Midfielder | Sporting Lisbon | Brazil
We’d rather not fall into the trap of endorsing an overused stereotype, but that’s exactly what we’re obliged to do with Wendel. Blessed with a tantalising and aesthetically pleasing footballing gift, which is typical of most Brazilian players, Wendel has the talent to flourish in European football. But something is missing. The transition from South America to Europe has not been kind to Wendel and, while his talent is obvious, the quality of his performances haven’t reflected that since moving to Portugal.
A quick glance at a starting eleven featuring Wendel will typically see him placed in the centre of the pitch, but his energetic approach sees him drifting into wide areas, often in unnecessary situations which leave his teammates exposed.
At 21-years-old his learning curve is steep and he must tackle that curve with genuine enthusiasm and willingness to change if he wants to realise his potential. Wendel is incredibly talented and easy on the eye, but it’s impossible to translate that talent into well-rounded and disciplined performances without the correct mentality.
2018 has been…
Thoroughly disappointing in all honesty. Sporting Lisbon’s implosion at the start of 2018, which arrived following an extraordinary training ground incident involving the supporters, has not opened up the doors which Wendel would have been hoping for.
His career has stagnated, with just one goal and three assists to report this year, albeit, from just ten first-team appearances for the Portuguese giants.
Wendel joined Sporting Lisbon from Fluminense in January, despite speculation linking him with a move to Paris Saint-Germain, but first-team opportunities have been restricted to a premium due to injury problems and a distinct failure to adapt to his new environment.
That Wendel did not play a single minute of league football until December speaks volumes about his role at the club, and it was only when he provided three assists during a single Europa League fixture against Qarabag Agdam at the end of November that he was given his first proper opportunity in the first team.
The arrival of new manager Marcel Keizer in November has shifted the dynamic and Wendel’s sudden inclusion suggests his first-team exile could soon become a thing of the past.
While Keizer is settling into life at Estadio Jose Alvalade and trying to establish a comprehensive understanding of his players, Wendel has a golden opportunity to make his mark on the new boss.
2018 has been a year of dramatic transition for both Wendel and Sporting Lisbon, but at the end of it all a budding harmonious relationship between club and player could be in the making. Nobody can expect instant fireworks from Wendel as it’s too early in his transition process to take an impatient approach to his development, but with close attention to detail on the training pitch and a willingness to learn, he could break down his first major barrier by establishing himself as a first-team regular under Keizer.
After almost twelve months of underwhelming stagnation in Portugal, it seems a significant turning point is on the horizon following Keizer’s appointment. Don’t be surprised if 2019 is his breakthrough year.