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Player Profile: João Moutinho  


joao-moutinho-20101125.jpgFull name: João Filipe Iria Santos Moutinho

Position: Midfielder

Date of Birth: 8 September 1986

Birthplace: Portimão, Portugal


After showing great promise as a boy playing for his hometown club, Portimonense, as soon as Joao Moutinho turned 13 he had the chance to sign for one of Portugal’s big three to continue his football education. His sports-fanatic parents encouraged him to sign for Sporting owing to the club’s unparalleled reputation at nurturing home-grown talent.

From the moment the Algarve-born midfielder broke into Sporting’s first team at just 18 years of age, making his debut on 23 January 2005 in the Portuguese Cup, few onlookers doubted they were in the presence of a very special player.

Instant hit

Moutinho wasted no time in establishing himself as a regular as he quickly grew into a polished performer, able to play in any position across a flat midfield or in a diamond formation. His box-to-box dynamism, pinpoint passing and tremendous determination quickly made him a firm fans’ favourite.

João MoutinhoHis performances in his first season, especially in the UEFA Cup where man-of-the-match displays against Feyenoord and Newcastle United helped the Lions reach the final of the competition, made him an automatic starter for Sporting despite his young age.

In his second season Moutinho’s further progress and incredible consistency (the midfielder was the only player in Portugal in 2005/06 to play every minute of every match in the Portuguese Bwin Liga) was one of the few bright spots in an otherwise disappointing season for Sporting. It was fitting that Moutinho should net his team’s final goal of the campaign in a 1-0 win over Braga to ensure a return to Champions League football for the Lisbon club.

In 2006/2007, following the departure of veteran Sá Pinto, Moutinho was made sub-captain at just 19 years of age. Moutinho’s importance to the team is exemplified by the fact that he was considered too important to be included in coach Paulo Bento’s rotation system, having accumulated 84 consecutive appearances up to the winter break.

Excellent performances in Sporting’s Champions League campaign led to speculation of interest from Inter Milan, Barcelona and Manchester United.

International breakthrough

A full Portugal international player at the age of 18, he made his debut against Russia in the World Cup Qualifying campaign and was unlucky to miss out on a place in Luiz Filipe Scolari’s squad for Germany 2006.

Despite fierce competition for places in his central midfield role, competing with seasoned internationals such as Maniche, Deco, Costinha and Tiago, Moutinho forced his way into Scolari’s thinking. He took his place in Portugal’s opening Euro 2008 qualification match against Finland and looked set to embark on a long international career.

Moutinho had steadily but surely built on the hugely promising start to his career. You would not find the Sporting captain spraying wondrously creative passes, going on exhilarating mazy runs or stamping his physical presence on a game, yet that didn’t stopped his stock from rising. Moutinho’s game exudes intelligence. He knits things together neatly in midfield, does the simple things so efficiently and maintains an almost nature-defying consistency, one can consider him the Portuguese Paul Scholes.

In 2007/08 the now married Algarvian broke the record for the most games ever played in a single season by a Portuguese player (56), as Sporting got to the final of both domestic cups and embarked on a lengthy European run. What is remarkable is that you would struggle to find one among those 56 where he played badly.

Controversial FC Porto switch

As Sporting continued to struggle to compete against rivals FC Porto and Benfica for domestic honours, Moutinho’s career went into a period of stagnation, and he again missed out on a World Cup as Portugal coach Carlos Queiroz chose not to take him to South Africa. Nevertheless, it was a huge surprise when in the summer of 2010 the Sporting captain headed north to sign for Porto in an acrimonious transfer, with the then Sporting president José Eduardo Bettencourt famously labelling the player "a rotten apple" in the squad. 

Moutinho with André Villas-BoalMoutinho’s decision in terms of his career progression was fully vindicated as Sporting continued to struggle while the midfielder played a key role in one of FC Porto’s greatest ever seasons. André Villas-Boas’ team swept all before them at home and abroad to claim a treble of Portuguese league and cup and the Europa League. The brilliant Hulk and Falcao got most of the plaudits, but a host of analysts in Portugal were of the view that Moutinho’s contribution in midfield was at least as important.

Moutinho’s move to the Estádio do Dragão also finally brought about his consecration as a mainstay of the national team. Paulo Bento, Moutinho’s long-time coach at Sporting, was now at the helm of the Selecção, and brought the midfielder straight into his starting XI. Moutinho’s magnificent performances made a mockery of Queiroz’s decision to ignore him and as Portugal booked their place at a seventh successive tournament, Moutinho goes to Euro 2012 as arguably Portugal’s most important player after captain Cristiano Ronaldo.

by Tom Kundert (last updated 22/05/2012)

Club Appearances* Goals
Sporting 163 21
FC Porto** 56 3

* League appearances only

** Up to May 2012

Comments (3)
3 Monday, 28 May 2012 14:07
Amazing player. He is the type of player that makes a team tick, and without him, the team are not as good.
more shame
2 Wednesday, 14 July 2010 13:22
is he didn't get called up to the national squad. Wonder why? Deco didn't play the final game, was our midfielding that strong that he was not necessary?
1 Thursday, 04 February 2010 20:44
same he will eventually sign up at everton

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