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Tuesday, 27 May 2014 14:40

Moutinho saving his best for Brazil?

Review of Portugal midfielder’s debut season at Monaco

joao-moutinho-20110516.jpgJoão Moutinho is arguably Portugal’s most important player after captain Cristiano Ronaldo. France-based football journalist James Eastham runs the rule over the midfielder’s somewhat underwhelming first season at Monaco.
With the club season now officially over football fans around the globe are getting ready to monitor world cup livescores as excitement ahead of Brazil 2014 reaches fever pitch. How far the Seleção go could depend heavily on the form of midfield dynamo João Moutinho.

It came as no surprise to close followers of Ligue 1 when sports daily L’Equipe named Moutinho as one of their five ‘disappointments of the season’ in their 2013/14 review edition. There were great expectations surrounding the Portugal midfielder when he joined Monaco from FC Porto for around €25 million last summer but it would be fair to say that, in the eyes of most observers, he has failed to live up to them.
Fans of the 27-year-old midfielder were expecting to see a player that would dictate games from the middle of the pitch, drive his team forward and generally be an important figure in Claudio Ranieri’s expensively-assembled side. What they got instead was a player that started the season brightly – Moutinho was arguably Ligue 1’s outstanding performer in August and September 2013 – but soon faded, and ended up as a peripheral figure in too many of Monaco’s performances.
His disappointing stats – just one goal and six assists in 30 Ligue 1 starts and one substitute appearance – tell only part of the story. Many Monaco fans would have overlooked those underwhelming top-line figures had Moutinho successfully pulled the strings in a deeper role, but too often it was difficult to discern exactly what influence he was having on the side.
In theory, Monaco’s 4-1-2-1-2 formation should have suited him. Moutinho was handed one of the ‘two’ midfield positions, normally operating alongside either Morocco international Mounir Obbadi or France international Geoffrey Kondogbia. But while he spent plenty of time on the ball and retained possession fairly well – Moutinho averaged 66.5 passes a game – there were times when his play seemed too safe and too predictable for a player of his abilities.
Instead of Moutinho making the headlines in the middle of the pitch it was the players at the opposite ends of Monaco’s midfield diamond – Jeremy Toulalan, in the holding role, and James Rodriguez, playing just off the front men – that emerged as the most important members of the quartet.
The first-term report on Moutinho would be “passable, but could do better.” Monaco supporters will certainly be looking for more from him next season when they hope to challenge PSG at the top of the Ligue 1 table and also make an impact in the Champions League.
by James Eastham

Comments (24)
Nani still suckz
24 Saturday, 31 May 2014 20:14
Antonio/ Viseu
OK sooo My post has nothing to do with moutinho. I'm sorry but there's no Greece story on here n I can't hold my frustration till there is. I'm sitn here watchn the Greece game n this Assh#"! Looks more worthless then when Freddy adu playd on Benfica !! And yet his girlfriend Bento subz every1 xept Worthless Nani !! I'm sorry all my fellow Portuga'z but I'm afraid we r all gonna have to suffer for 3 miserable games @ the W/C. I say 3 cause with this lame squad we ain't goin anywhere xept back on Tap airlines to come back home :\
23 Saturday, 31 May 2014 10:55
You can see all televised Portuguese games at feed2all.eu/
Enjoy n thank you for enjoying our soccer!!!
22 Saturday, 31 May 2014 06:22
Good luck Selecao for Grece match.If anybody know about that please inform me that which channel will telecast this match at South Asian jone.......please...............................
Wish he would shoot more
21 Friday, 30 May 2014 14:22
@ Ivo - spot on my friend, great post!

I love Moutinho, i think he is a class player. His work rate and sublime passing are his greatest strengths but lost in all this was/is his ability to shoot from long range. I dont know why he stopped doing so, but i wish he would go for it alot more often than he does.

