Wonderkids of the past – Ricardo Quaresma edition

Ricardo Quaresma won 19 trophies in his career, including domestic titles in Portugal, Italy, and Turkey. Despite his accomplishments, many think he did not truly fulfil his full potential.

From a very young age, it was clear that Quaresma was a ridiculously talented winger who was capable of pulling off skills some could only dream of. He was once regarded as the next big thing to come out of Portugal. So let’s take an in-depth look into the career of Ricardo Quaresma.

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Sporting Lisbon 2001-2003

Coming out of the famous Sporting Lisbon academy at the same time as one Cristiano Ronaldo, Quaresma was largely seen as the slightly more naturally gifted player. His talent was so remarkable that the then Sporting Lisbon manager Laszio Boloni promoted him to the first-team squad at the young age of 17. He finished his first season at Sporting with 3 goals and 6 assists in 30 appearances.

The following season Quaresma went on to establish himself as more of a starter featuring in 37 games. He was also able to slightly improve his goal tally return bagging 5 goals, but he showed flashes of brilliance throughout the whole season and it was those flashes that landed him a big move to Spanish giants Barcelona.

Barcelona 2003-2004

This big move may have come too soon for the Portuguese wonderkid as he went on to only score 1 goal and claim 2 assists in 28 appearances. The bulk of his game-time came as a substitute and Quaresma appeared to struggle to settle at the club. Towards the end of his disappointing campaign with Barcelona, Quaresma picked up a foot injury that would sadly keep him out of the 2004 UEFA Euros competition.

On his return to Barcelona, he refused to play for the club again as long as Frank Rijkaard was still the manager. Quaresma was reportedly upset about his use in the Barcelona team, as other new signings such as Ronaldinho were given a lot of freedom on the pitch which he desired.

As Quaresma’s relationship with Rijkaard plummeted, after only 1 season at the Catalan club Quaresma was sent back to Portugal, with FC Porto deciding to bring the gifted winger back to Liga NOS.

FC Porto 2004-2008

Quaresma’s return to Portugal began extremely well as he went on to score the winner against Benfica in the 2004 Supertaca Candido de Oliveira final. Quaresma then played some of the best football of his career over his four-year stint at Porto. His ridiculous trademark trivela move had jaws dropping throughout the world of football.

He had always had natural talent but without the freedom and love he struggled to display it in Barcelona, but at Porto, they gave him the perfect platform to express himself and further develop his skillset.

Quaresma improved statistically and technically every single season and finished off his second year at Porto with 5 goals and 11 assists. The following season Quaresma would go onto have a truly exceptional year at Porto scoring 8 goals and claim 19 assists in the 2006-07 campaign.

His great performances did not go unnoticed as speculation started to go around about his potential departure from Porto. However, as Porto had given so much to Quaresma he decided to be loyal to them and stay for at least one more season.

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Quaresma made sure that his final season at Porto would be one to remember, he scored 10 goals and claimed 15 assists in 36 games. FC Porto fans had fallen in love with the magical winger, but many including Quaresma’s agent Jorge Mendes thought he had conquered Liga NOS and it was time for him to leave Portugal to reach the very top of his potential.

Mendes stated that “Now is the best time to leave Porto for a big European club”. In the summer transfer window, Quaresma was strongly linked with the likes of Liverpool and Manchester Utd. Nevertheless, after a lot of transfer speculation, it was Italian giants Inter Milan who won the race to sign the young Portuguese star.

Inter Milan and Chelsea (loan) 2008-2010

Arriving in Seria A in a sizeable €18.6m deal, much was expected of the Portuguese star as he had built up a lot of hype from his incredible performances at Porto. In his very first game for Inter Milan, he delivered on those expectations as he provided an assist with his trademark trivela cross in a 2-1 win over Catania Calcio.

Unfortunately, after that, Quaresma found game time hard to come by and Inter Milan manager Jose Mourinho stated:

He is a great talent, but the joy I have at seeing the way Ibra works for and with the team, I do not yet have with Quaresma. He will have to learn, otherwise, he will not play.

It was clear to all that Quaresma was not enjoying his football in Italy and even though Mourinho had hoped that he would take his criticism on board and improve in certain aspects of his game, Quaresma’s form continued to dip.

When the January transfer window opened both Quaresma and Inter decided it was best for both parties if he went out on loan. Chelsea ended up beating off the competition to secure his services until the end of the season.

Although it was a change of environment for Quaresma, sadly it did not yield the results he was looking for, as he barely featured in Chelsea’s first team, and on the few occasions he did, he failed to make any real impact.

At the end of the 2008-09 season, Quaresma was given the unwanted accolade of winning the Bidone d’ore award for the worst footballer in Serie A. Although Quaresma tried his best to improve it seemed that Jose Mourinho had already made his mind up about his Inter Milan future or lack thereof.

