World Cup One to Watch: Goncalo Guedes – Portugal
Goncalo Guedes is one of the most gifted young players that will grace this summer’s World Cup, and could be very important if Portugal are to go far.
Goncalo Guedes was first called up by Fernando Santos as an 18-year-old back in 2015, ironically making his debut against Russia.
That was Guedes’ breakthrough season at Benfica, and it didn’t take long for his undoubted potential to gain recognition across Europe. In January 2017, Paris Saint-Germain shook off interest from Manchester United to secure the wide man’s signature for around €30 million.
After understandably struggling for regular first team football in Paris, Guedes spent the 2017/18 season on loan at Valencia, thriving under the strict regime of Marcelino, playing a big part in Los Che qualifying for the Champions League for the first time in three years.
A remarkably talented dribbler, offering pace and an eye for a spectacular goal, Guedes has the ability to light up Russia 2018.
Portugal face Spain on June 15th and what better opportunity for Guedes to announce himself on the global stage, especially with his future potentially in the balance this summer upon his return to the French capital.
Guedes actually featured in PSG’s Ligue 1 opener, replacing Edinson Cavani in the 86th minute of their 2-0 victory over Amiens at Parc des Princes back in August, as well as coming on in the same minute for Javier Pastore in PSG’s Trophee des Champions triumph against Monaco.
After the arrival of Kylian Mbappe at the end of the transfer window, Guedes signed for Valencia on a season long loan deal, and it turned out to be a fantastic decision.
The 21-year-old made his debut a week later from the bench in a 0-0 draw against Atletico Madrid, and it wasn’t long before he forced his way into Marcelino’s starting XI.
Predominantly deployed on the left of Valencia’s 4-4-2, Jose Gaya’s adventurous runs from full back gave Guedes licence to drift inside and be creative.
The Portuguese scored five goals in his debut La Liga season, and more impressively made nine assists, the most of any Valencia player.
One of Guedes’ goals was an absolute stunner against Real Betis, drifting inside and curling a stunning right footed effort beyond the goalkeeper from 25 yards. He also showcased his dribbling ability and technique with a beautifully taken effort the week after in a 4-0 victory over Sevilla.
Goncalo Guedes’ Valencia season:
- 81 successful dribbles
- 47 key passes
- 22 shots on target
- 9 assists
- 5 goals
Overall he appeared in 33 of the 36 La Liga games he was at Valencia for, proving himself to be a worthy starter in a top four side.
Having helped them secure Champions League football for next season, Guedes is reportedly keen on a permanent move to the Mestalla, however PSG are thought to want big money for his services, especially with the Kylian Mbappe deal to cover for Financial Fair Play.
Since making his debut as an 18-year-old in that 1-0 defeat in Krasnodar, Guedes has been in and out of the Portugal squad, also dropping down into the U21 side, for whom he featured in the Euro U21 Championships in 2017, scoring in his country’s 2-0 victory over Serbia.
So whilst he missed out on being part of Portugal’s victorious Euro 2016 campaign, his experience at that U21 tournament last year could prove useful this summer, despite the scale and weight of expectation being very different.
Guedes was not part of Santos’ Confederations Cup squad last summer, and made just one substitute appearance in the qualifying campaign, so could prove to be something of a wildcard pick for Portugal, but with his clear talent, it wouldn’t be a too risky one.
A brace, moreover, in Portugal’s final warm-up game -a 3-0 victory over Algeria- is certainly enough to force himself into Santos’ thinking.
Valencia and Portugal both favour a 4-4-2 formation, so Guedes could slot nicely on the lefthand side for his country, especially with Andre Gomes not making the squad.
Jose Gaya has a good relationship with Guedes and Dortmund full back Raphael Guerreiro is similarly adventurous, so that could work well.
Andre Silva and Cristiano Ronaldo are likely to start up front, and with Guerreiro and Cedric’s ability to get forward, Guedes and Bernardo Silva should be given good licence to come inside and feed Cristiano Ronaldo, in particular, with their vision and clever through balls.
Whilst he may not have this kind of freedom in the opening game against Spain, his experience in facing the likes of Real Madrid and Barcelona this season should stand him in good stead for the defensive work he’ll have to put in.
After the Spain game, however, Portugal and Guedes should have more possession against Morocco and Iran, and the onus will be on him to help unlock deep lying defences and patience will be required.
The 21-year-old will need to be given freedom to try things and potentially give the ball away with low percentage passes, in order to eventually break these weaker sides down.
Listen to the RealSport football writers discuss Goncalo Guedes and the rest of Group B in Kremlins in the Basement: RealSport’s daily World Cup podcast.