Nelson Semedo became Barcelona’s most expensive player of the summer transfer window to date when they signed him from Benfica last week.
The 23-year-old right-back moved from the Lisbon giants for a fee of €35 million, with the potential for another €5m more to come in bonuses. It is a fee greater than those used to secure both Gerard Deulofeu and Marlon Santos from Everton and Fluminense combined.
Semedo, however, has relatively little top-level experience for a player of his age moving for such a significant fee. He was 21 before he debuted in Portugal’s top flight and only played 64 times for Benfica.
As a result, he is something of an unknown commodity, so here are five things you should know about this bright young star.
#5 He was playing on the street until he was 15
Although the new signing arrived for big money, only nine years ago, he was still playing football on the streets with his friends. He had been overlooked entirely by the country’s top clubs and did not even play youth football of any notable standard until he was 15, when he was signed up by Sintrense.
Previously, Semedo had been told he was too small to make it, but like a string of other youngsters, he proved that stature is no barrier if effort and application are given in ample measure.
Sintrense are a side in Portugal’s third division and they provided the youngster with a stress-free environment in which to progress. He made his debut in the 2011-12 season before joining Benfica one year later.
His progress has been explosive.
#4 It threatened to fall apart before it even started
Semedo’s career has slow burning, yet patience has not always been the best suit of the Barcelona man. He started out with Benfica as a midfielder, and as he struggled to establish himself in the club’s second team in that role, he had made his mind up to leave.
Had it not been for Helder Cristovao, he might well have done – and he probably would not find himself at Camp Nou now.
“He wanted to leave Benfica B for a smaller team because he wasn’t getting the chance to play in midfield,” Semedo’s former coach explained to O Jogo.
“I managed to convince him to remain with Benfica and play as a right-back. I spoke to him and made him understand the opportunity he had. He made an effort to play as a full-back and now he’s been rewarded for the effort he put in.
“He had to adapt and to have patience, because he had no experience playing on the wing or in defence, but he did very well.”
#3 Knee problems have been an issue
Only three months after making his first-team debut for Benfica, Semedo was called into the Portugal national side. However, his experience at international level proved to be bittersweet as he suffered a knee injury that prevented him from playing for two months.
He had impressed greatly in the formative stages of his senior career, yet this was to prove a significant blow as he was unable to regain the form he had shown in the early stages of the season and lost his place in the starting XI, even dropping down to the second team for the final month of the campaign.
It proved to be a step backwards to take two forward as he returned as strong as ever at the beginning of August 2016, during which he would play all but three matches in the league and Europe.
#2 Andre Gomes influenced his arrival
Andre Gomes might not have been an instant hit at Barcelona, but the midfielder, who turns 24 on July 30, can take some of the credit for the Catalans’ successful capture of his countryman.
The two played together in Benfica’s youth system, and though it was Gomes who made the step up first, he was on hand to offer advice to his former team-mate over the move.
“I talked with Andre about how big the club is, the good atmosphere in the locker room and that it is really like a family,” Semedo revealed upon signing. “I really liked what he told me and I’m lucky to be here to experience it with him.”
He is the 12th Portuguese to turn out for the Catalan side, following names such as Figo, Deco and Vitor Baia.
#1 Semedo is a long-time Barca admirer
Andre Gomes was not the only person to influence the defender’s move to Camp Nou – Ronaldinho also inadvertently inspired the youngster to make the jump. It was the Brazilian who Semedo looked up to as a youngster, when he was a central midfielder, and though he subsequently moved into his current role, he has lost none of his admiration for the exciting attacker.
“I began by watching Barca and Ronaldinho,” he said. “He was a player who was admired in the whole of the footballing world. I saw him doing incredible things that influenced me.”
Indeed, it was the former PSG man who started a love affair with the club that is ongoing: “I always thought they were the best side in the world,” he explained, adding that he always used to take them when playing video games.
When Semedo debuted for Benfica, he did so under the moniker Nelsinho, meaning little Nelson - perhaps a nod to his idol.