Posts Tagged ‘Bebe’

Photo: SL Benfica/Isabel Cutileiro

Photo: SL Benfica/Isabel Cutileiro

The new Primeira Liga season will commence on August 15th. And like always, there is no shortage of intriguing storylines to follow.

The Portuguese top flight has been expanded to 18 clubs from 16. Boavista has been allowed to return to the top division after a court decision deemed a previous relegation to be illegal.

And despite the modest resources of Portuguese clubs, the Primeira Liga always seems to produce excellent players every season. The ‘Big Three’ of Sporting Lisbon, Benfica and FC Porto, appear evenly matched, making the title race too close to call.

Here is a list of the top storylines to watch this season in Portugal.

Julen Lopetegui At FC Porto

Julen Lopetegui is best known for his success with Spain’s youth squads, and for a period managing Real Madrid’s reserve squad. Except for a short tenure in charge of Rayo Vallecano in 2003, the Spaniard has no prior coaching experience at senior level. But club president Pinto da Costa has had a long history of putting his trust in young, promising managers and has seen it pay off. Paulo Fonseca being the obvious exception last season.

Lopetegui has wasted no time building a squad in his own image. He has brought in Cristian Tello, Adrián López, Óliver Torres, and Casemiro. Porto has not gone more than one season without winning a league title since 2001-02. And with Benfica winning last season, and Sporting Lisbon getting stronger, FC Porto’s place as Portugal’s dominant force is being brought into question. The pressure is on.

Big Changes At Benfica

Portuguese clubs are used to losing their best players the summer after they win the league title. Success tends to elevate the value of players. And Portuguese clubs need to consistently sell players in order to be able to sign new players and stay competitive. But this played out to the extreme this summer, when defending champions Benfica sold an unusual amount of key players, including Ezequiel Garay, Jan Oblak and long-time target-man Oscar Cardozo.

The important question that many people are asking about Benfica going into the new season, is whether they could come together as a team quick enough to repeat as champions. The club’s scouting system is so strong that it always manages to find quality replacements. And for the first time in several years, Benfica have some intriguing academy graduates like João Teixeira.

Bebé At The Luz

The story of Tiago Manuel Dias Correia (known as Bebé) made headlines when he made a surprise move to Manchester United in 2010. But a lot has happened since then including growing out of favour at Old Trafford. He endured lackluster loan spells at Beşiktaş and Rio Ave as well, before enjoying a terrific second-half with Paços de Ferreira last season. Bebé demonstrated that he has the potential to be a quality centre-forward.

And it appears like he will get every opportunity to succeed at Benfica. The club lost two of their top three strikers from last season. Last year’s leading goalscorer Lima remains, but at age 30 it is unlikely that he will play at a high level that much longer. Plus, Jorge Jesus is said to have personally pushed for the club to sign the youngster. If Bebé does well, it would also be a major boost to the Seleção who are in desperate need of a striker.

Sporting Lisbon In Europe

After several tumultuous years, Sporting Lisbon appears to have stepped back from the brink of financial ruin. The club qualified for the Champions League for the first time since 2008-09 with a second-place finish last season. But what remains to be seen is whether this Sporting side is more ambitious than those of the past. The club has only advanced passed the group stage of the Champions League once in their history.

Sporting made some good signings this summer in an effort to add depth. However, the club was forced to sell Eric Dier to Tottenham. And the rumours of William Carvalho moving to a bigger club are expected to continue. Regardless, Sporting are not expected to lose many key players before the end of the transfer window on August 31st. The club looks to be in a good position to compete in Europe this season.

Boavista Returns

The Porto-based club was allowed to return to the Primeira Liga after a court decision overturned a previous sanction that forced the team into relegation in 2008, as a result of their involvement in the Apito Dourado scandal. Last season, Boavista was playing several notches below the Primeira Liga. As a result, the club was very active in the transfer window, almost completely reshaping their entire squad in the hopes of being competitive.

