Under our Talent Radar banner, we have constantly strived to document and highlight the progress of the younger stars of the beautiful game, before they progress into household names. Our latest initiative within the burgeoning Talent Radar section is the introduction of #The10 feature.
This annual feature champions the combination of youth & diversity, as we look to reward 10 of the best young individuals across 10 primary categories. The penultimate piece looks at the best young star still in his teenage years.
For all queries regarding this feature, eligibility and selection process, read this piece.
Ruben Neves was born on 13th March, 1997(!). The youngster has been in the Porto Academy since the age of 8 and has come up through the ranks. Now firmly established in the first XI, Neves has undoubtedly benefited from Porto’s willingness to cash in on transfers. Having sold Fernando to Manchester City at the beginning of last season, Porto looked within to replace the Brazilian and Neves responded in the best possible manner.
It comes as little surprise that Neves has been capped at every age group for Portugal, recently making the senior debut for the first time. Portugal’s national side may have had its struggles in recent times but for an 18-year-old to be fast-tracked is a seriously impressive feat.
SUCCESS IN 2015
As mentioned before, Fernando’s sale to Manchester City at the start of the 2014/15 season opened up a spot at the base of midfield with Neves alongside Casemiro looking to make an impression. By the time 2015 came around, Neves had made enough of an impression to announce his potential to a wider audience.
The midfielder’s short career already has a few stand-out details. The midfielder became the youngest Portuguese player to play in the Champions League, beating the record of a certain Cristiano Ronaldo. He also has the incredible record of being the youngest captain in the Champions League after leading his side out against Maccabi Tel Aviv recently.
With Euro 2016 almost upon us, Neves will have to wait and watch if his services will be called on. The young star made his senior International bow in the recent friendlies and truth be told, Neves should be in the squad this summer.
THE ANALYTIC VIEW
An 18-year-old playing in the first team will always show maturity beyond his years but in Neves’ case, it enters downright ridiculous territory. The erratic nature of younger players often results in the more attacking oriented players being fast-tracked but there’s no such chink in Neves’ considerable armour.
Always composed on the ball, the defensive minded midfielder supplements his passing range with a sophisticated sense of positioning. Such traits make him an ideal defensive midfielder although he can certainly thrive when deployed as a central midfielder too. When played in more advanced positions, Neves has the ability to test the goalkeeper from range. His overall attacking game has to improve if he sees a future as a box-to-box midfielder but once again without trying to sound like a broken record, at just 18 there’s plenty of scope for improvement.
There’s no doubt that the day Ruben Neves outgrows Porto and the Primeira Liga is coming soon given his rising star and Porto’s model as a football club. There should be no hurry though and the Jorge Mendes represented youngster will definitely appreciate all the club has done for him. Playing regularly in the Champions League, as captain to boot, is nothing to be scoffed at.
Tom Kunder of PortuGOAL
told Outside of the Boot
this about Ruben Neves
“Everything Rúben Neves has shown so far points towards a brilliant career for the FC Porto youngster. Many local analysts are confidently predicting he can hit the heights of other Portuguese midfield greats of the modern era, such as Paulo Sousa and Rui Costa.
Neves has shown remarkable maturity ever since he made his debut as a 17-year-old at the start of 2014/15, scoring and putting in a man-of-the-match performance in Porto’s opening Liga match of the season against Marítimo. He has successively broken the record for Porto’s youngest league goalscorer, the youngest Portuguese footballer to play in the Champions League (usurping Cristiano Ronaldo) and the youngest ever captain of a Champions League team.
Sitting at the base of Porto’s midfield, his perfect positional sense, accurate passing, sound technique, calmness under pressure and almost complete absence of mistakes all stand out, but what makes people so excited about Neves is his incredible consistency. It is perfectly normal for young stars to suddenly come to the fore all over Europe every season. What is NOT normal is for them to maintain such high standards game after game for a sustained period of time. Neves has shown no drop-off in 18 months of top-level senior football. A gem of a player.”
Portuguese football expert, Jan Hagen
, also provided Outside of the Boot his views on the youngster.
“I’ve never seen a more mature footballer at the age of 18 than Rúben Neves. He’s as level-headed as you come and although he’s surrounded by transfer rumours 7 days a week he’ll be the last person to get carried away by them. On the pitch he’s always focused and he puts his mind into every thing he does. His positioning, calmness and reading of the game is probably second to none to anyone his age and he’s already somewhat close to be a complete midfielder at the age of 18. He dictates the tempo and leads the midfield like a true veteran of the game would. He got the needed technique and physic, but most important of all, he got the mentality to succeed. Rúben Neves is like a 33-year-old trapped in a 18-year-old body.”
Ruben Neves’ primary competition for the Teenager spot in this feature was Basel’s young striker, Breel Embolo. The Cameroonian origin striker who adopted Switzerland as his country has already experienced three seasons of first team football including the highest level of European competition in the Champions League. While the decision wasn’t an easy one, it is fair to give Embolo some recognition for his exploits in 2015.
Read about all the players featured in #The10, right here.