It is universally accepted in football that goalkeepers are a different breed, but even among the stoppers’ union members, Ederson Santana de Moraes is a little special.
Manchester City’s last line of defence is as good with his feet as he is with his hands and is well on his way to legendary status at a club that delights in the longevity and hero status of No 1s (or 31 in the Brazilian’s case).
There is a running joke at the Etihad Stadium that Ederson could slot seamlessly into the midfield of Pep Guardiola’s reigning Premier League champion and there is an unspoken acceptance, too, that he will one day attempt a ‘Cruyff Turn’ in his own penalty area with unknown consequences.
Ederson is unique. He currently has a pass success rating of 89 per cent that puts some bona fide outfield Premier League players in the shade. He owns a sledgehammer of a left foot that can, with a flick, send the ball from one six-yard box to the other but he also possesses the silky touch that starts many key attacks for City.
The Brazil international is also pretty adept at keeping the ball out of his own net and is currently perched on 99 clean sheets in all competitions for City at a rate of almost one every two games.
The 28-year-old has been at City for four seasons, following a move from Benfica, and still has five more left on a contract that was renewed this year.
If all goes well, he will eventually join a long list of City goalkeepers who became fixtures at the club, remained more than a decade and inked themselves into the folklore of the club.
Ederson has some way to go to catch England international Joe Corrigan — who spent 16 years between the posts for City and amassed 602 appearances — or Bert Trautmann, a stalwart of 15 years and 545 games.
He is, however, closing in on two other legendary City keepers; Frank ‘Frying Pan Hands’ Swift who played 338 times in 16 years and recent hero Joe Hart, who spent a dozen seasons with City and clocked-up almost 350 starts.
Ederson has already won two Golden Glove awards for the goalkeeper who keeps the most clean sheets in a Premier League season and can point to his part in three league titles. He tends to stand aside in the domestic cup games but still can still boast an FA Cup winners medal and four League Cups.
All that from a goalkeeper who started life back in Brazil as a left back but, by his own admission, was too lazy to play outfield. One of his early coaches laughed that Ederson was more than promising attacking but often needed a taxi to get back into defensive position.
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That has all changed now with Ederson’s style and skill catching the eye of Pep Guardiola and Director of Football Txiki Begiristain who brought him to Manchester from Portugal for a fee of £35 million. It’s a move that has barely endured a hitch.
“My first day at City Pep explained why he had signed me and told me what I could add to the team and it was all very relaxed,” Ederson told the club’s website, who have just released a three-part documentary on his early life.
“Pep plays a certain style of game and when I arrived I already had this style under way, so it was much easier for me to adapt.
“I just play naturally. The way our style is, there is a lot of concentration needed. The goalkeeper is key in our team because we can't make any mistakes in the build-up. But my teammates offer me a lot of options for the pass, so I'm very relaxed.
“I still feel that I can improve more and that tomorrow will be better than today.”
Guardiola and Begiristain, meanwhile, have no doubt in the quality of their last line of defence. “Ederson is one of the best in the world,” said the Spaniard. “He is perfectly suited to our philosophy at City and is fundamental to our style.
“He has added a new dimension to our game and revolutionised goalkeeping in the Premier League in the process. We knew he was good when we signed him but he’s even better than we thought.”
It is a view echoed by the manager. “He suits our way of playing perfectly,” said Guardiola. “The impact he has on the team is massive. His composure and the way he faces the good and bad moments is remarkable and he has an incredible work ethic.”