Meet Andre Silva: Portugal’s long-awaited striking hope who’s interesting Arsenal and Atletico Madrid

Andre Silva, Porto

The Porto hitman made national team history with a recent hat-trick, and has been bothering Primeira Liga goalkeepers throughout 2016. Tom Kundert explains all the fuss

The 60-second story

FACT FILE

  • Date of birth: Nov 6, 1996
  • Place of birth: Baguim do Monte, Portugal
  • Height: 6ft
  • Position: Centre-forward
  • Club: Porto (26 apps, 10 goals)
  • Country: Portugal (3 caps, 4 goals)

Like most Portuguese strikers, Andre Silva is agile, has good technique and is comfortable playing anywhere across the frontline. Unlike most Portuguese strikers, the Porto centre-forward is blessed with the one skill that sets good hitmen apart from great ones – a poacher’s instinct.

A true penalty-box predator, the 20-year-old has lived up to big expectations having been thrust into a troubled Porto side while still a teenager. Ever since scoring two typically clinical strikes in last season’s Portuguese Cup final, Silva has taken on the responsibility of becoming the first-choice striker at one of Europe’s major clubs, demonstrating composure befitting a natural-born assassin in front of goal.

Having kept his cool to slot home a stoppage-time winning penalty against Club Brugge in the Champions League on Tuesday night, he has now netted seven times in 13 matches for Porto in 2016/17 to cement his place as a hero among the Estadio do Dragao faithful – and get tongues wagging across Europe.

Andre Silva celebrates

Porto players know they can rely on their young team-mate for goals

Why you need to know him

Silva played as a winger and a central midfielder in Porto’s youth teams, but when he settled as a pure No.9 it became obvious that he had a very special talent.

The goals flowed with regularity at every age level, particularly with the national team; for Portugal’s U19, U20 and U21 sides, Silva hit 28 goals in 37 matches. In stepping up to the senior side he has bettered a goal-per-game ratio, hitting four in three matches and becoming the youngest-ever player to score a hat-trick for Portugal in last week’s World Cup qualifier against the Faroe Islands.

Any time a striker with any promise appears in Portugal, the local media excitedly big him up as a saviour of the national team. Nelson Oliveira and Orlando Sa were lauded as the “next Pauleta” early in their careers, only to fall way short of expectations.

FOLLOW THAT...

Since Pauleta retired after the 2006 World Cup, this lot have been tried up front for Portugal... *deep breath* Cristiano Ronaldo, Nuno Gomes, Hugo Almeida, Helder Postiga, Orlando Sa, Danny, Simao, Ricardo Quaresma, Edinho, Luis Boa Morte, Liedson, Silvestre Varela, Nelson Oliveira, Lucas Joao, Eder

Silva is different gravy. Barring injury, it’s his strike partnership with Cristiano Ronaldo that will be carrying Portugal’s hopes of more international success into Russia and beyond.

Strengths

Well-built and brave, Silva can hold his own alongside the toughest of centre-backs, but rather than his physique, his guile and intelligent positioning enable him to outwit defenders. His uncanny knack of being in the right place at the right time means Silva regularly finds scoring opportunities.

Equally comfortable going for goal with either foot or with his head, and never afraid to miss, it is no surprise that he tops the shots-per-game chart in Portugal.

With skilful feet and a sharp football brain, Silva also has excellent link-up play and can spot a pass – he has four assists to his name this season. A willing grafter, he’s also not averse to working the flanks and has decent crossing ability, although many analysts (and Portugal supporters) are calling for Porto coach Nuno Espirito Santo to restrict Silva’s role to that of an out-an-out goalscorer.

Injury time in the cup final. Not bad, eh...

Weaknesses

In terms of the skill set required for pure goalscoring, it’s difficult to find weaknesses in Silva’s game.

He’s not the fastest footballer, though, and needs to be in a team that spends more time attacking than defending so may not thrive in a counter-attacking side. He could add a tad more aggression to his play.

Andre Silva, Danny Drinkwater

Silva gets stuck in on Leicester's Danny Drinkwater

They said…

Former Portugal striker Pauleta beamed: “He’s a true No.9. He’s extremely talented, has immense quality, likes to work hard and he’s hungry to score goals.”

Did you know?

The Dragons paid the princely sum of €500 for Silva to Salgueiros, a semi-professional team from the outskirts of the Porto, after he had impressed the club’s coaching staff as a 15-year-old.

At the time he played as an attacking midfielder and was nicknamed ‘Deco’ after the former Porto star.

What happens next?

In August, Silva signed an improved contract that runs until 2021 and has a buyout clause of €60 million. The hefty price tag has not discouraged suitors, though, with Arsenal (who reportedly watched him in Porto’s Champions League defeat to Leicester), Juventus and Atletico Madrid all reportedly keen on the striker.

Last week Porto director Fernando Gomes revealed that the club had turned down €95 million in offers over the summer for three players: midfielders Danilo Pereira and Hector Herrera, and Silva. It’s safe to assume the bid to prise away Silva was no less than one third of that total.

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