Former Portuguese international Petit will remain as manager. And he will have to rely on young players to perform if they are to avoid relegation. It certainly will not be easy. The club is still without a shirt sponsor. But the Boavista of the past had an excellent tradition of developing young players, many of whom would go on to play internationally for Portugal. They will have to rediscover that magic.

Revival Project At Braga

Sporting Braga is coming off a very poor season by their standards. Os Guerreiros were eliminated from the Europa League in the final qualification play-off by Romanian club Pandurii Târgu Jiu. Injuries and inconsistency would take a toll on the club. Jesualdo Ferreira was let go in February. Braga finished in ninth position and out of a Europa League position for this season.

Club president António Salvador hired former Portuguese international Sérgio Conceição as manager. Conceição has had some previous success with more modest clubs Olhanense and Académica. Braga also made some intriguing signings in Pedro Tiba, Marcelo Goiano and Tiago Gomes. Plus, with a healthy Éder and Rafa Silva, Braga should be a good club once again. And, it will be interesting to see how the notoriously hot-tempered Conceição will deal with higher expectations.

Young Talent On The Horizon

The great strength of the Portuguese League is its ability to discover the stars of tomorrow. Every summer, Portuguese clubs are forced to sell several players in order to stay financially secure. But every year, other quality players take their place. FC Porto have signed World Cup stars Yacine Brahimi and Bruno Martins Indi. Brazilians Talisca and Victor Andrade look like they could be quality players for Benfica as well.

And there is no shortage of promising home-grown talent. The Portuguese youth system is as strong as it has been in several years. Sporting Lisbon always has an abundance of promising players in its academy. Carlos Mané, Tobias Figueiredo and João Mário could be break out players this season. Benfica midfielder João Teixeira has looked good in the pre-season and could get some playing time with the senior squad. So has FC Porto defensive midfielder Rubén Neves.

Champions League Redemption

An emphasis on young talent, combined with strong management has prevented Portuguese clubs from falling behind Europe’s super-rich in the Champions League. Impressive, especially when you consider that other historically great clubs like Ajax and Celtic have been unable to do so. However, last season both FC Porto and Benfica were eliminated in the group stage. Although, Benfica’s run to the Europa League final allowed Portugal to surpass Italy for fourth in the UEFA coefficient rankings.

But the pressure is on for these clubs to do better this season. Benfica and Sporting Lisbon have already confirmed their place in the competition. While, FC Porto will have to qualify through a play-off against Ligue 1 club Lille. Success in club football’s most lucrative tournament is essential for the health of Portuguese clubs. Aside from the obvious financial gains, it also helps these clubs entice promising young footballers to play for them.

Related Posts:

BENFICA: 2014-15 Season Preview

SPORTING LISBON: 2014-15 Season Preview

FC PORTO: 2014-15 Season Preview

SPORTING BRAGA: 2014-15 Season Preview

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Photo: SL Benfica/Isabel Cutileiro

Photo: SL Benfica/Isabel Cutileiro

Overview: Defending champions Benfica will enter this season with several major challenges. The club lost several key players in the transfer market this summer and is likely to lose a few more.

But as always, Benfica has young, promising players to fall back on. The challenge for Jorge Jesus is to build a team around them. Benfica’s success will primarily depend on how quickly many of these fresh faces adjust to life in the Portuguese top flight.

As Águias signed some great looking players like free-kick specialist Talisca and Brazilian forward Victor Andrade. And, they could expect to welcome back defender Lisandro Lopez, forwards Ola John and Pizzi who all spent last season on loan.

Benfica will face Paços de Ferreira in their first Primeira Liga match at the Estádio da Luz on August 17th. The starting XI will look very different from a year ago. The club is hoping to win consecutive league titles for the first time since 1984.

