that he had to learn how to use it better.

“Teams were trying to pressure him and he would make a good pass to our forward. We had fast players and it worked well for us. We have achieved a lot. Now he is the best goalkeeper in the world, especially with his feet. ‘

Oblak left Lisbon for Atlético Madrid in 2014 and Benfica flew to Ederson the following year before moving to City, where he has proven to be the perfect goalkeeper for Pep Guardiola’s style.

“He’s the best with his feet,” Guardiola said when asked to rate him alongside Victor Valdes and Manuel Neuer, his goalkeepers at Barcelona and Bayern Munich. “I think the quality of the pass is the best.”

Manager Pep Guardiola has hailed his Man City goalkeeper as the 'best' with his feet

Manager Pep Guardiola has hailed his Man City goalkeeper as the ‘best’ with his feet

At the age of 27, Ederson has just 11 caps for Brazil, but he is part of Tite’s roster for next month’s World Cup qualifiers against Paraguay and Ecuador, heading to the Copa America this summer to contest the starting role with Liverpool’s Alisson.

“Ederson is the best goalkeeper in the world with his feet and he’s getting better every day,” said Claudio Taffarel, 1994 World Cup-winning goalkeeper and now Brazil’s goalkeeper coach. ‘Perfect at passing no matter the distance, and he controls the ball with ease.

‘Ederson and Alisson are different, they both have their qualities. They are at the highest level of goalkeeping. One thing they have in common is that they are both cool during games. It is difficult to say who will be the number 1 in Brazil.

“We have two games in the qualifiers and Copa America in the coming period and we have to see what they will be like when they come to us.”

But first, the small matter of a Champions League final.

Ederson will be desperate to add the Champions League to his silverware after starring in City's Premier League title triumph

Ederson will be desperate to add the Champions League to his silverware after starring in City’s Premier League title triumph