When Edison Cavani made a move to PSG, and Falcao to Monaco, many assumed that the league’s top scorers will perpetually be the two newbies alongside a certain Swedish teammate of Cavani. However, 12 games in, the French league is benefiting from the exploits of other men too, namely Riviere, Cvitanich, Djordjevic and a certain Benfica loanee to Rennes- Nelson Oliveira.
Oliveira started out at Sporting Braga’s youth ranks, and moved to the country’s most successful club, Benfica aged 15 in 2006. Manager Quique Flores gave the 17 year old Oliveira an insight into the first team by playing him in a friendly against G.D. Estoril Praia in the 2008-09 season. He also featured for the club on the bench in the UEFA Super Cup against Napoli. But that was it. His first shot in the first team when he was loaned out till June to Rio Ave in February (2010). He went on to make 10 appearances for the club. The original agreement between Benifica and Rio Ave was altered when Rio Ave wanted to procure the young rising star’s services for 6 more months. But the club, on 12 August 2010, decided to loan him out to F.C. Paços de Ferreira for the entirety of the 2010-11 season.
Oliveira went on to score on his debut for ‘Os Castores’. Oliveira was brought on as a sub to the injured Rondon in the 6th minute. The young Portugese showed to the club just why they had acquired his services by finding the the net in the 32nd minute from a Caetano pass. This goal gave Rui Vitória the confidence to start the young lad in the next four matches. And the Portuguese striker affirmed his coach’s faith by scoring the winning goal from a direct free kick against Naval in the 50th minute. Oliveira managed to score seven times that season for Ferreira featuring in the team 30 times in all competitions, nineteen times as a substitute.
He returned to his parent club the following season and on 14 October 2011 Oliveira made his official debut for Benfica in the Portuguese Cup, playing 45 minutes in a match that the club won 2–0. At the end of the season, Oliveira had scored no goals but grabbed two assists in the league. However, his lack of goal-scoring was could be attributed to the fact that he only featured for the club 12 times with 10 of those, as a substitute. In the Portuguese League Cup, the striker scored twice for the club in five matches. However, his real moment of glory in a comparatively dry season for his club came when he made his Champions League debut as a substitute against Zenit. Although Benfica was already leading the game 1-0, Oliveira put the nail in the coffin by netting the ball ten minutes after he came on and progressing with Benfica qualifying to the last eight, 4–3 on aggregate.
Again, not establishing himself firmly in the Benfica squad, the management decided to loan him out to Deportivo de La Coruna. A pleasing opening to his spell at the Riazor saw him netting two goals in his first four games. However, he fell behind veteran striker Riki and was used as a substitute almost throughout the season (out of the 30 appearances he made in the League, 28 were as a substitute). Oliveira scored 4 goals for the Brancoazuis in that loan spell.
Returning to Benfica at the end of the season, supporters put forward their desire for keeping the young star in the club that season. Benfiquista fans were disappointed to say the least when the management decided to loan him out to French side Rennes for a season long move. Oliveira has made 12 appearances for The Black and Reds this season and has found the net an astonishing seven times already.
The Portuguese striker had an impressive outing for the Portuguese under-20 side at the Under 20 World Cup. His four goals and two assists fired his nation to the tournament’s final. He received the man of the match award twice and also received the ‘Silver Ball’ for the second best player in the competition.
Oliveira has gone on to represent Portugal in the senior team 14 times. He was a surprise inclusion in the 2012 Euros, where he tasted action from the bench. He has managed to score only once, his goal coming in a friendly against Panama.
Style, Strengths and Weaknesses:
Dubbed as the next Eric Cantona in some quarters of Portugal due to a perceived similarity in playing styles, Oliveira is a threatening attacker who is usually quick off the mark. The 22 year old possesses first-class technique and the capability of passing and distributing the ball intelligently among his teammates. The forward has a handy defensive presence when required.
He also has the amazing attribute of dropping deep and supporting the midfield. He often interchanges positions with a strike companion or an attacking midfielder which only adds on to his team’s flexibility and threat.
He has great aptitude and consciousness on the ball in the final third and his neat footwork sees him beating defenders easily. Despite leading the team in front of the goal, like a good centre midfielder, Oliveira possesses the skills to open up the tightest of defences. His quick presence of mind makes it possible for him to play quick one-twos with his teammate on a regular basis.
He has also been likened to Zlatan Ibrahimovic- and there surely are certain similarities. The Portuguese also possesses exquisite ball control in tight spaces like the Swede. However, unlike the PSG man who plays like an old fashioned centre forward, Oliveira stays on the move, often moving out wide to receive the ball enabling him to run at players. Oliveira may not be a classic poacher, but his distributive abilities are more than useful in a national team that relies on the provision of a goal threat from its wide players.
Oliveira has the capability of both exciting fans and frustrating them. In the appearances he has pulled for the French side, he has given away the ball more often than not, showing his vulnerability of not being able to hold on to it with ease. Built to a formidable 186cm and 82kg, one feels he should be able to act as more of an attacking reference point than he does. Standing tall at 6 ft 2 inches, the Rennes player does not even produce the best headers.
He also needs to work on his finishing. With the chances he has had in a few of the matches this season, a seasoned striker would have three to four more goals to add to that tally of seven. Oliveira is not a tested player. However, Rennes is the only club where he has actually started 10 games. This is the testing season for the Portuguese as he will have a lot of games to work on all the aforementioned drawbacks in his game. Coach Philippe Montainier understands this and has the patience and faith to let the Benfica loanee develop further bloom into a complete player.
Overall, Oliveira is a player in development. He is skilled, but not polished. He showed the world what he is capable of in the Under-20 World Cup and after the spectacular start he has had to the season, it is assured that this is going to be the campaign where the Portuguese can come out of his shell and thrive in the opportunities given to him.
“With 7 goals in just 10 starts for Rennes so far, Oliveira has been something of a revelation for the Breton club. Philippe Montanier evidently saw something in him that he liked from his time with Deportivo la Coruna and he has been proved right. His only regret might be loaning the Portuguese instead of buying him outright as I am sure other clubs will already be looking at Oliveira. He is an attractive prospect who boasts impressive technique and unerring consistency in front of goal with an eye for sublime finishes. Along with Foued Kadir, he has been keeping Rennes in mid-table and already looks to be a key player. The challenge for Montanier will be keeping him at the Stade de la Route de Lorient past the end of this season, unless they can secure eventual European qualification. Having Oliveira at the tip of the attack instead of Mevlut Erding has been an improvement, but the rest of the side around him struggles at times. He is the prolific striker that Rennes have been missing since Asamoah Gyan in 2009-2010. If they can secure Oliveira long-term, Montanier can build a strong team of young and vibrant talent around him.”
Although his goal scoring record looks good Nelson Oliveira still has a lot learn in his first season with Rennes. He has shown good instincts to score the majority of his goals, but has enjoyed a huge slice of luck too. Although his finish against Marseille showed some great finishing ability. Too often he has gone missing in games and failed to bring his teammates into play, and often Makes the wrong decision. He is still young and has time to develop into a good player. Time is on his side.
Over to you!
What do you think of Nelson Oliveira? Let us know by dropping a comment below. Make sure you follow us on Twitter @OOTB_football and like us on Facebook. We’re on Google+ and Tumblr as well for those interested. View his SoccerWiki Profile.