What were you doing when you were 18-years-old? Beginning your first year at university? or maybe starting a brand new job? Either way, it’s unlikely you’ll be experiencing what Porto midfielder Ruben Neves is experiencing. Not only starting in the Champions League but to captain a side of the size of Porto is an immense achievement for such a young player.
Neves captained the Portuguese giants to a 2-0 victory over Maccabi Tel Aviv on Wednesday.
The reason Neves has been turning a few heads recently is the fact that Premier League side Liverpool are now being so strongly linked with the teenager, he might as well already be wearing the Red shirt and partnering Jordan Henderson in midfield.
According to the Mirror, Liverpool have already made an informal approach for the player and hope to have him signed by the January transfer window.
Whilst there is a lot of hype surrounding the youngster, a few people may ponder; who is he? What he is capable of? Well, I have the answers.
Who is Ruben Neves?
Neves has steadily progressed through Porto’s youth system, a youth setup he has been involved in since he was eight. Although he was loaned to Padroense for a season, he progressed well through the academy and was called up to the main squad for Porto’s pre-season in 2014. Such were his performances in the pre-season that he was called to the main squad for the subsequent season. Many in Portugal were surprised and proceeded to question Lopetegui’s choice to bring the 17-year-old not only into the first team but also start the first game of the 2014/15 season. Neves repaid the faith by putting in a man of the match performance and scoring a goal. At the start of this season, Neves has become a fixture in a very young and impressive Porto side which sits joint top of the Portuguese league.
Internationally, Neves has progressed without fault, having progressed through the U16, 17, 18 and more recently U21 squad. He recently played for the Portuguese U21 squad at the European Championships and made it all the way to the final before losing to Sweden. His appearance for the side in the tournament marked him as Portugal’s youngest ever player in the U21 championship.
Style of Play, strengths, and weaknesses
At just 18-years-old, it is a testament to his quality that Ruben Neves is not only starting for Porto but garnering high attention in the football world. Modern day football is full of technical ball playing midfielders and this guy is no exception.
He has drawn comparisons to Andrea Pirlo and Sergio Busquets by teammate Christian Tello and it isn’t difficult to see why. Neves sits in a deep-lying playmaker role and is tasked with dictating the play. He plays the role well, even more so considering how inexperienced he is, he gets the ball out of his feet and passes quickly- something football has lost.
Playing as either a part of a pair of holding midfielders or a lone playmaker, Neves is a very talented passer. He finds it equally easy to pass five or 35 yards. Moreover he doesn’t shy away from taking the ball under pressure. He has usually made the pass in his head before he gets the ball and oozes composure while doing it. As his Porto B coach, Luis Castro said, “(Ruben Neves) is incredibly talented from the mental point of view. He plays with an extraordinary calmness” this is one quality that players, especially at his age don’t often have.
Now the less obvious and maybe more important part of his game, is defending. Being so good with the ball at his feet, the defensive work can sometimes be overlooked. His tackling is sometimes a bit brash and he often slides in when he should stay on his feet. However, further up the pitch he is good at intercepting ball and keeping the attack going. Either way his reading of the game will need to improve.
Ruben Neves seems like a player that gets better everytime you watch him play. He is technically gifted and seems to have a strong ability to read the game very well. Personally, I don’t think it’s far-fetched labeling him as a “future world star” or linking him with the likes of Liverpool. n a young and promising Porto he seems to be the main man, and he’ll need to keep playing in that role to become accustomed to the future pressure. If he plays in the right position with the right players around him, Portugal could have their version of Pirlo. High praise, but he really could be that good.