Deco, Maniche even Tiago all would and could shoot accurately from long range and they played similar roles to Moutinho. Shoot more Joao, if you dont someone like Meireles will and we all have seen where his shots end up.
20 Friday, 30 May 2014 12:21
Mat -Australia
I think he has been playing too deep at Monaco. If you remember, most of his good work at the last Eoros came around the box. Portugal can win the aWorld Cup. Believe.
Not worried about USA
19 Friday, 30 May 2014 04:59
There back-line is terrible and even if Portugal is known for not scoring alot of goals. I believe we can put 2-3 goals on USA.
18 Thursday, 29 May 2014 03:20
Mat -Australia
I think he has been playing too deep at Monaco. If you remember, most of his good work at the last Eoros came around the box. Portugal can win the aWorld Cup. Believe.
17 Wednesday, 28 May 2014 22:01
Only way USA beats the seleccao is by outrunning, outmuscling, and taking lots more shots at goal. The only way they win is if Portugal doesn't score more than 1, and and they outlast CR7 and company athletically. Klinsman changied the teams style of play (why else is he upset about the big name players leaving Europe for MLS, and he has foreign born European players on the roster?), but they still lack the ball and tactical skills on the field.
16 Wednesday, 28 May 2014 20:35
Great points Ivo. I used to think that Moutinho was just ok and happened to look a lot better with great players around him. Although that may still hold true, you have to watch Moutinho play day in day out to fully appreciate his talents. He does all the things, and I wouldn't say little, that make a team go.
I've learned to appreciate Moutinho more by watching him play.

As for the Selacao situation, I'm afraid that he better be on fresh legs. I don't think Meireles will be able to string together multiple good performances and Veloso just occupies space. Nani will be out of firm and Cristiano will look to conserve energy.
Moutinho will be busy.
15 Wednesday, 28 May 2014 18:26
Great rebuttal! Send that to the same paper who rated Moutinho as a disappointment
Goals and Assists
14 Wednesday, 28 May 2014 17:12
If Monaco were expecting a player like Moutinho to become a prolific playmaker or scorer, then I don't know what type of scouting they were relying on. Just looking at his career stats will tell you that he has never really excelled at scoring or providing assists. With Sporting he had 20 assists and 21 goals in 163 league games. With Porto he had 18 assists and 4 goals in 69 league games. For Monaco he had 1 goal and 8 assists in 34 league starts.

With respect to his rate of assists per game, this stat was nearly identical during his first season at Monaco (.24 apg) when compared with his time at Porto (.26 apg). He also provided signficantly more assists per game for Monaco than he did for Sporting (.12 apg). As for goal scoring, this past season with Monaco was his worst (.03 gpg) but again he never really really tore up the charts in Portugal with this statistic either (.13 gpg for Sporting and .06 gpg for Porto).

So Moutinho never really excelled at filling up the stat sheet but he does other things really well. For example, he had an 86% pass completion rate last season compared with 81% for Rodriguez. Whoscored also lists "defensive contribution" as one of his "very strong" strengths, in addition to taking set pieces, direct free kicks and passing. Defensive contribution is not even considered with respect to Rodriguez who is likely instructed to play a more attacking role and hence has more goals.

Interestingly, despite Moutinho being considered one of the "disappointments of the season" his whoscored rating (7.26) is very similar to Rodriguez's (7.41). So again, goal scoring and assist stats aren't everything.
13 Wednesday, 28 May 2014 16:23
Nelson / Canada
Fair play mate; I'm excited about the future generation as well!

I also have heard the American arrogance on how they feel that portugal is weak and only a one trick pony. I've also heard references to how they beat us in South Korea in 2002. And I like that some media referenced that because I've been looking for revenge for that tournament for 12 years. That was the lowest point for me since I started watching the team at euro 96. Even missing France 98 wasn't as hard to take because of the way the team imploded.
re: Nelson
12 Wednesday, 28 May 2014 15:13
You're right, and I am very excited about the World Cup. I'm not saying we don't have a chance because I believe we have a real shot to make it to at least the quarterfinals. After that anything can happen and it will come down to luck/injuries/suspensions, etc...

