⛨ WHAT MEMORIES WILL YOU TAKE WITH YOU OF YOUR TIME AT BENFICA?
I was there four years in all. I remember when I was in Brazil and the possibility arose that I could be going to Benfica, I went mad. "I'm going to Europe!". I was only 15 when I arrived in Lisbon and when I saw the Academy in Seixal... "My God this is first class". There I began my first steps in big time football. I did two years at the Academy, left and, a little later, had the opportunity to return. Benfica opened the gates to Europe for me and for that I will always be grateful.
⛨ DID YOU EVER IMAGINE THAT YOU WOULD LEAVE HAVING WON SO MANY TITLES IN SUCH A SHORT PERIOD?
When I came back (from 3 years at Rio Ave) I certainly dreamt this might be possible. Benfica is a club with a winning mentality, which always has to be champion and which enters all competitions with the idea of winning them.
⛨ EVEN WITH YOUR DEPARTURE AND THAT OF LINDELÖF, WITH PERHAPS OTHERS STILL TO COME, DO YOU BELIEVE BENFICA CAN BE CHAMPIONS THIS SEASON?
Yes, the quality is still there. Certainly it will be difficult but I have total confidence that they will manage to get title number 37 this year. Benfica have let three players go, but will quickly stabilise things. It has always been like this in recent years. Benfica has become a production line of great players. For example, I am not so sure that they will be able to hold on to Grimaldo and Nélson Semedo for much longer. Football has become big business and whoever has the most cash plucks off the best players.
⛨ YOU ARRIVED AT THE CLUB DURING A PHASE WHEN THEY WERE STILL "RECOVERING" FROM THE DEPARTURE OF JORGE JESUS. THERE WERE UNSTABLE MOMENTS, THE SUPERTAÇA DEFEAT TO SPORTING, HOW DID THE TEAM.REACT TO THESE SETBACKS?
Well, we always had a very united group and Rui Vitória knew how to bond us together. He is a 5-star manager, who treats you well and even with such a troubled start, we had the power and ability to win the title by the end of that season. I cannot speak highly enough of the manager.
⛨ AND THE TALK COMING OUT OF SPORTING, ESPECIALLY FROM JORGE JESUS HIMSELF, DIDN'T HAVE AN EFFECT ON YOU? AT THE END OF THE DAY YOU WATCH TV TOO AND YOU HAVE ACCESS TO THE INTERNET TOO. YOU MUST HAVE BEEN AWARE OF IT ALL?
Yes, that's true! We heard all of the quotes, but they go in one ear and out the other. It was like water that falls on your hand but then dries again. It didn't make the slightest difference because we were focussed on our own side and what we could achieve on the pitch.
He was essential for me. He filled me with a lot of confidence, before my debut. He is the leader of the group, a sincere man, who says to your face exactly what he means. He respects all players and this is fundamental for me.
⛨ DURING 2016-17 BENFICA DID NOT LOSE A SINGLE GAME AGAINST FC PORTO OR SPORTING...
These are the big matches, the ones where you are on fire. We always went onto the pitch with the firm idea that it was simply 11 v 11 and that we had to be strict about when we were going to attack and when we were going to defend. At the Dragão for example, we didn't produce a very good first half performance, but afterwards were able to balance things up and get our equaliser. This gave us a lot of confidence.
⛨ WILL YOU TAKE MUCH THAT YOU HAVE LEARNT FROM JÚLIO CESAR TO MANCHESTER? WAS IT IMPORTANT TO HAVE HAD THE CHANCE TO WORK WITH HIM THESE PAST YEARS?
⛨ YOU NO DOUBT REMEMBER YOUR DEBUT AGAINST SPORTING IN ALVALADE? WHAT WERE YOUR THOUGHTS WHEN RUI VITÓRIA TOLD YOU THAT YOU WOULD BE PLAYING'?
It felt like it was my big chance. Simply that. I had to grasp that opportunity. Life is made up of opportunities and we have to know how to make the most of them. I have come through many difficult periods to get to where I am now and each little victory adds value to what I have managed. My parents and my wife are always close to me and are the basis to everything I do.
