Posts Tagged ‘Lusa’

Bruno-Fernandes-Udinese

Portuguese midfielder Bruno Fernandes has enjoyed a very quick rise to stardom over the last two seasons. The 19-year-old is a former Pasteleira and Boavista youth player who signed with Italian club Novara in the summer of 2012.

The Italian club was playing in Serie B at the time, Italy’s second division. Since then, the young midfielder has impressed with his creativity, vision, passing and dribbling skills.

Fernandes began last season with the reserves, but by December he had earned a starting position with the main squad. He would help Novara reach promotion to Serie A via a playoff against Empoli, scoring four goals in 23 matches along the way.

Fernandes signed with top-flight club Udinese this past summer and his star has continued to rise. Again, expected to be a marginal figure, the 19-year-old made his first competitive appearance for the club in a November League match against Inter Milan. Since then, Fernandes has been a regular starter with the Italian club.

In a very short period of time, the Portuguese has become the focal point of attack for a young Udinese side. He has mainly played in a playmaker or ‘number 10’ role behind a striker this season.

Fernandes scored his first goal in Serie A in a December 7th match against Napoli at the San Paulo Stadium. With Udinese down 2-1 in the 70th minute, Fernandes received the ball at the centre of the pitch and delivered a good shot passed Napoli goalkeeper Rafael. The match would end in a 3-3 draw.

“It felt great scoring a goal against Napoli, one of the strongest clubs in Italy,” he told Portuguese website Maisfutebol Total.

“I was so emotional that I did not even think about celebrating the goal. I wanted to at least hug my teammates. I thought about those who have not played and the fans,” he added. “I found room and decided to shoot, not thinking very much about where to place the ball. I did not realize at first that I had scored.”

Fernandes is part of a very promising generation of Portuguese midfielders. A group that includes Manchester City’s Marcos Lopes, Liverpool’s João Carlos Teixeira, Benfica’s André Gomes and Bernardo Silva, among others. But like most of these players, Fernandes never played for one of Portugal’s Os Três Grandes or Big Three.

The Udinese midfielder is an unlikely success story. Portugal’s midfield is expected to be highly congested in a few years but Fernandes has a key advantage over many of his compatriots. At only 19, he is playing regularly for a top-flight club in one of Europe’s top three leagues.

In a February 2014 interview with the Portuguese news agency Lusa, Fernandes revealed that this past summer, he almost went on loan to English club Watford. But Udinese manager Francesco Guidolin decided it was better for him to stay.

“I ended up staying in the end, kept working hard, and eventually earned my spot after playing in club friendlies. The season began badly, we were eliminated from Europe. I earned the confidence of the manager, and after the match with Inter Milan I had more opportunities,” Fernandes said.

“I am lucky to have a manager who is not afraid to take risks.”

Finally, his home country is starting to take notice of his talent. Fernandes was chosen for the U-19 squad in 2012 when he was with Novara. And he was also recently selected to train with the U-20 Portugal squad.

Portugal’s senior squad has been without a natural playmaker since the retirement of Brazilian-born Deco after the 2010 World Cup. Fernandes’ playing style has most often been compared with former Benfica, Fiorentina and AC Milan midfielder Rui Costa.

“I do not think I have done enough to be compared with him (Costa). I do not think it is fair. I have to continue to work hard because one day, another young player could emerge here who wants to be like me,” he said in the December 2013 interview with Maisfutebol Total.

“He (Rui Costa) was a player I extremely admired. He had an incredible career but just fell short of winning something with the Seleção at Euro 2004. It was a great opportunity. I will never forget the goal against England, which raised everyone’s hopes. He is a great player to look up to.”

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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.”

Marcos 'Rony' Lopes In Action For Manchester City

Marcos ‘Rony’ Lopes In Action For Manchester City

Marcos Lopes is quickly establishing himself as one of the most exciting young players in recent memory thanks to some extraordinary performances.

