Tag Archives: Joao Felix

Golden Boy award winners – Ranked

It was announced earlier this week that Barcelona youngster Pedri was the winner of the 19th edition of the coveted ‘Golden Boy’ award.

The award is handed to the best Under-21 player in Europe’s top leagues based on a vote by sports journalists, based on the performances during the calendar year.

Looking through the list of previous winners, there have been some hits and misses as to how their careers ended up. But who is the best? Who is the worst? I’ve ranked them all, starting with the worst.



Alexandre Pato

The Brazilian was one of the most exciting prospects to come out of Brazil when he joined AC Milan but after an impressive couple of years, injuries took their toll and Pato never made the impact he was meant to. It might strike you to realise he is only 32 these days, but plays in the MLS with Orlando.

Anderson

If you look at Anderson’s CV, there’s an argument that he shouldn’t be this low down. But when you consider that injuries absolutely battered him throughout his career and most of those accolades came due to being part of an amazing squad, he has to be near the bottom.

All Golden Boy winners from 2003 and where they are now, including,  Balotelli, Renato Sanches and Haaland – The Sun

Mario Balotelli

The Italian broke onto the scene with Inter Milan, but a career that has been clouded in controversy didn’t go without it’s moments. The ‘Why Always Me?’, the fireworks, the fights with the manager are balanced out with the assist for *that* Aguero goal and his Euro 2012 performances get him off the bottom.

Anthony Martial

The Manchester United man is only 25-years-old as of this writing, but he’s really failed to kick on since winning this award in 2015. He’s lost that X-factor he had when he first moved to Old Trafford and while he’s got time to turn it around still, at his current trajectory he’d be considered a disappointment.

Rafael Van der Vaart

The inaugral winner of the award was a star for Ajax before earning himself a move to Real Madrid via Hamburg. But under the brightest of lights he struggled to really make an impact and the rest of his career was spent as being the best player in relatively mediocre sides.

CM: Sanches on the move; Jorge Mendes' plan with AC Milan

Renato Sanches

The star of a young Benfica side who helped Portugal to their first ever international trophy at Euro 2016, Sanches looked destined for greatness. A poor move to Bayern Munich and injuries have stalled his development and while he finally looks to be getting back to a high level, it’s too early to have him above some of these guys in the list.

Mario Gotze

There may not be a more iconic career moment from anyone on this list than Gotze scoring the winning goal in the World Cup final during extra-time in 2014. Since then though it’s been downhill, with injuries and a loss of form seeing him become a shadow of his former self. He’s only 29 now, but he plays for PSV in the Eredivisie.

Pedri

2021’s winner gets into this list at this height simply because it’s far too early to put him any higher or lower. His career has been strictly high points thus far, becoming a key member of the Barcelona team and putting in amazing performances during Euro 2020 to help Spain to the semi-finals. If he continues at this level, he will be one of the best in the world without a doubt.

Matthijs De Ligt

The only defender to win the award, De Ligt is still considered one of the best young defenders in the world. After helping Ajax to the Champions League semi-finals as their teenage captain, he earned a move to Juventus where he’s failed to rip up any trees but has maintained a steady level of performances. There’s definitely more to come from the Dutchman.

João Félix has already received the Golden Boy Award! - SL Benfica

Joao Felix

Felix blew up with his performances for Benfica in the Europa League and earned a nine-figure move to Atletico Madrid. Since moving though, injuries and a style of play that doesn’t really suit him have seen him stagnate. We’ve seen some top level performances in that time though, so we know the talent is still there.

Isco

The Spanish playmaker was a superstar in the making and was a key member of the Spain and Real Madrid side for years, with his brilliant guile and technical ability on show regularly. He’s won it all but the last few years have seen him barely touch the pitch and that will affect his legacy somewhat. A top player though, without doubt.

Erling Haaland

2020’s winner is currently regarded as one of the best strikers in the world despite being just the tender age of 21. His phenomenal goalscoring record has got everyone’s attention and the ease with which he’s taken to top level football is a sight to behold. He has got a long and successful career ahead of him, without a doubt.