Key Additions: Pawel Dawidowicz (Lechia), Cesar (Ponte Preta), Loris Benito (FC Zurich), Lisandro Lopez (Getafe), Ola John (Hamburg), Pizzi (Espanyol), Daniel Candeias (Nacional), Franco Jara (Estudiantes), Sidnei (Espanyol), Derley (Maritimo), Talisca (Bahia), Victor Andrade (Santos), Luis Felipe (Palmeiras), Bebé (Manchester United), Kevin Friesenbichler (Bayern Munich), Eliseu (Malaga), Nelson Oliveira (Rennes)

Key Subtractions: Jan Oblak (Atletico Madrid), Siqueira (Atletico Madrid), Andre Gomes (Valencia), Rodrigo (Valencia), Stefan Mitrovic (Freiberg), Lazar Markovic (Liverpool), Derlis Gonzalez (FC Basel), Ezequiel Garay (Zenit St.Petersburg), Filip Duricic (Mainz), Funes Mori (Eskisehirspor), Luis Farina (Deportivo), Bernardo Silva (AS Monaco), Ivan Cavaleiro (Deportivo), Oscar Cardozo (Trabzonspor)

Manager Profile: This will be Jorge Jesus’ sixth season in charge of Benfica. He has won two league titles in his time at the Luz but has never quite earned the admiration of the majority of Benfiquistas.

Players To Watch: Perhaps no player on Benfica will be under the microscope more than Portuguese striker Bebé. But by now, he is likely used to it. The club lost Rodrigo and Oscar Cardozo this summer, placing a heavy burden on Bebé to produce. Brazilian midfielder Talisca has looked good in the pre-season as well. And Jorge Jesus will have to count on veteran players like Enzo Perez, Luisão and Maxi Pereira to help steady the ship.

Expectations: Benfica is expected to win the Primeira Liga title at the very least. The club made the final of the Europa League last season. However, the expectation has always been to advance past the group stage of the Champions League and go as far as possible.

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Portugal continues to produce talent at a rate not seen for some time. This year, there were a high number of Portuguese youngsters flourishing in Europe’s top leagues as well.

Olympique Lyonnais goalkeeper Anthony Lopes and Lorient left-back Raphaël Guerreiro established themselves as two of Ligue 1’s most exciting young players. While Udinese midfielder Bruno Fernandes is a budding star in Serie A, a league that has not been kind to Portuguese talent in recent seasons.

And as always, the Primeira Liga continued to be fertile ground for promising young home grown talent. The clubs outside the traditional ‘Big Three’ in particular have in recent seasons put their faith in developing players from their academy, perhaps adjusting to new economic realities.

Of those selected to be on the list, four have received a call-up to the National Team. While Braga midfielder Rafa Silva and Sporting Lisbon midfielder William Carvalho, will both be representing the Seleção at the World Cup this summer.

Here now is a list of the top Portuguese revelations from this past season.

STARTING XI:

Anthony Lopes, Olympique Lyonnais, Goalkeeper

23-year-old Anthony Lopes won the starting position at French club Olympique Lyonnais in training camp last summer and has been solid since. His season almost came to an abrupt end when he suffered a serious back injury in early November. He returned only five weeks later and has remained first-choice.

Lopes was on Paulo Bento’s provisional 30-man squad for the World Cup before being left out in favour of more established veterans. But his future remains very bright. He helped lead Olympique Lyonnais to a fifth place finish in a increasingly competitive Ligue 1, conceding only 34 goals in 32 League appearances for the French club. That includes 13 clean sheets.

Paulo Oliveira, Vitória Guimarães, Centre Back

An immensely promising talent from Vitória Guimarães’ academy. The young centre back demonstrated this season that he has the athleticism and football IQ needed to be a top level defender. Sporting Lisbon recently signed him to a five-year contract where he is expected to compete for a starting position next season.

He is already very accomplished despite only being 22-years-old. He won the Portuguese Cup last season with Vitória Guimarães. This season, Oliveira played in the Europa League before the club was eliminated in the group stage. With Bruno Alves and Pepe both over 30, Oliveira could be an option for the Seleção soon if he continues to progress as a player.

Miguel Rodrigues, Nacional, Centre Back

Another very promising defender. Rodrigues started 29 matches this season and was the focal point of a solid Nacional defense. Rodrigues was a major reason the Madeira club finished a better than expected fifth in the League table. The club conceded only 33 goals in 30 League matches this season overall.

