Football Tactics for Beginners- The Sweeper Keeper: From Lev Yashin to Manuel Neuer

Germany’s Manuel Neuer has been widely credited as one of the finest goal-keepers of his generation, and quite rightly too. The Bayern Munich shot-stopper...
Nick Witts
Journalism student at Cardiff University, 20 years old, MUFC supporter.

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Rough Diamonds #30- João Mário (Sporting)

A graduate from the famous Sporting academy, João Mário is the latest talent to roll of off the production line. After breaking into the first team in 2014, Mário has grown and impressed in Sporting team that has fallen short of Benfica and Porto in the previous two years.

An adaptable and multi-functional player, João Mário is able to player to occupy and number of positions; a right winger, a number ten, or in the centre of midfield. Textbook technique and an understanding of the game has allowed the player who doesn’t possess the most blistering speed or power to thrive and impress the outside world. When Sporting managed to sensationally pry Jorge Jesus from cross-town rivals , the senior reportedly demanded assurances that Mário would not be sold. 

Further evidence of the Portuguese midfielder’s burgeoning talent can be seen in the words of super-agent, Jorge Mendes, who unsurprisingly called his client, “the best Portuguese player in the Portuguese League,” and suggested that the midfielder could cut it amongst Europe’s elite. That is where Manchester United come in. The Premier League outfit have had scouts sighted at the Quarry, according to A Bola, Daily Star and Express suggesting interest in the midfielder may have substance beyond the usual trivial tabloid speculation.

The 23-year-old has also been included in Fernando Santos’ 23-man squad for Euro 2016.  Whilst he may not feature as one of the headline acts for the Portugal national side, any fleeting performances that demonstrate potential will likely drive Mário’s price up. With Atletico Madrid and Paris Saint Germain reportedly sniffing around Mário too, the old adage of wrapping your dealings up early might be apt in this instance should United actively want to bring the midfielder to the Premier League.

Capable of picking killer passes, Mário could add a much needed source of creativity to a United side that has struggled to create chances, averaging just 1.2 goals per game.  “It’s said that from the neck downwards they are all good players, but from the neck upwards only some are,” said Tiago Capaz, Sporting youth coach. “João has superb ability to read the game. I’ve no idea what his limit is. Week by week he gets better and better.” It is perhaps this intelligence that could aid United’s attacking woes. Furthermore, at the tender age of 23 he fits into the now seemingly distant United-mantra of buying players with potential and improving their game.

On the other hand, slotting into a United team that already lacks bite and grit would be more difficult given the fact he is seen to lack any sort of edge himself. He may be seen as another player in a position United already have luxuries in with Juan Mata, Ander Herrera, Jesse Lingard, Andreas Pereira, Adnan Januzaj, and others capable of occupying the same spaces . Mário also on notched 6 goals throughout the Primeira Liga term, a measly return for a player who continually gets into promising positions. This may, however, be an issue that seemingly disappears with experience.

With João Mário’s farther stating that his preferred destination should he move being England, it might not be too long before we see the talented midfielder gracing the Premier League. However, Sporting are seemingly determined to hold out until potential suitors stump up £47 million and activate Mário’s release clause, demanding that the fee be more than that of Renato Sanches’ move to Bayern Munich.


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Nick Witts
Journalism student at Cardiff University, 20 years old, MUFC supporter.

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