The year is 2002. Brazil have won the World Cup, while Zinedine Zidane struck a sensational volley in the Champions League final against Bayer Leverkusen, helping Real Madrid win the European trophy for the ninth time.
Meanwhile, in Portugal, two mercurial teenagers are about to announce themselves on the global stage. Both ply their trade for Sporting CP, one of Portugal’s biggest clubs.Their names - Ricardo Quaresma and Cristiano Ronaldo. Full of pace, trickery and skills, the future looked bright for both of them, with Quaresma, the elder of the two being quoted as the ‘Next Big Thing’.
Yet, 16 years down the line, Quaresma has seemed to ebb away into the passage of time barring his sublime ‘Trivelas’. Ronaldo’s career, on the other hand, has etched his name into the annals of history.
Arguably one of football’s greatest wasted talents, what exactly went wrong for Ricardo Quaresma?
Soon after his breakthrough year at Sporting, he won the league and cup double. Word went around that a transfer was imminent. The next season, Sporting finished at third place.They couldn’t afford to keep hold of their star players and both Ronaldo and Quaresma left for greener pastures.
Quaresma was transferred to FC Barcelona for a fee of €6 million, despite interest from other European heavyweights. It was a dream move for the Portuguese. In retrospect, this was the move that backfired for the then-young winger. It may have been a step too big too soon in his career. Making just 10 starts and 11 appearances off the bench, Quaresma cut a frustrated figure at the Camp Nou. During his stay at Barcelona, he remained in the shadows of a Brazilian genius, Ronaldinho, who would go down as one of the game’s greats.
His career at Barcelona ended when he refused to play under then-manager Frank Rijkaard, claiming that he was not allowed the free role that he was promised before his transfer to the Blaugrana.
This stubborn, temperamental side of Quaresma became a mainstay during his career, often proving detrimental to his progress. But his passion could not be questioned.
A move to Porto followed in 2004, where Barcelona made a player plus cash offer for Deco with Quaresma moving the other way. Quaresma found himself where he first started - Portugal.
The move was made to revive a stalling career, and Quaresma started brightly as he became a fan favourite and a regular for Porto. He enjoyed great success at Porto, winning the league three times in a row and a Portuguese Cup.
In 2008, Jose Mourinho’s Inter came knocking. A fee of €18.6 million was agreed and Quaresma was an Inter player. This move proved to be a failure and he struggled to find a spot in the starting XI of the Italian giants.
By the end of the season, he was awarded the Bidone d'oro Award for the worst player of the season. He failed to make the cut at Chelsea during a loan move and returned to Inter. He barely featured for the Italian club as they went on to win the treble in a historic campaign for the club.
Mourinho blamed Quaresma's attitude and ego for his failure at Inter. He was offloaded to Besiktas in Turkey in the summer of 2010. Despite impressing on the pitch, he was involved in bust-ups with team-mates and manager, and the relation soured. He was released from his contract with six months left.
AL-Ahli of UAE provided a lifeline to Quaresma’s downhill career. After only 10 games, he was let go, leaving him without a club for the second time in two years. After being without a club for six months, Porto offered their prodigal son a re-entry into the game.
His return to Porto was celebrated with great pomp with as many as 10,000 fans welcoming him in training. He played a huge role in the upset of Bayern Munich in the first leg of the 2015 Champions League quarter-final, scoring two goals.
When Besiktas came calling again in 2015, he moved on to set shop back in Turkey where he has been ever since, winning two league titles back-to-back as well as playing regular European football.
Many managers who managed him have cited his ego and self obsession as reasons for his ‘failure’. For Quaresma, they may have been wrong moves. The closure remains, football wasted one of it’s great talents.
Now way past his prime, Quaresma’s career has been a roller coaster ride. Despite changing clubs constantly, Quaresma has a distinguished international career, where he played an integral role in Portugal’s EURO 2016 triumph.
His goal from a trademark 'Trivela" in a World Cup group stage game against Iran summed up his entire career. A career of fleeting moments. A career of what could’ve been.