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Portuguese midfielder João Carlos Teixeira made his senior debut with Liverpool on February 12th against Fulham.

The 21-year-old came in for Raheem Stirling in the 82th minute just in time to see Steven Gerrard score on a late penalty to give the Merseyside club a 3-2 win.

He put together a number of good passes and demonstrated his ability to read the game well. He also looked very comfortable with the ball at his feet, making two attempts on goal.

“I had a feeling that I would be selected to play. Before coming on, I tried to prepare myself mentally and as a result I entered the match at ease. I felt good and I think things turned out well,” he told Portuguese news agency Lusa after the match.

He also talked about how it felt to finally reach the heights of the Premier League.

“It has been a real challenge for me because, of course it is not easy. There is a lot of quality, intensity and I have worked very hard. I have put in a lot of work everyday in order to reach my goals.”

Teixeira first joined the academy of his hometown team Sporting Braga at the age of ten. A year later he moved onto the Portuguese capital, joining Sporting Lisbon’s prestigious academy in Alcochete.

After making his way through the youth ranks, he was part of the Sporting Lisbon squad that played in the inaugural NextGen Series during the 2011-12 season.

In an August 2011 group stage match against Liverpool at Anfield, Teixeira put in an excellent performance, scoring the first goal of the match in a 3-0 win for the Portuguese side.

Then manager Kenny Dalglish and club captain Steven Gerrard watched from the stands with awe. And sure enough, during the January 2012 transfer window, Liverpool and Sporting Lisbon began negotiations.

But despite his undeniable talent, there was a big obstacle to the deal. Teixeira was suffering from a serious back injury at the time. The English club agreed to pay Sporting £830,000 for the promising midfielder in the end. Teixeira would wear a brace for the next six months as his injury healed.

The gamble paid off almost immediately after Teixeira returned to action with Liverpool’s U-21 squad. He was loaned to League One club Brentford for the first half of this season but did not see much action.

Teixeira returned to Liverpool in January and would soon begin training with the first-team reserves at the Melwood training ground.

“I have contact with Alex Inglethorpe (Liverpool U21 Manager) on a daily basis and João has been one of the outstanding performers for the reserves,” Brendan Rodgers told the Liverpool Echo in February before Teixeira’s first appearance with the main club.

“I always observe in training and see where players are at and João has looked very good. His intensity, the speed of his game – he has undoubted quality and he has showed up very well.”

While at Sporting’s academy, Teixeira was often referred to as the ‘New Deco,’ because of the similarities in his style of play with the former Portuguese international. He is an offensively-minded midfielder or ‘playmaker’. However, the demands of the English game means that he will likely be expected to learn tackling and defending.

Diogo Matos, who was the director of Sporting’s academy during Teixeira’s time with the club, recently told Portuguese football website Maisfutebol that he could become a box-to-box midfielder.

“He is very dynamic, likes to have the ball at his feet and is an excellent shooter as well. If he develops the defensive side of his game, I fully believe he could become an excellent box-to-box midfielder.”

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