Ederson exclusive interview: Man City goalkeeper on becoming a leader, Pep Guardiola’s future, and chasing Liverpool | Football News

There were 75 minutes on the clock at the Etihad Stadium when Ederson switched from goalkeeper to bodyguard, charging shoulder-first into Burnley’s Connor Roberts then dragging him away as he tried to square up to the 19-year-old Rico Lewis.

“I will back up my team-mates under any circumstances,” Ederson tells Sky Sports as he reflects on the flashpoint in a first-floor meeting room at Manchester City’s training ground.

“I will always try to protect them however I can, especially young players like Rico, who was only asking the question because there was off-the-ball contact on John [Stones] before the pushing. I was just defending him. It is part of the game. But I would do it under any circumstances.”

Ederson was booked for the incident. But there were no complaints from Pep Guardiola. A year ago, he accused his players of lacking “stomach and guts” for failing to defend Lewis from persistent fouling against Tottenham. This time, he loved the reaction.

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“It makes us feel alive,” he said in his press conference afterwards. “Last season was flat in that period, so this is better. We have to defend ourselves because nobody is going to defend us.”

Clearly, the message has got through to the players. Having roared back from last season’s slump to win the treble, City are bringing the fight again, their determination summed up by their goalkeeper.

“Yes, absolutely,” Ederson says when asked if he sees more fire in the group now. “I think a lot of it is down to the mentality we have created in the squad. This is very important, especially after last season, when we won everything and enjoyed immense success.

“I think maintaining that is even more difficult. But the group has this mentality to keep going and to win everything again.

“This will be our objective until the end of the season.”

Ederson knows as well as anyone what it takes to get over the line. He has been there for every one of City’s successes under Guardiola. Having arrived at 23 in 2017, he is now one of their longest-serving players and a leader. Does he enjoy the added responsibility?

Only Jordan Pickford has played more Premier League minutes than Ederson in the last seven seasons
Ederson ranks second in the Premier League for minutes played in the last seven seasons

His answer offers an insight into the dressing-room dynamics fuelling City’s relentless quest for yet more silverware.

“Not many players are still here from when I arrived,” he smiles. “Only five or six if I’m not mistaken. Of course, they consider me as one of the leaders. Not just me but all the older players in the group.

“But I think respect comes before anything else. The players here take things on board irrespective of who they are speaking to, whether it’s a 20-year-old or a 33-year-old in the case of Kyle [Walker].

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“We are not precious here. We listen to each other and we take things on board very well. Whoever has to talk, to give some advice to a team-mate to push the group forward, is welcomed.”

It is partly for that reason that City have been able to absorb the departures of senior players such as Ilkay Gundogan, Joao Cancelo and Aymeric Laporte in the last year. The side is younger, its average age dropping below 27. And yet, according to Ederson, it is steelier and more experienced too.

“I think the team is a good mix of 30-year-olds and youngsters,” he explains. “And even the young players are very experienced due to what we have won. For example, Rico, Phil [Foden], these are really young guys but they have won a lot of trophies.

Ederson rushed to the defence of Rico Lewis against Burnley
Ederson rushed to the defence of Rico Lewis against Burnley

“Julian [Alvarez] and Erling [Haaland] have also won a lot. This experience stands out. Our team has a lot of it despite being so young. And I have to mention the mentality again, of always wanting more and always wanting to play good football. It shines through everywhere.”

It certainly shines through in Ederson, whose crucial role in last year’s treble was recently recognised with the Best FIFA men’s goalkeeper of the year award. He has reached the pinnacle. Outstanding with his hands; even better with his feet.

And yet, in his seventh season at City, his appetite for improvement remains. “I try to improve every day and work every day to get better. I think every player has to have this mindset, because in life everyone can improve. Every day you can learn something new.”

One day Pep will have to leave but I don’t see that happening now, I see it in a more distant future

Ederson on Pep Guardiola

It helps, in that sense, to have Guardiola as your boss. The manager’s future has been brought into focus by Jurgen Klopp’s revelation that he will leave Liverpool at the end of the season. But Ederson feels there is more to come from the 53-year-old at City.

“One day Pep will have to leave as well but I don’t see that happening now, I see it in a more distant future,” he says. “Of course, we can’t walk in other people’s shoes. I don’t know what is going on for somebody else, or what is going on in someone else’s head.

“But, principally in Klopp’s case, a decision like that involves lots of factors beyond football – family, I don’t know what else. He is a human being, and that comes before his profession.

Ederson credits Pep Guardiola for Man City's relentlessness
Ederson sees Pep Guardiola staying at Man City until the “distant future”

“Any human being has to put their family first, their mental health, their family’s wellbeing. I hope he can have a good period of rest because he is a great manager. He has done a lot for Liverpool.

“He has led one of the most difficult teams we have faced over the last few years. I wish him a lot of luck for the future.”

Ederson’s outlook shows he has “matured”, to use Guardiola’s term. But catching Klopp’s side is the priority and it is partly thanks to their goalkeeper that it now feels like a possibility.

City’s season was drifting. But Ederson helped to ensure the FIFA Club World Cup in Saudi Arabia served as a turning point.

Manchester City lift the Club World Cup
Manchester City beat Palmeiras to win the FIFA Club World Cup

“It wasn’t just an important competition for us as players, but for the club as well,” explains Ederson. “The club hadn’t won this trophy, so it was an important competition.

“It stands out especially for South American players such as Julian and myself. In South America, they live this competition more. We know that the fans are captivated by this trophy.

“I tried to pass on the importance of this title in South America to my team-mates. I think they absorbed the advice that I gave them and, from there, we have regained some momentum.

“We had a less strong period just before the Club World Cup, but the team has found good form again. Our mentality stands out again as the main reason we have been able to do it.”

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The result is that they face Brentford on Monday Night Football on the back of eight consecutive wins in all competitions.

The trip to west London is an awkward assignment. They lost twice to Thomas Frank’s side last season. But Kevin de Bruyne and Haaland are available again. It feels like City are hitting their stride.

“I think the few times this season that we have had a full squad, we have been more focused,” says Ederson. “We are back training normally. Erling is back from injury and so is Kevin after a long time out. It’s great to see all of our players together again on the pitch, healthy and ready to play the next match.”

For their rivals, meanwhile, it is ominous. Recent evidence suggests Ederson, in particular, is up for the fight that lies ahead.

Watch Brentford vs Man City live on Sky Sports Premier League and Main Event from 6.30pm on Monday; kick-off 8pm

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