After another underwhelming season at Inter, the club decided to offload Quaresma and for the first time in his career, there was not a queue of big clubs waiting to sign him. Even though his talent was clear for all to see, failing at two huge clubs outside of Liga NOS was a big blemish on Ricardo Quaresma’s reputation.

Eventually, Besiktas decided to bring the Portuguese international to the Turkish Super Lig to end his torrid spell at Inter Milan.

Besiktas 2010-2012

Quaresma’s first season at Besiktas was brilliant, he scored 11 goals and got 16 assists in 39 games. He was also an integral part of Besiktas’s Turkish Cup run, as he put in a remarkable performance and was named man of the match. Perhaps he had finally found a level outside Liga NOS he was comfortable playing at. His performances were reminiscent of his time at Porto and people were starting to believe in the talented Portuguese winger again.

Alas just as his career had gone in a rollercoaster fashion up to this point, Quaresma’s next season was far from ideal. The fact that his performance levels slightly dropped was not the concern, the issue was the problems with management that started to occur. During the half time interval in a 3-1 loss to Atletico Madrid, Quaresma and the Besiktas manager Carlos Carvalhal got into a heated argument in the dressing room.

Carvalhal laid out his intention to substitute Quaresma, which was met with an unprofessional outburst from the winger, as he reportedly started throwing water bottles around the dressing room in anger and then told the manager:

I brought you here, you just think of yourself. If I were not here, you would not be here. You cannot remove me from the match because you are nothing!

This sensational outburst led to some serious repercussions for the Portuguese winger, as he was told he would never play for the club again, was suspended indefinitely, and released six months before his contract expired. It was a horrendous ending to a move that could have been so brilliant for him.

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Al Ahli 2012-2013

With limited offers from the top European leagues, Quaresma tried something a little different and made a move to Dubai team Al Ahli. Although it was a lucrative move for the Portuguese star he found very little success on the football pitch.

One season in Dubai was enough for Quaresma, he wanted to return to European football, but as he had a few footballing and internal issues at previous clubs there was not a lot of interest in him. However, there was one club where no matter what, Quaresma was seen as a God and would always be welcome. That club was FC Porto, and it was announced that he would be making his glorious return for the 2013-14 campaign.

FC Porto 2013-2015

On his return to Portugal Quaresma stated on the club website:

I am happy to return to a home I know well, where I can feel the love and faith of the fans.

Although he was not as prolific as he was in his first stint at Porto, Quaresma had a decent time on the pitch.

Even though Porto was not able to win any silverware in Quaresma’s second stint, after his nightmare time at Ah Ahli, it was good to see the skilful winger could still be a valuable player to a good team.

When his contract came to an end at Porto speculation started to raise over a shock return to a second club in Turkish giants Besiktas. The speculation proved to be true and Quaresma was given an opportunity to put things right at the club things ended extremely unpleasantly.

Besiktas 2015-2019

While arriving back at Besiktas, Quaresma boldly said:

I am leaving all my past behind and opening a new page in Turkey, our goal this season is to capture the Super League title we let it slip away from our hands last year. It is great to be back.

Quaresma and his teammates would go on to successfully achieve that goal as Besiktas were crowned Turkish Super Lig champions for the first time in six years.

The following season would prove to be quite possibly the best of Quaresma’s career. Not only did he score 6 goals and claim 17 assists for Besiktas, but he was also an important part of Portugal’s 2016 Euros championship-winning team.

Quaresma would be crucial in the knockout phase of the competition, scoring the only goal in the last 16 round against Croatia and netting the winning spot-kick in the quarter-finals penalty shootout against Poland. Not many players win major international silverware so this was an accomplishment Quaresma could be enormously proud of.
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Kasimpasa 2019-2020

As this was the twilight of Quaresma’s career, his time at Kasimpasa was rather unproductive. At the age of 35, he scored 4 goals in 26 games and left the Turkish club after only one season.

Quaresma career summary

So where is the once wonderkid Ricardo Quaresma now? Well, on the 7th of September, 2020 it was announced that Portuguese side Vitoria Guimaraes would sign the now experienced winger on a two-year deal.

Ricardo Quaresma’s career has been a very unique one. As he has won many trophies but struggled to reach the world-class level he was labelled with as a kid. Quaresma was considered a top prospect from the age of 17 and branded the future of Portuguese football. Although he did not live up to that title, he found a good level of success at clubs like Porto and Besiktas.

However, his failures to find consistency and stand out at clubs such as Barcelona and Inter Milan leads me to think that he did not have the formidable mindset needed to succeed at a giant footballing institution, as talent was never the issue for the Portuguese winger.

While Quaresma did not go on to be the player many thought he would, he provided endless moments of joy through his mesmerising skills and goals to football fans all over the world, he was a winner in both club and international football and no one can ever take that away from him.

The Author

Aaron Adade

I am a writer who is extremely passionate about all things football. Love to write opinion-based pieces on footballers of the past and present.

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