The 2019 summer transfer market is full of famous names; Antoine Griezmann, Eden Hazard, Matthijs de Ligt, to Romelu Lukaku. However, nothing is worth João Felix.
Value here can mean two things: first, the nominal transfer. Felix was ransomed by Atletico Madrid for 123 million Euros from Benfica, making him the fourth most expensive player in history. Second, future potential.
Felix is only 19 years old, but he has been predicted to be the successor to Cristiano Ronaldo, both as the main star of the Portuguese national team and the best player in the world (or second, if you are a follower of Messism).
His second meeting on the pitch was highlighted when Alteti visited Juventus headquarters in the opening match of the 2019/20 Champions League group stage. The camera specifically highlighted Ronaldo and Felix who exchanged greetings before the match began.
Some joked, the brief conversation was between Felix and his fans. However, Felix himself has repeatedly stated that he really admires CR7.
“I want to play with Ronaldo because he is the best (player). He is an idol, an icon of the world, a role model for everyone,” said Felix as quoted by FourFourTwo . “Being able to be by his side, training with a monster like himself, will help me to develop further.”
Felix’s opportunity to learn from Ronaldo, who predicts that Felix will successfully graze in the Spanish League, is certainly still quite long. Since being given the chance to make a debut with the Portuguese senior team in June, Felix has always been called by coach Fernando Santos.
Portugal legend Paulo Futre predicts that Felix will compete for the Ballon d’Or in the next two or three years. Meanwhile, Nuno Gomes, who had witnessed Felix’s firsthand development as Benfica’s academy director, believed that “if he is able to keep going forward, he will become one of the world’s best players”.
Talent is never an issue. Trust is the obstacle. Felix almost never intended to throw away his entire career as a footballer due to adaptation difficulties.
The son of the teacher pair entered the FC Porto academy at the age of eight. He was delivered by car, traveled a total distance of about 150 kilometers, to undergo training several times per week.
When he was 13 years old, Porto put Felix in the Projeto Jogador de Elite ( Elite Player Project). He no longer needs to be picked up every time he rehearsals, but staying in the mess only makes the situation worse for him.
Felix misses his home. As told The Athletic , he once called his mother in the middle of the week, asking to pick him up and take him home.
The situation on the ground did not help either. He is considered a failure to grow because his body does not contain like his teammates. He was loaned to the second division club, Padorense, before finally leaving Estadio do Dragao in 2015. “In Porto, I lost my excitement,” he said.
Felix moved to eternal rival Porto, Benfica. Porto, at the time, did not know how much had been lost.
It was Benfica’s youth team coach, Renato Paiva, who convinced Felix to join. He knew the difficult period the midfielder went through in Porto. To be honest, he also doubted it, but all of that turned into admiration when he saw it in the first training session.
“I still remember being very surprised after his first training session with us. He has extraordinary technical skills,” Pavia recalls. “I looked at my assistant and said, ‘What happened ?!’ I don’t understand how a club like Porto releases players like this, because the talent is really clear.”
So Pavia knew what needed to be done: give an injection of confidence to Felix. He routinely tells Felix how good Felix as a footballer is, about his potential. Until finally, Felix believes. Since then, every inch of his steps on the field has been filled with quality.
For Nuno Gomes, one aspect that makes Felix special is its ability to make the game simple. Felix does not need striking individual actions, even though he is actually capable. He can create space and adjust the direction of the game with just one touch, immediately break away from the guard of the opponent.
This is the intelligence in playing football that is rarely possessed by young players in general;
reading room. Coupled with the ability of engineering and qualified creativity, become Felix as a bright star.
So, when Bruno Lage was asked by the president of the club, Luis Filipe Vieira, to give up his position as Benfica B coach and promotion to the first team in January 2019, he did not hesitate to introduce Felix to the world in earnest.
Felix had previously made his debut for the Benfica senior team in the match vs. Boavista in August 2018. However, he was never really optimized by coach Rui Vitoria.
Vitoria left, Lage came. He entrusted a player who was able to be deployed in the final third position of any pitch – Felix has appeared as a central striker, shadow striker, attacking midfielder, left wing and right wing – as the main orchestrator.
Lage’s message to Felix is very simple. He just needed Felix to show his natural play, “like we usually do on the streets”.
In Lage’s inaugural match as Benfica’s main coach, vs. Rio Ave, Felix was sent off immediately as a starter and scored two goals. After that, he only appeared as a substitute once in 29 matches in all competitions.
In the Lisbon Derby against Sporting CP in February, Ronaldo was present in the stands. He witnessed firsthand the young player wearing the jersey number 79 ruffling his former team, scoring one goal and one assist to bring Benfica to win 4-2.
“There is the best Portuguese player at the Alvalade Stadium. It is really nice that Ronaldo was there to watch him play,” said former Benfica Vice President Rui Gomes da Silva joked.
In a matter of months, Felix changed from a potential young player into a world sensation. He ended the 2018/19 season with 19 goals and 11 assists in all competitions, driving him to Wanda Metropolitano.
Before being confirmed to be part of Atleti’s squad, Felix was associated with many clubs; Manchester United, Real Madrid, Juventus, to Wolverhampton Wanderers – Felix’s agent is Jorge Mendes.
Lage actually doesn’t want to let go of Felix. He considered an additional season in the Portuguese League would be good for the development of the player. However, Atleti’s willingness to pay a release clause of 120 million Euros is too difficult to ignore.
Atleti’s game philosophy might not rely on short passes and ball possession, which is relatively more suited to Felix’s style. However, Atleti promises the chance to play at one of the highest levels of football.
Futre, who has defended Los Rojiblancos for five and a half years, believes Felix can be a player who determines the new era of the club.
“A few years (again) in Madrid, he will understand this club. He will know the mentality of the fans. At Atleti, this is not only about talent; it is also a fighting spirit,” Futre said. “It’s very important for` soar a camisa` – to sweat for the uniform that sticks to your body. You have to give it every ability. “
This mentality will greatly help the development of Felix. He will also be increasingly accepted by the public Wanda Metropolitano, who initially doubted the official Felix.
They realized there was a genius who was right to take Atletico through a transition period, to glory. More importantly, for Atleti’s supporters, Felix’s arrival made Griezmann’s (departure) easily forgotten.
Felix still has to fight hard so that all his potential is fulfilled and able to stand on his own name. For the time being, he must accept being seen as ‘Griezmann’s replacement’ by Atleti’s supporters, ‘Ronaldo’s successor’ by the Portuguese, and the names of other footballers.
Former Benfica winger, Antonio Simoes, likens Felix to Johan Cruyff. Meanwhile, Nuno Gomes sees Felix as similar to Kaka and Rui Costa as they both play in attacking midfield positions and play the role of playmaker.
Costa, who is currently serving as Benfica’s Sports Director, has the best answer about this comparison: “Some people call him my successor or the new Kaka. In fact, Felix is Felix.”