If I told anyone within the football world that Sporting had a new home-grown winger creating buzz in the first team, no one would look at it surprisingly. With an Academy that’s known worldwide for their production of talented wingers, a new one seems to appear in the first team each season. Of course it was players such as Nani, Ricardo Quaresma and the unavoidable Cristiano Ronaldo brought fame to the Alcochete academy. But now it’s time for a whole new batch of talented wingers to hit the scene with Mané (already a clearly established first team player) followed by Gelson Martins, Iuri Medeiros, Matheus Pereira and Podence. Out of the bunch Gelson is definitely the one getting his climb to fame at the moment.
Who is Gelson Martins?
Brought to Portugal in his teenage years after being born in Cape Verde, Gelson played two years for CF Benfica before arriving at the most reputable academy in the country. Here he would climb through the ranks until achieving professional status, while getting appearances for several of the Portuguese youth national teams. After playing the entirety of last season in the B-team and having a fantastic U20 World Cup, this season wouldn’t be an easy one for him to break into the first team. New coach Jorge Jesus is known not to prioritize youth/home grown players over overall quality for the first team, which made it even more surprising to see Martins regularly on Sporting’s team sheets.
Talent Radar Accolades:
Named in 100 to Watch in 2016 feature
Style, Strengths and Weaknesses
Despite being able to play on both wings, the right footed player excels from the right. Used to playing in a 4-3-3 both in Sporting’s B team and in the U20 Portuguese national team, the youngster is now getting used to playing in Jesus’ 4-4-2 in which his defensive responsibilities are magnified. According to Sporting’s coach not only will he have to improve defensively but also as a team player, with the Portuguese manager saying that Gelson knows how to play very well “on his own” as opposed to “in a competitive level”. The truth is that albeit having a lot to learn, when it comes to raw talent the Cape Verde-born is incredibly gifted.
More than just a fast winger, he’s really quick off the mark and has the skill to hold the ball despite being a relatively weak player when it comes to the physical side of the game. Standing at 1.73 meters, Gelson has similar height to players that he gets compared with such as Nani and Quaresma. Although at his age he’s not as muscular or as robust as them, making the youngster unable to withstand certain challenges on the pitch.
As a really skilful dribbler, he’s capable of gliding past players with relative ease. Playing from the right wing he’s both able to deliver a good ball into one of his teammates in the box (a team with a striker like Slimani appreciates that) and drift inside where he can show his flair even with his left foot. The 20 year-old’s offensive movement off the ball is also quite good, knowing when to appear inside after crosses from the opposite winger or wing-back, as shown by a few of his 6 goals for the B-team last season.
After starting the season as Sporting’s bench option to replace the star André Carrillo if needed, Gelson’s now making the most out of the fact that the Peruvian is out of the first team for an undefined amount of time. At the time of writing, the Portuguese winger has played the full 90’ twice in a row in Sporting’s last two home matches against Lokomotiv Moskow in the Europa League and Nacional in the Portuguese league. Despite both games being difficult for the Lions (a loss and a narrow 1-0 win, respectively), Gelson showed that he is a real option to replace Carrillo. In both matches he was, from my point of view, Sporting’s best player on the field. Always trying to create plays himself, since his teammates were having trouble doing so, with several dribbles completed and never giving up on a play. He fought in every play like only a home-grown player does and never stopped running during either match. This brings us to a clear weakness that’s common to a lot of young players, which is running a lot but not running “well” – something you can see in so many talented youngsters who feel the need to prove themselves as assets to their teams.
With the clear support of a powerful coach like Jorge Jesus behind him, I’m sure Gelson will work on how to play with his teammates and on how to make the most out of his stamina during a match, taking his sheer talent to world class levels.
What does the future hold?
I can see Gelson Martins getting more and more game time this season and with Carrillo probably on his way out by the end of the season (if not in January), the Portuguese youth international might be in the starting eleven regularly for Sporting next season. With a coach that has the capability of helping him reach his potential and in a club that let’s youngsters rule, everything and everyone is on his side.
With a contract that ties him to the club until 2021, he apparently won’t leave the club anytime soon except if an outstanding offer meets his 60 million buy-out clause.
Written by Tiago Estêvão