The 60-second story
Benfica and Porto have become masters at plucking talented but raw footballers from foreign shores, nurturing their skills and selling them on for a huge profit. It is a slow process, and its successful implementation is testament to the fine coaching afforded to players in Portugal.
Date of birth: February 1, 1994
Place of birth: Feira de Santana, Brazil
Position: Attacking midfielder
Height: 6ft 2in
Previous club(s): Bahia
International: Brazil U21; 2 caps, 0 goals
Honours: Campeonato Baiano, Portuguese Supercup (both 2014)
New Benfica sensation Anderson Talisca, however, doesn't quite fit the template. Instead of conforming to the slow-burning model of gradual but steady improvement in his technical, tactical and physical capacities, the beanpole Brazilian has taken the quick route and exploded onto the Portuguese scene in spectacular fashion.
The attacking midfielder tops the Primeira Liga scoring charts, having netted eight times in the opening 10 games of 2014/15 – including several stunning strikes thanks to a dreamy left foot, like his majestic 25-yard curler in the recent 1-0 victory over Rio Ave (see video below). Last Tuesday night in Lisbon he was again decisive on a bigger stage, striking late to give Benfica a crucial Champions League victory over Monaco.
On top of his remarkable scoring stats, Talisca has an eye for a killer through-ball, is unafraid of the physical side of the game and has proved versatile. The message is clear for Portuguese football fans in general, and Benfica fans in particular: enjoy him while you can – he won’t be sticking around these parts for long.
Why you need to know him
“He’s another one who is going to make millions for Benfica,” was how Talisca's new coach Jorge Jesus described him to the press by way of introduction in pre-season. Judging by his first four months in Portugal, there is little doubt that is true. His goalscoring speaks for itself.
Nine goals in a Benfica shirt this season comes on top of the eight he scored for his Brazilian side Bahia in the first half of 2014. Seventeen goals in senior football in less than a calendar year, for a 20-year-old who isn't even an out-an-out striker, is an outstanding return.
His level-headed attitude bodes well for his continuing development. Despite the incredible start to his spell in Portugal, he displays healthy levels of humility, making a point of sharing the laurels with his team-mates and coaching staff and insisting he still has much to learn.
When asked about his performances in the Champions League after the goalless draw in Monaco, Talisca was brutally honest in his self-assessment. “I don’t think I’ve played a single good game in the competition yet,” he said. “But I promise I’ll play a great match in the next game.” He did.
Since then he's been called up to Dunga's senior Brazil squad for the first time. Cynics in Portugal suggest it's to make getting a work permit easier for an inevitable move to England.
Who doesn’t love a goalscoring midfielder? Talisca's versatility has seen him used as a second deep-lying striker, but it's in midfield where he has produced his best football. His incisive passing is a big feature of his game, but it's his surging runs and thunderous shooting that make him a constant threat to the opposition.
Standing 6ft 2in tall but with a wiry build, Talisca’s somewhat frail appearance masks a combative approach. He has no problem mixing it in more physical encounters and has shown he can handle himself.
The 20-year-old has a tendency to drift out of games for significant periods of time, and sometimes seems unsure as to where he should position himself. For such a tall player one would expect him to be more of a threat in the air, but that is one part of his game where there is room for improvement.
Despite his aforementioned ability to muck in when things get feisty, he could do with filling out. Benfica are working on that. It was reported he gained four kilos in muscle mass in his first two months at the club.
“Talisca has got everything going for him to be a major player for Brazil,” said Jonas Oliveira, the player's experienced Brazilian club-mate. “He’s tall, a lethal finisher, very fast with a long stride and he’s got a lot of strength. He’s got all the tools to be a big star.”
Did you know?
Talisca was unwittingly at the centre of a high-profile spat between two of the biggest egos in football, Jose Mourinho and Jorge Jesus. The former said that the only reason major English clubs had not bought Talisca was because of work permit issues, which Jesus refuted by saying: “They knew as much about him as I know about D’Artagnan and the Three Musketeers.”
Mourinho, as is his wont, insisted on having the last word, belittling Jesus’s educational and cultural shortcomings and saying he was above reading Alexandre Dumas. Talisca’s smart response to the squabble was simply: “I’m happy such important coaches are talking about me.”
What happens next?
Among the dozens of South Americans who crossed the Atlantic bound for Portugal before moving on to one of the major leagues, it is difficult to think of one who has made such a devastating immediate impression. Porto’s Hulk and Radamel Falcao are two examples that spring to mind, but even they required time to fully hit their stride before being consecrated true global stars of the game.
Talisca seems determined to fast-track his way to the top, and with Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool all reported to be keeping close tabs on him, it could be sooner rather than later that he makes the switch to the Premier League or La Liga.
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