Mateus Carvalho writes a comprehensive scouting report about Francisco Geraldes, Sporting Clube de Portugal’s cerebral midfielder.
Constantly producing talented players to build its senior side, Sporting Clube de Portugal could not be happier with their new batch of youngsters. One of the most exciting is Francisco Geraldes, a talented midfielder currently on loan at Moreirense, a first-tier Portuguese side aiming to avoid relegation, which might give this Portuguese youngster just what it takes to rise to the demand of playing for his lifelong club, thus fulfilling his biggest career goal.
Who is Francisco Geraldes?
Born in Alvalade, a typical Lisbon neighbourhood, on the 18th of April 1995, Geraldes had not played for a side other than Sporting until the beginning of this season, when he was loaned to gain competitive maturity. Altogether, we are looking at 14 consecutive years playing for every single Sporting team, which developed in him a deep passion for the club and the dream, several times confessed, of playing for Sporting’s senior side. He always impressed everyone at the academy and it was only natural that, in 2014, he reached Sporting B, the secondary professional side playing at the second Portuguese tier. Although he had already shown promising signs of a bright future it was then that Geraldes truly blossomed with two impressive seasons, a combined number of 62 matches, 11 goals and 15 assists, and riveting performances, which caught the eye of both Sporting’s directors and the Portuguese national team scouts. The young midfielder was called to the senior team to play against Nacional da Madeira, not leaving the bench, and made his national team debut at the U-20 level continuing to represent his country’s youth teams ever since.
When the 2016/17 season started, Jorge Jesus, Sporting’s coach, decided to loan him to Moreirense, so he could prepare himself for the pressure of the first tier. He earned a starting spot at that side’s line-up from the first match, only missing the duel against Sporting, for regulative reasons as the Portuguese giants do not allow a player to go up against the side who loaned him. He was also elected by ‘Gazzeta dello Sport’, the renowned Italian sports newspaper, for their weekly line-up after an astonishing performance against Feirense (1 goal and 1 assist), being the player with the most points given by the newspaper, alongside Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Luis Suaréz or Alexandre Lacazette. All of this has led Jorge Jesus to publicly announce that Geraldes was part of a group of young players that constituted the future of Sporting’s senior team.
What is his Style of Play?
In my opinion, football players are a product of all their background and past experiences, whether or not they are related to football. Undoubtedly, there are some technical and tactical features that only come from practice and competition; however I think that we can assess psychologically a player’s behaviour on the pitch based on his character and all experiences that contributed to its shape as it is. Francisco Geraldes is a precious illustration of this argument of mine, as he does not fit into the stereotype of the football player. In his spare time he listens to classical music, discusses politics, goes to museum exhibitions and tries to conclude his university degree. And while his teammates prefer to listen to loud music or watch movies to relax before and after games and practices, it is usual to see Geraldes reading a book.
So it comes as no surprise that he reveals an outstanding intelligence while playing, possessing a broad tactical culture and comprehension of every moment of the game that help him overcome his lesser physical stature (1.75 m and 67 kg) and every difficulty that the opposite side might create. Therefore, he is able to play in every role in the midfield, although he prefers to play as a no.10, being influenced by the likes of Iniesta and Zidane, both cerebral and creative players who were able to organise their side’s entire offensive manoeuvre. Even if he is forced to play as a no.8, for modern tactics are dissolving the classic no.10, he always demonstrates a more offensive style, showing a pass-based and attractive philosophy of the game in each of his actions.
Another display of Geraldes’ competitive intelligence is his capacity to predict the opposite players’ actions. As he himself stated, he learned a great deal about this while training alongside João Mário (the recent European champion and new star of Inter Milan) in Sporting’s senior side. As the young Portuguese starlet explained, Mário taught him that if he could predict and think at a fast rate about what the opposite players would do as well as understand the impact of his own movements, he would always be one step ahead of every defence, being able to disrupt its organisation with a simple ball dribble or a deceiving movement using just your body. As a result of his intelligence, tactical maturity, peripheral and foreseeing vision, it is usual to watch Geraldes move judiciously around the field, often recurring to quick dribbles, 1-2 combinations with teammates and deadly incursions into the opposite box with or without the ball.
What are his Strengths?
Geraldes is known to be a truly complete midfielder. Apace with his aforementioned tactical expertise, he reveals an interesting skillset, enabling him to play every midfield role efficiently (with preference for a more no.8 or 10-like role, as we have already seen). Firstly, he possesses an amazing technical quality, with both feet being cultured, which provides him with outstanding dribbling and controlling of the ball. Moreover, he is endowed with almost flawless pass accuracy (useful to the build-up phase and to assist his teammates as his stats presented above show). Last season he ended up with an average 72% of accurate passes and in a recent Liga NOS match against Estoril he achieved 90% in this domain. These facts become more relevant if we understand that neither Sporting B nor Moreirense are dominating, possession-driven sides in their respective tiers. Enlarging the young midfielder’s list of features is his tendency to approach the opposite box and to score goals, as every coach dreams of having a midfielder who can score regularly, thus adding fire power to his side. In fact, he not only reveals the ability to score on a regular basis (view his Sporting B stats above), but also shows a lot of courage and initiative to attempt it, enjoying a fair middle-range and free kick capacity to endanger the opposite side’s net, as the video below shows.
Adding to the features already presented above, Geraldes has been blessed with a natural quality, only possessed by a few: his innate leadership skills. Being incredibly passionate about Sporting and revealing an above-average maturity both inside and outside the pitch, it comes as no surprise that he has been the captain of almost every youth Sporting side he has played for as well as Sporting B, which can cause him to follow the steps of legendary Sporting captains, products of their Academy, such as Adrien Silva, Rui Patrício or even João Moutinho. Even in Moreirense, a side he has played in only for a few months now, he proves to be an extension of the coach on the pitch, coordinating his colleagues mainly on their offensive movements.
What are his Weaknesses?
As I have pointed out earlier, although Geraldes prefers to be a playmaker he has to adapt to the tactics his coaches design. His development shows a shift to a more no.8- like style of play and if he wants to fulfil all of his potential in that position and become a modern box-to-box he needs to evolve his defensive attributes. In spite of his cleverness occupying spaces while defending, he lacks intensity while pressing and reacting to a ball loss. He definitely needs to show more energy while defending. Also, I believe he could enhance his defensive skills by improving his tackling ability, as he is often surpassed by opponents in counterattacks while being utterly passive and cautious. And obviously, he should work on his physique, as he lacks the composure to make all of the aforementioned actions truly effective, meeting the demands of a top professional division such as the one he is playing in at the moment.
In addition, he often struggles when he cannot express all of his creativity and tiki-taka inspired football. He lacks solutions to face overcrowded spaces and the overloads that defenders might create. Not that he is incapable of simplifying his style of play or resorting to through balls. He just seems obstinate in insisting on more elaborate football even if it is rendered ineffective against defence-based sides. When this happens, it is usual to see him wander with no criteria in half-spaces and wings or to lose himself with excessive dribbles or far-fetched passes, posing no great threat to any defence.
Although he sometimes manages to succeed in overcoming some of the previously stated weaknesses, he just needs to achieve regularity in doing so and in my opinion his spell at Moreirense might be the decisive step to this promising youngster evolution as it is forcing him to face all of his fears and flaws at once, while exposing him to the competitive upgrade the Portuguese first tier certainly provides. Sporting CP awaits.
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