Goalkeepers are known to be like wine – they get better with age. This holds true for Betis’ goalkeeper Claudio Bravo. The Chilean is 40 years old, but that doesn’t stop him from being a key figure for the Andalusians. Bravo, who has also played for Colo-Colo, Real Sociedad, Barcelona, and Manchester City in his career, now guards the colors of Betis.
I had an amazing experience at Manchester City.
During my time at Manchester City (2016/20 – 29 matches), I achieved success in every aspect. It is often said that my first season was challenging, but it served as a valuable learning process for me. When I arrived in England in 2016, the role of a goalkeeper was primarily focused on long clearances. However, Pep had a different vision and wanted me to actively participate in building the team’s attacks, initiating plays from both the left and right sides. We aimed to revolutionize our style of play. Although I knew from the start that my involvement might not be part of a long-term plan, playing for this club was an incredible privilege. Throughout my four seasons there, I felt a deep sense of appreciation and belonging within the team. I enjoyed an excellent relationship with Pep, and our families grew together as my children also mastered the English language. Additionally, I had the opportunity to compete in two League Cup finals and two Community Shield finals, winning all of them.
I would travel for 3 hours a day…
As a child growing up in Santiago, I would spend an hour and a half each way traveling to my training sessions. My father, with his minibus, would pick me up from school, and I would settle into the back seat where I would either sleep or enjoy fruits and sandwiches, fueling up for the upcoming training. This is why I dedicated myself to intense training. My father selflessly devoted three precious hours of his day just to transport me to and from my sessions. I felt a deep responsibility not to let him down. I had the ability to turn setbacks into opportunities and to rise when others remained stagnant. I already nurtured the dream of playing for a renowned team like Barcelona. When I shared this aspiration with my classmates, they merely laughed, but my teacher gave me a look that seemed to say, “Yes, that’s precisely how it will be.” I possessed a resilient mindset. Consequently, I resolved that I would achieve success and sought to repay my father’s sacrifices. In some sense, I am still doing so to this day.
I was almost kicked out of my first club.
During my teenage years, we participated in a youth tournament sponsored by a renowned sports brand. The regional champions would earn the chance to compete in the European finals, where scouts from esteemed clubs kept a watchful eye. It was a golden opportunity for all of us to make a significant leap in our careers. We advanced to the regional final, and I occupied the goalkeeper position. By then, I had realized that chasing the ball relentlessly was not my strongest suit. Instead, I thrived on the added responsibility of saving shots and possessing the ability to bounce back from mistakes. However, on that fateful day, disappointment loomed large. The score was deadlocked at 0-0, with only moments remaining. Regrettably, I fumbled the ball, allowing the opposing team to score and condemning us to defeat. As a result, twenty highly talented kids missed the chance to go to Europe, and I felt like the scapegoat of Chile. The consensus among many was that I should be ousted from Colo-Colo, including some of the coaches. But amidst the turmoil, one coach, Julio Rodriguez, took a stand in my favor. He had taught me the art of playing with my feet, a skill that proved invaluable during my subsequent years at City. His forward-thinking attitude resonated deeply with me. Julio declared, “If he goes, I go too.” This declaration compelled the club to reconsider their decision and acknowledge that it would be a grave error to cast me aside. Consequently, in 2003, at the age of 19, I made my debut for Colo-Colo’s first team, where I remained for three years. Thus, I extend heartfelt gratitude to Julio for his unwavering support and belief in me.
I scored from a free kick
During our second division match against Gimnàstic at home, we were in dire need of a win, having gone winless in our previous three games. Just before halftime, a foul was awarded to us, leaving the question of who would take the free kick unanswered. Surprisingly, Diego Rivas, our defensive midfielder, approached me and confidently declared, “Claudio, you’re going to take it.” Taken aback, I initially protested, questioning his sanity. However, Diego remained resolute in his decision. The murmurs from the sidelines expressed doubt and disbelief, deeming it a reckless choice. Nevertheless, their skepticism only fueled my determination. With unwavering focus, I stepped up and executed the free kick to perfection, finding the back of the net.
Antoine Griezmann and me at Real Sociedad
During my time at Real Sociedad, I developed a strong connection with Antoine. When I first encountered him at the age of 16, his immense potential was evident, and our shared objective became helping him harness and realize it. I embraced him as a son, and at times, it fell upon me to provide necessary guidance. There came a point when he acquired a car, despite not yet having a driver’s license. Faced with a lack of parking options, he decided to leave it parked in front of my residence. And so, it remained there for several months. Occasionally, Antoine would visit, enter the vehicle, play some music, and simply spend time absorbed in the melodies. He would embark on a short drive, only to return and park the car once again in front of our home.
As if Barcelona was created for me.