Although he has only playd one full season in the Primeira Liga, many people are expecting a lot from him in the future. Together with Paulo Oliveira and Tiago Ilori, Rodrigues is part of a group of highly promising Portuguese central defenders that could conceivably reach the heights of the Seleção .

Raphaël Guerreiro, FC Lorient, Left-Back

An offensively gifted full-back who has enjoyed a very good breakthrough season with Ligue 1 club FC Lorient. Like Anthony Lopes, Guerreiro was born and began playing football in France. However, he has chosen to represent the country of his father internationally. The 20-year-old has already played for Portugal’s Under-21 squad.

This season, Guerreiro has shown excellent attacking instincts and has become known for delivering good crosses into the box. His style is very well-suited for the Portuguese game and according to some sources Paulo Bento is said to be monitoring his progress. However, he still needs to improve his defensive play.

Diogo Figueiras, Sevilla, Right-Back

Portuguese observers should already be well aware of this 22-year-old full-back from his time at Paços Ferreira. In his first season at La Liga club Sevilla, Figueiras started 19 League matches for the club and helped them win the Europa League. He has proved to be a strong offensive threat down the right-side and could even play further up the pitch.

Figueiras still needs to improve the defensive side of his game. He still commits far too many fouls. In La Liga this season, Figueiras picked up nine yellow cards and one red card in 22 total appearances. And he served a four-match ban for verbally abusing a referee. However, this is not an uncommon problem with many young attacking full-backs.

William Carvalho, Sporting Lisbon, Defensive Midfielder

William Carvalho leads a very strong group of midfielders on the list. The Sporting Lisbon defensive midfielder was one of the outstanding performers this season in the Portuguese league. And big things are expected of him next month at the World Cup where he is likely to anchor the Portuguese midfield.

Carvalho is most often compared to former French international Patrick Vieira. The 22-year-old has great positioning, makes goods decisions with the ball and could also contribute offensively. He received his first international cap in the decisive World Cup qualifying match against Sweden. And he put in an excellent performance in a recent friendly against Cameroon.

Rafa Silva, Sporting Braga, Attacking Midfielder/Winger

21-year-old Rafael Ferreira Silva has enjoyed an impressive rise over the last 12 months. He was signed from second division side Feirense last summer and was recently selected to Portugal’s World Cup squad. He will be looked upon to provide some creativity from the bench.

Silva has demonstrated this season that he has the skill level and vision to be an elite player. However, like many gifted young players he needs to learn how to play as part of a system. Braga had a difficult season, having fired veteran manager Jesualdo Ferreira. But under the right direction, Rafa could just become the playmaker Portugal has sought since the retirement of Deco four years ago.

Bruno Fernandes, Udinese, Attacking Midfielder

19-year-old Bruno Fernandes is former Boavista youth player who spend the 2012-13 season in Serie B with Novara. After helping the club to promotion, Fernandes was signed by Udinese last summer. He began this past season in the club’s reserve squad before earning a position in the starting line-up.

Fernandes would end the season as one of Udinese’s most important players, playing behind striker Antonio Di Natale. The young midfielder scored four goals and notched another six assists in 24 League matches for the Italian club, helping them remain in Serie A.

Carlos Mané, Sporting Lisbon, Winger

The young Sporting Lisbon winger could just emerge as one of Portugal’s great players. The 20-year-old was primarily used in Cup matches in the first half of the season. He scored a spectacular goal from just beyond the box in a League Cup match against Marítimo in January. In the second half, Sporting manager Leonardo Jardim began using him more often in League matches.

His talent is so evident that Manchester United is said to be very interested in signing him, despite the fact that he has yet to play an entire season in top flight. With Diego Capel and André Carrillo likely to leave this summer, Mané could be an automatic starter with Sporting Lisbon next season.

Ricardo Horta, Vitória Setúbal, Winger

A very promising attacker who was relatively unknown until this season. Horta was a Benfica youth player before signing with Vitória Setúbal in 2011. The club surprised everyone by finishing a better than expected seventh in the League total. Horta started hitting top gear in February after the arrival of João Mário on loan from Sporting Lisbon.

