Viluco is a small town south of Santiago de Chile located in the Maipo Valley, a historic wine-producing region and the birthplace of the famous Chilean wine industry. On these pleasant surroundings, Claudio Andrés Bravo Muñoz was born 32 years ago.

A diligent, respectful and disciplined student, his parents wanted him to pursue a college career, but Bravo knew all along his passion was on the pitch. He began to play at an early age – funnily enough, as a striker – and later on, as a defender, but ultimately he found his calling between the posts. Being so agile as a goalkeeper, his friends nicknamed him “Little Monkey” because of his ape-like reflex and his skin color.

He later joined Colo-Colo, the most decorated football club in Chile. He was about to be expelled from the academy because he suffered from growth problems, but thanks to the intervention of one of his mentors, Julio Rodríguez, the young goalie could continue his development with the club.

He made his first-team debut at just 19 years old, earning his place at the starting lineup the following season. His former coach at Colo-Colo, Eduardo Lobos, remembers: “He drew my attention because of his personality. He was very confident, responsible and committed in training sessions. On a technical level, he stands out for his mobility in the area, his ability for intercepting crosses and solid passing.”

In the 2006 Opening Tournament, Bravo was the hero for El Cacique after blocking two penalties in the final shootout against archrivals Universidad de Chile, helping the club earn its 24th league title.

Later that year, he changed the Chilean capital for the beach sands of San Sebastián when he signed for Real Sociedad. Bravo, by then dubbed “Little Condor” – a moniker in honor of the arguably best Chilean goalkeeper of all time, Roberto “The Condor” Rojas – didn’t have the most promising start in his career in Europe, since the donostiarras were relegated that same season.

Bravo knew all eyes were on him and was ready to cope with the pressure: “It’s a great challenge to arrive here in Europe because, historically, Chilean goalies had not been appreciated outside the country. I hope to prove otherwise,” he said back then.

On his first season in the second division, Bravo lost his place at the starting lineup, and was on the bench most of the season. However, the Chilean didn’t lose confidence: “I just got to wait for my chance to perform the best I can,” he said.

His chance would arrive in the 2008/09 season, when Bravo regained his starting position and never looked back. He was chosen by the Liga Adelante coaches as “The Best Goalkeeper” and won the “Trofeo Zamora” since he was the least beaten ‘keeper in the silver division.

Described as kind, private, easy-going man, Bravo breaks the mold of the eccentric and problematic goalie. “The goalkeeper must convey calmness inside the pitch, otherwise it affects the teammates and the fans. I stopped being superstitious and I’m very peaceful outside the pitch as well, where I spend most of my time with my family,” he said.

Real Sociedad was eventually promoted to La Liga in the 2010/11 season, with Bravo on the spotlight, making spectacular saves. Over the next four seasons, he accumulated 237 matches with the Basques, becoming the second foreigner with more matches played in the history of the club.

Last summer “The Little Condor” flew and established himself in Catalunya, kicking off his performance with an outstanding record: the team achieved 754 minutes without conceding a goal, the best unbeaten streak for a La Liga goalkeeper in the start of a season. Furthermore, Bravo has so far accumulated 21 clean sheets this season, overcoming Victor Valdés’ previous record, accomplishing something that some Barça fans did not expect: making them not miss the ‘keeper from Hospitalet.

Though he’s on his way to his first La Liga’s Zamora Trophy, Bravo understands the demand of being involved in a top european club and focuses on the big picture, as his coach Luis Enrique revealed recently: “The team’s objectives lead to individual success. Claudio knows this and doesn’t care about personal awards.”

“The Little Condor” keeps gliding calmly with keen eyes on the La Liga title.

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