Two Liverpool players make shortlist for Golden Boy award - with one former  Reds youngster nominated - Liverpool Echo

Raheem Sterling

The Manchester City and England winger won the award during his time at Anfield as a Liverpool player and hasn’t looked back since. He is the City player with the most goals under Pep Guardiola, has won everything at club level except the Champions League and even helped England to their best tournament finish since 1966 at Euro 2020. A superstar.

Paul Pogba

Despite his time in England since returning to Manchester United splitting opinions on him, Pogba’s talent is and always has been undeniable. He broke into a title winning Juventus team, is a leader at international level and scored in a World Cup final. His United stint may be up for debate, but his career is not.

Cesc Fabregas

Fabregas has had success everywhere he has been until he moved to Monaco, but the levels he reached during his prime have him down as one of the best midfielders of his generation. He won everything there is to win at club level and international level, while being a key player in every success and will be remembered greatly despite the winding down of his career at a relatively young age.

Pin on My Boy

Sergio Aguero

The man with the most iconic moment in Premier League history, Aguero’s legacy as a world class footballer is undeniable. He is the player with the most hat-tricks in Premier League history, the most goals in Man City history, the most goals by a foreign player in Premier League history and he’s top three goalscorers in Argentinian national team history. Unfortunately forced to retire early due to heart problems, but he will go down as a great.

Kylian Mbappe

Mbappe is only 22-years-old at the time of writing this, but his legacy is already solidified. He won the league with Monaco as a teenager against a dominant PSG side, then switched to Paris to become a cornerstone of their recent success. He’s won golden boots, trophies and even became the youngest player since Pele to score in a World Cup final. The scary thing is, he’s only getting better too.

Wayne Rooney

It’s crazy to think that some people believe Wayne Rooney never fulfilled his potential despite ending his career as the all-time top goalscorer for Manchester United and England. He won it all at club level, playing several positions and is the owner of several iconic moments. A world class footballer and one of the best his country has ever produced, he was a true golden boy.

GOAL on Twitter: "Lionel Messi winning the European Golden Boy trophy back  in 2005 🏆 https://t.co/Iumxd5UBpi" / Twitter

Lionel Messi

There was no other option for the number one ranking of this award, because the greatest player of all-time won it back in 2005. The only ‘Golden Boy’ to go on to win the Ballon d’Or, he has gone on to do everything except win a World Cup and his legacy will transcend generations. Without a doubt the greatest I’ve ever seen, it’s a no brainer that he sits at number one on this list.

Fernando Santos on borrowed time with Portugal

At the start of the international break this month, Portugal were in pole position to have their qualification status for Qatar 2022 all wrapped up.

They travelled to face the Republic of Ireland in a bit of a dead rubber game, because regardless of the result it was the final game against Serbia on Sunday night that mattered.

A 0-0 draw with Ireland changed nothing. Portugal needed a draw in the home game against Serbia to secure top spot on goal difference, while a victory would leave no question as to whether they deserved it or not.



The pre-game press conference once again led to Fernando Santos making a promise to Portugal fans.

“Tomorrow, we will qualify for the World Cup.”

They didn’t. Despite a goal from Renato Sanches in the second minute that gave them the lead, Portugal were poor throughout. Serbia equalised in the first half thanks to Dusan Tadic, whose strike took a slight deflection off Danilo and meant Rui Patricio could only deflect the ball into his own net.

Portugal barely created any chances in the game, with Cristiano Ronaldo failing to register a single shot on target in the game for the first time in the entire qualifying campaign.

But in the 93rd minute, Aleksandar Mitrovic slammed a header in at the near post to book Serbia’s ticket to Qatar and condemn Portugal to a play-off that makes their participation at the World Cup far from certain.

Santos has been in charge of Portugal since September 2014, when he took over from Carlos Quieroz after a poor start to their World Cup qualifying campaign.

The former Greece manager saved that campaign and led them in that World Cup, before then winning Euro 2016. He then led the team into the 2018 World Cup, where as European champions they really disappointed by crashing out in the round of 16 to Uruguay.

That should’ve been the trigger for Santos to depart, but instead Portugal opted to keep him and gave him the extra credit of winning Euro 2016. He responded by winning the first ever version of the UEFA Nations League the following year, defeating Holland in the final.

Since then however, it’s not been great going. Portugal struggled at Euro 2020 to a late win over Hungary in the opening group game before a defeat to Germany and a draw with France put them through as a best third-placed team. They were then beaten by Belgium, once again failing to really create much going forward.

