When Diogo Dalot came on as a late substitute for Luke Shaw in Manchester United’s 2-2 draw with Southampton on Saturday, making his Premier League debut, it added another impressive achievement for a player that only played his first senior match a little over a year ago.
The young full-back has built an impressive reputation since he burst onto the scene two years ago with Portugal’s U17 squad at the European Championships, helping them win the title and being named in the team of the tournament. Despite making only eight senior appearances in all competitions last season with FC Porto, his performances were enough to earned him a summer move to one of Europe’s top clubs.
PortuGoal takes a closer look at the player José Mourinho called “the best young full-back in Europe.”
Dalot began playing football at the Fintas Academy in Braga at the age of six before signing for FC Porto in 2008. He quickly rose up the ranks there, often competing against players a few years older than him, which became a theme in the early stage of his career.
He made his debut with Portugal’s U15 squad when he was barely 14 and soon after made his debut for the U16 side. Also, Dalot saw his first action in the UEFA Youth Cup, a kind of junior Champions League, with Porto in 2015 at the age of only 16.
Dalot really came to prominence at the U17 UEFA European Championships in 2016, where he scored twice in the tournament, including in the final against Spain, and converted his penalty in the shootout to help Portugal lift the trophy.
He also represented his country the following summer at the U19 European Championships and the FIFA U20 World Cup.
Dalot made his senior debut with Porto in a Taça de Portugal match against Lusitano G.C. in October 2017, a 6-0 win. He played his first Primeira Liga match on 18 February, 2018 as a late substitute in a 5-0 win against Rio Ave. The following week, on his first start for the Dragons, he pitched in with two assists in a 5-1 rout of Portimonense.
He made his Champions League debut in March in a goalless draw against Liverpool. In the summer, José Mourinho had no hesitation in paying £19 million for the promising 19-year-old.
Strengths and style of play
Dalot is nominally a right-sided player but can play on the left as he did as an injury replacement for Alex Telles last season with Porto. He has good size for a full-back, which usually sees him come out on top in aerial duels and head-to-head battles with attackers. He is adept at defending as much as attacking.
“Diogo is an extremely talented young defender with all the qualities to quickly become a great player for this club. He has all the attributes that a full-back needs: physicality, tactical intelligence and technical quality, combined with a Porto Academy mentality which prepares players for the maturity they need at the professional level,” Mourinho said soon after signing him.
Dalot also has a seemingly innate ability to deliver accurate crosses into the box, especially from the right side, and often from near impossible positions.
He certainly showed his quality in his senior debut with Manchester United, a Champions League fixture against Swiss club Young Boys in September. He completed 84.8 per cent of his passes, delivered four crosses and made three interceptions. He looked as comfortable contributing to the attack as when tracking back.
Mourinho said after the match that Dalot could play for United for a decade, given his age and quality. Big praise for a player who had just played his first senior match for the club. “Everyone could see his potential,” he added.
Dalot followed it up with another good performance against Derby County in the Carabao Cup the following week, providing the cross into the box in the final moments of normal time that Maroune Fellaini converted to tie the match. Dalot converted his penalty in the shootout before United were eliminated.
Despite his tender age, it comes as little surprise that Dalot is already firmly in his club manager’s plans, even given Mourinho’s reputation for putting little trust in young players. He probably would have made his Premier League bow sooner had he not suffered an injury with Portugal’s U21 side.
With Antonio Valencia getting on in years, it seems just a matter of time before the Portuguese makes the right-back position his own for the club.
Name: José Diogo Dalot Teixeira
Date of birth: 18 March, 1999 (19 years old)
Place of birth: Braga, Portugal
Current club: Manchester United
Portugal caps: 0
by Rui Martins