In the world of football, new talents appear periodically, which are often greeted in an all too enthusiastic way. How many times have we heard of the new Leo Messi or the new Cristiano Ronaldo in these years? And how many times did those young people then betray their expectations? In some sparse cases, however, those enthusiasms seem to be well placed, as in the case of the new ace of Atlético Madrid, the young Joao Felix.
Purchased in the summer of 2019 by the Spanish team, the Portuguese striker in recent months seems to have confirmed all the good words that had been spent on him. It is worth knowing him better and understanding if he really can be one of the protagonists of football in the future.
1. Childhood and youth
João Félix was born in November 1999 in Viseu, a medium-sized city in the northern part of Portugal. Although the city is close to 100,000 inhabitants, it is not particularly rich, so football in the place is one of the ways to hope for a sort of social redemption.
It is perhaps also for this reason that in the boy’s family – whose full name is Joao Felix Sequeira – there has always been football. In addition to João, his brother Hugo Félix is also passionate about this game and still pursues a professional career today.
From Porto to Benfica
Joao Felix begins to take his first steps in Os Pestinhas, a local team, before moving to Porto, the prestigious company from nearby Porto. He enters the still very small Bianco Blu, at just 8 years old, but seems to already have important arrows on his bow.
However, those at Porto are particularly difficult years. At the beginning he commutes from Viseu, with considerable logistical difficulties. Then he moved to the city, but began to miss his parents , who instead remained in Viseu. It is still still a child.
As soon as he begins to get used to the new situation, Joao Felix is however abandoned by Porto, who in 2014 decides to cut it because of his apparently frail physique. After a year on loan to Padroense, the boy manages to marry Benfica , one of Porto’s historical rivals.
The following year, in 2016, Joao Felix made his debut in the Benfica second team. In a short time, he began to find confidence and managed to get noticed above all in the UEFA Youth League, where he managed to bring his team to the final, lost against Salzburg. At that point, he is ready to play among the “grown-ups”.
2. Technical characteristics
Already in those first releases, Joao Felix had begun to show what is still his technical characteristics. Félix is a particular tip and plays the role in a rather original way, although not unprecedented in the Portuguese tradition.
1.81 meters tall but still quite light, in fact, the player manages to field above all a good speed and an incredible nose for the goal, which often leads him to be found in the right place at the right time.
A new Kaka, a new Rui Costa?
Depending on the technicians who put him on the pitch, he was deployed as a very offensive midfielder or a second striker. Occasionally, however, it was also used as a winger, external striker or even first striker, when he played with the “false nueve” tactic.
To try to compare him to some champions of the past, he has often been approached by Kaka, the Brazilian champion of Milan, who in fact exhibited similar physical characteristics (although perhaps he was gifted, at least for the moment, with more class).
In Portugal, on the other hand, Felix was compared above all to Rui Costa and João Pinto, two important exponents of Lusitanian football from the 90s and 00s. Rui Costa has also been indicated by Joao Felix himself as one of the reference models, from which the striker is inspired.
What affects all observers so far, however, is Joao Felix’s ability to finish and score: in fact, the boy is not only quick and skillful with the ball, but so far he has shown a constancy of realization that is certainly not common among Portuguese attackers (Ronaldo excluded, of course).
3. The beginnings
As we anticipated, in 2018, not yet of age, Joao Felix is now ready to make his debut in the first team of Benfica. The official debut is dated 18 August 2018 with the victory over Boavista, another team from Porto, the city in which the young footballer had had many difficulties.
The following week also came to the first goal, among other things very heavy: Félix decided to score his first goal against Sporting, inside the classic Lisbon derby, and his goal was decisive in fixing the 1 -1 final.
From the club owner to the national team jersey
After a few months between the bench and the field, the arrival of the new coach Bruno Lage makes him, especially starting from 2019, a permanent holder of the Benfica attack. In this way, other goals arrive, gradually heavier, both in Portugal and in Europe.
By now the center of attention of the Portuguese media, in March 2019 the young striker is also summoned to the senior national team, after some excellent performances in the various youth teams. Between under-18, under-19, and under-21, Joao Felix boasts 14 appearances and 6 goals.
Unfortunately, due to an injury just as he was training with the national team, his debut with Portugal only came on 5 June 2019 in the match against Switzerland. A few days later he also played against Holland in the national team tournament organized by FIFA.
The high point of his season – and in general of his entire career in the Portuguese league – however came on 11 April 2019, when Benfica played against Eintracht Frankfurt in the Europa League.
4. The magical night against Eintracht Frankfurt
Despite being under the eyes of several observers for some time, Joao Felix has become a real phenomenon in one night. And that night, as anticipated, was actually quite recent: April 11, 2019.
Benfica played in the Europa League that evening. He had to deal with Frankfurt’s Eintracht for the quarter-finals of the tournament. The Lusitanians had arrived there by eliminating Galatasaray and Dinamo Zagreb, while the Germans had just taken out Inter, one of the favorites.
The hat trick
The first leg between the two teams was played in Lisbon. Joao Felix started the race, immediately showing he was in the evening. Already at 21 ‘, following a knockdown in the area by a teammate, he positioned himself on the penalty spot and scored the goal of the momentary advantage.
It was however after the draw of the Germans that Felix was unleashed. At 43 ‘he left an extraordinary fireball from outside the area that brings Benfica on 2-1. In the second half, then, propitiated the head goal of teammate Ruben Dias thanks to a rebound.
Finally, at 54 ‘he signed his personal hat-trick thanks to a nice coordinated action. Immediately afterwards, going to celebrate towards his fans, he also let out his tears for the emotion of having scored three goals in Europe at just 19 years of age.
The game ended on 4-2, thanks to a goal by the Germans. A result that at the moment seemed excellent, but which later proved insufficient, given that in Germany Benfica was defeated by 2-0 and was thus eliminated. The Eintracht in the semifinal was then defeated (but only on penalties) by Maurizio Sarri’s Chelsea.
5. The maxi-purchase of Atletico Madrid
The extraordinary performance against Eintracht and in general the excellent 2018/19 championship played with Benfica quickly led many great teams to follow the young Portuguese footballer and to want to ensure his performance.
In the summer of 2019, Diego Pablo Simeone’s Atletico Madrid, already winner of the Europa League in 2018, of the European Super Cup immediately after and second in the Liga in 2019, finally came out. not only to the title but also and above all to lay the foundations of the future.
126 million euros
Of course, Benfica wanted a lot of money to deprive itself of its jewel, also because actually the offers that continued to arrive were many. Atlético thus had to pay out 126 million euros, 120 for the termination clause and 6 for financial costs.
This high figure made Joao Felix the most expensive Portuguese footballer ever, even more than Cristiano Ronaldo when he was bought by Juventus. In general, Joao Felix’s shirt change is also the third most expensive in football history. Only Neymar (on arrival in Barcelona ) and Mbappe (when he moved to Paris Saint-Germain) did in fact record higher figures. Therefore, a lot has been bet on Joao Felix: at the age of 20, it is hoped that it will quickly explode and become a future Golden Ball.
Only time will tell if Atlético has done its math well. On the other hand, the Madrid team needed to renew themselves: in the summer, precious pieces such as Lucas, Diego Godin, Juanfran, Rodrigo and especially Antoine Griezmann had gone away, sold for 120 million euros to the rivals of Barcelona. João Félix will have to make his French counterpart forget.