Wednesday, May 18, 2016


Many and frequent will be the rumours linking Manchester City to players this close-season as the new era of Pep Guardiola is gently ushered in. With Manuel Pellegrini overseeing an ageing squad on diminishing returns, the onus on the incoming boss is to renew, rejuvenate and reestablish City's place at the top.

In order to do this the Spanish coach will need to recruit briskly this summer.

Needless conjecture surrounding Joe Hart's position in goal already surfaced towards the end of another exemplary season from the keeper. Hart is clearly England's number one and, after a short period when he seemed to have lost focus two seasons ago, he has performed as well as anyone in the City squad.

For this reason, perhaps, news of goal-keeping reinforcements should be taken with a pinch of salt. However, the positions behind Hart, and perhaps even at some stage challenging him for the number one jersey, should not. With Richard Wright ending an illustrious period of bench warming and Willy Caballero perhaps also surplus to requirements, a top quality back-up may well be needed.

On this subject, strong rumours dripping from the Portuguese press suggest Guardiola has a keen eye trained on Benfica's young shot stopper Ederson.

The young Brazilian displaced Julio Cesar during Benfica's sensational march to a third successive league triumph in Portugal, winning a host of admirers along the way. Among them was the coach of Benfica's Champions League quarter-final opponents, Bayern Munich. Held to a slender one goal win in Munich, Bayern only managed to overcome a spirited Benfica effort in the second leg in Portugal after an enthralling 2-2 draw.

Over the two closely fought matches, Guardiola spotted a goalkeeper, whose attributes are not so far removed from Bayern's present incumbent between the sticks, Manuel Neuer. Ederson, young, agile and energetic, commands his box well and is adept at using his feet to intercept and set up a new wave of attacks. He is alert, able to play beyond his penalty box and has great shot stopping agility. The Spaniard was taken by another of the goalkeeper's obvious attributes: his quick distribution upfield.

Guardiola was moved to state after the first leg with Benfica in April that, "Ederson made many long passes out of defence, forcing us to defend very deep. This caused us many problems during the second half.". Portuguese sports daily A Bola had Ederson as their man of the match in Munich and, when the sides played out a 2-2 draw in the second leg at the Estádio da Luz, Ederson again attracted plenty of plaudits.

The keeper, who a year ago was performing between the sticks at Rio Ave, is exactly what Guardiola looks for in a goalkeeper. The new City coach needs his last man in defence to be able to act as a sweeper, with rapid incursions towards onrushing forwards to clear up any danger. The ability to play
with your feet is essential in Guardiola's mind-set for the team. Much has been written of the high press, the fast to-feet passing and the ability to change players from one position to another, but his goalkeepers also play a vital role in the overall game plan.  

The 22 year old only made his Benfica debut halfway through the 2015-16 season, substituting Julio Cesar before the crucial Lisbon derby with Sporting at the Estádio José Alvalade. He did not once flinch, becoming an unmissable part of the club's third consecutive title triumph in Portugal. In fact, many would go further than that, stating that the young goalkeeper formed, along with striker Jonas, midfielder Renato Sanches and defenders Jardel and Lindelof, the main reasons for a magnificent 35th league title for os encarnados.

If a transfer is to be completed between Benfica and City, there will have to be some serious negotiating, as Ederson is part of the horizon-popping Jorge Mendes stable, whose agreement with former club Rio Ave is that they will receive as much as 50% of any follow-on transfer. With a release fee of around €45 million, he will not be cheap and the price may well fluctuate depending on the deal struck between Mendes's Gestifute agency, Benfica and Rio Ave, Benfica president Luís Filipe Vieira has gone on record as saying €20 million would be a minimum asking price for the young goalkeeper, but that would mean a relatively paltry €10m ending up in  the Lisbon club's coffers. It may take significantly more to prize him away.



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