When Josep Guardiola brought Claudio Bravo to Manchester City from Barcelona, it was clear that the decision to replace England goalkeeper Joe Hart with the Chile captain was down in no small part to the 33-year-old’s greater ability with his feet.
Having made his debut in a 2-1 derby win at Manchester United, Bravo kept a clean sheet as City opened their UEFA Champions League bid with a 4-0 defeat of Borussia Mönchengladbach. Wednesday’s trip to Celtic is followed by away and home reunions with Barcelona, and Bravo spoke to UEFA.com about how he acquired his footballing technique and the challenge of facing Lionel Messi, Neymar and Luis Suárez in training.
UEFA.com: What so far has been the best thing about your time here in Manchester?
Claudio Bravo: Lots of things! First of all, the fact everyone is doing their best to make me feel at home and get used to the country and the team. Then there’s the fact this really is a big club – you can feel it when you see the stadium, when you realise how many supporters there are worldwide.
As far as the football is concerned, I’m happy because we’re playing well and we understand each other’s way of playing. Lots of teams are trying to copy our style, even if we’ve just started to play this way, and that means the coaching staff are doing a great job, as well as the players of course, who get to grips with the instructions coming from the coach very quickly. That’s what makes me happiest about being here.
UEFA.com: As a goalkeeper, your ability on the ball is well known: what do you put it down to?
I think it comes from my childhood. I’ve always hit the ball well, and I loved to swap positions on the pitch, from goalkeeper to striker and vice versa. When I was ten I decided to focus on being a goalkeeper, but I’ve never really lost that mindset.
I tried to get even better on the ball, because it isn’t a common skill for a goalkeeper to have. Being a goalkeeper isn’t easy nowadays, because you have to do so many things besides saving goals.
UEFA.com: Does the prospect of returning to the Camp Nou with City to play against Barcelona excite you?
Bravo: Yes, it excites me. Much in the same way as when I played against Real Sociedad with Barcelona, it was a special occasion and hundreds of things go through your mind. They’re special occasions and it’s going happen to me again. Hopefully that the game goes well for us.
UEFA.com: You’ve seen at close quarters, day in, day out, just what Messi, Neymar and Suárez are capable of in training. What’s that like for a goalkeeper?
Bravo: It’s great. Training alongside them every day – apart from being top players, they’re great guys and you learn a lot from them, they perform at such a high level.
As a goalkeeper, it was also beneficial for me to have them as team-mates. I’ve also come up against them, they are very tough to play against and that’s why they’re up there with the very best. Now we’ve gone our separate ways and I’ll always wish them the best, because they were great team-mates. I hope it’ll be a great game.
UEFA.com: So it’s not a nightmare for a goalkeeper when those three are firing shots in at you?
Bravo: No, I don’t think so. I’ve never viewed an opposition striker as a nightmare, quite the opposite. You see it as a challenge and you want to be involved in those games, they’re the high-profile games with some great players on the pitch.
These are the matches that motivate you. Instead of being games that you fear, where you feel the opposition are better than you, the opposite happens and you usually feel stronger.