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Can a single player change a team, a club and several generations?

Recently the football world was surprised by the impact that a single player who was pretty much “unknown” for the majority of his new club supporters had on the team performance, leveling it up and I would say an impact not only at that level but on the entire new club structure.

A historical club that seemed to be lost and not taking the right steps for a promising near future, despite the large investment in several “World Class” players in the last few years, where many misjudgments took place.

All this after a 26 years period of tremendous success under the management of the one that many consider the greatest of all time and that even the ones that may not consider it must admit that he is among them.

By now you can probably already guess that I am talking about Man United, Sir Alex Ferguson’s era and Bruno Fernandes impact at the club.

Bruno Fernandes is a great player and a great leader. I believe that now, nobody has doubts about it. Bruno was not only bringing oxygen to Man United and allowing the club to see a light at the end of the tunnel regarding the short and medium-term success as he also left behind a legacy at Sporting Clube de Portugal and for the new Portuguese generations of footballers, especially midfielders like him.

Bruno Fernandes possesses some characteristics that until then represented some kind of “weakness” and “taboo” for the Portuguese players. From all of them, I would like to highlight one in particular, “goal scoring”. He is a midfielder that gives you guarantees of scoring goals and not only from set pieces, not only assisting but assuming himself the task of scoring them.

Portuguese football benefited from that same capacity, that fearless style of shooting and scoring a goal. It may seem an easy and minor aspect, but details are invariably what make the difference between average and great.

Bruno is a leader inside and a “kind person” outside pitch. A confident player, most of the time taking the right options on each play. That confidence is passed naturally to his teammates, and he does it in a very subtle way, always wanting to win but at the same time respecting all the interventions and especially the sport itself.

Bruno didn’t forget his roots, and he is always ready to help and give advice to all, showing what only the great ones have, modesty and not being afraid of the competition.

For the ones that follow Portuguese football more closely, we can see now young players rising with that same spirit, that same confidence and that’s for sure somehow inspired by Bruno. Sometimes the generational improvement comes from not so evident details like in this case. We can today watch players like Pedro Gonçalves, Nuno Santos and Jovane Cabral, just to mention some, that for sure benefited from that legacy left by Bruno Fernandes and are leading Sporting Clube de Portugal to what can be a very bright future for the club.

So let’s go a bit back in time and we can see the type of player that Portugal was producing in the past.

Eusébio was undeniably a pure talented player, a natural-born goalscorer, that influenced his generation and the following ones with his goal-scoring capacity, his confidence, his human side and passing it all to the ones that had the privilege to play along with him, against him, being trained by him or simply watching him playing. He transformed the mental aspect of the Portuguese footballers on that specific skill that is the one that leads to victories and conquests.

Usually, changes have a time frame, a beginning and an end, so naturally a few years later Portugal produced some of the most talented and skillful players of all time, but one thing was missing, the capacity of scoring goals or at least the confidence to try to shoot the goal. Some kind of “lack of confidence” . A winner’s mentality and success belief were patterns that were missing. Something that was deployed in the Portuguese society in general and not only in Football due to many circumstances, mainly related to political aspects being a long dictatorship period in the country, the main one, what is something that takes it’s time to overcome.

Portugal was always able to produce players with undeniable talent, especially wingers. We have several examples of it in the last 30 years. Winning generations at the youth level but not able to bring that success to higher levels.

At some point, Portugal could produce a large number of wingers with a high capacity in the offensive one-to-one and also crossing skills but not scoring as many goals as expected. Of course, we must take in consideration that the game changed itself during the times and that the wingers are now the top goal scorers in most of the teams, but we can’t also forget that back in those days the stickers were the ones doing it and Portugal always found it difficult to produce top-level players for that position with rare exceptions.

This conducts us to an unavoidable name, Cristiano Ronaldo dos Santos Aveiro!

Cristiano Ronaldo had a massive impact on world football and even more directly in the Portuguese new generations. He eclipsed all the records, all those taboo’s and proved that Portugal can win international trophies and that a Portuguese player can be on the top and scoring goals season after season for the best clubs on the planet.

We started with Bruno Fernandes and for sure he was also one of many that was inspired by Cristiano Ronaldo and probably also by a player that I would like to mention as he had that confidence and assumed the risks to shoot and score goals, Maniche. A great player that was crucial especially at José Mourinho’s FC Porto and for the Portuguese National Team although not having such an individual impact inside a team as the others mentioned.

So with these examples, one in the last couple of years, other for the last 17 and the other in between we can say that they contributed and allowed Portugal to have today probably the broader range of options in terms of goal scoring players in its history among other historical top goal Scorers producing countries.

Today Portugal have attacking and goal-scoring players like Diogo Jota, João Félix, Francisco Trincão, Daniel Podence, André Silva, Pedro Neto, Bernardo Silva, Bruno Fernandes himself, Gonçalo Guedes, Paulinho and a few more. More are coming on the parallel line. Fábio Silva, Rafael Leão, Tiago Tomás, Gonçalo Ramos, Pedro Gonçalves and others. All are players with an immense goal scoring capacity, assuming risks and with the necessary confidence together with a winning mentality that makes all the difference, something that was not happening so often in the past.

As a result, once again I will mention the importance and impact that one single player can have in a team, a club or an entire generation and how essential scouting is for it since a player’s young age and as a continuous process. That fact cannot be denied or ignored.

Diogo Jota represents right now the most prominent example of both things together. Scouting and the modern generation of Portuguese attacking players. When Liverpool signed him, many critics came up, many doubts, same happened with Bruno Fernandes process, but the results are there available for everybody to analyze.

Liverpool could go for a “bigger” name, but gave a great example to all of how a scouting process should happen and on how a player should be recruited with all the details being included.

The player’s mental aspects, where the winning desire he possesses represents a very important part, his personality, the different tactical and technical solutions that he brings to the team. A Player that doesn’t compromise the coach and the club’s philosophy, the team environment that in this example and for the ones that watch from outside seems to be fantastic and pleasant to be part of. A family with respect and friendship for each other.

So let’s all hope these examples can be the rule and not the exception in what concerns recruiting not only players but also coaches and all the staff inside a football club. With transparency and choosing the ones that are more suitable for each philosophy and for each different reality.

More at www.hub-soccer.com/blog2

Nuno Milheiro is an experienced Soccer Scout with previous experiences as FC Porto youth teams scout, he was also the Head of Scouting and Co-founder at Athleads and FC Felgueiras 1932 Chief scout. He is currently International Scout for the German Club SpVgg Greuther Fürth and Head of Commercial Operations & Partnerships at Soccer HUB!

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