Head coach Fernando Santos of Portugal, is seen during the UEFA EURO 2020, Round of 16 football match between Belgium and Portugal at La Cartuja...

Now with this latest failure, it seems like his time as being the right man for the job is probably over.

With the squad at his disposal, he is a totally wrong fit for the team. Santos is constantly putting defence first when trying to sort a squad out, despite the abundance of attacking talent he has available to him.

The first thought of the manager is always not to lose rather than to win, which fitted well with expectations when he first took over but not so much anymore.

This is a squad that is more than capable of going toe-to-toe with the best teams in the world with a bit of tactical invention and good structure.

With the likes of Bruno Fernandes, Joao Felix, Bernardo Silva, Diogo Jota and Ronaldo among the ranks then this is a team very capable of scoring goals.

Cristiano Ronaldo of Portugal , Joao Felix and Bruno Fernandes warm up prior the friendly football match between Portugal and Andorra, at the Luz...

With a four month period now between the failure and the play-offs in March, there is a chance to make a change now and bring in a more attack-minded coach like Leonardo Jardim to get the best out of this upcoming generation of attacking talent.

Santos is on borrowed time with Portugal and they have a chance to make it right before they miss out on a World Cup competition for the first time since 2002.

Joao Felix needs to remind everyone that there is another ‘starboy’

If you ask most football fans across the world who the best young players in the world are, the answers are usually pretty unanimous.

Paris Saint-Germain’s Kylian Mbappe and Borussia Dortmund striker Erling Haaland are often battling it out for the top spot in people’s minds, while some less popular choices including Manchester based duo Phil Foden and Mason Greenwood.

But it wasn’t that long ago that there was another name in the mix for fans to debate about for the podium in Joao Felix.

Felix had a stunning breakthrough season as a teenager with Benfica, before completing a sensational £113m transfer to Atletico Madrid in 2019 on the back of it.

He opted to join the Spanish side ahead of interested clubs such as Real Madrid, Manchester United and Man City according to reports with Diego Simeone seeing him as the ideal replacement for the Barcelona-bound Antoine Griezmann in that window.

On paper it made a lot of sense. Felix excels as one of the most creative attackers in La Liga, and has the goalscoring ability to fill in for a 20 goal per-season star like Griezmann in a team that tends to challenge on all fronts each season.

However at such a young age and with so much expectation due to the transfer fee, the deal hasn’t quite gone as planned for the now 21-year-old.

Felix is into his third season at the Wanda Metropolitano and he has scored just 19 goals so far for the club, which is less than he scored for Benfica in his one season with the first-team in Lisbon.

Injuries haven’t helped, while Felix’s love for attacking and flair football hasn’t really fitted in seamlessly to the way ‘El Cholo’ likes to set up his teams with defence also prioritised over goals. He’s had a somewhat fractious relationship with his manager and his bad form has seen him left out of the side on occasion too.

But through all that, it’s still very clear just how talented Felix is as a footballer. Against Barcelona on Sunday, Felix didn’t get a goal or assist officially but he was every bit as influential as Thomas Lemar and Luis Suarez who did.

His dribbling got him out of predicaments, his quick feet got him out of tight situations and his passing ability was on display for all to see as he carved open Ronald Koeman’s side at will. It was just a glimpse of his talent and ability but it served as a reminder to just how good he is.

With Luis Suarez and Antoine Griezmann both at Atletico now, the pressure is no longer on Felix to lead the line and be the primary goalscorer. Instead, he is in the side to develop and be part of a unit in attack that is looking to go back-to-back for the La Liga title and make another push in Europe.

Antoine Griezmann of Atletico Madrid celebrates with Joao Felix of Atletico Madrid after scoring the goal of 1-1 during the Uefa Champions League...

Felix barely got on the pitch at Euro 2020 for Portugal as they suffered a disappointing Round of 16 exit to Belgium, but with the World Cup in Qatar coming up at the end of next year he has a chance to get right back to it.

Cristiano Ronaldo won’t be around forever and Bernardo Silva may be the man now but he is also creeping up on 30. Felix is the future of the Portuguese national team undoubtedly, but he could also be the future for Atletico Madrid or another top European team.

