André Silva: Fail or Flourish?

Helder Postiga and Andre Silva

This summer’s Confederations Cup confirmed what Portuguese football fans had hoped for some time: Portugal finally has a quality striker. In André Silva, Portugal has an intelligent, skillful player with maturity well beyond his young age. Skilled both in the air and with the ball at his feet, André Silva’s presence on the field clearly improves the Seleção’s play, and helps ease the goal-scoring burden from Cristiano Ronaldo.

After a successful debut 2016/2017 season at FC Porto, Silva made a big-money move to Italian giants AC Milan, a team in the midst of a massive squad overhaul. While it is exciting to see a young Portuguese prospect the subject of a monumental move to a major European team, the question always arises: Is it too soon? In this article, I will compare André Silva’s career trajectory to that of another young, promising Portuguese, Porto-bred striker in recent history: Hélder Postiga.

Hélder Postiga started out in Varzim’s youth setup before moving to Porto at the age of 13. After progressing through the youth and reserve ranks, Postiga made his first team debut during the 2001/2002 season, where he scored nine times in the league. The following season, Postiga was given a pivotal role in Jose Mourinho’s attack, scoring 13 times in the league and 18 in all competitions, as Porto won the league, the UEFA Cup, and the Taça de Portugal. Following his successful season, Postiga secured a €9 million move to Premier League side Tottenham Hotspur. One league goal was all Postiga could manage in his sole season in England, as the striker returned to Porto after just one season. From that point forward, Postiga failed to replicate his initial form at Porto. Later moves saw Postiga move to Sporting CP, Real Zaragoza, and Valencia, among other teams. With Postiga, there was an inevitable feeling of “what could have been.” What if he had stayed at Porto for their Champions League winning season? Would his career have turned out differently? Those sort of questions are futile, but nevertheless intriguing.

At this point, some Portuguese fans have already stopped reading out of pure rage that I have dared to compare André Silva to Hélder Postiga, one of the more profligate Portuguese strikers in recent memory. But upon comparison, these two strikers have a lot in common. For this analysis, I’ve focused solely on both players’ statistics whilst at FC Porto. Let’s explore a bit, shall we?

André Silva Hélder Postiga
Age When Leaving Porto 21 20
League Appearances at Porto 41 58
League Goals at Porto 17 22
Champions League Appearances at Porto 10 10
Champions League Goals at Porto 5 1
Goals per Game at Porto 0.41 0.36
Seleção appearances at Porto 8 3
Seleção goals at Porto 7 2
Transfer fee €38 million €9 million

In many aspects, André Silva looks the better choice, but the stats are not overwhelmingly in his favor. While Silva’s record in the Champions League is clearly superior, Hélder Postiga played a huge role in Porto’s 2003 UEFA Cup conquest. Postiga left Porto just before his 21st birthday, just a matter of months sooner than Silva. Perhaps the most notable difference between the players is the amount of international experience. While Silva already appeared eight times for the Seleção (not including the Confederations Cup), Postiga had only appeared three times. This cannot be taken at face value, because one must remember the makeup of both Portuguese teams. Portugal in 2003 was flush with quality striker options in Pauleta and Nuno Gomes, whereas Portugal in 2016 insisted upon the ever-misfiring Eder (despite his historic goal to win Euro 2016) and their talisman Ronaldo. Portugal in 2016 was in desperate need of a young, raw striker, while 2003 Portugal viewed Hélder Postiga as more of a luxury player.

Will Silva succeed at Milan? Who knows? André Silva is clearly a determined, ambitious professional, whose development will surely benefit from playing alongside the greatest player Portugal has ever produced in Cristiano Ronaldo. Additionally, Silva is moving to a top team in Italy with a rich history; a team that is investing heavily in all positions. Arrivals such as Hakan Çalhanoğlu, Franck Kessie, Ricardo Rodríguez, and Andrea Conti are all top players who still have room for growth. And with Carlos Bacca and Gianluca Lapadula Silva’s only competition for the starting striker role, he may get a shot. Silva could fall victim to the classic “moving abroad too young” syndrome that has plagued many a young player. Hélder Postiga certainly fell victim and never recovered. But in the little we’ve seen of Silva, his time at Porto looks to be the beginning of something wonderful, not an early crescendo.

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