The 49-year-old goalkeeping coach has a wealth of experience in the game, starting his coaching career at Benfica over a decade ago, since then he has worked all over the world at the likes of Standard Liege, Nottingham Forest, Legia Warsaw, and Al-Fateh and he has worked with the likes of Éderson, Guillermo Ochoa, Artur Boruc and many more. The Lisbon-born coach is currently working at Independiente del Valle as the first-team goalkeeping coach and we caught up with him to discuss goalkeeping, life lessons, bouncing back from failure, what makes Éderson so special and much more.
This interview is also available as a podcast – you can listen to the episode here: https://pod.fo/e/178226
Fresh challenges at Independiente del Valle
“We started the season by winning two trophies, the local Supercup and the South American Supercup against Flamengo. Our worry then was that could be (deemed) enough, what happens when you have a team who starts to win almost everything, you still need to push and renew your goals. That was one of our worries with the players so the good thing is that we have a new challenge, we never won the league so we have that goal and we are fighting for that.
The Copa Libertadores is a big challenge because of course you have the best teams on the continent, a big challenge with games every three days but this is normal when you are in more than one competition.”
The goalkeeper playing as an extra outfielder
“I love the kind of football that we play here, it has challenged me a lot also because here the goalkeeper is not just a goalkeeper to protect the goal and protect the line, here they use the goalkeeper a lot as a free man, to have one man more who can find other free men. We are also a team that likes to press very high so there is lots of space in behind, all of this is amazing for me as a goalkeeper coach and for the goalkeepers because we have new challenges to deal with”
A passion and a love for goalkeeping
“I think to play there (in goal), you need to or you really should have a passion for goalkeeping. A guy who puts himself between the posts and drops down to the pitch and then comes up again and down again 100 times a day needs to have passion! When I come to the street where I grew up, I know exactly the places on the street where my passion started and all of my goals. I know exactly between which houses, playing in the street, this is where everything started. My parents saw that I would probably not make a career out of playing so they pushed me to study and I gained two degrees, one as a teacher and one as a clinical psychologist so I was working and then at night time, I would go to football training! When I was preparing to finish my playing career, I thought I cannot live without football so I wanted to try and reach the level (as a coach) that I couldn’t reach as a player. I’ve been so lucky because things happened very quickly to be a professional goalkeeper coach, it’s what I love the most in my life”.
Jan Oblak, Éderson, Joe Hart and the change in goalkeeping
“The change in goalkeeping only happened for some clubs and for some coaches because we need to be very honest about what we believe in, what kind of style we can play and what kind of style we want to play. If it doesn’t come from inside of you as a philosophy of how to play the game, you as a goalkeeper can try to play that way but what if your team or teammates don’t want to play that way? People often speak about two different goalkeepers, two amazing goalkeepers that both worked at Benfica, Jan Oblak and Éderson. They are totally different types of goalkeepers and they have totally different coaches with different beliefs yet both have had success and both have won amazing things so you need to believe in what you want from your team. Of course in Éderson’s case, the coaches at Man City, the manager and the teammates, they all work a lot to have Éderson as an extra player because they believe if you have 10v10 and all of the players are marking each other, you don’t have this extra player to find space so in the case of Éderson he is someone that can break the lines, whether it be short or long passes, the space starts to happen and the opponent is one step behind. Goalkeepers like this, they know absolutely everything, every measurement.”
I think some teams want to play like that and some don’t, if you want to play like that it’s a big challenge and you need to train like that. For example, Éderson needs to see the lines all the time, both close and far away and all of the movements of all of the players. He needs to decide everything before he does it, who he is going to pass to if they are going to be marked, the weight of his pass, all of it. The change (to more modern goalkeeping) is a change that I love and it’s the way we play at my club but it is extra work for the goalkeepers but some goalkeepers love it a lot.”
Sometimes you can find a goalkeeper though that doesn’t fit that profile and playing this way has more risks than benefits and you need to be honest. The important thing is to have a goalkeeper with the profile to play your game, if you don’t have it you can try to teach a goalkeeper to improve that side of the game or you need to find a new goalkeeper that can help you for this style of football. For example, give me Joe Hart to protect the goal, give me Joe Hart because he is one of the best in the world for 1v1 situations and give me him to help protect the spaces. He is an amazing goalkeeper who had an amazing career – for one style of football. Perhaps with a few years of work, he could have achieved what Pep Guardiola wanted from him in that particular style.”
Does the age of a goalkeeper make a difference?
