Atalanta midfielder Ederson is attracting interest from several top clubs but what should they expect from the Brazilian? Adam Bate speaks to the player’s former head coach at Corinthians to find out more about what he could bring to the Premier League…
Image: Ederson has emerged as a serious talent during his time in Italy with Atalanta
Ederson, the Brazilian midfielder being linked with a move to the Premier League, might just be ready for the next step. It will not be his first. When he was 12, he moved to Sao Paulo, his country’s biggest city, in the hope of making it as a footballer.
He remembers being told by his mother they had the money to go to Sao Paulo. They just did not have enough money to come back. Fortunately, there was no need to return. Now 24 and impressing in Italy with Atalanta, the adventure goes on.
Ederson made his professional debut as a teenager for Desportivo Brasil and earned a move to the top flight with Cruzeiro. The chance came in trying circumstances with the club facing relegation but Ederson showed enough promise to be snapped up by Corinthians.
“Cruzeiro were struggling and he ended up having the opportunity to play,” Tiago Nunes tells Sky Sports. “He took his opportunity and stood out. He gave Corinthians a reason to bet on him as a project.” Nunes would be his head coach at Corinthians.
“At that time, he was an introverted boy, very focused on what he wanted to achieve, what he wanted from his career, but still with a low level of confidence, who needed a lot of support from his coach, from the people around him, in order to achieve.
“I do not think he even imagined the size of his potential, because he was an athlete who was looking to find the best version of himself and he still had some adapting to do to succeed at a big club like Corinthians. But I am sure it was a year of learning for him.
“He took some time to find his place. There were some points, tactically and mentally, that he needed to develop at that time but he gained that experience with the help of time and games. He matured step by step and, consequently, history speaks for itself.”
Image: Ederson during his formative years playing under Tiago Nunes at Corinthians
Brazilian football has a reputation for producing skilful forwards, robust defenders and marauding full-backs, while world-class goalkeepers have become the norm more recently. But the all-action midfielder went out of fashion in the country for stylistic reasons.
Coaches came to prefer sitting midfielders in front of the centre-backs to compensate for those adventurous defenders out wide but that is not Ederson’s game. “He is a box-to-box player with the energy to keep going back and forth all the time,” explains Nunes.
“My first impressions were of a player with a lot of strength, a lot of physical ability, a player who was a powerful striker on the ball, with good technique. Basically, someone with characteristics that are difficult to find, especially in Brazilian football.”
His style made him suitable for Europe and he was a revelation at Salernitana when he made the move in January of 2022, helping to keep the Italian club in Serie A for the first time in their history. A ball-carrier in their 3-5-2, he had enough freedom to thrive.
Ederson impressed enough for Salernitana to flip him for a profit in the very next transfer window but it took time for him to find his place under Gian Piero Gasperini at Atalanta. The tactical demands were different and that first season was only a qualified success.
Adapting to a more attacking role, he has added more to his game, scoring six goals already this season, having netted just once in his first campaign. Gasperini has described Ederson’s “evolution on the pitch” as one of the “great satisfactions” of the season so far.
Image: Gian Piero Gasperini calls Ederson's rise one of the most pleasing aspects of the season
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Making that adjustment will encourage clubs that this is a player capable of taking on more. From that first challenge of making the move to the big city in pursuit of his dream before he was even a teenager, Ederson has shown resilience to meet the demands.
“He has two main strengths,” Nunes explains. “Firstly, on the pitch, he has great physical strength, with the ability to play box-to-box, back and forth, sustaining the pace of the game. Secondly, he has a very strong mentality, with a very clear awareness of what he wants.”
When the attitude is right, the talent shines through. His former coach talks of his “above-average control over the ball when shooting with his right foot” and his solid technique. “This is a player with a lot of potential that is yet to be developed,” adds Nunes.
“I see him playing as a box-to-box player, a midfielder who isn’t really someone to build the game but more of a player who can break through lines, get into the final third, progress up the field. I see him more as a midfielder with the freedom to get forward.”
Nunes’ description of him as an all-round midfielder is neatly illustrated by Ederson’s contribution in the defensive and offensive phases. He ranks third in Serie A for tackles but also ranks sixth for the number of times that he has put a team-mate in on goal.
Image: Ederson's impressive all-round midfield stats for Atalanta so far this Serie A season
Having shown his worth at Cruzeiro and Corinthians, Salernitana and Atalanta, Ederson has already demonstrated in two different countries he is a player who is capable of finding a role for himself at clubs regardless of the style of play or the circumstances.
It helps to explain why he has been linked with Manchester United and Liverpool, Tottenham and Newcastle, in recent months. Not all of those prospective buyers would necessarily seek to use Ederson in exactly the same way – and nor would they need to.
“I think he has the characteristics to play a more purposeful game or a transition game. He has the ability to link up and find the best interpretation of space in a shorter game in short spaces, but he also has the physical ability for a high-speed transition game.”
Image: Ederson is said to have the characteristics that would suit the Premier League
A future Premier League player, then? Nunes stops short of likening to him any famous player from the past. “That would be too pretentious.” But he does recognise the qualities in Ederson that are required of players at the very highest level of the game.
“He has the ability and the physicality to handle the pace of the game. He is a very vertical player with a lot of pace in the final third of the pitch. This is a player with very particular characteristics who can develop even more in a league as strong as the Premier League.”
For Ederson, perhaps the next step awaits.