When Benfica sold young Portuguese midfielder André Gomes to Valencia last summer for 15 million euros most analysts agreed the Lisbon club had got an amazing price for a midfielder who had been used only sporadically by his coach Jorge Jesus in his first two years as a senior professional.
Just a few months later, after becoming a regular and putting in consistently outstanding performances in La Liga, it now looks very much like Valencia got the better end of the deal.
“He’s been an overwhelming success. I’d go as far as to say he’s not only been Valencia’s best signing, but one of the best signings in the whole of La Liga last summer,” says journalist and Spanish football expert David Cartlidge.
“I’ve watched every game he’s played this season and he’s become the most important player to Valencia’s system. It’s incredible what he offers to the team. He’s got the skillset that makes him a really complete player. He can sit back, he’s got a good passing range, but he can also dribble with the ball, run with it and drive into the box and this makes him a real problem for opponents.”
Dream year for 21-year-old
Portugal coach Fernando Santos seems to agree. The experienced manager has given Gomes three caps for the national team since taking over from Paulo Bento to complete a dream year for the tall midfielder, who is still just 21 years old.
Gomes showed flashes of potential when he first broke into the Benfica’s team in 2012/13. The sudden sale at the end of the summer transfer window of Javi Garcia and Axel Witsel opened up a vacancy in central midfield. Gomes took his chance admirably, enjoying a run of games and was especially impressive in the Lisbon derby at Sporting, helping Benfica to a 3-1 victory.
But with Enzo Pérez successfully converted into a world-class central midfielder and intense competition for places, Gomes would be used sparingly in the rest of the season and the following campaign too, clocking up just 14 league appearances in the two years.
Nevertheless, he continued to shine when given the chance, such as when scoring an exceptional individual goal to knock bitter rivals Porto out of the Portuguese Cup in a fiercely fought semi-final.
His elegance and composure on the field of play is mirrored by a level-headed and humble attitude off it.
Speaking at the Portugal camp during last week’s get-together Gomes said: “I’m in a learning phase. I learned a lot at Benfica and continue to learn every day to get a little better. I believe it was an important move for me to come to Valencia, because I’m getting more opportunities. I’m only 21, I’m still developing and I want to learn a lot more.”
Ask those same analysts who doubted whether Gomes was worth the price Valencia paid for him last year and the answer is sure to be very different.