Ross Bramble writes a detailed Scout Report about Benfica’s fiery full-back on loan at Nottingham Forest, Hildeberto Pereira.
Fawaz Al-Hasawi’s project at Nottingham Forest has not always been an easy one. It’s hard to argue that it’s been a successful one so far, either. The Kuwaiti businessman had foreseen a glorious charge from mid-table Championship obscurity back to the Premier League and the European stage when his takeover in 2012 was finally ratified. Four years and six permanent managers later, the club is still fighting the tide in England’s second tier.
This season, however, with the appointment of Frenchman Phillipe Montanier, a new brand of attacking endeavour has been bought to the City Ground. At the time of writing, Nottingham Forest are second-joint highest scorers in the league – they are also the second-joint worst defence in the league. Today, our focus turns to a player who plays a part in both of those stats, in on-loan Benfica full back, Hildeberto Pereira.
Who is Hildeberto Pereira?
Pereira was born in in Lisbon, Portugal, in the March of 1996. Deployed mainly as a right-back, his football career began with three one-year-long spells at Ponte Freilas, Odivelas and Loures, before entering the Benfica youth academy in 2011. Over the course of his years in the developmental system, Hildeberto won favour for his strength, pace, determination and a lethal shot to boot – a stunning pair of goals against Astana and Porto were among the highlights.
After four years with the club, Pereira made his debut in March of 2015, appearing in the 3-0 win over Farense in the Segunda Liga. Almost two months to the date of his debut, Pereira bagged a brace in the derby against Porto B, quickly endearing him to the Benfica faithful. Over the course of two seasons with Benfica B, Hildeberto made 37 appearances and scored 3 goals.
Fast forward to 2016 and the latest Nottingham Forest facelift came calling. Pereira joined Montanier’s new look side on a season long loan deal, and has made a thoroughly impressive start to life in the second tier of English football. The Forest fans have certainly taken him to their hearts, especially after the crippling loss of Oliver Burke to Bundesliga outfit RB Leipzig. But what is it that Hildeberto brings to the table exactly?
What are his Strengths?
Despite his propensity to attack and stretch, Pereira’s start to life at Nottingham Forest has seen the youngster deployed mainly as a right full back. On some level, it’s clear to see why – for a 20-year-old, Pereira is a fantastic athlete. Fit and strong, quick and agile, the Portuguese has certainly got all the physical attributes of a fantastic modern day full back.
Hildeberto Pereira of Portugal during the Toulon Tournament match between Portugal and Paraguay | Photo by Harry Trump/Getty Images
It’s his attacking endeavour that catches the eye the most when one watches Pereira play – and certainly one doesn’t have to watch him play for long to see it. The Championship is a brusque, rough-and-tumble division where no team is guaranteed a win. Scraps are fought for like mice in the snake pit. Players must be ready to fight and run and jostle if they hope to survive the rigours of the game, not to mention the disapproval of the fans. This is where Hildeberto Pereira comes to life. The full back is never afraid to get his hands dirty. Whenever he plays, you are guaranteed to see him surge forward on a series of powerful, determined runs, throwing himself whole-heartedly into challenges and 50/50s, inspiring the crowd through a brave tackle here and an audacious attack there. Players like he and Dominic Iorfa are two sides of the same coin – strong enough to hold off the challenge, quick enough to escape it in the first place.
There are also early signs of good close control, too. The ball is never too far from his feet, and certainly better players will lose possession during the sorts of lung-busting runs he attempts. On occasion, however, a lack of co-ordination is evident. The ball doesn’t always stick, and sometimes it looks more like he has decided to knock the ball forward and go from there, rather than pre-plan his route to goal. This lack of vision can lead the youngster into trouble, and on a number of occasions has seen chances slip away for no worthy reason. Knowing when to release the ball will surely be on the curriculum during Montanier’s training sessions, and that’s all it truly requires – at 20 years old, Pereira has time to couple his tremendous pace and technical ability with an education in when to stick and when to twist.
Offensively, Pereira has shown the physical and technical ability to be a dynamic handful for opposition defenders. While still yet unseen in his Forest stint, observers of his career will already know what kind of shot he has on him; balls are struck cleanly and precisely, arrowed, dipped and guided with ferocity and care. Most of the time, anyway. The full-back has already clocked up some assists for his side, too, creating space with his runs and drawing attention away from other more deserving targets. His runs may sometimes be aimless and wild, but there’s no denying his physical attributes coupled with his desire to take the ball downfield will cause headaches for far better defenders than those in the Championship.
What are his Weaknesses?
The keen observer, however, will have been wondering why a scout report such as this is yet to remark on the defensive aptitude of a player who is, after all, deployed as a right back at Nottingham Forest. The reason is simple; it’s the weaker area of his game. As stated earlier, the Championship is a league built on heart, desire and scrapping for every crumb. This allows players that lack certain defensive qualities to hide them behind energy and resiliency. It would be simplistic and wrong to dismiss Pereira as a bad defender, of course – his pace and strength make him a good screener, able to follow wingers infield and along the line without breaking sweat. His tackling is not bad by any stretch of the imagination, but certainly a lack of control is evident at times. Tackling is still an art, regardless of what may be said about defending in the modern game, and it’s one that Hildeberto is still mastering. Recklessness and excessive force are often phrases used by referees when they penalise him for fouls. This leads us nicely on to his greatest flaw – petulance.
Hildeberto Pereira of SL Benfica (L) scores his team’s first goal against goalkeeper Sergio Rodriguez of Real Madrid during the UEFA Youth League Semi Final | Photo by Philipp Schmidli/Getty Images
The greatest frustration in watching Pereira is not his recklessness or his sometimes misplaced drive – in fact, many Nottingham Forest fans will likely forgive him those trespasses considering what an impact those runs can have, not to mention what his passion can do for his teammates and the fans when times are tough. What sabotages Hildeberto Pereira is a passionate, fiery temper that this season more than ever (thanks to the new refereeing guidelines) will land the full back in hot water. Pereira has already found himself targeted by opponents, most memorably by Bong and Skalak in Forest’s 3-0 defeat to Brighton and Hove Albion, in much the same way players would attempt to wind up Mario Balotelli. At the time of writing, Pereira has accrued three yellows cards in seven appearances, as well as a red card for excessive celebrations with Nottingham Forest fans after the dramatic late leveller against Aston Villa.
There is a tremendous, fiery passion which guides Pereira in games that needs to be tamed. The only thing standing between Hildeberto Pereira and a place among Europe’s elite teams is himself. Control the beast that inspires this reckless, petulant frustration and exuberance, and he’ll be one of the first names on the Benfica team sheet for years to come.
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Ross is a passionate Southampton fan with an eye for detail and analysis. He studies journalism at university and hopes to break in to broadcast and/or sports journalism in the future.
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