No young footballer can score double figures in a breakthrough season and go unnoticed, and the talent of Joao Felix has been thrusted onto the shortlist of every scout of Europe’s top teams after a stunning season for Benfica.
It was Atlético Madrid who willingly paid out his release fee, so who is this kid, and is he worth the hype?
Advanced forward, second striker, inside forward, winger – they’ve all been positions deployed in the Benfica setup this season, and it’s that attacking talent that makes Joao Felix difficult to scout and defend against.
His ability to pick a pass from a variety of positions earmarks him as an outstanding attacking asset, with a kind of vision well beyond his years. Felix plays on the front foot, always scanning the pitch for an incisive forward pass and then finding space to receive the ball himself. An added aggressive streak of determination – particularly useful in a pressing game – also makes him a potent asset in recovering possession.
His passing vision this season has earned him a total of 11 assists in all competitions, which would’ve been a lot higher with the right calibre of striker in front of him. Likewise his movement in advanced positions has led to 20 goals in just 43 appearances – it’s easy to see what Europe’s most formidable attacking teams can see him adding to their play.
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So far, comparisons have been drawn with Rui Costa, Cristiano Ronaldo, Kaká, and even the great Johan Cruyff, but this 19 year-old from Viseu is not letting such lofty praise go to his head.
Career so far
After a year with Os Pestinhas as a boy, he was discovered by FC Porto’s scouts and spent seven years on their books. Astonishingly, despite his obvious talent he was released by the Portugese giants. They considered him “too slight” and allowed to leave the club age 14.
Rivals Benfica needed no encouragement, and they took Felix under their wing in their renowned academy, where he flourished. In 2 seasons playing for the Benfica B team, he became an integral part of their way of playing. He grabbed 7 goals in 30 appearances before the inevitable first team call came.
Needless to say, his transition to the starting XI was almost seamless. His attacking versatility has been a key weapon in Benfica’s triumphant league campaign. Wrestling the trophy back from – ironically enough – FC Porto. A nice subplot of revenge in an incredible breakthrough season.
To cap it all – so to speak – João Félix is now a fully-capped Portugal international. He made his debut in the UEFA Nations League semi-final victory over Switzerland.
What they say…
“João is a fantastic lad and he has a lot to learn, technically and tactically. He has to learn how to occupy space and read the game and he has to learn, quickly, that when he is merely ‘normal’, he will be criticised.”Benfica coach Bruno Lage on the pressures placed on João Félix.
“They’re both players blessed with great qualities but they’re completely different. There are certain players – the chosen few, who get called for the senior national side when they are just 16, 17 or 18 years old but they are isolated cases. However, you can’t compare things which are not comparable. They (Ronaldo and Felix) have very different characters. They’re both players blessed with great qualities but they’re completely different.”Portugal coach Fernando Santos on the comparisons between João Félix and Cristiano Ronaldo.