In what is increasingly becoming a sport dominated by fine margins, the need for getting it right when it comes to player recruitment is perhaps more important than ever before. From those competing in the upper echelons of world football to the teams simply fighting for their survival season after season, there may well be more money in the game itself, but using such finances wisely can ultimately be the difference between success and failure. That is perhaps why City’s acquisition of Benfica goalkeeper Ederson Moraes stands out, especially given how Claudio Bravo’s move to Manchester has worked out.
Fresh from Benfica’s 2-1 Taça de Portugal victory over Guimarães, the 23-year-old’s rise in becoming one of the most highly sought after goalkeepers in Europe has been quite something. Shortly after swapping Rio Ave for fellow Portuguese side Benfica, Ederson was gifted his chance in the Benfica first-team following injury to who is now the club’s number two Julio Cesar. From this point onwards Ederson had certainly staked his claim to become Benfica’s permanent number one with a number of impressive performances both this and last season, guiding the club to back to back league titles. Therefore in comes a goalkeeper with age on his side, bags of potential and already a proven winner with domestic doubles in his first two seasons as a top flight goalkeeper.
Unsurprisingly however there will be many a supporter that approaches such a transfer with caution and slight apprehension because, as like Bravo, at least on paper Ederson appears to offer everything that the club so desperately needs. As well as Ederson’s youth and his experience from competing regularly in the Champions League, more importantly it is widely considered that Ederson is the perfect man for Pep Guardiola’s system. For a goalkeeper that stands at over six feet tall, Ederson has proven time and time again to be a confident sweeper keeper for which Pep would have hoped that Bravo could have effectively been for City.
With Guardiola often favouring a high defensive line, a keeper that is able to do much more than simply shot stop and in fact cut out numerous balls played behind City’s defence is imperative. Ederson proved against Pep’s very own Bayern Munich last season that he is more than capable of overcoming any isolation that comes with a high defensive line, most notably in one on one situations with Ederson rushing out before heroically diving at the feet of Douglas Costa – dispossessing the Brazilian and ultimately restricting teammate Ribery from scoring in the follow up. Therefore with the risks that come with Pep’s preferred style of play, if City can master such a tactic then it should certainly reap its rewards, but having a goalkeeper that is both confident and comfortable fitting into such a system is vital and unlike Bravo, there’s every chance that Ederson can be that man both now and for many years to come.
As well as a modern goalkeeper unafraid of sweeping up in defence, for those crying out for a return to Joe Hart or simply a more traditional shot-stopper, if Ederson’s recent showings in the Champions League this season are anything to go by then you will certainly not be left disappointed. Despite Benfica crashing out at the hands of Borussia Dortmund in the Round of 16 stages, their eventual defeat could well have been a lot more embarrassing had it not been for Ederson’s heroics in Benfica’s first leg. A spot-kick save from an Aubameyang penalty together with numerous acrobatic stops throughout the 90 minutes certainly spared Benfica’s blushes in what was a glowing, man of the match performance for the 23-year-old. Likewise 24 goals conceded in 39 appearances across all competitions this season certainly speaks volumes of Ederson’s impressive shot stopping ability.
And as a player that is already confident with the ball at his feet, both in and outside of the box, Ederson’s trademark goal kicks have become commonplace to his game. Performed both at long-distance and surprisingly accurate with the Brazilian even recording an assist of his own this season, Ederson’s distribution is another string to his bow and offers City so much more than the club have at present. After nothing short of a bumpy ride with Bravo this season, here is hoping that Ederson can both learn and develop with the Chilean at his side and justify his new-found tagline as one of the most expensive goalkeeping purchases in modern times – although I don’t think that he will have any problem in doing so.
I firmly believe that Ederson is a fantastic signing for City. The Brazilian is an outstanding shot-stopper and imperious in one-on-one situations. He reads the game well and is very quick off his line, so he is perfectly suited to playing as a ‘sweeper keeper’. That said, what really sets him apart is his mental strength and distribution. The 23-year-old is remarkably composed and level-headed; absolutely nothing seems to faze him. On the ball, his first touch and short passing are excellent, while his kicking and throwing really have to be seen to be believed.
He can pick out a teammate from 60 or 70 yards, and he regularly uses this ability to spring quick counter-attacks. My only real criticism of Ederson is that he punches a little too much, but I guess that is just a reflection of modern coaching. Playing in the Premier League, he will need to get used to the greater number of aerial balls into the box. He also has a tendency to overplay at times, but he is so good that this rarely lands him in trouble.