He needs to get back to his confident best to show it and he’s now in an environment where he doesn’t have added pressure. If the style of play at Atletico continues to negatively effect him then he may need to consider moving on, but it’s so easy to forget he won’t be 22 until November.

He’s got the best part of a decade ahead of him and I wouldn’t bet against him having another breakthrough season ahead of the 2022 World Cup to remind everyone that there is another name missing from that starboy conversation. Don’t sleep on Joao Felix.

Who should Manchester City sign to replace Sergio Aguero?

When the greatest goalscorer in the history of the club is getting ready to leave, some planning needs to go into his replacement.

After Manchester City and Sergio Aguero confirmed reports that the player will leave at the end of his contract this summer, all talk swiftly turned to who would be the best replacement for Pep Guardiola’s side to sign.

Aguero is almost guaranteed to go abroad, with Barcelona and Paris Saint-Germain the most linked teams for his signature, but whether they’re the best option remains to be seen. For City, the options on who to sign are much less frequent and will be much more expensive. So who is the best option?

The obvious two names that come to everyone’s lips are Erling Haaland and Harry Kane.

Haaland is a 20-year-old Norwegian international who already has an affiliation with the blue half of Manchester, with his father Alf-Inge being the former captain of the club. Erling was born in Leeds but brought up as a Man City fan due to his father’s playing career and there is a well known photograph of a young Haaland in a City shirt.

Borussia Dortmund v Sport-Club Freiburg - Bundesliga : News Photo

His profile fits the striker role well too, with goals galore coming in all forms. Whether it be left foot, right foot, header, tap in, scrappy or emphatic, Haaland has the finish in his locker and at only 20 he is impressionable enough for Guardiola to be able to mould any weaknesses or flaws he may have.

He has seemingly got a ‘win at all costs’ mentality too which will go down well, while physically he seems to be strong and mobile enough to cope with the Premier League. One issue in pursuing Haaland would undoubtedly be his price, with Dortmund likely to ask for in excess of £150m to part with the player this summer. City will think twice, especially with the knowledge that he has a release clause that activates next summer for less than half that amount.

That could lead them to the current Spurs hitman Kane, who reportedly could seek to leave north London if they fail to make the Champions League next season.

Rumours of Kane’s future have been rife for years but he has stayed loyal to Tottenham, even signing a new six-year deal with the club in 2018 meaning he will still have three years to run on the deal at the end of the campaign.

The fee to bring him to another Premier League club will likely be as high as any potential fee for Haaland, but it may seem a little more worth it.

FBL-ENG-PR-MAN CITY-TOTTENHAM : News Photo

The England striker will be 28 by the time the new season begins and entering his prime. He is chasing several goal records, including being the most credible threat to Alan Shearer‘s all-time Premier League record and also Wayne Rooney’s England record.

But this season he has developed an entirely new side to his game, where the creative bones have come out as well as his clinical striker abilities. He currently leads the Premier League charts for assists and has shown a passing range that most midfielders would cry for.

This all round game would likely suit Guardiola’s possession-heavy approach more than just a pure poacher, but he is still more than capable of getting 20+ league goals a season and 30+ goals in all competitions.

The issue for Kane has always been fitness, with ankle and hamstring injuries plaguing him throughout his career and often causing him to miss large chunks of the campaign. While that isn’t too different from what Aguero has had to deal with during his City career, the huge price tag could put City off for that reason.

Who else is there? It now seems highly unlikely that Lionel Messi will be targeted in the summer, while Kylian Mbappe is more likely to stay put at PSG or move to Real Madrid than join Manchester City.

Atletico de Madrid v FC Barcelona - La Liga Santander : News Photo

Romelu Lukaku has been linked as a target and despite his goalscoring exploits in Italy it would be incredibly hard to picture him in a Guardiola team. As good as he is, stylistically they are like chalk and cheese and there is no reason for Lukaku to look to move away from Serie A considering how well he is doing and the fact he is about to win the league with Antonio Conte.

Antoine Griezmann could become available if Barcelona opt to offload him and his style could see him fit in very well at Manchester City. He is more of a technical playmaker by trade who prefers to play in a slightly withdrawn role, but is more than capable of being the most advanced attacker. City could also look at his former club Atletico Madrid for a potential move for Joao Felix who is reportedly unhappy under Diego Simeone.

