17 year-old Benfica prospect Goncalo Guedes is attracting strong interest from abroad, with the likes of Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund, Arsenal, PSG, and AC Milan all said to be following the youngster. Guedes plays mainly as a striker, which is a position that the Portuguese National Team has not had filled adequately since Pauleta retired in 2006. Much is expected of young Guedes, so much so that he is seen as a possible replacement for Franck Ribery at Bayern. Those are some big shoes to fill, which begs the question: who is Goncalo Guedes?
Goncalo Guedes’s rise thusfar has been meteoric. Still only 17, Guedes has already made his debut for Benfica’s first team. Last season, Guedes appeared for Benfica’s U19 side, despite being only 16. By the end of the season, the striker was the team’s third leading goalscorer (behind Nuno Santos and Romario Balde). This season, Guedes was rightfully promoted (with Santos and Balde) to Benfica’s B team, which competes in Portugal’s second division, the Segunda Liga. And in only his fourth game for the team, Guedes scored twice, leading the team past Sporting Covilha convincingly. Add on top of that another goal, which brings Guedes’s tally this season to three goals.
His impressive performances have caught the attention of senior team coach, Jorge Jesus, who has recently included Guedes in Benfica’s team. Jesus has been criticized for some time over the lack of opportunities given to Portuguese players, often choosing Argentine or Brazilian players over youth prospects. This is represented perfectly in the situations of Bernardo Silva and Andre Gomes. Silva, who was a revelation last season for Benfica’s B team, was not given a spot in Benfica’s first team this season, and was instead loaned to Monaco, where he has performed admirably. In the case of Andre Gomes, he was used sparingly by Jesus in the league last season, before being sold to a 3rd party and joining Valencia. At Valencia, Gomes has been one of the best performers in La Liga this season, despite only being 21.
It now appears that Benfica president Luis Filipe Vieira has realized exactly what Benfica lost in Bernardo Silva and Andre Gomes. While Bernardo Silva should return from his loan, Andre Gomes is no longer a Benfica player. Understanding this, and the level of talent coming through the youth teams at the club currently, Vieira has emphasized that Goncalo Guedes needs to stay. And if he stays and his development continues, one hopes that Goncalo Guedes will lead the Portugal National Team attack for years to come.