Introducing Joao Felix, a reported Manchester United target and the next big thing in Portuguese football
Joao Felix has garnered attention with scintillating performances for Benfica this season. He scored a hattrick in his team's 4-2 victory against Eintracht Frankfurt, becoming the youngest player to achieve this feat at 19 years and 152 days.
The Portuguese forward has racked up 15 goals and 9 assists for Benfica in Liga NOS. These are remarkable numbers given Felix's age and his playing position.
Joao Felix started his youth career at Os Pestinhas in 2007, before moving to FC Porto twelve months later. After spending seven years in Porto, Joao was released by the club due to his diminutive stature.
SL Benfica exploited this situation by luring the Porto reject to their development system. After a successful spell in the younger ranks and Benfica B, Felix was promoted to the first team in 2018.
The talented youngster has not looked back since, establishing his name as one of Europe's hottest prospects this season. Benfica's president, Luis Felipe Viera, has compared the 19-year-old to Cristiano Ronaldo while speaking to Tuttosport, saying:
"I am happy that all of Europe is talking about Benfica's talents. Now it is clear that our project of betting on young players is bearing the desired results. Joao Felix the next Ronaldo? There is only one sure thing: Felix is one of the best talents produced by Portuguese football since Ronaldo"
Felix is a versatile forward, capable of operating across the attacking line. The Portuguese sensation has played under two managers with different formations.
Rui Vitoria, Benfica's previous boss, deployed a 4-3-3 shape with Joao Felix occupying the left flank. Felix was moved inside to play as an auxiliary striker in a 4-4-2 behind Haris Seferovic by their current manager Bruno Lage.
Scoring instincts has benefited the teenager in his centre-forward role, and his linkup play with Seferovic has resulted in the majority of his goals and assists.
Joao's position switch resembles Antoine Griezmann's who started as a winger and changed his role into a goal-scoring inside forward.
Style of play
The youngster's tally of 9 assists borders on his ability to create goal scoring chances. Felix's flexibility to play in various roles behind the striker and his eye for goal has drawn comparisons to the Brazilian legend, Kaka.
Joao has a propensity to use his dribbling skills and trusted right foot to cut inside from the left wing and pop a shot on goal. In his first season in senior football, Felix scored 20 goals for Benfica in all competitions.
Felix's blistering pace makes him a potent force on counter attacks. Due to his nimble play, Joao draws fouls by inducing contact from the opposing defenders.
Joao Felix has signed a new contract with Benfica, and the Portuguese side added a €120 million release clause to fend off interest from foreign parties. The hefty price tag didn't prove to be a deterrent, as top teams have chased Felix for his services.
He could stay in Portugal for another year to continue his steady development in a familiar environment. Benfica is a proven stepping-stone for players to achieve greater heights. Nemanja Matic, David Luiz, and Jan Oblak are some figures who developed their game at the Portuguese club.
Felix's career path could be similar to the legendary playmaker, Rui Costa, who left the Encarnados for AC Milan, becoming an integral part of Carlo Ancelotti's star-studded side consisting of Paulo Maldini, Clarence Seedorf, Andriy Shevchenko, and others.