The Portuguese wonderkid may actually be the best fit possible for Guardiola. He is capable of playing across the front line, dropping deep to link play, has a fantastic eye for goal, can dribble, beat players one on one and also has a great eye for a pass. He is young and coachable and while he would certainly be expensive, he’d probably cost less than Kane or Haaland.

City will have to go big in the transfer market regardless of who they opt to sign to replace Aguero, unless they choose not to replace his status and just replace his place in the squad. After all, they are about to win the league with their number nine Gabriel Jesus having only scored seven league goals.

Portugal continue to play to level of opponents in narrow win over Azerbaijan

Portugal kicked off their 2022 World Cup qualifying campaign with a narrow win over minnows Azerbaijan, as a pattern in their recent games continued.

Despite starting with a very strong team including Cristiano Ronaldo, Bernardo Silva, Pedro Neto and Joao Cancelo, the two teams were only separated by an own goal from Azerbaijan defender Maksim Medvedev in the first half.

Portugal continued to dominate the ball and push forward, but failed to create any real clear cut chances until the final minutes of the game when substitute Joao Felix hit the ball straight at the goalkeeper.

It was the Seleccao’s fourth win in five games and added another clean sheet to Fernando Santos’ record, with the victory marking his 50th in competitive games as Portugal manager.

But there was a pattern displayed in this game that has been fairly worrying for some fans in recent games, that the team seem to play to the level of whatever the opposition is they’re up against.

The recent games against Spain and France saw them eek out close fought 0-0 draws before succumbing to a 1-0 defeat to the world champions in a game that could have gone either way. They were able to beat Sweden in relatively dominant fashion following that, before a 7-0 win over lowly Andorra too.

Against Croatia they seemed to go toe-to-toe and came out 3-2 winners thanks to a last minute Ruben Dias header, in a game they could easily have lost too. They were being comfortably outplayed by the home side before Marko Rog’s second yellow card just moments before the equaliser.

Considering the quality they have running through the squad, they still seem to play at their best when they have the underdog mentality going into games.

Santos’ preference is to set up a solid defence and to let the attacking players perform freely, but with so much depth and quality he should be setting up to take games by the scruff of the neck and dominate them.

The vast majority of the attacking players thrive in possession based teams at club level and are better suited to that type of game, while the fact Ronaldo is allowed to take the evenings off when it comes to defending surely means the overall game is better suited to not having to defend so much.

With a game against Serbia at the weekend and then another qualifier against Albania next midweek, Portugal will need to find a level we all know they’re capable of to win those games against much tougher opposition than Azerbaijan could provide.

During Euro 2016 we saw Portugal win only one game during 90 minutes in the entire competition on their way to winning the competition, then in the 2018 World Cup in Russia they fought to an exciting draw with Spain then beat Morocco 1-0 before being held to a 1-1 draw with Iran. They then failed to really turn up against Uruguay in the knockout rounds, getting eliminated at the first attempt.

If Euro 2020 and the 2022 Qatar World Cup are to be successful with what could be argued as Portugal’s strongest squad ever, they need to start performing to their potential in every game.

Atletico Madrid could win the Champions League with new 352 system

Since Diego Simeone took over at Atletico Madrid way back in December 2011, we’ve seen the same thing pretty much year on year.

A rigid 442 system with a solid defensive base, low block in midfield and individual brilliance in attack.

It was the way when they made it to two Champions League finals in three years, although they lost both, but also the way they won La Liga in 2014. This year though, they sit top of La Liga with a ten point lead and a game in hand over their rivals in the race to win the title.

The level of performance this season has been similar to that of previous years, but a new element has been introduced with Simeone introducing a new 352 system.

An extra defender added into an already solid back-line has seen Atleti concede just ten goals in the league so far this season after 19 games, while the addition of wing-backs and maintaining a front two has seen them score 40 times – just once less than Barcelona despite playing a game less.

A big part of that success has obviously been the form of summer signing Luis Suarez, who has scored 14 league goals this season to lead the Pichichi charts. But it’s also been the willingness of Simeone to change something that had been synonymous with his reign at the club of almost ten years.

