Gonçalo Guedes 20 Striker Benfica Portugal
Already in possession of more titles than most players get their hands on in a lifetime, Benfica’s Gonçalo Guedes is carving out a role as a withdrawn striker as his team look to youth to push their ambitions forward. He’s Portugal’s golden prospect, and has been at Benfica for more than ten years. He stepped up into senior football in 2014 and has played for both Benfica B and the first team with some regularity since then.
2016 has been…
A watershed. Officially a league and Taça da Liga winner in 2014/15, Guedes actually played primarily for Benfica B that year and started 32 games in the second division compared to 37 minutes in the first. But in 2015/16 the double was repeated and Guedes was a legitimate contributor.
The bulk of his first team appearances last season came before the turn of the year – he made his ten starts consecutively and scored three times during that period, with six assists thrown in for good measure – and during the back end of the season he was used sporadically off the bench. Guedes also spent some time with Benfica B in the late spring, scoring three times and making two goals in five starts.
This season, however, he’s won a regular starting place. He’s usually found in a withdrawn striker role and has featured in most league games and, at the time of writing, all four UEFA Champions League games. Throughout, the goals and assists columns are being added to on the regular.
He’s often played in a dynamic front two alongside Kostas Mitroglou, with the Greek striker as the focal point and Guedes working his spuds off all over the final third. He’s got a deft knack for finding space in the box, just hanging back and letting his intelligence fool the opposition.
That cleverness and patience are constants in his game, and allow him to make some lovely runs in behind and use his considerable pace to its full effect. His passing is naturally creative; he can see and execute a ball in tight spots and just has that flair for creation – he’s adept at the intricate stuff around the area.
Guedes is, though, a touch on the slight side and there are some aspects of his game that will need to improve with experience. For a player who moves around so much he seems to find himself in the opposite channel to the ball a little too often at times, but hiding isn’t the issue. Nevertheless, he’s generally considered to have all the attributes, and with good reason.
The improvements to Guedes’ game will come in time. Against quality opposition he can drift out of the action but he already drops deeper and takes responsibility for getting himself back in it. But, as with most young creative players, the decision-making process hasn’t quite been figured out.
International recognition is sure to increase. Although he didn’t add to his pair of caps in their historic 2016, this is a player who’s roared through Portugal’s youth ranks. He played a single game for the Under-15s in 2012 and since then he’s played for – deep breath – the Under-16s, Under-17s, Under-18s, Under-19s, Under-20s, Under-21s and Under-23s. And, in 2015, he won his senior bow. There will be more to come.
Where he’s playing his club football at that point remains to be seen. Reported interest from Arsenal, Liverpool, Manchester United and Valencia in the second half of this year has undoubtedly raised questions. Guedes, though, says that “Benfica are the club of my heart” and that he’ll be sticking around. Until the end of the season. So that’s cleared that up.
C+ Great expectations
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