Diego Alves, the sorcerer goalkeeper who saved 3 penalties from Cristiano Ronaldo

Pararigori among the best in history, crowned by Courtois, Diego Alves is the nightmare of CR7. But he also opposed Messi and Griezmann.

Cristiano Ronaldo takes the ball in his hands and places himself on the spot. His Real Madrid are beating Valencia 1-0 and have just seen the penalty kick awarded with which he could close the score. But the air is rather tense: the opposing goalkeeper comes out of the goalposts and starts walking towards the Portuguese. He smiles, he wants to tell him something. The other Real players sense the danger and rush to prevent contact. Marcelo, who knows that character quite well, holds him by the shirt trying in every way to send him back between the posts. He smiles too, but in reality he is terrified. Because he knows he is in front of Diego Alves. Who is not a goalkeeper: he is one sorcerer.

When Ronaldo, after long and interminable minutes, takes a run and kicks, he is convinced to score. As he has often done in the course of his career, after all, and as he still happens to do. But the witch-keeper’s curse, once again, is successful: Diego Alves dives to his left with a moment of advance, senses the trajectory, cushions the shot. And then he blocks the ball later. In one of the following actions, the two find themselves near the goal, with the ball far away. And CR7 can not help but reserve an affectionate hug to the sorcerer. His nemesis.

That Real Madrid-Valencia, which for the record will finish 2-1 for Zidane’s team, will be played at the Santiago Bernabeu on April 29, 2017. And it is the third chance out of four attempts in which Diego Alves saves a penalty kick against Cristiano Ronaldo. Like him, no one ever. The Portuguese phenomenon managed to score for him only once, in January 2015. He had already been hypnotized six years earlier, in 2009, in his first season in La Liga, when the Brazilian goalkeeper played in Almeria. And he will be again four months later, in May 2015.

Cristiano Ronaldo Diego Alves Real Madrid Valencia

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Not even a year earlier, September 2016, Diego Alves had already experienced a day as a hero. This time by opposing the Argentine Szymanowski, of Leganés. With 17 executions from the spot he was saved officially the record holder of La Liga history, overcoming a sacred monster like the former Barcelona Andoni Zubizarreta. He still is today, of course: 25 only in the Spanish league. Also counting his beginnings in Atlético Mineiro and then Flamengo, the team he has played for since 2017, and including both regular and extra time as well as the final lotteries, the total comes to 40. In 2016/17 he pardoned it you are in a single La Liga season, surpassing the main records of Pepe Reina and Manzanedo. Impressive.

As a penalty keeper I choose him – he said in 2021 Thibaut Courtoiswhen asked to “build” the perfect goalkeeper based on the various fundamentals – He has a very high average of saves, almost 50%. I believe that in this case he is the ideal goalkeeper ”.

To those who occasionally ask him what the secret of his success is, Diego Alves replies: “It’s all a psychological warfare”. And it is true. Once, before one of Cristiano Ronaldo’s executions, the sorcerer went to the opponent and told him: “Don’t pull it to my right”. Ronaldo instead kicked him right there. And he saw it rejected. Another time she also tried it with Leo Messiwhich he had already stopped previously: “I already saved one for you, you know? Do you remember?”. True also here: in a Valencia-Barcelona of the Copa del Re, in 2012. But the Argentine did not get excited and broke the curse.

Speaking of Messi: ten years ago he might have saved a penalty, but Diego Alves is the goalkeeper most beaten by the Argentine phenomenon. 21 times in 17 comparisons, to be precise. At the beginning of 2021, in a marketing action, Leo sent the Brazilian a beer for each goal conceded: 21, in fact. Filipe Luís, teammate of Diego Alves at Flamengo, enjoyed making fun of him: “If you had played in Spain for another two years, you would have opened a bar”.

Then, of course, Messi has the same value as Jael. Because a penalty saved is a penalty saved everywhere. In 2018, the Brazilian center forward of Grêmio, regardless of the risks and dangers, took the spot during a match against Flamengo. In front of him, Diego Alves himself. Who with all the tranquility in the world came out of the poles, he took a bottle of water and started drinking. By deconcentrating the opponent, who obviously missed the execution. After the game, the sorcerer simply said: “I was thirsty”. But laughed.

