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World Cup One To Watch: Portugal’s 21-year-old winger Goncalo Guedes

The Portugal international will be a player to keep an eye out for in Russia.

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Goncalo Guedes
Photo: Getty Images

Labelled ‘the next Cristiano Ronaldo’, the pressure is certainly on Goncalo Guedes of Portugal at the 2018 FIFA World Cup.

This may be the last major international tournament where he remains in the five-time Ballon d’Or winner’s shadow, but it won’t stop him from being one of Fernando Santos’ side’s biggest threats.

The comparisons do not only take into account his ability to cut inside from the left flank and cause havoc or his knack of scoring stunning goals, but also the fact he is the only man to have made the Portugal squad at 18 years of age since the Real Madrid ace broke onto the scene.

Now 21, Guedes has established himself after a fine season in Spain with Valencia on loan and, following this break-out season, he has a point to prove as he travels to Russia.

To see who else features in The Boot Room’s World Cup Ones to Watch series, click here.

Who is he?

On the books of French giants Paris Saint-Germain, Goncalo Guedes has been touted as one of Europe’s hottest young talents for some time, but he now finally seems to be living up to that potential.

The winger made his debut for boyhood club Benfica as a 17-year-old in 2014 and rapidly caught the eye, particularly with his dazzling displays in Europe scoring against the likes of Atletico Madrid in the Champions League, making him the youngest ever Portuguese player to score in the competition.

He did enough to persuade PSG to pay Benfica €30 million (£26.2 million) for his services in January 2017, making 11 appearances before the season was out but with only two of them coming as starts and only once completing the full 90 minutes, against second division opposition in the Coupe de France.

That led to a loan move to Valencia for the 2017/18 season and, with a role as a regular starter again, he has returned to his best. Involved in 17 goals – six scored and 11 assists – in 38 games across all competitions, many believe him to be fundamental to Los Che’s return to Champions League football.

(Photo by Carlos Rodrigues/Getty Images)

What is his international experience/record?

Guedes is very much still making his name on the international stage as one of a handful of exciting young talents breaking into the Portugal squad since their Euro 2016 success, but the winger is the only one to have established himself as a regular in Fernando Santos’ team.

With only 10 caps to date, Guedes made his senior international debut in 2015, playing twice against Russia and Luxembourg before disappearing from the scene.

After that, the youngster rejoined the under 21 squad as one of their key men but suffered frustration as his side crashed out of the 2017 European Under 21 Championships at the group stage.

He would return just in time for the end of World Cup qualification in 2017, playing just one minute of that campaign.

Since the end of qualifying, Guedes has been an ever-present, whether from the start or as an impact substitute and registered his first goal and assist for his country against Saudi Arabia in October.

On Thursday evening, in Portugal’s final warm-up game prior to the tournament, the 21-year-old went on to grab an impressive brace to ensure victory over Algeria.

Why will he be a breakout World Cup star?

Sharing a pitch with Cristiano Ronaldo and still managing to stand out is no easy task, but Guedes has what it takes to do just that. In fact, he is one of very few men to able to line-up alongside the Real Madrid man and show an understanding and connection with him.

That could make him crucial to Portugal’s game plan, particularly in a tough opening fixture against Spain, a side he knows well having caused problems against the likes of Dani Carvajal when facing up against him for Valencia in La Liga.

“He’s a player with characteristics that allow him to play in a number of attacking positions,” coach Fernando Santos said to O Jogo after he picked up the man of the match award in only his second ever start for Portugal.

“You can’t define him as a winger or as a forward, he can adapt to any offensive position.” 

His versatility could be pivotal as to his ability to go above and beyond this summer, giving his team an option which few are able to predict, given that Santos himself seems happy toying with him in several different positions.

“Guedes has the ability to play out wide or supporting through the middle, which makes him an option due to his versatility, especially as this Portugal team doesn’t have much quality in attacking positions,” A Bola journalist Luis Simoes explains.

“He understands Cristiano Ronaldo very well, and he scores too.”

With a reputation for scoring some remarkable goals, it may not be a surprise to see him make the headline for a solo run or 30-yard wonder strike either.

(Photo by Jose Jordan/AFP/Getty Images)

What is his future after the World Cup?

It is almost certain that Guedes will be on the move once his involvement in Russia has come to an end as AS report that he will become one of PSG’s victims of Financial Fair Play this summer as the Parisians look to balance the books.

Super Deporte say that Valencia are keen to make his loan deal a permanent one and Real Madrid have also been impressed by his time in Spain, according to AS.

That has set off alarm bells in the Premier League too, with Sport Witness citing L’Equipe as saying that both Liverpool and Wolverhampton Wanderers are in the race to complete a €45 million (£39 million) deal, whilst Manchester United were interested when he instead opted to move to France in January 2017, according to Portuguese outlet ZeroZero.

