Is it true you used to play at left-back when you were a youngster?
Yes, it’s true. But the life of a left-back is not easy at all. I didn’t fancy chasing fast wingers and struggled to track their runs. Then I talked to my coach and told him I wanted to play as a goalkeeper. Surprisingly enough, I did quite well in the first training session. It was like love at first sight. From then on I started to shape my goalkeeping style, and thankfully I evolved in this position.
We’ve see you coming out of your penalty area and making a lot of passes in the Premier League. Does Pep Guardiola give you any special instructions about this?
We normally do a lot of drills on how to get out of the first third of the field, especially in the days just before matches, so this helps me a lot. My team-mates also pass me the ball frequently, which makes my life much easier in this regard.
More after the break
Gary Neville thinks you are talented enough with the ball at your feet to play in midfield…
I agree with him. Actually, when I played in the Benfica youth teams, they would always call me to play in midfield if someone was missing and I didn’t ever embarrass myself. So, if necessary I’m definitely up to the task. It wouldn’t be easy, especially in the Premier League, but I think I could manage the challenge.
Do you do anything specific in training to perfect your trademark long passes?
Not really, no. I did it quite a lot when I was in Benfica’s youth teams, but I think it’s a natural talent. I was always comfortable with the ball at my feet, and this helps me during games. It’s something I’ve been working on since I started out at Sao Paulo, and over time I’ve tried to improve my skills. But even when I played in the local academy I was trying to show off some ability with my feet. I actually scored several goals when taking free-kicks!
We’ve heard about your dead-ball prowess. Were you influenced by Rogerio Ceni, Sao Paulo’s goalscoring keeper?
Not a great deal. To be honest, it started even before I joined the club. One of my coaches encouraged me to try it. In the beginning I didn’t want to take any free-kicks but he pushed me to do it. Then I started scoring a few goals and everything changed. But I don’t do it anymore. City have plenty of specialists in this area…
This is an extract from an interview which appeared in the March issue of FourFourTwo
Jens Lehmann: Goalkeepers should take A-Levels
Goalkeepers: Playing out from the back
Goalkeeper training drills: Improve your range of passing
Goalkeeper training drills: Control and distribution
Goalkeeper training drills: Dealing with crosses