After a brilliant breakout campaign with Benfica and his consequent record-breaking move to Atletico Madrid, João Félix was backed to become an immediate superstar for Portugal.
However, he has struggled to take the next step in his development over the last two years, failing to make a decisive impact for Atletico in La Liga, despite their title win in the 2020/21 campaign.
The 21-year-old has also not made an impression for the Selecao. He was largely anonymous during their Euro 2020 campaign after being used sparingly by Fernando Santos. After 18 matches Félix only found the net on three occasions, and only two of those goals came in competitive action against Croatia in the Nations League.
Although João Félix has not been able to take the next step forward towards an elite standard in the mould of Kylian Mbappe, the forward will certainly be a significant part of Portugal’s squad for the 2022 World Cup. The Seleção are backed in the football betting odds at 14/1 to win the World Cup for the first time, in what could be Cristiano Ronaldo’s final act at the peak of international football.
In the Euros, Ronaldo was still operating at an extremely high level, scoring five goals to equal Ali Daei's record for the most international goals scored by an individual in football history, and also winning the Golden Boot as the top scorer at Euro 2020 in the process. At the age of 36, he remains one of the most potent strikers in world football and will continue to be a thorn in the side of opposing teams heading into the World Cup in 2022.
However, he needs support in the final third, and other players to do the running around him in that area of the pitch. Ronaldo remains a physical phenomenon, but his legs are not what they were at the peak of his powers. There lies the value that João Félix will present the Seleção at the next tournament.
In his fledgling years, Ronaldo was not a goalscoring machine. Instead, he was a creative force, operating in the final third to open up space for his teammates. In the first 66 caps of his international career, Ronaldo boasted a modest total of 22 goals. He learned the nuances of the game at the highest level before becoming a monster in front of goal.
João Félix has the same opportunity ahead of him both at domestic and international level. He could not hope for better tutors in the form of Ronaldo with Portugal and Luis Suarez at Atletico. Both players are not only excellent finishers but have the guile and craft to contribute to the success of their teammates in the final third along with an outstanding work rate.
Players can reach a certain level on talent alone and João Félix proved that he has the exceptional ability to shine in the Primeira Liga. However, he now needs to round out his game, developing the fine details that separate the good from the great. At the moment, the forward is a solid player for both Atletico and Portugal, but he has the potential to become a great.
The next 18 months will be crucial not only for João Félix, but also the hopes of the Seleção at the 2022 World Cup and beyond.