Heralded as ‘The New Benzema‘, Nabil Ghilas is set to make heads turn across the World having just signed with Portuguese power club FC Porto. The Dragons are often praised for their ability to scout talent all around the world, and Ghilas is no exception to it. Dwelling in what was essentially their own back yard with fellow Primeira club Moreirense, Ghilas was an easy spot for Porto. The player will start off his time at the club second behind fellow center forward Jackson Martinez for now, but there are plenty of rumors going around that Martinez is headed away from Portugal. Ghilas can fill the gap left behind quite well.
Nabil Ghilas was born on April 20, 1990 in Marseille, France. Large in stature, the 23-year old sits at 1.83 m (6 ft) and plays mostly with his right foot. He holds dual citizenship to both France and Algeria, and in March 2013 was called up for the first time to the Algerian national squad for their home World Cup Qualifier against Benin. Although he did not make it off the bench on that occasion, he has since returned to play for his nation again in June during a 3 match span where he notched his first goal for his country in the 3-1 win away to Benin.
Ghilas began his young career at amateur side Burel FC in Marseille. He became a professional in 2009 with SO Cassis Carnoux, a French side in the fourth division. He made 24 appearances and scored 2 goals at the small French side while catching the eye of Moreirense, who bought him in 2010. Ghilas made an immediate impact at the Portuguese club, and helped carry them to promotion into the first division in 2012 after just two seasons of being at the club.
Last season Ghilas scored 13 goals across all competitions for Moreirense. Despite his efforts however, the club was relegated. As is often the case in many leagues, the clubs best players were sold and Ghilas was picked up by FC Porto last week for around €3 million, with a €30 million buyout clause. The Algerian saw his playing time increase drastically, when he jumped from 750 minutes in 2011 to over 2500 minutes last season, but that amount seems unlikely to repeat itself at Porto under the current circumstances.
He is the younger brother of ex-Celta Vigo & Hull City footballer, Kamel Ghilas, currently plying his trade in France with Reims.
Style, Strengths & Weaknesses
Ghilas is best suited for the center forward position, but is also capable of playing on the left or right wing. It seems unlikely that we will see him play wide for Porto any time soon, as they are taken care of in that position. Still, he provides a decent option there regardless. With his strong frame, he holds up the ball well and has great tactical awareness, often drifting just off the shoulder of his opponent.
Not only is he faster than he looks, but he has quick, powerful feet and a finishers touch. His speed allows him to get in behind defenders in short bursts and adjust his shot according to the situation, be it powerful or delicate. His awareness around goal is spectacular, and he can finish a shot with his back turned to goal. He is very much a Benzema-like player, even down to hairstyles.
Ghilas is also a conservative player when it comes to defending. Applying pressure to the center backs is an area that will likely be worked on while he is at Porto, adding an increasingly important aspect to his game. He is more active as the match goes on, scoring the most (4) of his 13 goals between the 45 and 60 minute mark last year. The forward is not foul heavy, nor does he attract many cards – a credit to his game, meaning he doesn’t bite if there’s no need. Ghilas seems to prefer to use his feet to score more than his head, with just two of his thirteen goals last season coming via headers.
It will be interesting to watch how the season turns out for him. He is already shining in pre-season for his new club, scoring a goal last week in a friendly match in Holland. Having gone to Porto largely because of the possibility of playing in Europe, Ghilas certainly carries the ability to make an impression and he now has the platform to do it at his new club. Fonseca, the new Porto coach, was happy to bring Ghilas in due to his “great appreciation” as well as the “opportunity for investment” for the player.
His playing career has been short, but is full of potential. Likely the successor to Jackson, Ghilas will be a great understudy and continue to grow into his own player. With his move to Porto, his bright future looks secure for another four years at least, and is provided with a great platform to grow on as he will get opportunities to play in both the league and in European competition. An exciting player to watch grow and develop until the next stage of his career.
“This is an interesting player that we followed for a while . He’s a complete player. He must continue to work to improve. And he has a big room for improvement, this is a player of the future.”
—Vahid Halilhodzic, Algeria national team head coach, quoted by liberte-algerie.com (in French)
“It [Ghilas] is the most spoken name. He is a scorer and has a very large margin progression. Has strength, shot placement but other components have to work. If the defects are corrected, then the ability is there but it has to be developed. Still has much to learn.”
—Augusto Inacio, ex-Moreirense manager, quoted by zerozero.pt (in Portuguese)
Having signed for Porto for the 2013/14 campaign, Ghilas will be hoping to quickly establish himself with the Portuguese giants. Given his short career so far, playing for a club of the stature of Porto is a big step-up. One has to hope that it isn’t too big a move for him to handle.
There were lots of rumours that Ghilas would follow his ex-boss, Augusto Inacio, to Sporting Club de Portugal where he now holds the Director of Football post. Interestingly, Nabil Ghilas is owned by the same Sports Management agency that have the rights to Sporting players- Andre Carrillo, Salim Cisse & Wilson Eduardo. The agency have been instrumental in helping fairly unknown players (especially South Americans) to find a new home in Europe’s top leagues with the Serie A being a prime destination.
Porto have built a reputation of fielding top-quality sides with some of the most talented footballers, who eventually are prized away by Europe’s wealthier clubs. A reputation they aren’t really proud of. But given the situation, Nabil Ghilas may as well be one such hidden talent to take Europe by storm next season.
View his SoccerWiki profile.