Marcos Lopes: Star of the (Near) Future?


Marcos "Rony" LopesFor those who follow the English game closely, the name Marcos Lopes may ring a bell. For those who don’t follow the English game very closely, prepare to hear that name more and more as time goes on. Marcos Lopes is a winger/attacking midfielder who turns out for Manchester City’s youth teams. And he doesn’t just turn out…He’s one of their most important and exciting prospects. Last year, having just turned 17, Marcos Lopes entered the pitch for Manchester City’s main team in an FA Cup draw against Watford. Although he was only on the field for a matter of minutes, the winger still managed to pounce on a rebound and score on his debut. The goal made him the youngest ever goalscorer for Manchester City. And it wasn’t just an accident. At the end of that season, Lopes was named the Manchester City Academy’s Player of the Year. As a result, he was made captain of the youth academy team for this season, 2013/2014.

Marcos Lopes - Watford debutOne may think that making a breakthrough at a club with a caliber such as that of Manchester City would be harder than, say, a team such as Aston Villa or Sunderland. That assumption is totally correct. Ahead of Lopes in the pecking order at City are the likes of Sergio Aguero, Stevan Jovetic, Jesus Navas, and James Milner. Seasoned internationals. Bought for millions. This is what makes Marcos Lopes’ situation all the more special. Still only 17, he is already having a go at the first team. Time will tell whether or not he continues to receive opportunities, but there is still one thing that may greatly influence his development: his coach.

Marcos Lopes - Manchester City academyWhen Lopes debuted for the first time on that fateful night against Watford, the coach of Manchester City was Roberto Mancini. The fact that Lopes was considered for first team action under Mancini speaks wonders for the player’s work-rate and dedication. During his tenure, Mancini had tons of cash at his disposal and typically looked to purchase talent rather than develop it. Marcos Lopes’ debut wasn’t a fluke. Over the summer, Mancini was replaced with Manuel Pellegrini, who had a much different philosophy. Pellegrini had just left Malaga, a club who had originally been gifted with mass monetary resources (like Manchester City), but had then seen the money dry up. What Pellegrini was left with at Malaga was a squad with relatively few recognizable names. What he did was nothing short of a miracle. Helping the club to sixth in La Liga and the quarterfinals of the Champions League, Pellegrini relied on young, unproven players. This paid off, with Isco being at the heart of most of the success. With Pellegrini’s background as a youth development expert, we should logically expect to see more of Marcos Lopes, right? Right.  A couple of weeks ago, Manchester City began their League Cup campaign at home to Wigan Athletic. Starting on the left wing for City was none other than Lopes. Pellegrini obviously has faith in the 17 year old, as do much of the backroom staff and players, and for good reason.

Marcos Lopes - Portugal U-19Oh, and he also is a starter for the Portuguese Under 19 team. Debuting for the team at only 16 years of age, Lopes has gone on to make 13 appearances, scoring eight times. A call-up to the Portugal U-21 team is likely not far off, or maybe even the Senior Team. But who knows. If Marcos Lopes continues to develop as rapidly as he has been, the Seleccao may not be very far away.

Luis Martins Debuts for Benfica


In last night’s Champions League match between Benfica and Basel, Portuguese youngster debuted for Benfica. 2011 has been a stellar year for the left-back. After helping Portugal reach the final of the U-20 World Cup, Benfica coach Jorge Jesus announced that Martins would stay with the first team along with fellow countrymen Nelson Oliveira, Mika, and Ruben Pinto. Many tipped Mika and Nelson Oliveira for playing time this season, after their stellar performances at the U-20 World Cup. Everyone was surprised, however, when Jorge Jesus named Martins in the team’s Champions League squad ahead of experienced (and World Cup and Euro-winning) Joan Capdevila. Since then, Luis Martins has found himself on the bench for two Liga Zon Sagres matches. For the Champions League match last night, Benfica’s first-choice left-back, Emerson, was suspended, and Luis Martins got the nod to make not only his Benfica debut, but also his Champions League debut, all in one night. Luis performed admirable enough, especially when you consider that he is still only 19 years of age. The defender has been dubbed the new Fabio Coentrao, due to his dribbling style and quickness, and many are looking forward to him fulfilling this comparison.

Orlando Sa Shines on Debut


Fulham’s new number 9, Orlando Sa, made his debut in a Carling Cup clash with English giants Chelsea, which Fulham lost on penalties. Orlando Sa was handed a starting spot alongside Bryan Ruiz up front, and did not disappoint. Orlando Sa showed great control and movement throughout the game. It appears that the forward has formed a great partnership with Bryan Ruiz, which will certainly pay dividends in the future. Goal.com gave Sa a 7.5/10 rating, one of the highest of the game. Orlando Sa has surprisingly been given the number 9 shirt ahead of the likes of Bobby Zamora and Moussa Dembele, which certainly shows the faith that Fulham coach Martin Jol has in the striker.

HIGHLIGHTS HERE

Joao Silva Scores on Debut


Everton’s 21 year-old striker, Joao Silva, scored yesterday on his debut for Vitoria Setubal. Silva, who never made a single first team appearance last season for Everton, is now on loan at Vitoria Setubal. The tall striker caught the attention of Premeir League side Everton after his goal scoring exploits in the Portuguese second division for Aves in the 2009-2010 season. Everton purchased the striker for right around 1 million pounds, only for him to play for the reserves. Meanwhile, Silva was showing his abilities well for the Portuguese Under-21 team. Everton, realizing that Silva needed playing time to continue growing as a player, sent him out on loan to UD Leiria. At Leiria, Silva showed glimpses of his undeniable ability, most notably in Leiria’s 3-3 draw with champions, Benfica. Joao Silva is now loaned to Vitoria Setubal to further his development, and it looked like it’s working. Silva headed home Claudio Pitbull’s cross in the dying minutes of the Vitoria Setubal-Pacos Ferreira match to give Setubal a 2-1 victory on opening day.

See the goal here

Fonte Makes Espanyol Debut


Rui Fonte has finally made his first-team debut for Espanyol. Fonte is on loan from Sporting Lisbon, and has been playing on the Espanyol’s B team for the majority of the season to date. His performances have been impressive, with his current goal tally at 11 for the team. His impressive performances have earned him the opportunity to train with the first team, and today against Sporting Gjion, he was handed his debut. Fonte is regarded as a hot prospect for the future,and hopefully this loan will help him gain experience.

Sereno Debuts for Valladolid


Portuguese center-back Sereno finally made his debut for Valladolid yesterday in their league match against Deportivo. Sereno hadn’t even made an appearance for the Spanish outfit(since he moved from Vitoria in January), so it came as a surprise when he was named in Valladolid’s starting eleven. Not only did he start, but he played a full match, along with fellow compatriot Pele. Valladolid now sit just in the relegation zone, and it looks as if they are to be one of the three teams relegated into the Segunda Division.

Orlando sa Makes his Debut for Porto


Finally, after a long injury spell, Orlando sa has made his long-awaited debut for Porto. sa was in the starting lineup in Porto’s 2-0 win over lower-level Oliveirense. It was not his greatest performance, but coming back from a lengthy absence and playing immediately in the starting eleven isn’t easy. His inclusion in the starting eleven just after absence shows that Ferreira may have faith in this kid. I hope he does have faith in him, because with a little bit of work, and a lot of patience, we could have ourselves the next Pauleta, which Portugal desperately needs.