All of the players I mentioned are indeed untested, but we can always hope that after two more years of playing for their clubs they will be ready to replace some of our aging stars. Bruno Alves, Pepe, Postiga, Almeida, J. Pereira, and possibly Meireles are on their last tournament. Not all of those players are well liked as it is, but they still need replacing for France 2016. There is reason to be excited. Even the U-21s disappointing exit at the hands of Ghana last year was not enough to hide their tremendous talent, especially Bruma and Cavaleiro.

This world cup is huge for so many reasons, and I'm desperately hoping we continue to exceed the world's expectations. In the US, all the talk right now is about how Portugal are overrated. I would love for the Selecao to stick it to my "ignorant-of-all-things-football" countrymen. There's no better time to give the Yanks "six of the best", just like we did to Bosnia when they were saying they could beat us before the Euros.
Ronaldo fitness
11 Wednesday, 28 May 2014 14:49
So, given the potential injury concerns for Ronaldo, what's the thinking should Ronaldo need to miss a game? Obviously, it would be a huge loss, but who steps in as a replacement for CR7 and how does Bento adjust the tactics in such a situation?

Varela is a good substitute, but not sure he would be the first choice to start if CR7 is out.

This might have been the only scenario where the benefits of having RQ in the team would outweigh the potential drawbacks.
10 Wednesday, 28 May 2014 13:57
Nelson / Canada
Are you guys serious???? How can you be talking about euro 2016 when the World Cup is only a few days away??? This current team is better than the team that took Spain all the way to the brink at the last Euro and I think we'll surprise a lot of people.

Moutinho is a beast and one if the most underrated players in world football. He's had poor seasons before I.e his last at sporting, and has bounced back. He might be a notch below deco and rui costa but he's going to be regarded as one of our all time best midfielders.

As far as 2016 goes all these prospects are just that until they prove themselves in the first team. There's a bunch of Portuguese prospects that never made it.
The Jorge Mendes Effect
9 Wednesday, 28 May 2014 13:50
No doubt that Moutinho is extremely important to our national team, particularly in that lone CM role Bento has created for him, ahead of Meireles and William/Veloso. Thinking back, I can remember Moutinho being snubbed back in the Queiroz days, leaving many perplexed.

I respect all that he’s done for the Seleção in more recent years, but I lost respect for him upon finding out he signed for Monaco last year. When you’re playing for nothing but your contract, a dip in form is only a matter of time. Ligue 1 should be child’s play for a player of Moutinho’s calibre, so the news that fans have voted him one of the season’s biggest disappointments has me concerned.

Jorge Mendes is the best player agent in the world (his job is to make the most money possible for his players and thus himself), but his desire for numbers over quality/fit are beginning to hinder his clients’ careers. Falcao, James, Ricardo Carvalho, Moutinho and now Jardim; all part of Mendes’s plan to oversell his players to remote markets (Monaco’s attendance numbers are laughable) and exploit the richest team owners on the planet.

Can Moutinho get into game form quick enough and burst out of his slump just in time for Brazil? Old habits die hard…
8 Wednesday, 28 May 2014 13:13
JM is the most consistant player the selecao has had in the last 5 years. You know exactly what you are going to get from him day in day out. Hes not flashy, not the best, fastest, skilled etc. but he rarely makes mistakes, you can count on him and he hardly ever disappoints. To me he an obvious starter at WC2014...thats it thats all.
@ Nathan/ USA
7 Wednesday, 28 May 2014 06:30
Monah/ Dubai
I fully agree with what you posted. A bunch of talented youngsters will be ready for France 16 although it's still too early to talk about it. The guys are shining in Toulon, plenty of names to remember especially Ricardo Horta and Helder Costa!