He would score six of his seven goals this season from February onwards. Horta has been selected for Portugal’s U19 and U20 squads as well. Sporting Lisbon are said to be interested in signing the youngster but Setúbal may not be willing to give him up so soon.

Bebé, Manchester United (On Loan at Paços de Ferreira), Striker

One of the great individual stories from this season in Portugal. Written off by so many in the media, the 23-year-old scored 12 goals in 27 appearances for Paços de Ferreira. That includes 11 goals in his final 16 matches. He also scored the opening goal in Paços de Ferreira’s 3-1 play-off win against Desportivo das Aves that assured that the club would remain in the Primeira Liga.

Bebé demonstrated that precocious talent that was not immediately evident while at Old Trafford and in previous loan spells. He scored an excellent volley against Braga in January which seemed to have given him a renewed sense of confidence. In a March League match against Arouca, he back-heeled a pass to himself before scoring. And now a move to one of Portugal’s biggest club’s seems likely.

SUBSTITUTES:

Miguel Vitor, PAOK, Central Defender

Luis Martins, Gil Vicente, Left-Back

Tiago Silva, Belenenses, Central Midfielder

Danilo Pereira, Marítimo, Central Defender/Defensive Midfielder

João Mário, Sporting Lisbon (On Loan at Vitória Setúbal), Central Midfielder

Fredy, Belenenses, Winger

Ivan Cavaleiro, Benfica, Winger

Related Posts:

FEATURE: 15 Young Players Who Could Play For Portugal At The World Cup

FEATURE: The Top Breakthrough Performers So Far This Season

SCOUTING REPORT: Olympique Lyonnais Goalkeeper Anthony Lopes Hopes To Realize World Cup ‘Dream’

SCOUTING REPORT: FC Lorient Left-Back Raphaël Guerreiro Is Enjoying A Breakout Season In Ligue 1

Scout Report – William Carvalho

SCOUTING REPORT: Udinese Midfielder Bruno Fernandes Could Be The Playmaker Portugal Needs

SCOUTING REPORT: Sporting Braga Midfielder Rafa Silva Is A Potential Future Star

SCOUTING REPORT: Sporting Lisbon’s Carlos Mané Scores Brilliant Goal Against Marítimo

PLAYER PROFILE: Is Manchester United ‘Flop’ Bebé The Real Deal Afterall?

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

SCOUTING REPORT: Benfica’s Ivan Cavaleiro Is Hoping To Break Into The Senior Squad

Photo: Facebook/FC Paços de Ferreira

Photo: Facebook/FC Paços de Ferreira

Bebé’s fantastic goal against Arouca on Sunday has once again propelled the young Portuguese striker into the media spotlight. Signed by Manchester United as a 20-year-old in the summer of 2010, he has spent much of his early career under the watchful eye of the media.

Bebé’s signing was a perfect story for the English press at the time. Abandoned by his family at an early age, he overcame all obstacles to play football for one of the most storied clubs in the world. Hollywood could not have written a better story.

But the wheels came off quite quickly for Bebé at Old Trafford. Then manager Sir Alex Ferguson decided to keep him on the squad. The much-hyped youngster looked far from convincing in the few opportunities he received with the club during the 2010-11 season.

In a very candid interview with Portuguese football website Maisfutebol in April 2013, Bebé admitted that he did not work hard enough in those early days at Old Trafford.

“The most experienced players on the team would say that I did not try hard enough. It is true. I thought, ‘I have made it, I do not have to give it my all every day.’ I am the only one to blame. I fooled around too much. When I tried to make up for it, it was too late. If I could go back, I would change a lot.”

Doubts began to emerge about the player’s quality. And soon after suspicions emerged about the deal as well. In May 2012, the transfer was investigated by the Portuguese authorities over suspicion of missing funds. Meanwhile, Bebé was having a hard time breaking into United’s squad.

In the summer of 2011, he was loaned to Turkish club Beşiktaş for the season. Soon after he suffered a cruciate ligament injury while playing with the Portugal U-21 squad forcing him to miss most of the season. In April 2012, he was suspended by the Turkish club after breaking a curfew.

