Incredible Hulk thriving after move into middle

Powerful, pacey and prolific, Porto's Brazilian forward Hulk has been in a rich vein of form since moving to a more central role and has given his side's under-fire coach Vitor Pereira the chance to emulate the triple success of last season.

The burly 25-year old, who earned his nickname due to his love of the Marvel Comics green superhero, has almost single-handedly lifted his team out of a poor spell this season.

"I am still not perfectly used to playing in this [striker] position but when I'm called to do so I give it my best shot," Hulk told Portuguese television.

"What I want is to celebrate the championship with my team-mates, if I manage to win it like last season and this time playing as a striker, that would be wonderful."

His left-footed shot is fearsome, regularly producing goals with rising and unstoppable long-distance drives from open play or free-kicks.

The Brazilian has scored 11 goals, a quarter of Porto's total this season, and tops the Portuguese Premier League assists chart with six decisive passes.

Porto lead the championship on goal difference, level with Benfica on 30 points after 12 matches, but Pereira, who took over after Andre Villas-Boas moved to Chelsea, has yet to convince the club's demanding fans.

Under Villas-Boas, Porto clinched a memorable domestic double and the Europa League playing in a rampant attacking style.

Pereira's Porto have been knocked out of the Portuguese Cup and failed to qualify from their Champions League group after being held to a goalless draw at home by Zenit St Petersburg last week, the first time they have missed out on the knockout stages since 2005/06.

Following a 3-0 cup loss at Academica last month, Pereira changed tactics, deploying winger Hulk as a central striker and switching to a 4-2-3-1 formation from 4-3-3 with Kleber dropped to the bench.

Although Porto fell short against Zenit, the new tactics seem to be paying off as they have won their three other matches and Hulk thrived in his new position, scoring four of the side's seven goals and creating another two.

"I don't feel more important than anyone else, I just work hard like the others," said the player whose given name is Givanildo de Souza.

"At Porto it does not matter who scores more goals or has more assists, what matters is that everyone plays well so we can stand out through our collective effort".

PRIZED ASSET

Last season was Hulk's best to date as he collected over 30 goals and more than 20 assists, but he was somewhat overshadowed by prolific Colombian striker Radamel Falcao, whose record-breaking run of goals in the Europa League helped earn him a 45-million euro move to Atletico Madrid.

Continued strong form this season has also earned Hulk a recall to the Brazil national team following a long absence since his debut in 2009. He played in friendlies against Gabon and Egypt in November, and although he did not score, he won praise for his displays.

Further involvement in the Brazil camp may ensure media reports of interest from top clubs like Italy's Milan rivals and Premier League millionaires Manchester City and Chelsea will persist despite an expensive price tag.

Porto, whose scouts discovered Hulk playing for second-tier Japanese side Tokyo Verdy in 2008, have put a buyout clause of 100 million euros in his contract.

"It may sound like a heresy but I would not swap Hulk for [Real Madrid's] Cristiano Ronaldo. They are two great players, but that is my opinion," Porto President Jorge Nuno Pinto da Costa told Porto Canal TV this year.