The list of famous people hypnotized by Diego Alves is endless. There are Messi and Ronaldo, the greatest. But also Antoine Griezmann and Diego Costa, Mario Mandzukic and Fernando Llorente, Carlos Bacca and Ivan Rakitic. The first to experience the curse on himself was Frédéric Kanouté, Sevilla, in April 2008. The Andalusians, in the running for a place in the Champions League, were overwhelmed at home 4-1 by Almeria. And at the end of the season they missed fourth place only due to the unfavorable direct clashes against Atletico Madrid.

The penalties saved against Cristiano Ronaldo and Messi are the ones that have had the most media repercussions of all – Diego Alves told the site ‘abc.es’ – because they are the two strongest players of all, but for me all penalties require special attention. Then if you win better, because parrying has served a purpose. If we lose, I leave the field sad. I prefer to win a match than to save a penalty ”.

Twice in his career, Diego Alves has rejected penalties two in the same game. The last time he did it in 2019, in a Vasco da Gama-Flamengo, blocking first Yago Pikachu and then Bruno César. Three years earlier he had said no in sequence to Gabi and Griezmann, without preventing Atletico Madrid from winning 2-0 at Mestalla.

How can I do? I watch the weekly La Liga highlights and draw my conclusions from there – Diego Alves said at the time – even there are no studies, there is nothing for sure, because at the last moment the attacker can change sides, make a Panenka, think of something different … There are a thousand ways to score a penalty. I have always said that every goalkeeper has a peculiar characteristic: I manage well to save penalties. The goal is very large and when a player kicks from the spot he has several options, but I’ve always been lucky, ever since I was a child. It is something that I naturally succeed. I have never hunted for records ”.

And to think that Diego Alves, as a child, seems to be destined to do anything but excel in sport. During his childhood in Ribeirão Preto, in the State of Sao Paulo, he was hit by one facial paralysis. To heal he takes steroids, which however have the side effect of make its weight rise exponentially.

I came to weigh 70 kilos – he told the Brazilian portal ‘UOL’ in 2012 – I was obese. No diet, I’ve always played sports. I ran, I trained. I never stopped playing football, I liked going to goal. And at 12, with the growth, I lost weight again ”.

As soon as he gets better he is a kind of phenomenon, little Diego. With the shirt of Botafogo of Ribeirão Preto shows off to such an extent that it gets noticed byAtlético Mineiro. He made his debut in the first team in 2005, at the age of 20. It is the year of the relegation of the Galo from national Serie A to Serie B, but Danrlei and Bruno play in goal. In 2006, finally, the former third begins to find space. But no one notices his qualities: out of five penalties he doesn’t even save one. He extensively remade the following season, parrying the first penalty of his career in Sidnei, of Tupiand repeating itself against Dodô, of Botafogo.

Felipe Melo opens a door to Europe for Diego Alves. In 2007 theAlmeria finds an agreement with Atlético Mineiro, but the future goalkeeper-sorcerer niche. He will tell: “I didn’t know anything about the club”. The compatriot, who arrived there recently, calls him and convinces him. Marriage is done. Diego Alves takes the red and white goal, is beaten by the first two penalty takers but then opposes Kanouté. In February of 2008 keeps the door closed for 618 minutes, passing Iker Casillas: everyone in the stadium stands up to applaud him. These are the best years in the history of the club, which remains in Liga for four seasons in a row. Then, in 2011, relegation comes. And Diego goes to Valencia to continue to amaze.

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At Mestalla there are saved penalties, sometimes in series. But also a very serious knee injury which, between 2015 and 2016, stopped him in the pits for almost a year. However, forcing him to skip the Copa América, for which he had been called up. The joys are other. The qualifiers for the groups of the Champions League, for example, or the semifinal of the Europa League in 2014. In addition of course to the hype that is being created around his name in those years. To win something, however, Diego Alves must return to his homeland. Also because over time Valencia begins to consider him bulky, a burden in the locker room.

The Flamengo he takes it in 2017, but 2019 is the year of grace: in exactly 24 hours the Copa Libertadores, that of Gabigol’s brace at River Plate, and Brasileirão rained down in Rio. His sorceries also work in Rio de Janeiro: against Emelec in the second round of that Copa, for example. Or in the aforementioned classic with Vasco, that of the two saved penalties. At 37 he struggles to make a comeback after the farewell of Paulo Sousa, who had put him aside to make room for the younger Hugo Souza. But the best years are behind us. Perhaps because a nemesis like Ronaldo, to be countered and hypnotized over and over again, is gone.

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