⛨ DID YOU BELIVE THAT, FROM THAT MOMENT, THE FIRST TEAM SHIRT WAS YOURS?
I have to admit that I did, yes. This opportunity presented itself during a period when there were many big games coming one after the other, the ones that are the nicest to play in, in big stadiums. So, if you're given your chance in such a big game... I was happy that I had helped the team to win and that same week we played Zenit in the Champions League. There again I played well to help the team through to the quarter finals.
⛨ DID YOU SENSE THAT JÚLIO CESAR ACCEPTED THE FACT THAT HE HAD LOST HIS FIRST TEAM PLACE TO YOU?
Yes. He never once treated me differently. He was always honest and clear with me, always showed me respect and his general positivity was contagious. In the changing room we all love him. He's one of those guys who helps the group gel. He gave me a lot of advice from that moment on and every little offer of help that he put my way, I grasped.
⛨ BENFICA HAVE JUST SIGNED ANDRÉ MOREIRA AS YOUR REPLACEMENT. DO YOU THINK HE'S READY TO GO STRAIGHT INTO THE FIRST TEAM?
Well, I can't say he's going to be my direct replacement as Benfica already have other 'keepers of high quality. I'm sure the goalkeeper that Rui Vitória chooses will do the job required of him. I will always lend my support to my old colleagues. Don't forget also Bruno Varela, who is back at Benfica after a big season at Vitória de Setubal.
I never trained it specially, no. I was born with it and it happens naturally. During training sometimes the boss would place another player close to the edge of the box and have the ball played into me, just to make sure I didn't lose the skill.
⛨ BUT WERE YOU DETAILED TO DO THIS DURING A GAME? THERE WERE VARIOUS OCCASIONS LAST SEASON WHEN YOU TRIED TO SURPRISE THE OPPOSITION DEFENCE WITH LONG BALLS TO THE FLANKS AND EVEN MANAGED AN ASSIST TO RAUL JIMENEZ ON ONE OCCASION!
The manager told me I could do this, but only at certain stages of the game. In that game with Guimarães for example, I had noticed that their defensive line was taking its time to recover its positions and I could also hear the shouts from their bench. I managed to dispatch the ball swiftly and accurately to put Raul Jimenez through on goal to score. This all depends on the moment in question.
⛨ YOU SCORED GOALS YOURSELF DURING YOUR DEVELOPMENT YEARS. DOES THIS COME FROM YOUR ADMIRATION FOR CENI?
Well, I distinctly remember one of the two. It was against Deportivo da Corunha during an Easter tournament in Guimarães in 2010. We were losing 0-1 and from a goal kick I hit the ball past the other goalkeeper and into the net. It was mad. Then also in the juniors I scored at Seixal against Braga. We beat them 7-1 and I opened the way with a goal after 3 minutes. As far as free kicks are concerned I did practise them at Riberão but I never thought of taking them or penalties. I practise them and if the manager says to take them I'll be prepared (smiles).
⛨ AT CITY YOU'LL HAVE THIS LIBERTY TO PLAY WITH THE BALL AT YOUR FEET.
I want to have this freedom, yes, but I can't just do what I want. With a bigger club comes bigger responsibility. The pressure will be much higher but I'm going to have to take a risk from time to time to hit the target. When I'm playing it will always be like this.
⛨ YOU'RE GOING TO BE PLAYING IN A CHAMPIONSHIP WHERE GOAL LINE TECHNOLOGY ALREADY EXISTS. ARE YOU IN FAVOUR OF THIS TECHNOLOGY?
I don't mind either way. It's the referee that makes the final decision after all. If it helps, fine, but I don't like the idea of the game being stopped lots of times. It might delay things a bit but the technology might bring about a revolution so....
⛨ BUT DURING THE PORTUGUESE CUP WE'VE EXPERIENCED THIS AND THERE WERE CASES WHERE THE PLAYERS WERE WAITING FOR THE REFEREE TO MAKE HIS MIND UP.
