Best Backup Goalkeeper in the world? Ortega Moreno

by SportsWriter
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German shot-stopper Stefan Ortega Moreno has put pen to paper on a new deal that will keep him at the Etihad Stadium till the summer of 2026.

Recall, Ortega joined City back in July 2022 after leaving Arminia Bielefeld — a club side where he made over 200 appearances. His switch to Manchester City has seen him accumulate two Premier League titles, the UEFA Champions League, the FA Cup title as well as the Club World Cup and UEFA Super Cup in about 34 appearances.

On his newly signed contract, he commented: “I am delighted to be staying at Manchester City for longer.”

“This football club provides players with everything. Every single day I feel motivated and I have improved as a goalkeeper over the last two years.

“My family and I love it here in England.”

He made his competitive debut keeping a clean sheet on home soil against Borussia Dortmund in the UEFA Champions League.

Over the years, football has evolved position by position and in this phase of play, it’s emphasized not just shot-stopping but great ball-playing prowess.

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola has particularly favored goalkeepers who tick this box. His preference for a sweeper keeper since he moved to City saw them play out from the back more often, seeing a rise in the purchase of Manchester City tickets.

Victor Valdes at Barcelona, arguably the greatest sweeper goalkeeper of all time — Manuel Neuer at Bayern Munich, and now the duo of Ederson Moraes and Ortega Moreno with the Citizens.

The Spaniard sees goalkeepers as an extra man and with the ensuing advantage trusts them to play past the first line of pressure and build attacks. This in itself is one of the foundational principles of his system.

His arrival at Manchester City necessitated the departure of long-term club goalkeeper Joe Hart — one that could be tagged as an old-school goalkeeper at the time. Claudio Bravo was brought in from Barcelona and in tandem with Willy Caballero held down the goalkeeping unit in Pep’s first season.

With Manuel Neuer at Bayern Munich, he properly enforced his possession and high-flying football on all fronts. Ederson Moraes was signed seven years ago as an upgrade on Claudio Bravo with a keen eye on upgrading the team’s style of play on all fronts.

World’s best understudy

Ortega’s arrival was planned nonetheless to be the cover in goal for Brazilian shot-stopper and club first-choice Ederson Moraes. However, he’s proven to be quite the bargain.

Whenever called upon, it’s followed by committed performances. His outings towards the end of the 2023/24 campaign where Ederson was injured, was pretty much a huge indication of his quality.

For instance, his man-of-the-match display in the return leg against Liverpool helped kickstart the club’s run-in to the then three-horse title race.

He also continued to put up satisfying displays on the Cityzens’ route to the FA Cup final. Of these performances, most noteworthily is the fantastic save against Tottenham Hotspur’s Heung-Min Son with the game looking to turn on its head.

That singular moment is regarded by many schools of thought as one that secured the league title for the club with Guardiola also remarking Arsenal would have run out of the league if the result had been different.

In the 22/23 FA Cup final, City’s opening goal from Ilkay Gundogan also came via Ortega’s long punt in the opening seconds bolstering his case as not just a shot-stopper but a ball-playing goalkeeper.

One that piques interest is that club manager Pep Guardiola claimed he had no idea who the goalkeeper was before joining Manchester City.

The Ederson situation

The domino effect of that Tottenham Hotspur save saw Ortega retain his spot in the first XI in the final league game of the season and the FA Cup final against local rivals Manchester United.

For the better part of the last 7 years, Ederson has been the trusted number one in goal for the former Barcelona manager with his calmness and brilliance on the ball massively impacting City’s style of play.

However, some concerns still lurk in the shadows about his shot-stopping ability and his more than often sweeping activities, just as the rash challenge against Darwin Nunez, which conceded a penalty.

Having lost his spot, transfer rumors making rounds spell that it is likely the former Benfica player would call it quits at City.

Over the last campaign, Ortega’s impressive performances and of course, Ederson’s struggles with injury saw the German play more often than in his debut season.

He was in goal for the entirety of all of City’s cup games and also the replacement in the away fixtures to Newcastle United, Liverpool, Nottingham Forest, and Tottenham Hotspur.

The German shot-stopper’s performances are reminiscent of some teams’ preferred choice, particularly earning recognition from Pep.

“Today we must have two proper good keepers. Everyone knows Ederson is the first keeper but the distance in quality is small because you need it, there are a lot of games where injuries happen and you need a good second keeper.”

“You have four central defenders who are top-class, you have to have two or three very good keepers, otherwise when the distance is too big, the team cannot compete,” said Guardiola.

With no timeframe on Moraes’ decision over the summer, he’s more than capable of taking the shirt as the club’s first-choice goalie in the 2024/2025 season should any changes take place in that department.

If Ederson eventually decides to leave the club for greener pastures or any other reason, Guardiola can confidently be assured that he has an able deputy ready to fill the void in good measure.

However, Manchester City and Guardiola have to be very careful with their decision, as class can never be underplayed and the fact remains that Ederson is ahead of Ortega in that regard as it stands.

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