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Player Profile: Fernando Meira  

Fernando MeiraFull name: Fernando José da Silva Freitas Meira

Position: Defender

Date of Birth: 5 June 1978

Birthplace: Guimaraes, Portugal

 

There are rarely better stories in professional sports than a local boy making it to the big time. This certainly applies to Fernando Meira, born and raised in Portugal’s founding city, Guimaraes.

He has come a long way since his early days, but the quietly-spoken Meira has never forgotten his origins and recently stated he would like to end his career where he started it, playing for his hometown club Vitoria Guimaraes.

His imposing frame makes Meira an intimidating physical obstacle for opposing attackers, but it is as much the elegance with which the central defender brings the ball out of defence and his intelligent distribution that has made him such a success. Indeed, such is his assurance on the ball he has often played as a defensive midfielder.

He started his career in 1995 with Vitoria Guimaraes at the age of just 17. After spending a spell out on loan to Felgueiras, Meira was recalled in 1999, quickly cementing his place in the Guimaraes starting XI in a highly promising season.

Record transfer fee


Benfica had seen enough and in the summer of 2000 the Lisbon giants paid four million euros to take Meira south to the capital. The transaction was the highest ever paid at the time for a Portuguese player within the Portuguese league.

Meria’s reputation continued to grow at Benfica where he featured in 42 matches and the maturity the young defender’s displays even earned him the captain’s armband and a first call-up to the senior Portugal national team.

Now aged 23, clubs across Europe were starting to take notice. Benfica’s chronic financial problems led them to reluctantly sell Meira in January 2002, with the Portuguese club almost doubling their investment as the player signed for German club VfB Stuttgart for 7.5 million euros.

His immediate adaptation set the tone for a flourishing career in the Bundesliga, where Meira has totalled over 130 appearances for Stuttgart. He is held in high regard in Germany, and it came as little surprise when the Portuguese international was made team captain in 2006, skippering his side to a dramatic last-ditch German championship win to complete surely the most memorable 12 months of his career.

After 173 league appearances and 11 goals in his Stuttgart career, Meira decided to accept a lucrative offer from Turkish giants Galatasaray in the summer of 2008, but the centre-back did not last one full season in Istanbul. In March 2009 he was on the move again, joining Portugal team-mate Danny in Russia at Zenit St. Petersburg.

International career – Starring role in World Cup


Faced with the task of competing against one of the finest centre-back pairings in world football in Ricardo Carvalho and Jorge Andrade, Fernando Meira’s chances of a regular starting place for Portugal have been limited. In spite of accumulating 40 caps, until last summer Meira had never been able to put a run of appearances together for his country.

All that changed at the 2006 World Cup in Germany. Meira found himself thrust into the front line as he replaced the injured Jorge Andrade, and the big defender let nobody down. Meira made the most of the opportunity on the largest stage of them all, starting all of Portugal’s matches and enjoying an outstanding tournament as he helped Luiz Filipe Scolari’s team to a memorable fourth place finish.

by Marco Pereira (10/06/2009)

ClubAppearances*Goals
Vitoria Guimaraes220
Felgueiras330
Vitoria Guimaraes302
Benfica462
VfB Stuttgart17311
Galatasaray210
Zenit St Petersburg**111
   
 PORTUGAL**542

* League appearances only

** Up to 10 June 2009

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