Gonçalo Guedes. Touted by many to be the heir to Cristiano Ronaldo’s godly throne, the 20-year-old has received plaudit after plaudit since his arrival at the Mestalla, with many even regarding him as the standout performer in La Liga thus far in the 2017/18 campaign.

With three goals and five assists to his name in just seven La Liga appearances, it’s blindingly obvious as to why experts and colleagues alike are championing the forward as the ‘the next big thing’.

However, despite his blistering start to the season, Guedes’ future hasn’t always been so propitious. After a €30 million move to French giants Paris Saint Germain in January, many of the Guedes faithful were left scratching their heads as to why the young starlet would go to a club with infinite talent and experience at its disposal. Such concerns were brought to bear as the former Benfica man spent the remaining six months bench-warming for the French giants.

It wasn’t until June of last year, at the U21 European Championships that Guedes’ talents were on display again. Despite Portugal’s early, unexpected exit, Guedes was arguably Portugal’s finest player, and while his parent club were busy spending ludicrous amounts on players who operate in his position, Guedes was showing the rest of Europe what he was capable of. And right on cue, Valencia came knocking with a one-year-loan deal.

Fast forward to November and it’s safe to assume that the tenacious forward has the world at his feet. This past week alone, Guedes has scored his first international goal for Portugal and was included in WhoScored’s European Team of the Month for October – which is no small feat, especially at the tender age of 20.

Playing style

The Benavente native has a unique arsenal of skills. He plays with a sense of belief that the sky’s the limit once the ball arrives at his feet: he produces intricate one-twos that tear crater-like-gaps into defences, he scores with power, finesse and confidence. So much so, that he even resembles a certain 32-year-old 5-time Ballon d’Or winning Portuguese forward in his early days every so often.

Despite oozing confidence and performing so efficiently in front of goal for Valencia, Guedes’ end product hasn’t always been so stellar. In 39 appearances for the reigning Liga NOS champions Benfica, he only managed five goals, although his performances in the first half of last season suggested was on the cusp of making good on his immense promise.

Moreover, countless young players who possess a similar arsenal of skills often fail to turn eye-catching performances into goals and/or assists. Although the numbers are not spectacular, yet, at 20, Guedes is clocking up goals and assists and also performing adequately defensively.

His robust physique is arguably his saving grace. Once the youngster gets into his stride, the opposition have an arduous time trying to out-muscle him – and that’s only if they are athletic enough to catch him. Possessing such athletic abilities makes him a defender’s nightmare – just ask the several players in La Liga who have ended up on their backsides when trying to dispossess him.

However, his ever-growing repertoire doesn’t end there. His ability to read the game and pick a pass is developing week after week, so it’s perhaps unsurprising that he’s managed five assists this season. His assists have been impressive to say the least, but it’s the manner in which these plays were orchestrated that are nothing short of breath-taking.

With several of these assists, Guedes utilized countless of his attributes: raw pace, a tenacious desire to penetrate the defence and a constantly improving ability to play an accurate, composed pass to his teammate. Certainly, there are aspects of his game that need fine-tuning. As seen in the diagram below, Guedes’ average passing accuracy is 76%, which is by no means exemplary. In addition to this, the Seixal academy graduate has been notorious for drifting in and out of games – something which he appears to have eradicated of late, but needs to maintain in order to progress. Having said that, these are discrepancies that a rapidly learning footballer can hope to iron out as he gains experience.

Image via Fussball Radar

World Cup 2018: What role is Guedes likely to play?

Given that the current crop of Portugal’s players is arguably its finest to date, it’s difficult to say definitively what role the youngster will play. However, in Portugal’s recent friendlies versus Saudi Arabia and the United States, Guedes was the standout performer amongst an experimental squad which overcame the Saudis 3-0 and drew 1-1 with a young, adventurous USA side. His performances were typical of his football this season, wreaking havoc almost every time the ball was at his feet with penetrating runs, incisive passing and deadly finishing.

Guedes performs best when he’s operating on the left-hand-side, and has accumulated a WhoScored rating of 8.29 in his six appearances for Valencia operating in this manner (the highest rating of any Portuguese player plying their trade in Europe).

However, despite his swashbuckling performances in this position for Los Che, it’s highly unlikely that he will bench Inter Milan’s João Mário, who of late has made that position his own for the reigning European champions. This begs the inevitable question: If Guedes continues to produce such scintillating performances, how will he fit into Portugal’s starting eleven?

