PLAYER PROFILE: Former Benfica Defender Miguel Vitor Loving Life In Greece

Posted: October 26, 2013 in Player Profiles
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Portuguese defender Miguel Vitor could not have imagined a better start to life in Greece. Unceremoniously released by Benfica in the summer, the 24-year old signed with Greek club PAOK and has quickly won over fans.

Vitor has scored four goals in his first eight matches in the Greek Super League, while PAOK currently sit comfortably in second position behind Olympiakos.

Vitor followed up a two goal performance last weekend in a league game against Asteras Tripolis with another goal in the Europa League against Maccabi Haifa midweek. The goal came in the 35th minute when the Greek club was already down 2-0. Vitor headed in a long free-kick to cut the lead in half.

The goal helped PAOK come back and win the match 3-2. The win means they are currently in first place in group L, with seven points in three matches.

Vitor has scored five goals in all competitions already this season. In an interview with Portuguese football website Maisfutebol this week, the central defender reflected on his immediate success in Greece.

“Both collectively and individually, everything is going perfectly,” he told Maisfutebol.

Vitor has won great admiration from the PAOK faithful for his early season heroics.

“The Greek fans are very passionate. Things have turned out well for the club and myself so far. They have given us a lot of affection. It is a good feeling.”

A Benfica youth player, Miguel Vitor graduated to the senior club in 2008-09. He made 16 league appearances under former manager Quique Sánchez Flores in his first season.

But Jorge Jesus took over at the Estádio da Luz the following season. He favoured Luisão and David Luiz in the centre of defence. Vitor made only two appearances in 2009-10 as Benfica would go on to win the league and the Portuguese Cup.

In 2010-11, Vitor was loaned to Leicester City in the English Championship. Former Portugal international and Benfica player Paulo Sousa was the manager of the club at the time. Vitor would impress, recovering from an early season injury to play in 15 league matches, scoring three goals.

Upon returning to Benfica, Vitor was relegated to a bench role in the next two seasons. Last year, he divided time between the senior club and Benfica B in the second division. Vitor’s summer departure came as no surprise to anyone.

In the interview with Maisfutebol, Vitor said that he left Benfica with regret but is now firmly focussed on rebuilding his career in a new country.

“Of course I wish things could have worked out better but I wouldn’t say I was hurt by it. I don’t really think about it anymore,” he said.

“Over several years it became obvious that there wasn’t any room for me. With the current manager, I understood that it would be very difficult to get an opportunity,” he added.

Vitor is the latest Portuguese national to make a big name for himself at PAOK. Fernando Santos managed the club for three seasons before leaving to coach the Greek national team in 2010. Former Portugal winger and current manager of Académica Sérgio Conceição also played for PAOK for two seasons.

But most notably, Vieirinha played for PAOK for three seasons, being named the team’s player of the year twice. His impressive performances earned him a transfer to Bundesliga club VfL Wolfsburg and eventually a call-up to the Portuguese national team.

The comparisons between Vieirinha and Miguel Vitor are almost unavoidable. Both were highly touted youth players. Vieirinha never really got a chance with FC Porto, while Vitor was never really given an opportunity at Benfica. Both headed off to Greece. Could Miguel Vitor’s career take a similar path?

A regular on Portugal’s U19 and U21 squads, Vitor said that a call-up to the senior squad would be a dream come true.

“It is a dream that I have, but I know that I have not played much in the last three seasons. To get there, I have to play one or two seasons at a high level before I could expect to be selected,” he said.

“I hope Portugal qualify for the World Cup but I think it will be difficult for me to get there. The squad is well established. But it is a possibility, I have to continue to work hard in order to get there.”

Related Posts:

FEATURE: 7 Portuguese Players Who Could Break Out This Season, Part 2

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