I don't feel that this had a negative effect on the games but I'm just a bit wary that it could lead to lots of stoppages.
⛨ YOU'RE OFF TO MANCHESTER THIS SUNDAY (9th July). HOW DO YOU FEEL WITH SO LITTLE TIME LEFT BEFORE YOU TAKE THIS NEXT BIG STEP IN YOUR CAREER?
I am very relaxed about it. I have always been a calm person and never got overexcited about stuff. I want to get to England, show my qualities and prove why people had faith in me.
⛨ WHEN YOU FIRST HEARD ABOUT CITY'S INTEREST, DID YOU DECIDE STRAIGHT AWAY OR TAKE TIME TO PONDER THINGS?
City's interest in me had already been apparent for some time, but I always stayed calm about it. When it came to having to take a decision, I had a meeting at Benfica with all concerned and told them that I had accepted City's offer. We are talking about a club that had always shown a lot of interest in me, with a trainer, who had also shown he liked me from the start. It wasn't a particularly difficult decision to take, as it was good for Benfica and good for me.
⛨ GUARDIOLA HAD ALREADY BEEN IMPRESSED BY YOU AFTER THE BAYERN-BENFICA GAMES IN THE 2015-16 CHAMPIONS LEAGUE.
I think this stemmed from the different way we played in those games. Bayern didn't seem prepared for us to play in the way that we did. We created a lot of chances from goal kicks sent to the flanks and, from that, I think Guardiola started to enjoy my way of playing out to feet. After the game we did not talk though.
⛨ GUARDIOLA'S ALSO WELL KNOWN FOR GIVING THE GOALKEEPER POSITION EXTRA IMPORTANCE IN HIS GAME PLAN. DO YOU THINK YOU CAN RISE TO ANOTHER LEVEL UNDER HIS GUIDANCE?
Without a doubt. I hope very much to develop my game at City.
⛨ DO YOU FEEL READY FOR THE DEMANDS OF THE PREMIER LEAGUE?
Yes, I always had the dream of playing in the Premier League, especially with a team of City's calibre. I hope to put in a good shift and reach the same heights of success I tasted with Benfica.
⛨ AND YOU'LL HAVE BERNARDO SILVA AS A TEAM MATE WHEN YOU GET THERE, A PLAYER YOU KNOW FROM THE BENFICA ACADEMY....
We can help each other for sure, but in football these days the groups are very welcoming and I believe this will happen at City too. It looks like a well knit group and,. apart from Bernardo, there is also Fernandinho and Gabriel Jesus that I know. They'll help me to adapt.
⛨ YOU'LL HAVE CLAUDIO BRAVO FIGHTING FOR THE FIRST TEAM SHIRT WITH YOU AT CITY, WHO WAS IN GREAT FORM AT THE CONFEDERATIONS CUP. ARE YOU READY FOR THIS SCRAP?
I sure am. I'm happy for him that he had a good tournament. It was good for him coming off the back of a season that wasn't so easy. It will help him regain some of the confidence that he might have lost last year. Everyone knows that he's an excellent goalkeeper, but I hope he realises that he's going to have some stiff competition for the shirt.
⛨ THE CHANGE TO CITY HAS MADE YOU ONE OF THE MOST EXPENSIVE GOALKEEPERS IN HISTORY. DOES THE €40 MILLION FEE FRIGHTEN YOU AT ALL?
It's just a number! Many friends have said to me: "Mate, how does it feel to be the second most expensive keeper in history?!" I feel completely normal. Going for one or for 40 it makes no difference to me. The responsibility increases but I'm ready for that. It's not going to affect my concentration.
⛨ YOU'RE GOING TO HAVE LINDELÖF AS A RIVAL THIS FIRST SEASON IN ENGLAND. HAVE YOU ALREADY SPOKEN TO HIM ABOUT THIS?
Yes, we've spoken. He congratulated me and me him. We're going to be on opposite sides but we remain friends. Let's just make sure City always come out the winners.