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Can Barca move send Andre Gomes’ career into hyperdrive?
The progression of Portuguese youngster Andre Gomes has been gradual to date, but a big-money move to Barcelona will thrust the midfielder in the spotlight next season and boost pressure on the player to take his burgeoning career to the next level.
Back in November of 2014, I penned a feature for the BBC’s Match of the Day Magazine on five international debutants who had shined during that month’s international friendlies.
Two of the five players already had high profiles: Nathaniel Clyne, the then-Southampton youngster who moved to Liverpool in 2015, and Divock Origi, who had featured for Belgium at the 2014 World Cup. The list also included one American, Sunderland’s DeAndre Yedlin, and highly-touted Spanish forward Paco Alcacer.
Then there was Valencia midfielder Andre Gomes, the least-known player on the list. In an online poll that the MOTD Magazine ran, just 2% of readers ranked Gomes as the most promising of these players.
Now, however, a high-profile move to Barcelona is set to bring Gomes to the forefront of world football.
Others on that 2014 list, to be fair, have risen to the top of world football much more quickly than Gomes. The Portuguese midfielder is still only twenty-two years old, but having been playing professional football since 2012, he has waited longer than many other players of his phenomenal talent for his big break.
In fact, many had begun to question whether it would come at all after a somewhat disappointing season with Valencia last year. Though he brings a technical skill-set tailor-made for Barcelona, his signing was somewhat unexpected.
The midfielder was a reserve in Portugal’s Euro 2016 winning squad this summer but his career has only recently begun to accelerate. Having previously played for the academy of FC Porto as a kid, Gomes took the leap up to the professional game in the summer of 2012 after moving to Portuguese giants Benfica.
However, he struggled to break into the first team after spending a year with the reserves as a nineteen-year-old. His club situation was further complicated by the fact that Benfica had sold 100% of his economic rights to a private company in the summer of 2014, a practice typically frowned upon.
Yet he finally started to emerge on the scene after being loaned out to Valencia during the 2014/15 season, becoming a pivotal part of the Spanish club’s Champions League push. His contributions at the club level also earned him his international debut late in September of that year and two months later he appeared in another friendly match against Argentina at Old Trafford. Over the course of three years between 2010 and 2013 he had appeared at five different youth international levels but was finally able to make an important step up to the senior team.
He had impressed so much that Valencia sorted a deal with Benfica to fully purchase his rights last summer.
However, his progression stalled once again last season as he was unable to improve upon his returns from the previous year and Valencia slumped to a twelfth place finish in La Liga. Nevertheless, he has remained hardworking and patient and eventually earned a spot in Portugal’s Euro 2016 squad. He started in all three of their group stage games and their extra-time win over Croatia, but lost his starting spot to Eder in their semifinal victory over Wales and didn’t appear in the final.
His performance in the Euros attracted numerous suitors and just a few days ago he appeared destined for Real Madrid. However, Barcelona swooped in at the last minute to make the surprise signing. Although Luis Enrique already have numerous attacking midfielders anxiously waiting in line to replace the ineffable Andres Iniesta, Gomes is undoubtedly viewed as a potential long-term solution for the aging star.
The progression of Gomes has been slow so far, but now is finally the time for him to take his career to the next level at Barcelona.