Portuguese football is hot property at the moment. The grand old clubs of Europe are turning to the most promising stars of the Primeira Liga for inspiration. Proof of this came a few weeks ago, when it was revealed that Benfica’s Darwin Nuñez was bound for Liverpool. And then, of course, there’s the neverending speculation over Ronaldo’s future…
Further proof of Portugal’s current bankability in the transfer market came last week when it was revealed that Vitinha, Porto’s midfield dynamo, was heading to French giants Paris Saint-Germain for a reported €40 million.
But who exactly is Vitinha and what led PSG to shell out such an eye-watering sum for the young player? Well, those are the questions we aim to answer in this article as we take a closer look at this 22 year-old who many believe is one of the most promising players in football today.
There’s no doubt that Vitinha is a skilled midfielder. An exceptional player with a natural affinity with the ball, he was the undisputed star in Portugal’s under-21 scene, and, after four first team caps, is starting to make ways in the senior team too.
This year saw him lifting the Portuguese league title as one of the standout players in Porto’s starting eleven. And his performance in the Primeira Liga has not flown under the radar. PSG certainly sat up and took notice, eventually making Porto an offer they couldn’t refuse.
But the young star will have his work cut out for him trying to compete for a place in a team which also contains Marco Verratti and Leandro Paredes.
Vitinha ended last season with 47 games under his belt, 42 of which he was included in the starting line up. He played across the board in every competition Porto were involved in: the Primeira Liga, the Taça de Portugal, the Champions League and the Europa League.
Throughout these 47 games, he racked up a total of 4 goals and 5 assists which, on the face of it, might not seem too impressive, but if we delve a little deeper, we reveal a footballer on the verge of becoming one of Europe’s greats if he continues to evolve at pace.
Vitinha’s main strength comes in his abilities as a playmaker. Spectacular vision allows him to control a game at medium and long distances. This, combined with the precision of his passing, make him a formidable player.
Throughout the season, we’ve seen the unbelievable quality of balls he’s played forward to his strikers, giving them every chance of getting into scoring positions. If the number of assists listed above seems low, this is an indictment which must fall on the forwards, not the young man feeding them with exquisite balls.
His ability to break through the defensive lines of the opposition, in both counterattacks and open play, and get his team into a scoring position is nothing short of spectacular.
Let’s look at some specific examples from different games this season.
As you can see from the above, Vitinha is most effective as a central midfield playmaker, but there is another part of his game which should be highlighted…his mastery of set pieces.
We’ve already talked about his precision passing, and it’s this quality, alongside an innate understanding of the game, that gives him the ability to create danger from set pieces. In fact, 100% of his assists this season have come from dead ball situations, either as the kick taker or as a fundamental cog in the freekick machine.
Not only is Vitinha capable of converting from medium and long distances, but he also has the vision to play the short ball, feeding the ball to players who are in a much better position to score. We can see both of these qualities in Porto’s resounding 3-0 victory of Santa Clara.
Physical strength is not one of Vitinha’s strong points. The fact is, he’s quite a slight player for his 172cm height. However, this doesn’t mean that he can’t get power into the ball from medium and long distances, a distance from which he’s scored some absolutely beautiful goals this season.
Below, we’d like to share a couple of his goals from this season. Vitinha uses all his assets to craft a beautiful goal: shooting from distance, vision and cunning, and great control.
In the first of these, against Arouca, Vitinha looks for the edge of the area from a central position and, faced with a gaggle of defenders trying to block him, fires a long looping rocket from a fair distance outside the box, catching the goalkeeper napping and scoring an amazing goal.
The second goal comes from a domestic cup game against Benfica. Vitinha doesn’t rely on power here, but on precision and intelligence. After getting on the end of a poor clearance, he strikes first time, aiming for the far post where he sees he can take advantage of the poor defensive positioning of the opposition. A thing of beauty, for sure.
Until now, we’ve been concentrating on the attack prowess of Vitinha, but he’s also a great defensive asset to the team too, being able to anticipate the flow of play and steal the ball with ease.
Throughout the entire season, we’ve seen how effective he is at pressuring the ball out of opposition players. Especially when this happens in awkward positions for the backline players. Vitinha has positional intelligence which allows him to be in the right place at the right time more often than not.
In these four examples, from different moments in the season, we can see this anticipation in action.
Vitinha is a footballer who, at a young age, already has a wealth of experience. As well as domestic and European competitions, he’s also represented his country at the highest level.
Although his statistics from last season may seem quite modest at first glance, diving deeper shows a footballer with enormous potential. A wicked shot, great vision and superb ball control.
It remains to be seen if he can gain a permanent foothold in the PSG starting eleven, this will depend somewhat on the coach who finally takes the reins. But judging by what we saw last season, Vitinha’s offensive capabilities would be a perfect fit for the PSG style.
Having said that, his skill in defense could force him into playing a role which is more in keeping with this position. This, in our opinion, would be a shame as it may mean that he doesn’t get the chance to shine in the attacking position that he is, undoubtedly, more effective in.
Whatever the case, keep an eye out for the name Vitinha next season.
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*Note: Data and images in this report have been downloaded from the InStat platform and analysed with Nacsport and KlipDraw.
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