Manchester City supporters were left pondering if Pep Guardiola was more Judas than Jesus when he brought Claudio Bravo to the club to replace Joe Hart. The Chile international started his career in unfathomably unconvincing fashion and never quite managed to salvage a reputation which was floored with a first round knockout blow on his debut at Old Trafford.
Guardiola, a man regularly lauded for his footballing genius, had placed what appeared to be an amateur posing as a genuine professional in the most niche position on the pitch. It rapidly became apparent that something had to budge and Ederson was brought to Manchester the following year after winning Liga Nos with Benfica.
Doubts over the credentials of a player with no experience in one of Europe’s top leagues naturally crept into the stream of consciousness of uninformed supporters, but the Brazil international eased fears with his incredibly relaxed vibe and colossal presence between the sticks.
The price for City’s saviour: a cool £35million. In goalkeeping terms that figure is well above the market average, but the manner in which the transfer market has developed thereafter suggests that the current Premier League champions concluded a shrewd deal.
City fans need little introduction to Ederson’s quality. Every majestic Cruyff turn on the edge of his six-yard box and pinpoint 60-yard diagonal provokes a fresh set of gushing comments regarding his ability. Half-hearted, tongue-in-cheek calls for Ederson to enjoy a run out in central midfield are commonplace in the blue half of Manchester.
Txiki Begiristain and the rest of City’s hierarchy will have been thoroughly pleased by their negotiation with Benfica long before they faced Chelsea on Sunday, but Kepa’s unconvincing performance provided yet another reason to justify what equated to a world-record fee in sterling in 2017.
Chelsea’s goalkeeper has not adapted to the demands of English football as effortlessly as Ederson managed. The Blues brought him in to replace Thiabaut Courtois – an unenviable task by anyone’s standards – for a club-record £71million.
The economic landscape of top level football is a funny old place: transfer fees are dictated and inflated due to a plethora of complicated reasons.
With that said, it would be unfair to suggest that Kepa should be twice as good as Ederson due to the fact that basic mathematics points towards that conclusion. It would be fair, however, to argue that Chelsea’s transfer decision should have provided Maurizio Sarri with a keeper who is of a similar ability to City’s stopper.
Arguments aside, the reality is this: Kepa is leagues below Ederson at this moment in time and the already distinguishable gulf in class was exacerbated when light and dark blue went head-to-head at the Etihad Stadium last weekend.
Graeme Souness slated the world’s most expensive stopper for failing to keep out Sergio Aguero’s blockbuster second goal, via Metro.
“This Aguero goal [his first] is a fabulous strike from a fantastic player and not such a fabulous goalkeeper. The ball ends up in the top corner, but that’s after he touches it. That for me is a shot he should save.”
Sympathisers have naturally jumped to slate Souness over that particular opinion, but there is no denying Chelsea’s keeper was at fault for Ilkay Gundogan’s fourth goal and perhaps could have been more alert to prevent Aguero from making it 3-0.
In the midst of a City onslaught, Ederson remained switched on and denied the visitors from pulling a goal back at 4-0, showcasing a level of concentration which is tailor-made for a team that plays the majority of its football at the right end of the pitch.
On a day which was defined by an ominous gulf in class, the contrasting performances of two of the world’s most expensive goalkeepers served to underline the genius behind City’s decision to steal Ederson at a bargain price.