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Ederson exclusive interview: Man City goalkeeper on assists, futsal skills, being 'crazy' and targeting the treble

In an exclusive interview, Ederson discusses Pep Guardiola's first impressions, the reasons for his rare passing ability and why City can win the treble; watch Southampton vs Man City live on Sky Sports Premier League from 5pm this Saturday; kick-off 5.30

Manchester City goalkeeper Ederson
Image: Manchester City goalkeeper Ederson speaks about his role in the team under Pep Guardiola

"Guys, what is that?" Those were the words of Pep Guardiola when he began doing the analysis for Bayern Munich's Champions League quarter-final tie against Benfica in 2016. He had just witnessed Ederson's kicking ability for the first time.

A little over a year later, the pair were together at Manchester City. Guardiola had identified the Brazilian goalkeeper as the player who could help transform his team after an awkward first season. Claudio Bravo's move had not worked out. Ederson's would.

His short passing out from the back has been a feature of the success that has followed - including four Premier League titles - but it was his long passing that first intrigued Guardiola. "Now we have the chance to put the ball in the other box," he explained.

Manchester City goalkeeper Ederson's pass map in the Premier League this season
Image: Man City goalkeeper Ederson's pass map in the Premier League this season

Speaking to Ederson at the club's training ground almost six years into his City career, the now 29-year-old goalkeeper recalls that it was a goal in his final league game for Benfica that really captured Guardiola's imagination. Ederson to Raul Jimenez. Goal.

"Raul was always on the last man, looking to go really fast in behind," Ederson tells Sky Sports. "I was always looking to get the ball to him quickly so I was happy to do it in such an important game that won us the title. I am always happy to contribute with assists."

Guardiola wanted to try it out at City too. "It is something that we practised a lot, particularly in that first year when I arrived. In the second game against Tottenham in that pre-season, Sergio Aguero hit the post. It was a good sign of things to come."

It has added a new dimension to City's game. "It is really useful against teams that press high because they leave space in behind that we can exploit. It is a great weapon to have because it means we are really varied. We can play it short, medium or long."

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FREE TO WATCH: Man City's win over Brighton in October featuring an Ederson assist

There was a memorable pass for Ilkay Gundogan to score against Tottenham in 2021. But his assist for Erling Haaland in the Premier League win over Brighton in October was perhaps an even better example, tactically. "That was a good pass," says Ederson.

"He likes making those movements and he is such an explosive, physical player, so he got the better of the Brighton defence. It worked really well against Brighton who press us man to man and push really high. It was nice to be able to exploit that over the top."

Ederson's kicking power is freakish, but it is the accuracy as well as the speed that is remarkable. He has the highest long pass accuracy of any Premier League goalkeeper this season - the only man to find a team-mate more often than not with those attempts.

Manchester City's Ederson has the best long pass accuracy of Premier League goalkeepers
Image: Man City's Ederson has the best long pass accuracy of Premier League goalkeepers

Given that it is such a significant part of his game, does he prefer assisting goals to keeping them out? "I definitely prefer making saves. That is what we put our best work towards. But I am really happy to make assists. It is not something that happens every day."

It is no great slight on the Manchester City goalkeeper to say that the saves do not happen that often either. In each of his six seasons under Guardiola, City have faced the fewest shots of any team in the Premier League. That changes the job criteria for Ederson.

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Watch a selection of Ederson's greatest Premier League saves for Man City

It is one of the curiosities of the life of a goalkeeper in a successful side. While Rodri has played the most passes of anyone in the competition and Haaland has had the most shots inside the penalty box, inactivity is the challenge for the man with the gloves.

Asked when he had suffered most on the pitch, Ederson's first thought was of the cold rather than any particular opponent. "At first, it weighed quite heavily on me. Especially up north when it is raining - like it does here in Manchester a lot of the time."

Ederson: We can win all three

“I think for me personally it has been a good season but for the team as well. We are still in three competitions and that is really important. We are still capable of winning them all.

“In the Premier League, we are behind Arsenal but with a game in hand and a game against them at home so we are still in the race. In the Champions League, we have a really difficult game against Bayern Munich, a good team with experience in the competition. In the FA Cup, we are facing a Sheffield United team that are having a really good season in the Championship.

“But we are still alive in all those competitions and the team feels in a good way. We started the season really well, had that little dip, but now it feels like we are back to our best and if we keep that up until the end of the season I think we have a really good chance in all three competitions.”

He is happier at the moment. The sun made a brief appearance this week. "I am glad that the good weather we have had this week coincided with our days off. It was nice to be able to get in the pool with the kids and take advantage of the good weather."

It is a light-hearted thought but Ederson is serious on the subject of concentration. "It was actually one of the things I found hardest when I first arrived. I had real difficulty with this concentration because it is so important, especially in the Premier League.

"Whether it is anticipating a certain play or reading a particular type of pass or save, it is a big factor in my game. I have worked really hard on that and I am still working on that today to keep improving so that I can foresee those moments in matches."

Moments like the decision of when to come out of his area to sweep up behind the defence. Ederson's ability to do this is one of the reasons why he faces so few shots. He prevents them even happening. "It is definitely something we practise a lot," he says.

"What we do in training games is that we get our goalkeepers to play on a very high line. That way, we replicate teams who press high against us. But also, by playing this high line, we can work on these decisions - whether you come off your line in the build-up."

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It came at a personal cost early in his City career, needing stitches after receiving a kick to the face from Liverpool's Sadio Mane. "I think sometimes to be a goalkeeper you need to be a bit crazy. But you cannot be scared of coming out and stopping those kind of plays."

That bravery is still part of his game. "I always put myself into it with everything that I have, even if I have to break every bone in my body, I will do it." But it will always be that rare ability with the ball at his feet that separates Ederson from other goalkeepers.

It is a product of his time playing barefoot at home in Brazil, toenails falling off because he played so much. This is the boy who was asked to fill in as a midfielder in Benfica's academy. Years of playing futsal as a child shaped his game. He is composed for a reason.

"Futsal really helped with that. You have to be calm, make the right decisions, pick the right passes. Because it is a small-sided pitch, you are playing under pressure a lot of the time and that helps me as a player even today. It makes that feeling of calmness more natural.

"You sometimes hear the crowd taking in that deep breath when play becomes a bit risky. But I cannot break my concentration. I have to maintain my cool. That helps me make the right decisions when the opposition are pressing and my job is to find the free man."

Ederson's job. From the time that Guardiola first saw him play, it was always destined to be a bit different to other goalkeepers.

Watch Southampton vs Manchester City live on Sky Sports Premier League from 5pm this Saturday; kick-off 5.30

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