Best Is Yet To Come From £113M Ace Joao Felix

In Portugal’s opening game of Euro 2020, many onlookers were shocked to see João Félix occupying a place on the bench for the entirety of the match.

Expected to demolish Hungary, the reigning champions of Europe struggled to pry the home team open until the final ten minutes of the game, eventually winning 3-0 (BBC Match Report). 

Still, an attacking talent as raved about as Félix is expected to be a regular feature, particularly against foes like Hungary. When you look at the starting XI, though, it’s clear to see that the 21-year-old has to truly earn his place. 

An incredibly flexible forward, the Atlético Madrid starlet could occupy any of Portugal’s four attacking positions. To do that, though, he’d have to prove himself savvier than Diogo Jota of Liverpool, Bernardo Silva of Manchester City, Bruno Fernandes of Manchester United, or the legendary Cristiano Ronaldo himself. 

The slow start to the late Euro 2020 tournament shouldn’t be seen as an indicator of a player struggling. History suggests that, should he live up to his billing, Félix isn’t far from an explosive coming of age campaign. 

Giving a natural talent enough time 

All the way back in July 2019 (Via BBC Sport), Atlético Madrid decided to pay a massive £113 million to Benfica for 19-year-old João Félix. He had only made his senior debut that season, going on to score twenty goals and set up eleven more in all competitions, and raise the Liga NOS trophy. 

Since the move, Diego Simeone has been right to nurture the Portuguese talent, give him game time, but also attempt to keep the pressure off of the team’s top wonderkid. Signed through until 2026, with a team that just usurped the hierarchy to win La Liga, Félix has plenty of time to harness his raw talent. 

Still, though, for £113 million, many would have expected an output of more than 19 goals and nine assists in 76 games – even in a tougher league for a team that’s not as dominant as Benfica are in Portugal. Injury bouts haven’t helped his consistency, but he has shown enough to continue to play for Portugal since June 2019. 

This summer’s delayed tournament that spans the continent is very being seen as a showcase for some of the sport’s best young talents, with João Félix certainly being one of the Euro 2020 players to watch. Despite his age and domestic frustrations, the Viseu-native is already tipped as the one to who Cristiano Ronaldo will pass the torch too. 

If he lives up to the comparisons, Félix will breakout soon 

Félix and Ronaldo have often invited comparisons, and while comparing them directly is unfair to the 21-year-old – as they play very different roles and in different styles – the potential seen in the wonderkid does hint to similar heights as Ronaldo. Looking at the stats, a similar timescale for his breakout could be on the cards. 

Ronaldo moved from Portugal to Manchester United for the 2003/04 season, joining the defending champions who remained one of the best teams in Europe but had to deal with a resurgent Arsenal and newly cash-stacked Chelsea. In his first two seasons with an elite club in an elite division, the now-legend scored six goals and nine assists in forty games, and then nine goals and nine assists in fifty appearances, showing steady progress. 

Félix, for a relatively new power in Spanish football that hadn’t won the title in five years at the time, has played fewer games but has scored more goals. While playing in a league that’s not as competitive as the Premier League, the youngster has had seasons of nine goals and three assists in 36 games, as well as the most recent forty match campaign that featured ten goals and six assists, showing steady progress. 

Ronaldo’s big breakout campaign didn’t come in his third season, which saw more growth to twelve goals and nine assists, but in his fourth season at United. The mighty winger exploded for twenty three goals and twenty two assists in 53 games in 2006/07, turning 22-years-old during the campaign. JoãoFélix will hit that age this season, but his career in the upper-echelons did start a year later than Ronaldo’s. 

Certainly among those top players to watch at Euro 2020, his big breakthrough may not come to fruition until the 2022/23 campaign, even if he follows in Cristiano Ronaldo’s footsteps. Still, he could always arrive a little earlier, perhaps at the 2022 Qatar World Cup.

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