With both the Portuguese national team and the biggest team in the country going through a process of renewal, a young right-back is emerging. In the Portuguese Champions’ starting eleven and ready to fight for a place in the squad for the Euro 2016, Semedo is one of the best young right backs in Europe at the moment.
Who is Nelson Semedo?
Nélson Semedo is proof that for a player to start getting recognized as a youngster, he doesn’t have to be “stuck” in a major academy since his pre-teen years. Born in Lisbon, Nelson played for his local side Sintrense all the way upto the age of 17, when he made his senior debut for the club. The Portuguese giants Benfica brought him in afterwards, giving him all the conditions necessary for his potential and talent to be unleashed. Despite Benfica’s massive influence in his growth as a player, both physically and mentally, the fact that Semedo started his senior career in a third division side is more than worthy of a mention. It represents the quality of work done in the youth set-ups of the lower division clubs; it shows professionalism from those who, even with an underwhelming budget, strive to feed the dreams of a multitude of youngsters out there. Looking at today’s football world, some could even consider Nelson somewhat of a “late-bloomer” – taking into account that for example Ruben Neves was starting for FC Porto last season at only 17, and Semedo is having his breakout season at 21. Either way, the youngster has been playing and has been doing so well. After a loan at Fatima and number of games in Benfica’s B side, Rui Vitória decided that the kid would be the one competing with Sílvio to fill the void that Maxi left in the squad.
Style, Strengths and Weaknesses
Most wing-backs in modern football are more offensive than anything else. Nélson is no exception, and being in a team who has been playing an offensive 4-4-2 for years is beneficial to his strengths. A great dribbler and a really solid crosser of the ball, “Nélsinho” won his place in the starting eleven – having played this season’s 9 matches so far at the time of writing for Benfica. Known to support the attack and push forward often, the soon-to-be Portuguese international, already has one assist and a goal in the league. Something interesting to note on his offensive actions are his movements since not only does he overlap the wingers as the ordinary wing back, he also tends to drift inside where he often ends up free of marking. This allows for combination plays to happen either with the winger or the forwards, generating danger for the opposition.
Defensively the youngster had a bit more trouble at the start of the season. While in the attack he can show all his inherent talent, defensively he had to be smart and deal with all the pressure he had on him. When “out of the blue” Nélson appeared in the starting line up of the Supercup match versus Sporting, everyone knew it wasn’t going to be easy for him, no matter how much he worked and prepared the days prior. With that said, the youngster was mistake prone in the first half, losing a few plays due to poor ball control and just giving quite a lot of space to Sporting’s wingers. In the second half everything changed, he looked more confident, he wasn’t as reckless defensively and on the ball, and he even made some crucial tackles that, while not differentiating the winner of the match, definitely changed its outcome. If asked, I’m sure he’d consider that the most important match of his career because from that half time on everything started going up for the Benfica wing back.
Committed to every match, he always gives his all both mentally and physically – and has played every minute this season so far. This is another reason why he has been (and will continue to be) edging it over Sílvio for the spot in the team, in consideration of Sílvio being so injury-prone and just purely being unable of playing consistently the full 90 minutes at Semedo’s level.
Part of a really solid defence, Semedo has picked up only one yellow card so far this season which is exceptional (especially if we consider that it was against Porto) and even more if we compare it to the previous Benfica right back.
What does the future hold?
The youngster signed a new contract with his club recently and is now contracted to SL Benfica until 2020. Besides the longevity of the contract itself, there’s a 20 million release clause that keeps most clubs away from the player for now.
Just called up for the national team, I believe he can compete with Southampton’s Cédric Soares for the starting spot and they may very well be the two right backs that get called up for the Euros (with Vieirinha also competing for a spot if he’s fit).
With all of that said I can see Nelson growing continuously as a player in Benfica’s starting eleven (and maybe even in the national team’s eleven), during the next couple of years. Nélsinho seems to be a key part of Vitória’s squad and a representation of what he wants to do with it – give opportunities to youngsters who’ve been striving for them for years.
Written by Tiago Estêvão
Latest posts by Tiago Estêvão (see all)
- How will Pep Guardiola affect the Three Lions? - May 13, 2016
- Talent Radar: 10 Young Players to watch in MLS - March 31, 2016
- Scout Report: Miguel Silva | The youngster who bears the king on his chest - February 11, 2016