The 18-year-old attacking midfielder recently received his second career start at senior level for Manchester City in a League Cup match against West Ham United. And it did not take him too long to demonstrate what he is capable of.

Just three minutes into the match, Lopes delivered a perfect cross into the box for Spanish international Alvaro Negredo, who would score the opening goal. Later in the first half, he dribbled passed several West Ham defenders before laying it off to Sergio Agüero for the second goal.

Manchester City won 3-0 and Lopes was named the Man of the March. City manager Manuel Pellegrini praised the youngster’s performance.

“Marcos is a young player with a great future,” he said.

“He is just 18 years old and played with the personality he needs to play in our team.”

“I see him work every day of the week, so I was sure he would realize the kind of performance he put on last night.”

“I’m very happy for him because he deserves to do it – and he is a very important player for the future of the club.”

Born Marcos Paulo Mesquita Lopes in Belém, Brazil, his parents emigrated to Portugal when he was four. Lopes has formally committed his international future to Portugal, having already played for the U17s and U19s.

He began playing football with AD Poiares before moving to Benfica’s youth system in 2006. In 2011, the Lisbon club sold the young phenom to Manchester City where he has played in the club’s youth squads. He has begun to make headlines with the senior squad over the last year.

Lopes scored in his first ever appearance for Manchester City’s senior squad in January 2013 in an FA Cup match against Watford after coming on as a late substitute. In doing so, he became the youngest player ever to score for the English club on record.

He would make his first senior start with Manchester City in a League Cup match against Wigan Athletic on September 24th. A week later, he fired home a hat-trick for the youth squad in a 6-0 defeat of Bayern Munich. His reputation has continued to grow since then.

Lopes is an attacking midfielder, who could play out wide, as well as in the middle. He has exceptional dribbling skills, vision, tactical awareness and has demonstrated an ability to score goals as well.

Despite Lopes’ playing style being similar to Ronaldinho, his nickname ‘Rony’ is actually in honour of fellow Brazilian international Ronaldo.

In an October 2013 interview for the Portuguese football publication Record, Lopes explained how the nickname came about.

“I started playing football for my local team (AD Poiares) and I always trained with the shirt of Ronaldo ‘O Fenómeno.’ Everyone started calling me Ronaldo because no one knew my real name. After a while the coach approached me and said that Ronaldo was too long a name and started calling me Rony. Since then that has been my nickname and I have always liked it,” he said.

Every great football nation has a period that is held in regard as a ‘Golden Age.’ Portugal considers the ‘Golden Generation’ that emerged in the 1990s in that way. The squad matured in the early 2000s and included, among others, Luis Figo, Rui Costa, Vito Baia, Paulo Sousa, and Joao Pinto.

The ‘Golden Generation’ propelled Portugal back within the elite of world football but never managed to win a major tournament at senior level.

But over the last few years, a new generation of Portuguese players have begun to emerge that many believe could be the most promising in the country’s history. And there is no player that is held up in higher regard these days, Portuguese or not, than Marcos Lopes.

At 29-years-old, Cristiano Ronaldo is firmly in his prime. But he likely has this year’s World Cup and the 2016 European Championships to deliver his proud nation a major title. And after that, Portugal will be looking for a new leader.

Portugal’s success as a football nation has always fallen on the shoulders of one exceptional player. Luis Figo, Paulo Futre and of course Eusébio, were all seen in the same way during their careers.

But it is a heavy burden to place on a 18-year-old. In an interview with Portuguese news agency Lusa in January, Lopes said that his main focus is to continue to develop as a player.

“I have played for the Under-19 squad and, of course I want to play for the seleção one day. But one step at a time. I know that the manager of the national team needs to evaluate each player’s potential and how they fit into the squad,” Lopes said.

“My main objective right now is to continue to work hard each day and develop into a better player. I have to keep both feet on the ground and take it one day at a time.”

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