Liverpool have signed Sporting Lisbon’s young midfielder João Carlos, who could become a major part of Kenny Dalglish’s plans for the future should he continue to rapidly develop. Today will have been one hell of a 19th birthday for the Braga-born midfielder who has really started to show star-quality recently as he makes the move to Anfield.
João Carlos Vilaça Teixeira joined the Sporting Academy from his hometown club of Braga back in 2004 and began his time there as an 11-year-old playing for the Sporting the U-13 side. Sporting’s Academy is one of the best in Europe, a fact reflected not only in the players that they regularly produce but now also reflecting in the first ever NextGen Tournament in which Ricardo Sá Pinto’s kids remain unbeaten. Frequently the names like Luís Figo, Cristiano Ronaldo and Nani are floated around whenever Sporting are mentioned but perhaps João Moutinho is a name more appropriate here.
João Carlos’ performances in Sporting’s all-conquering U-19 side’s midfield alongside the powerful João Mário and the creative Carlos Chaby have been a major reason why Sporting’s U-19 side haven’t lost a single game since April 2011, when they lost 3-1 to FC Porto. In total it is 30 games, 26 wins, 4 draws and a rather impressive 112 goals since that defeat.
In the first NextGen match for both Liverpool and Sporting at Anfield it was João Carlos who opened the scoring in rather spectacular fashion. João received the ball from Iuri Medeiros and then laid the ball off to forward Betinho. Betinho’s superb back heel fed João Carlos in again and the midfielder slotted it calmly into Tyrell Belford’s right-hand corner. João Carlos was one of the best players on the pitch that day and had gone close to scoring with long-range effort just minutes earlier.
João Carlos, though, is not a player whose goalscoring is his best asset. It is instead his passing ability, his superb close-control as well as his surprisingly good upper-body strength. That night it seemed to have caught the eye of Liverpool’s management.
Since then João Carlos has trained with the first-team on regular occasions and managed to get an appearance on the bench for the dead rubber Europa League group match against Lazio in Rome back in December, but didn’t manage to make his debut. Now he makes the next step by moving to England for what could be a bargain price of just £1,000,000.
There have been comparisons of João Carlos to former Barcelona and Chelsea playmaker Deco, although perhaps comparisons to ex-Liverpool man Raul Meireles may be more in order. João Carlos’ strength for someone so young is already quite impressive and as he continues to grow there’s no reason why he couldn’t make it as a Premier League player.
It would be surprising if João Carlos did not settle well at his new club. Language barriers can frequently be a problem, but it’s likely the midfielder will be playing along side ex-Benfica player Toni Silva as well as former Naval man Yalany Baio who should help João Carlos transition nicely into his new squad.
The only final questions that remain are whether the player can continue to develop and whether his new environment will allow him to. Liverpool’s record with bringing in junior players to the first team has not been too spectacular recently, especially those who have come in from other clubs. Liverpool fans and those who have followed his progress will be hoping Joao Carlos can develop to be a bit more Steven Gerrard than Gerardo Bruna.