He’s found a way to balance the excellent defending that his sides are famous for, while also managing to get more attacking options on the pitch playing well together.

Joao Felix and Suarez’s partnership has been good, while Angel Correa, Marcos Llorente, Yannick Carrasco, Kieran Trippier and even Thomas Lemar have seen their performances rise this season from last.

The tactical versatility they now have, along with the quality in their squad and the huge gap they have in the title race domestically mean they have a huge chance of winning the Champions League this season.

They take on Chelsea in the last 16, who are under new management and still adapting to a new style without firing on all cylinders and will be confident of progression over two legs. But after that they should be confident no matter who they come up against.

The power and quality in attack, the robustness in defence and the overall ability in both directions in midfield means Simeone has not only one of the best squads in Spain, but in Europe too.

After two failed attempts at a Champions League final and two successful Europa League winning campaigns, Simeone will have his best chance at winning the big one this year – and it’s all thanks to his new system.

Portugal: Don’t Fear The Big Boys Anymore – You’re One Of Them

For years and years, Portugal have been considered to be in the second tier of international football.

The giants like France, Germany, Brazil and Argentina have always been considered the better teams at international level, with the best talent always seemingly having one of those passports to their name.

Portugal have been grouped with the likes of England and Holland as perennial under-achievers despite having plenty of talent in their squad. It’s all changed now though.

After consecutive 0-0 draws against France and Spain, it may seem like a weird conclusion to come to. But this is the final stretch of a long process that has seen Portugal win the last two competitive tournaments they have been a part of – including the European Championships in 2016.

Plenty of fans and critics like to point out that Portugal won just one of their games in that entire tournament during the initial 90 minutes, the 2-0 semi-final win over Wales. What they fail to mention is they didn’t lose any games during the tournament. Fernando Santos has done a fantastic job of making Portugal almost impenetrable defensively.

Since losing to Uruguay in the World Cup Round of 16 back in 2018, Portugal have only lost one game in all competitions – friendlies included. They’ve beaten Italy, Holland, Serbia, Croatia, and Sweden in that time, while also drawing against France, Spain and Croatia too.

Luxembourg v Portugal - UEFA Euro 2020 Qualifier : News Photo

They’ve also managed to get a squad together which is arguably among the top 3 in the world in terms of pure talent. Defensively, Rui Patricio patrols a backline expertly well as a man with his experience should. In front of him, Pepe is arguably one of the most underrated defenders of all-time ad next to him is an undeniable prospect in Ruben Dias. At full-back the Selecçao have incredible depth with the likes of Ricardo Pereira, João Cancelo, Nelson Semedo and Raphael Guerreiro in the current group while youngsters like Nuno Mendes are coming through too.

In midfield they arguably have the deepest pool of options outside of the French. Danilo Pereira and William Carvalho provide a solid base to build from, with a wide passing range to go with their defensive capabilities. Both men have expert positioning and are great at reading the game, which allows the attacking players to flourish. Other options in the deeper positions include João Moutinho, Ruben Neves, Andre Gomes and Renato Sanches too.

In the more attacking midfield positions the depth continues. In addition to guaranteed starters Bernardo Silva and Bruno Fernandes, Portugal’s options include Gonçalo Guedes, Trinçao, Diogo Jota and Rafa Silva for different occasions.

Portugal’s weakest position is arguably in centre forward and yet they still have the greatest goalscorer in modern football history. Cristiano Ronaldo has moved away from the left-wing position in recent years to a more central role and he’s flourished. During Sky’s broadcast of the draw with France they revealed a stunning stat. If you took all of Cristiano Ronaldo’s goals for Portugal score prior to his 30th birthday, he would still be their all-time top goalscorer with 49 goals. Alongside him, young prospect João Felix is making a name for himself while Andre Silva provides a reliable goal threat in the squad too.

With Santos looking to pair Felix and Ronaldo together going forward, Portugal’s strongest XI is arguably one of the best in world football right now. With a manager and captain who believe in winning by any means necessary too, they need fans to start believing now. Previously against the top sides, Portugal would hang back and defend and look to counter-attack with Ronaldo leading the charge but these last two performances have shown progression; Portugal can go toe-to-toe with the best.

It’s time for Portugal to stop worrying about the prospect of facing the big boys at tournaments now – they’re one of them.