Benfica midfielder Anderson Talisca has had a dream start to life in Europe. In only a few months, the Brazilian has emerged from relative obscurity to become one of football’s most sought after young talents. Chelsea, Arsenal, Liverpool and others are said to be interested in the 20-year-old.
Talisca counts José Mourinho among his admirers. He has drawn comparisons with Brazilian legend Rivaldo and was recently given his first international call-up by Dunga, as a late replacement for the injured Lucas Moura.
Benfica lost several key players this summer after winning the domestic treble last season. But the club is currently sitting in first-place in the Primeira Liga. Talisca has played a major part in their early season success. He has scored eight goals in his first 10 league matches. Rui Miguel Martins looks at Benfica’s emerging star.
Who is Talisca?
Talisca took a different route to European football than most Brazilians. He was born in Feira de Santana, a city in the state of Bahia. At age 13, Talisca was reportedly denied a place at Rio de Janeiro club Vasco da Gama. Newton Motta, an ex-director with the club told ESPN’s Brazilian language website that he was passed over because of a shortage of open spaces.
He eventually joined Esporte Clube Bahia, a relatively small club based in Salvador. It was there where he was given an affectionate nickname. Named Anderson Souza Conceição, people began calling him Talisca, which translates into ‘Beanpole’ in English because of his tall, slim frame. The youngster would rise up the ranks at Bahia, graduating from the academy in 2013. He was part of the Brazil squad that won the Toulon Tournament that spring.
Talisca was used mainly as a substitute in his first season in Bahia’s senior squad. He did however get his first taste of success at club level, helping them win the Bahia State Championship. This was enough to get the attention of Benfica scouts who quickly moved in to sign the youngster.
In an interview with Portuguese publication Record in October, Benfica manager Jorge Jesus described his first impressions of the young Brazilian. “Talisca’s physical and technical characteristics are very similar to Rivaldo. That is why we signed him. When I saw the boy, I thought immediately of Rivaldo,” he said.
Style of Play, Strengths and Weaknesses
Talisca has impressed onlookers with his impressive range of skills this season. Officially listed as an attacking midfielder, he has mostly been deployed as a second-striker in a 4-4-2 formation, except on a few occasions. He has been given a largely free role at Benfica and it has really paid off for the club. Talisca knows how to find open space and get into dangerous areas around the goal. He has shown that he can create opportunities for his teammates with his clever and precise passing. And he has the ability to dribble past defenders at will.
It is his shooting and finishing skills that often grab all the headlines. Talisca has the ability to deliver accurate shots from distance, particularly with his strong left-foot; a skill he has demonstrated on a few occasions this season. In a league match on October 31st, he scored a brilliant goal from long-range against Rio Ave.
He developed a reputation as a free-kick specialist at Bahia. He scored from a direct free-kick earlier this season against Vitória Setúbal with a low shot from just outside the box. It was his second of three goals on the day. Talisca had not scored in his first four matches for his new club until that point. It seemed to start a good run of form in the Primeira Liga for the youngster. He currently leads the Portuguese league in terms of goals with 8 this season.
Like all young players, Talisca is still developing several aspects of his game. So far this season, he has struggled at times against stronger opposition, particularly in the Champions League. Beating his marker and tactical awareness are two areas that need work. He admitted in a post-match interview after a goalless draw with AS Monaco back on October 22nd that he needed to be better.
He has begun to answer his critics. Talisca improved in the next match against the same Monaco club back in Lisbon, where he scored the only goal of the match. The victory gives Benfica a chance to advance into the knockout stages. Talisca’s struggles with inconsistency is not unusual for a young player still adjusting to a new situation.
Despite his tall frame, he has not demonstrated much of an aerial game so far this season. That could obviously change as he continues to evolve as a professional. Benfica’s website listed Talisca at 1,90m and weighing a modest 70 kg, when he was signed this past summer. The youngster has a physical side to his game, although his thin frame could be a disadvantage, especially if he decides to move to the Premier League. Putting on muscle would help him with 1-on-1 battles and ball chases against strong defenders.
He told Record back in October that he intends to add to his physique. “In Europe, the training is very intensive, much more than in Brazil. As a result, players always build muscle.” Fans of his nickname need not fear, he laughed off the suggestion that he may have to stop using it in the future.
Talisca has had to adapt to a more defensive-minded European game. Having said that, so far, he seems to be performing his defensive duties well. However, he still over commits to tackles on occasions and has accumulated 3 yellow cards in his first 10 matches, leaving room for improvement.
For the more attentive fan, Talisca’s goals have masked his expected inexperience, and tactical shortcomings in European football. While his potential, and endorsements from his Selecao teammates are prevalent, Talisca still has quite a ways to becoming a staple name in European football. Benfica’s coach, Jorge Jesus, has publicly stated Talisca has strong similarities to Rivaldo, and that he can play a multitude of positions in the final third. Under Jesus’ tutelage, ( the same man that molded the likes of David Luiz, Nemanja Matic, and Fabio Coentrao) Talisca has the proper guidance to reach, and perhaps even surpass all of his potential.
Written by Rui Miguel Martins
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