Watch this:

Moutinho is a our second most important player
6 Wednesday, 28 May 2014 01:57
Fact of the matter is Falcao even flopped on Monaco PRIOR to his injury. Both of them should never have gone to Monaco in the first place. Ligue 1 and the Russian Premier League is where the cash flows, but it's also where careers end up side tracked.

Moutinho's sublime passing was just as crucial as Ronaldo's deadly finishing against Sweden.
A nice player... good scouting
5 Wednesday, 28 May 2014 01:04
To say Moutinho is a "nice" player is hilarious. He is the backbone of this Seleccao, just as he was at Sporting and then at Porto. Instead of saying "look at how he slumped at Monaco", look instead at how Porto imploded without him.

Us Portistas were upset from the first instance we heard of his sale because we knew he was indispensable. Honestly, I try to be polite and patient most of the time but Tony CA's comments are consistently of the "Debbie Downer" variety.

If there's a rain cloud to be found about anything Portuguese, this guy is there to act as the meteorologist. Moutinho is the type of player who seems to go unnoticed but does everything behind the scenes.

Everyone loves Ronaldo off for beating Sweden, but they don't consider that the perfect through-pass that set up Ronaldo's first goal in Sweden came from Moutinho's foot. He also helped set up the other 2 by setting up the initial passes. But he's just a "nice player".

Take a look at some of the work of this "nice" player.

4 Tuesday, 27 May 2014 21:57
I agree with your point about Euro 2016. I think that tournament is a more realistic possibility, for us to actually win the tournament, then next month's World Cup. Like you say, I think our squad will be stronger in 2 years time, the main guys won't be too old yet and hopefully some of these promising young players will have matured and gotten plenty of Selecao experience by then.

I'm still optimistic about us having a positive World Cup this summer (actually anything less than the quarters will be disappointing considering the squad we have), but I'm not at all expecting that we're actually gonna win it. In two years time my expectations could be very different though!
Underperformed but also underrated
3 Tuesday, 27 May 2014 21:48
I think one of the most underrated aspects of Moutinho's game is his workrate and ball winning abilities. He is clearly needed to be the creative engine room for the team and he has the skill set to do so, but it also doesn't hurt that he is willing to backtrack, fill space, and win the ball in advanced positions.

He reads the game extremely well and he uses this intellect to win possession by seeing plays develop. When you have an attacking CM doing this- along with hardworking ball winners like Carvalho and Meireles- it allows you to own the center of the park, which is the most critical area and battle in any game. Additionally, his willingness to backtrack helps fill holes that are often left by CR and Nani and is instrumental in getting Portugal's counterattacking going. Again, we desperately need his creativity and flare, but sometimes these little things go unnoticed.
first year blues?
2 Tuesday, 27 May 2014 17:41
You have to consider of course, that this is Moutinho's first season abroad and he's 27. He's at a very rich club with high expectations and lots of new players, a recipe for underachievement for almost any player. It's obviously not ideal that he struggled, but certainly not the end of the world.

Moutinho will be a handful for anyone he faces at the World Cup this summer and that will hopefully give him confidence for his next season with Monaco.

I know this is looking far ahead, but our France 2016 bid is looking stout on paper. We have a host of young, talented players who will hopefully come of age by then: Bruma, Andre Gomes, Tiago Illori, Marcos Lopes, Agostinho Ca & Edgar Ie, Bebe, Cavaleiro, Rafa, etc.. Plus we'll still have a young enough Ronaldo (age 31), William Carvalho (24), Nani (29), Moutinho (29), Coentrao (28), and Neto (28). Not too shabby at all.
Nice Player Not Great
1 Tuesday, 27 May 2014 16:56
Tony, CA
Very important player given this generation has limited options, a back up NT player if playing in a past generation.

Nice player but seems to hit a ceiling and not move much above this ceiling. We need him to step up to be competitive in the 2014 WC. The good news is saves his best for NT.

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