“It’s so interesting to think about the age of a goalkeeper because in the past people thought that to be an amazing goalkeeper you should be at least 30, some people even try to define the age at which a goalkeeper starts getting better. In Portugal we say a goalkeeper is like a Porto wine, you are better and better with age! Obviously, as you get older you have more experience, you’ve played in more games and I think experience helps in shot situations, you begin to understand body signs, the position of a striker’s foot, all of these signals until the very last microsecond before the player shoots, sometimes with age and experience this gets better and a goalkeeper can perhaps anticipate better. However, this is not totally true! I am working with a goalkeeper at the moment who is 19 and he has this anticipation like I have never seen before in a goalkeeper! For me, it’s related to strategies that you’ve used since you were a child. I say sometimes to this goalkeeper that he anticipates like a goalkeeper who is 40 years of age and at the end of their career! Moises Ramirez (the first-choice goalkeeper at Independiente) is another goalkeeper and another example of the training you have received in your career. For example, I could have a goalkeeper who is 35 but is not used to looking for space, who doesn’t have that awareness of his teammates and only sees himself, the goal and the opponent on the other hand I could have a goalkeeper that is very young like Diogo Costa or Moises Ramirez that has been exposed to a different type of training that puts him in a situation where he has to think about the game and make decisions that are related to the game from a very young age, those kinds of goalkeepers arrive to first-team football at 20 or 21 and they already know everything about the game.”
Pressure, mental battles and bouncing back from a mistake
“A goalkeeper has to ask themselves, ‘what is the job of a goalkeeper?’ This becomes a bit of a life philosophy. I’m here sometimes to clean up the mess that others make, I’m here to solve other problems and mistakes that others do. Behind a goalkeeper, there is nobody else to help, they don’t have anybody else to help with their mistakes. An attacker has midfielders behind them, midfielders have defenders behind them and a goalkeeper has nobody. Football is a collective sport until a goalkeeper makes a mistake, then it becomes an individual sport! Goalkeepers grow up with this feeling (of being blamed), when you are a child and you make a mistake on the playground at school, everyone will point at you and say ‘It is because of you we lost the game!’ and you grow up with that. You form your personality around this, with this state of feeling. You grow up thinking, ‘I cannot fail’ but you will fail and you need to learn and accept that sometimes you will fail. After you make a mistake you must learn how to play the rest of that game or how to play three days later or five days later. How you deal with this is an amazing example of your personality.”
“As a goalkeeper the truth is, you are different, you aren’t alone because you’re part of a team but only until a certain limit. At a certain point, it’s up to you to deal with the mess that nobody else can solve. This is why for example Victor Valdes, the former FC Barcelona and Spain goalkeeper said once in an interview that he never enjoyed being a goalie in his career. He was very good but we have to speak about enjoying the game, I believe he had amazing moments that he will have enjoyed, he was one of the first guys to play as we see Éderson playing today. One of the most important goalkeepers of the career of Pep Guardiola which he will have enjoyed but the responsibility is so high, the pressure is so high and the criticism is so tough that sometimes we can’t speak about enjoying, it’s something we have to learn.”
“I especially advise the young goalkeepers not to read too much the comments on social media for example, your worries need to be what your teammates think of you, what your coaches think and analyse with you, the things they do with you internally to help you improve, if you start to read all of the things that people say about you you cannot play with freedom.”
The joys and rewards of being a goalkeeper
“Nothing compares to a save that wins you a game, in the last minute and you are there to save the whole team, this is what we work all our life for as a goalkeeper, it’s to make a save like Emi Martínez made in the last World Cup final, it’s thousands of hours of frustration to have that one moment. I think that one moment for a goalkeeper has the same feeling whether you’re playing in a final, in your street as a child, or as an amateur, the feeling is always the same, ‘I saved the team!’, you put all of your body on the line to protect the goal. After that we can deal with the more complex issues, being a free man etc but the basis of goalkeeping is protecting your goal when nobody else can help.”
Getting the edge over your opponent and the hypocrisy in the media
“Emi Martínez did some things in the World Cup that we can consider perhaps too much but he gave such an amazing example in terms of strategy, in terms of psychological influence on the other players that we normally associate with a striker. People will think, “Oh this striker is so amazing, how he can provoke the defence and provoke the goalkeeper” and for some people, this is normal behaviour but when a goalkeeper does things to get the edge, people say, ‘Oh this is a guy without education, he’s a crazy guy, it’s too much, it offends the game’. This is how it is seen culturally.”
We want to say a big thank you to Ricardo for his time and wish him all the success for this season at Independiente.