It has been one season since Portuguese attacker Joao Felix left his home club Benfica for a challenge abroad for Atletico Madrid. Little did he know, this campaign would bring about many hardships that would kill a bit of the hype around his name. Despite this, the hype is very much still there, deadened by a few obstacles the 20-year-old faced.
The first of the main challenges was injury. Joao missed part of the season due to a main injury and few minor ones. This left him with a few starting appearances, some while still recovering. Felix did not let this deter him.
When fully fit, Joao Felix tore apart the field. In preseason, Atletico faced Real and Joao scored one and proved to be a key playmaker for the team. Another strong part of his game on paper is his performances in the Champions League, where he was almost always fully fit. He earned four goal contributions in six games with the potential to have many more. His dribbling and take-ons during these games were delightful to watch.
Recently in the nations league, he also scored a wonder goal against former World Cup Finalists, Croatia. Removing this first obstacle from his game shows just how promising he is against proven players.
The second obstacle was adapting to a new team in a new country, especially when that team is coached by Diego Simeone. Simeone is notoriously defensive, deploying a system that has no true playmakers or attacking midfielders. Felix, in his first few games, constantly played with his back to the defense and had to link his own play.
Antoine Griezmann played a similar role in a better Atletico side that had attacking fullbacks who specialized in crossing. The wide players also happened to be more creative. Griezmann managed around 20 goals a La Liga season once he entered his prime.
When comparing Griezmann, who left Atletico at 28 years old, and Felix who is only 20, spectators get a sense of just how much Joao Felix can grow.
Joao, an intelligent player who is very similar in style to the aforementioned Frenchman, can become the talisman of Simeone’s system and master the defensive football tactic. But many forget, he is young and has time to make changes. A transfer to a fluid attacking side may not be out of question.
So the young striker from Portugal has options after one year in Spain. Though he tallied 12 goal contributions in only 27 full games, many of those being recovery games, he still has all the potential in the world to become a world-beater.
Will he establish himself as Simeone’s savior striker? Or another manager’s prolific scorer? Whichever he chooses, he will be great.