Goalkeepers were the flavour of the summer.
The world record transfer for a shot stopper was smashed not once, but twice as Premier League clubs moved mountains to get their men between the sticks.
There is certainly a suggestion that we’re currently experiencing a surge in elite goalkeepers – and two of them were once rivalling each other for a starting berth at a tiny club in Portugal.
Back in the 2012/13 season, Rio Ave had a certain 18-year-old Ederson and 19-year old Jan Oblak on their books vying for the number one spot.
But who are Rio Ave? And how on Earth did they get their hands on arguably two of the top five goalkeepers on the planet right now?
Well, a lot of it is owed to Benfica and the Lisbon-based side’s sensational scouting record in the last decade or so.
Rio Ave are arguably one of the best of the rest in Portugal who, season upon season, fight it out to stay in the Primeira Liga whilst Benfica, Sporting Lisbon and Porto typically battle for the title.
Last season they equalled the club’s best ever league finish, securing fifth place and a chance to qualify for the Europa League – which they blew against Polish side Jagiellonia last month.
But, even with that disappointment in mind, they’re still massively overachieving.
Without wanting to sound patronising, they’re effectively Portugal’s answer to Burnley considering their ground – the Estadio do Rio Ave – has a capacity of just under 13,000.
That’s the 21st largest stadium in Portugal – and there are 18 teams in the top flight.
And six years ago was when their model of consistency – they haven’t finished below 11th since – first really came into action with Oblak in particular an inspiration.
In a remarkable campaign by their standards that also saw them reach the semi-final of the Portuguese Cup, Rio Ave finished above traditional powerhouses Sporting Lisbon.
Oblak, who was on loan from Benfica at the time, kept six clean sheets and conceded just 40 goals in his 28 Primeira Liga appearances.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Benfica swiftly installed the Slovenian wall as their number one the following season, before Atletico Madrid came calling after he kept 14 clean sheets in 16 games.
The end to Oblak’s brief spell at Rio Ave handed understudy Ederson his chance in the spotlight.
But that wouldn’t be the only time the Brazilian has benefited from Oblak’s departure.
After two seasons of catching the eye at Rio Ave, including an appearance in the Portuguese Cup final, Ederson was on his way to replace the Slovenian for the second time.
Benfica identified the now Man City stopper as Oblak’s perfect successor after Atletico swooped in 2014, signing him for a measly €500k.
Four years on we’re talking about two of the most reliable and innovative performers in the game in the increasingly demanding goalkeeping climate.
Ederson, before this summer, was the most expensive stopper on the planet whilst Oblak has a release clause of £88m.
Their Rio Ave days are a long way behind them, but there was clearly something in the water in northern Portugal that season.
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