Represented by Jorge Mendes, his agent could have a big say in deciding his future, which could play into Wolves’ hands, despite previous claims from his father, Rogerio Guedes, to Tribuna Deportiva that he is keen to stay on at Valencia if the two parties can come to an agreement.

To see who else features in The Boot Room’s World Cup Ones to Watch series, click here.

Sam is a football journalist focusing on English football at all levels and Spanish football. He also writes for Spain's biggest daily sports newspaper, MARCA, as well as The Boot Room. Find Sam on Twitter at @samleveridge.

Liverpool

Liverpool fans react on Twitter to Timo Werner performance v South Korea

Liverpool have been linked with the Germany forward, who struggled in Russia.

Mathew Nash

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Germany are out of the World Cup after losing 2-0 to South Korea. Sweden and Mexico now advance from their group with the Germans heading home in the first round for the first time since 1938.

The inquiry now begins into what went wrong for Germany. Too much reliance on the old guard? Manuel Neuer back too soon? Leroy Sane?

But for many German fans, it was the performances of Timo Werner that will be to blame.

The RB Leipzig forward came into the tournament on fire. The 22-year-old scored 21 goals in 45 games last season. However, he failed to find the net at the World Cup in hard-working but ultimately toothless displays.

His performance in the South Korea game, where he squandered chances, caught the attention of Liverpool fans.

(Photo credit should read LUIS ACOSTA/AFP/Getty Images)

Liverpool have long been linked with a move for Werner. Jurgen Klopp is believed to be a big fan of his countryman. Bild reported Klopp was ready to sanction a £87 million move for the player back in March, only for the Liverpool Echo to insist Werner was not on a list of targets for this summer.

His performances at the World Cup are hardly going to change that.

Liverpool fans on Twitter certainly don’t see what all the fuss is about and would rather see Werner left be. Apart from some, who think now might be the perfect time to strike and sign Werner at a lower price.

It seems unlikely Werner will be at Liverpool next season and, based on the World Cup, that’s probably for the best right now…

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Liverpool

Liverpool fans won’t be disheartened by lack of Timo Werner talks after World Cup display

The German has been heavily linked with Liverpool but is still not the finished article.

Mathew Nash

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One man who has been consistently linked with a move to Liverpool in recent seasons is German striker Timo Werner. The Leipzig star was, therefore, being watched closely by Reds fans when Germany took on Mexico in the first game of Germany’s World Cup defence.

Werner, who has also been tipped as one of 10 players to watch at the World Cup by The Boot Room, did not have his best game.

The Leipzig striker struggled throughout the game to make any sort of impact against Mexico’s excellent defenders. In the end, he was hauled off, limping, after a poor display in Moscow, with El Tri winning the game 1-0.

Whilst Liverpool continues to be a rumoured destination for Werner, it is clear that the Reds are not apparently interested. It was reported by the Liverpool Echo that the club made it clear he was not a target as far back as March. Which was a surprise, considering he has scored 21 goals this season.

(Photo by Hector Vivas/Getty Images)

But based on this performance, Liverpool fans will not be too disappointed in the decision.

With Nabil Fekir no longer arriving, the Werner rumours had recently come back to the surface. But it would appear Rhian Brewster, handed a new deal by Liverpool this weekend, may now get a pathway to the first-team.

As for Werner, his ability is not in doubt. This summer he may make a move and wherever he goes he will surely be a success.

But Liverpool will not be overly concerned about their decision to let a transfer move slide.   

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Manchester United

Fans react on Twitter to Sergej Milinkovic-Savic performance

Manchester United have been heavily linked with a move for the Lazio midfielder.

Mathew Nash

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Photo: Getty Images

Serbia took on Costa Rica in the World Cup today and put in a solid performance, eventually coming away with a 1-0 win. Aleksandar Kolarov scored the winner with a fantastic long-range free-kick.

But for Manchester United fans the man to watch was Lazio midfielder Sergej Milinkovic-Savic.

Tipped by The Boot Room as one of 10 players to watch at the World Cup he has been linked with a move to United recently.

Valued at £87.5 million, did he live up to the hype?

The reaction to his performance was, in parts, mixed.

What was clear is that Milinkovic-Savic is a fantastic talent. Big and strong he rivals United midfielder and Serbia teammate Nemanja Matic for physicality.

But he is also extremely agile and nimble. Quick-footed, he often left Costa Rica players chasing shadows with some brilliant skill.

The highlight of his performance was perhaps an overhead kick attempt in the first-half. He leaped out of nowhere, defying his frame, before unleashing an acrobatic effort at Keylor Navas’ goal.

It was a good performance and one perhaps more indicative of potential than the finished article. Manchester United are undoubtedly in the running for the player but are not alone, with Juventus, Real Madrid and Paris Saint-Germain all chasing the player.

His display v Costa Rica certainly showed why there is so much hype over a player who can do so many different jobs in midfield. Improvements still need to be made, but the raw talent is clearly there.

Here is how fans reacted on Twitter…

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