Tiago Estevao provides an in-depth scout report on Sporting’s exciting young winger, Matheus Pereira.
“If I told anyone within the football world that Sporting had a new home-grown winger creating buzz in the first team, no one would look at it surprisingly. With an Academy that’s known worldwide for their production of talented wingers, a new one seems to appear in the first team each season.” – The start of my piece on Gelson Martins could easily apply to this scout report as well.
On summation: another talented winger fresh out of Sporting’s academy. Let’s get to it.
Who is Matheus Pereira?
Born in the well known city of Belo Horizonte, Brazil, Matheus spent his childhood with the ball at his feet – like so many others do. At the age of 12 he moved to Portugal where he would play for Trafaria, in the outskirts of the capital. Luckily for the talented winger, his coach had contacts within Sporting and soon the connection was made. Climbing through the academy’s youth sides since the 2009/2010 season, the Brazilian-born spent the last couple of years jumping back and forth between the B team and the U19’s. After starting this season in the B side, Pereira debuted for the senior team against Besiktas and has been consistently in the first team squad since.
I’ve mentioned this in my Gelson Martins scout report but for Jorge Jesus – a coach that’s so present focused – to give substantial amounts of game time to youngsters such as these, it shows just how much quality they have. And that quality is being shown right now. Matheus isn’t a player that is being looked at as someone that the coach plays a few minutes in cup matches and is labelled a “potential talent”. He’s someone talented enough to challenge for a place in the team at this very moment. Sure, he isn’t a regular starter but he’s definitely putting pressure on the players that are.
Sporting’s squad had a set of four wingers to start of the season: Mané, Gelson Martins, Bryan Ruiz and Carrillo. While Ruiz has been the predominant force on the left side of Sporting’s midfield all season long, the other side has had a multitude of occupants since Carrillo was dropped from the squad about one month into the season. Matheus benefited from this, rising to first team status where he’s competing with other recent academy graduates – Mané, Gelson and João Mário (who’s been playing on the right the past few matches) for a spot in the starting eleven.
Style of Play, Strengths and Weaknesses
Within Sporting’s options, Matheus is definitely the closest thing you can get to Carrillo. Following Jorge Jesus’s orders to drift inside often with the objective of creating or finishing chances, the youngster can play starting from either side – something that tends to be really influenced by who’s playing on the opposite wing.
As I stated already, not only has he been creating chances but also finishing them and since he got to the first team the winger seems to be getting more and more prolific. He’s been showing no issues in front of goal, having scored 4 times in 4 matches for the first team (having started in only 3 of those!). We see a clear influence from Jorge Jesus here, maybe more on how he appears in positions to score than purely on his goal scoring record. Despite only putting the ball in the back of the net once for the B team last season, the youngster is known for often having his name on the goalscoring sheet: in his last season for the u19’s he scored 12 times (in 29 matches) and this season he has scored 3 goals in 7 appearances for the B team.
As if finishing chances was not enough, Matheus has been a part of almost every goal scored with him on the field – either assisting directly or simply being a key player in the play. He had a major influence in Sporting’s solid first half away against Besiktas in the Europa League, and he went on to score a brace v Vilanovense (Portuguese Cup) and Skenderbeu (Europa League). You could argue that the last two matches weren’t against world class opponents but even so, Pereira showed not only his composure in front of the opposing keeper but how well he has integrated with his older teammates.
Another of Matheus’ characteristics that has definitely improved under Jesus is his vision accompanied by his passing, not that he didn’t have these qualities prior to this season but he makes much better use of them now. If you watch back these matches you can see the 19-year old often trying incisive passes, in between the opposing centre-back and wing-back.
All of this alongside his agility and creativity with the ball at his feet, something perhaps a bit more common amongst young wingers.
With all of that said no one can deny that, just like every player his age, he has to improve on a few aspects. Mostly on his physical frame which is normal for a 1.75m teenage winger and on his defensive contribution to the team. This lack of defensive work rate is the exact reason that led to Jesus picking João Mario on the right against teams like Benfica instead of one of the youngsters. Nonetheless, Sporting’s coaching staff is one of the best at getting wingers to properly work defensively for their team. That alongside the fact that he will surely get the chances throughout the four competitions that Sporting’s participating in, Matheus is surely in the right place to keep on evolving as a player.
What does the future hold?
After a failed transfer to Monaco in the summer of 2014, indicated by Jardim who was already in charge of the Principality’s club, Matheus has signed a contract renewal that will connect him to the Lions until 2020. Protected – like so many other Sporting talents – by a 60 million Euros buy-out clause, a tremendous offer would need to appear for him not to stay at Alvalade for the next year. National team wise, the 19-year-old is still undecided between the two Portuguese speaking nations, but if he grows to his potential he’ll end up nailing down a place in whichever team he picks.
Written by Tiago Estevao