Diego Alves, the wizard goalkeeper who saved 3 penalties to 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 puts it in place. His Real Madrid beat Valencia 1-0 and just received the penalty with which he could close the scoring. But the air is quite tense: the opposing goalkeeper gets off the posts and starts walking towards the Portuguese. She smiles, wants to tell him something. The other Real players feel the danger and hurry to avoid contact. Marcelo, who knows this character well enough, grabs him by the shirt trying in every way to get him back between the sticks. He smiles too, but is actually terrified. Because he knows he’s in front Diego Alves. Who is not a goalkeeper: he is sorcerer.

When Ronaldo, after a few long and endless minutes, takes a run and shoots, he is convinced to score. As he has often done throughout his career, after all, and as he will still go on to do. But the witch’s curse, once again, succeeds: Diego Alves sinks to his left with a moment of advance, intuits the trajectory, dampens the shot. And then blocks the ball afterwards. In one of the following actions, the two are near the goal, with the ball away. And CR7 can’t help but reserve an affectionate hug to the wizard. His nemesis.

That Real Madrid-Valencia, which by memory will end 2-1 with Zidane’s team, will be played at the Santiago Bernabéu on April 29, 2017. And it is the third chance of four attempts in which Diego Alves saves a penalty against Cristiano Ronaldo.. Like him, no one ever. The Portuguese phenomenon managed to mark him only once, in January 2015. Six years earlier, in 2009, he had already been mesmerized in his first season in the League, when the Brazilian goalkeeper played for Almeria. And it will be again four months later, in May 2015.

Cristiano Ronaldo Diego Alves Real Madrid Valencia

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Not a year before, in September 2016, Diego Alves had already lived a day as a hero. This time facing the Argentine Szymanowski, from Leganés. With 17 executions from the site, he was officially saved the record in the history of the League, overcoming a sacred monster like the old Barcelonan Andoni Zubizarreta. It’s still today, of course: only in the Spanish league 25. Also counting on his debut at Atlético Mineiro and then at Flamengo, the team he has played for since 2017, and includes both regulation time and overtime and the final lotteries, the total is 40. In 2016/17 he pardoned him you are in a single league season, surpassing the main records of Pepe Reina and Manzanedo. Awesome.

I chose him as a penalty keeper he said in 2021 Thibaut Courtoiswhen asked to “build” the perfect goalkeeper from the different foundations – It has a very high average of stops, almost 50%. I think in this case he is the ideal goalkeeper ”.

To those who occasionally ask him the secret of his success, Diego Alves answers: “Everything is a psychological war”. And it is true. Once, before one of Cristiano Ronaldo’s executions, the wizard addressed the opponent and said: “Don’t pull it to my right”. Ronaldo instead gave him a kick. And he saw it rejected. He tried again Leo Messiwho had previously stopped: “I’ve already saved one for you, you know? Remember?”. True also here: in a Valencia-Barcelona Copa del Rey, in 2012. But the Argentine was not moved and broke the curse.

Speaking of Messi: ten years ago maybe he saved a penalty, but Diego Alves is the goalkeeper most beaten by the Argentine phenomenon. 21 times in 17 comparisons, to be exact. In early 2021, in a marketing action, Leo sent the Brazilian one beer for every goal scored: 21, in fact. Filipe Luís, Diego Alves’ teammate at Flamengo, liked to make fun of him: “If you had played in Spain for two more years, you would have opened a bar.”

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

The list of celebrities mesmerized by Diego Alves is endless. There are Messi and Ronaldo, the biggest. 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, Seville, April 2008. The Andalusians, in the race for a place in the Champions League, were overwhelmed at home by 4-1 by Almeria. And at the end of the season they lost fourth place only to unfavorable direct clashes against Atletico Madrid.

The penalties saved against Cristiano Ronaldo and Messi are the ones that have had the most media repercussion of all – said Diego Alves on 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 stopping has served a purpose. If we lose, I leave the field sad. I’d rather win a game than save a penalty.

Twice in his career, Diego Alves has turned down penalties two in the same game. The last time he did it was 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 stopping Atletico Madrid from winning 2-0 at Mestalla.

How can I do that? I look at the weekly highlights of the League and draw my own conclusions – said Diego Alves at that time – even if there are no studies, nothing is certain, 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 have prepared well to save penalties. The goal is very big and when a player throws from the penalty spot he has several options, but I have always been lucky, from a young age. It’s something I naturally succeed at. I’ve never looked for records. “

And to think that Diego Alves, as a child, seems destined to do anything but excel in sports. During his childhood in Ribeirão Preto, in the state of São Paulo, he was hit by a facial paralysis. To heal you take steroids, which however have the side effect of cause their weight to increase exponentially.

I weighed 70 pounds -he said on the Brazilian portal ‘UOL’ in 2012- I was obese. Without dieting, I’ve always done sports. I ran, I trained. I never stopped playing football, I liked going to goal. And at the age of 12, with the growth, I lost weight again ”.

As soon as improvement is a kind of phenomenon, little Diego. With the shirt of Botafogo de Ribeirão Preto shows to such an extent that it is noticedAtlético Mineiro. He made his first team debut in 2005, at the age of 20. It is the year of the descent of the rooster from the national Serie A to Serie B, but Danrlei and Bruno play in goal. In 2006, finally, the old third begins to find space. But no one notices his qualities: of five penalties he does not save a single one. The following season is widely renewed, stopping the first penalty of his career in Sydney, from 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-wizard niche. He will say: “I didn’t know anything about the club”. The compatriot, who has recently arrived, calls him and convinces him. The marriage is done. Diego Alves takes the white and red goal, is beaten by the first two penalties but then opposes Kanouté. In February 2008 keeps the door closed for 618 minutes, beating 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 the League for four seasons in a row. Then, in 2011, comes the decline. And Diego leaves for Valencia to remain surprised.

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In Mestalla there are saved penalties, sometimes in series. But also in very serious knee injury which, between 2015 and 2016, pitted him for almost a year. However, he was forced to skip the America’s Cup, for which he had been called up. The joys are different. The rankings for the Champions League groups, for example, or the Europa League semi-final in 2014. Plus, of course, the hype that was building around their name in those years. To win something, however, Diego Alves must return to his homeland. Also because over time Valencia begins to consider it bulky, a burden on the locker room.

He Flamengo takes it in 2017, but 2019 is the year of grace: in exactly 24 hours it rained the Copa Libertadores, the double of Gabigol in River Plate and Brasileirão in Rio. His witchcraft also operates in Rio de Janeiro: against Emelec in the second round of that Cup, for example. Or in the aforementioned classic with Vasco, that of the two saved penalties. At the age of 37, he struggles to recover after the farewell of Paulo Sousa, who had left him behind to make way for the young Hugo Souza. But the best years are behind us. Maybe because a nemesis like Ronaldo, who has to be countered and hypnotized over and over again, has disappeared.

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