Unfortunately, attempting to give a definitive answer would be naïve and probably incorrect. One could argue that Guedes would thrive as a second-striker alongside Ronaldo, which is an exciting prospect to say the least. However, André Silva’s record in a Portugal shirt is phenomenal, not to mention the partnership and understanding that has blossomed between the latter and the Portugal captain. Forcing André Silva out of his starting position would again be very difficult for the Valencia loanee.

Despite the uncertainty regarding whether or not Gonçalo Guedes will play a key role for the European champions this summer, Seleção fans can take comfort in the fact that Guedes will almost certainly be included in Fernando Santos’ 23-man squad, providing he maintains his high level for the remainder of the season.

Needless to say, Guedes does not appear to be slowing down in any way shape or form, and once he’s able to replicate his club form for Portugal, who knows if another Seleção triumph is on the horizon.

By Marino Peixoto

 

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People in this conversation

  • No doubt he'll move to the Prem in summer though I wouldn't be surprised to see him at Atletico when Griezi goes. Or even Real. If Conte leaves I could see him at Chelsea also.

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  • Rated 4 out of 5 stars

    Great showing at the top flight football La Liga, brushing shoulders with top class footballers truly deserves an accolade. He needs to keep his form by emulating C Ronaldo work ethics, where there is no other substitute, if Gonçalo Guedes wants to step in C Ronaldo shoes. I agree that Gonçalo Guedes to pair up with C Ronaldo coming WC 2018. The writer of this article has done a real dept analysis deserves a an applaud. Hope Fernando Santos takes time of to read this article which makes his life simpler.

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  • Guest - Zack

    Rated 5 out of 5 stars

    Great read. No doubt the kid will move elsewhere with the way he’s playing, he’s sure to pick up interest from premier leagues top 4.

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  • Guest - jon/usa

    Andre Silva has been doing very well alongside Ronaldo, but lets not forget that he has been playing against very weak opposition. We are not going to be facing the likes of Andorra, Latvia, and the Faroe Islands in the world cup. Andre Silva is a quality player, but he's barely getting any playing time in Milan at the moment, and his recent performances for the Seleccao have been a bit underwhelming.

    It's great to have two proper targets in the box when we're whipping in crosses against a parked bus, but I feel like our attack would be far more dynamic -- especially on the counter -- if Ronaldo was partnered by Guedes.

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  • Guest - Justin/Rochester

    Rated 1 out of 5 stars

    @Jon I can't agree more with you. I don't even think Andre Silva is that good to begin with but that's another story for another day. Goncalo has everything Andre has plus blinding pace and Silva is slow. When facing teams that will have more possession than us we need to counter attack with speed and that's where Goncalo comes in handy.

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  • Guest - Rui

    Intriguing piece, very well written and detailed. I feel as though Guedes could be Portugal's surprise saving grace this summer, but we shall have to wait and see. Força, Tugas!

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  • Guest - Oscar

    Rated 3.5 out of 5 stars

    Good article, always nice to read an article with some accurate information in Portuguese players. For those who want to drop Silva, Gonçalo Guedes is not an out and putney striker, he's able to play the second striker role next to a proper centre forward who can hold up the ball. Andre Silva has got a bad patch and didn't play well
    In recent friendlies but to cats him said after all the goals he's scored recently would be the dumbest move I've seen in a long time. Ronaldo plays better when he plays with a man who had his back to goal and so does Gonçalo Guedes and so does Bernardo, so by not picking a centre forward you'd be nullifying our best attacking threats. I disagree with the notion Joao Mario can't be dropped, he's not bloody playing. I like JM but he's not set the world on fire at Amat level to be an automatic starter, he's always played well but not what GUedes is doing in Spain.

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  • Guest - Alberto

    Rated 5 out of 5 stars

    Amazing article! So nice to be able to read about Portuguese players in such depth. Keep up the good work, guys.

    from New York, NY, USA
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  • Rated 5 out of 5 stars

    First of all, great article!

    Guedes should be in the NT if his current form stays for the rest of the season. He brings a dynamic and energetic runs into the attack. Something the NT has been missing since Sanches. He has also a good outside the box shot. He starts many of the goal scoring attacks for Valencia and once they break open a game, they take control of it.

    For example, the were struggling with Espanyol this weekend, 0-0 up to 60 minutes. Then Guedes was brought on, at 66 minutes the first goal was scored. After that they were in control and won 2-0, for a club record 8 straight victories. The streak coincides with Guedes playing major minutes since coming on loan.

    A big test for Guedes and Valencia will come when the face Barcelona this weekend.

    from California, USA
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  • Guest - johnieooooo

    ----------------patricio---------------
    semedo--pepe--fonte--gurerreiro
    --------------william----------------
    bernardo----mario-----moutinho
    ----ronalldo-----------guedes---

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