Last season, Bebé was part of United’s pre-season tour. However, he did not see any action with the senior club when the season began. In January 2013, he was loaned to Portuguese club Rio Ave in order to receive more playing time.

At Rio Ave, he managed just one goal in seventeen League matches for the club. At times he was relegated to the wing. This past summer, he was loaned out for the third time in four seasons. This time to Paços de Ferreira.

Bebé’s volley against Sporting Braga in January was the first time many United fans had heard from him this season. Sunday’s goal against Arouca made headlines in the English press as well. And rightfully so.

Bebé back-heeled a pass to himself before firing one past Arouca goalkeeper Cássio. He now has seven goals in 21 League matches this season. That includes six goals in the last nine matches.

But this time around the headlines are very different, with the words ‘flop’ and ‘misfit’ being the most common adjectives to describe the now 23-year-old. And still short on praise.

It has not always been easy. Paços de Ferreira is currently on their third manager of the season. But the win against Arouca means that the club is now four points clear of the relegation zone, where they have been for most of the season.

Bebé has demonstrated this season that he does have the raw talent that must have alerted Carlos Queiroz and United scouts back in 2010. His finishing has improved and as a result he is scoring goals.

Although he is far from a finished product, Bebé has gone a long way in disproving the theory that he does not have what it takes. His recent production, as modest as it may be, proves that Bebé has a future as a footballer.

VIDEO: All Of Bebé’s Goals This Season With Paços de Ferreira (OJogo.pt)

LIGA ZON SAGRES 2012/2013

In manager Jesualdo Ferreira’s first game in charge of Sporting Lisbon, the club earned a narrow 1-0 win against Paços de Ferreira in the Taça da Liga competition. Dutch striker Ricky van Wolfswinkel scored in the 89th minute to give his team the victory on Wednesday.

“This club needs psychological support and confidence, to feel that they could come out in front,” Ferreira told journalists after the game. “The players need to believe in themselves,” he added.

Sporting had already been eliminated from the tournament before the match and will not advance to the semi-finals. Rio-Ave forward Bebé scored in his first full match for the Vila do Conde club. The Rio-Ave win, combined with Paços de Ferreira’s loss means Rio-Ave advances to the semi-finals from Group C.

In group D, Benfica advances to the semi-finals after a 3-2 victory against Académica. Lima scored twice for Benfica, Alan Kardec scored the other. Makelele and Carlos Saleiro scored for Académica.

João Moutinho’s penalty in the 44th minute gave Porto the victory against Vitória Setúbal. Porto advances from group A. Braga advanced from Group B with a 3-0 win against Beira-Mar. Carlão, Ruben Amorim and Hugo Viana scored in that match.

The semi-finals of the 2012-12 Taça da Liga have been set. Porto will play Rio-Ave at the Estádio do Dragão in one semi-final, while Braga will host Benfica. Both game will be played on February 27th.

Also in Portugal on Wednesday, the top two teams in the Liga de Honra, Belenenses and Sporting (B Squad) played a make-up game at the Estádio do Restelo in Belém. Belenenses won 2-1 and now lead the Portuguese second division by 12 points after 21 matches.

Bebe-006

Bebé, Forward

Portuguese forward Bebé has struggled to live up to expectations since his transfer to Premier League giants Manchester United in 2010. He spent time on loan in Turkey where he was temporarily suspended by the team for breaking curfew. And while on international duty in 2011, he suffered a serious cruciate ligament injury keeping him out of action for 6 months.

Sir Alex Ferguson admitted that he signed Bebé without seeing him play, after taking some advice from his scouts. Also, the transfer has been under investigation by the Portuguese authorities for possible corruption. All this has led many people to question whether Bebé really has the talent to live up to expectations. So far, he has only shown glimpses of his skill.

“I am very happy to be at Rio Ave. I hope I can relaunch my career and I will give everything I can to help the team finish well,” Bebe said. “Ferguson advised me to leave, so I could come back strong.”