Aug 6, 2017
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Can new Manchester City goalkeeper Ederson bring out the best of Claudio Bravo?

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Claudio Bravo endured what was probably the worst year of his career after his debut for Manchester City turned sour in the Manchester Derby last season.  A miscalculation saw him come off his line in an ill-fated attempt to reach a Wayne Rooney free kick. Zlatan Ibrahimovic capitalised on the error and successfully shot into the goal mouth, where Bravo was nowhere to be seen.

It did not help that many City fans were still smarting from the sudden departure of long time goalkeeping stalwart and fan-favourite, Joe Hart. Hart left on loan for Torino after it became clear that he would not feature as the number one goalkeeper for Manchester City. As a result, it was easy for those fans who sympathised with the Englishman to quickly turn against the new Chilean keeper after his glaring mistake in the derby.

Bravo’s howler against United was just the first in a season-long string of poor performances at City. By January of the 2016-17 season, Bravo had conceded a horrid 43% of shots on target – the Premier League’s other top four goalkeepers were all performing better than him in this area. To add context, Bravo has saved only three out of 11 shots on target in his 2017 league games.

In sharp contrast, Bravo put in an exemplary performance for his national team. As Chile’s number one goalkeeper at the Confederations Cup this summer he won the competition’s Golden Glove and impressed the whole world in a semi-final penalty shoot-out. It was in this shoot-out that the Chilean put in his most epic performance to date. He saved three out of three penalty kicks to take his team to the final, which they eventually lost to Germany.

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If Bravo remains at Manchester City it is likely that he will be the number two goalkeeper behind the new acquisition, Ederson Moraes.  The Brazilian keeper has impressed in pre-season making a number of eye-catching saves despite one significant mistake against Manchester United. He advanced too far off his line only to be beaten by Romelu Lukaku who slotted the ball into an empty net – shades of Claudio Bravo’s debut.

Pep Guardiola, whose memories of Claudio Bravo’s Premier League season are probably still fresh in his mind, has hinted that Ederson will be his number one choice. A recent ESPN article quoted the Catalan coach as saying:

“I never had doubts about the quality of Claudio, but we decided to buy Ederson. He has shown us amazing things in this period, not just the goal kicks, but also he saves a lot of balls and quickly closes down the space for the strikers.”

Bravo has indicated, however, that he is willing to rise to the task of fighting for his position and he is not bothered by the challenge. In an interview with Spanish outlet AS, before the impending arrival of Ederson, Bravo stated:

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“There is always competition at this level. This was my experience at Colo Colo, the national team, Real Sociedad and City. My whole life has been about competition”

Indeed, the Chilean will know this better than most. Only last year he was still at Barcelona where he shared the limelight with fellow accomplished goalkeeper Marc Andre ter Stegen. The competition was so close between the two that up until Bravo’s departure for Manchester City it was still a matter of debate as to who was the number one goalkeeper at the Catalan club.

Claudio Bravo has openly stated that he is determined to stay at Manchester City and fight for his place. The question is, can that determination help him return to the finer form of his pre-City days? His record certainly suggests that he can do that.

He obviously had the “right stuff”at Barcelona to challenge a very talented and much younger Ter Stegen. Being a two time Copa America champion with the Chilean national team is also a demonstration of his drive.  He played a key role for the team in the 2015 and 2016 Copa America finals making two important saves in the penalty shoot-outs of both games. This year’s Confederations Cup performance was the latest reminder of his pedigree.

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What was particularly amazing in Bravo’s Confederations Cup semi-final performance against Portugal was the fact that he was injured. This handicap did not stop him from rising to the challenge and giving everything. It was reported by ESPN that after the match he said:

“I was injured, I didn’t play and when I did, I didn’t perform at the level to which I’m accustomed. But I normally take things calmly and quietly. Like I said, I’m balanced.”

Such achievements over the past few years speak not just to Claudio Bravo’s extraordinary ability but also his character. And success requires great character in addition to talent. To accomplish what he has done so far in his career takes determination and professionalism.

If Bravo stays at the blue half of Manchester, Ederson should soon feel the pressure of that determination competing against him. This can only be good news for City who will be hoping that a rivalry between the two will bring forth the very best of two very talented goalkeepers.

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Alexis Monteith

I'm a Manchester City and Inter fan writing about European football but my interest also extends to the United States and Major League Soccer.