Embracing the role of a goalkeeper at Barcelona, often considered a challenging position, came effortlessly to me. It required being not just a shot-stopper but also a sweeper and playmaker. My ability to seamlessly fulfill these roles can be attributed to the formative work done by Julio Rodriguez during my time at Colo-Colo. From a young age, I had embraced this style of play, convinced that Barcelona was specifically crafted for my skill set. The unwavering confidence within me seemed impenetrable, as if even divine intervention couldn’t breach my defenses. Remarkably, I remain the most recent goalkeeper at Barcelona to have secured the prestigious Zamora Trophy for the most clean sheets in a Spanish league season. Moreover, my journey at the club unveiled a profound realization – the true greatness of players such as Xavi, Iniesta, and Messi lies not only in their on-field prowess but also in their innate humility and relatability as ordinary individuals.
I have always had a harmonious relationship with Ter Stegen.
In our Barcelona journey, he primarily guarded the goal during cup matches, while I took on the responsibility in league games. Unfortunately, the media sensationalized this situation, falsely portraying us as adversaries. However, the reality couldn’t have been further from the truth. I never felt the need to inquire about my playing time or confront the coaching staff. Instead, I dedicated myself to diligent preparation, ensuring I was fully prepared to face any challenge that arose. The pride I felt in wearing the Barcelona goalkeeper jersey was immense. Alongside Marc, we pushed each other to new heights, constantly raising the bar in pursuit of excellence.
The rupture of my Achilles tendon turned out to be a blessing in disguise.
At first, I felt a sense of helplessness when I suffered an Achilles tendon rupture at the onset of my third season with City. However, I refused to let adversity define me. Instead, I adopted a proactive mindset, visualizing my journey back to the pitch and nourishing my thoughts with positivity. Surprisingly, this injury proved to be a turning point in my career. I triumphantly returned to action during the Community Shield final against Liverpool on August 4, 2019. In front of a crowd of 80,000 at Wembley, we emerged victorious in a thrilling penalty shootout. As the moment arrived to capture the celebratory snapshot with the trophy, there I stood, symbolizing my triumph over the doubts that once plagued my mind.
There is a possibility that I may pursue a career as a goalkeeper coach.
On a certain day, Pep took the initiative to reach out to me personally and convey his confidence in my potential as a coach specializing in training goalkeepers. This affirmation held significant meaning for me and opened up new possibilities for my future career path.
Winning Copa del Rey with Betis was a truly exceptional experience.
My earnest longing to achieve something remarkable with Betis was finally fulfilled. While I had previously celebrated numerous titles with Barcelona, lifting the Copa del Rey trophy with Betis held a special place in my heart. This extraordinary triumph was not only witnessed by my adoring children but also served as a testament to the unwavering support of my beloved wife, Carla. Together, they form the emotional backbone that enriches my life and grants me a sense of fulfillment. Their presence is indispensable, as without them, the very foundation of my existence would crumble.
I was convinced that we had what it takes to clinch the Copa America title.
The disappointment of our defeat against Brazil in the 2014 World Cup left us with a bitter aftertaste. However, it also ignited a fire within us, fueling our determination to achieve greatness. We were blessed with an exceptional generation of players, hailing from esteemed clubs like Barcelona, Arsenal, and Juventus. As the captain, the weight of responsibility rested heavily on my shoulders, and I was acutely aware that we couldn’t squander the talents of this remarkable group. The opportunity arrived in 2015 when Chile hosted the Copa America, and I firmly believed it was our destined moment. With unwavering faith, we steered our path to the final, where we faced a formidable opponent in Argentina. It was a thrilling encounter that culminated in a nerve-wracking penalty shootout, and it was there that we emerged triumphant, securing the coveted Copa America trophy.
Emotions overwhelmed me as we secured the second Copa America title.
Participating in the Centenario edition of the Copa America held in the United States in 2016 seemed unlikely for me. Fresh from a recent injury, I returned to the field with a heavy heart as my youngest daughter, Emma, battled a severe medical condition. The initial matches proved to be catastrophic, with my focus divided between the pitch and the well-being of my family. It is crucial to recognize the humanity behind the athletes. During those moments, I felt an overwhelming sense of vulnerability. Despite retaining the captaincy, voices from various quarters, including supporters, pundits, and media, questioned my place in the starting lineup, suggesting it was time for me to step aside before it was too late. It was a defining moment when I realized that I needed to rally my strength and resilience. Undeterred, we navigated through the quarterfinals and semifinals without conceding a single goal. In the final, once again against Argentina, the contest unfolded into a nerve-wracking penalty shootout. Drawing from my meticulous analysis of their penalty takers, we emerged triumphant once more. Overwhelmed by the magnitude of the victory, tears cascaded down my cheeks as I sprinted across the field, my emotions pouring out like those of a child.