It’s been quite a week for Raphael Guerreiro.
The 20-year-old defender, who plays for modest French club Lorient, was largely unknown among Portuguese fans until last Friday.
That changed after the left-back’s sparkling debut for the Seleção against Armenia. Things got even better in Manchester on Tuesday night as Guerreiro scored a spectacular winning goal against World Cup runners-up Argentina at Old Trafford.
Portugal over France
Guerreiro, born in Blanc-Mesnil in north-western France to a Portuguese father and a French mother has lived in France all his life, yet the decision about which country to play for was never in doubt.
“I want to make something clear: it was me who chose Portugal. It’s my choice and nobody from my family or my agent tried to influence me,” he told Eurosport in September last year.
After throwing in his lot with the Seleção he made seven appearances for the U21 side, with coach Rui Jorge giving glowing reports to the Portuguese Football Federation (FPF) coaching staff, so much so that he got the call-up to the senior side from Fernando Santos.
Given what has happened this week, Guerreiro must be happier than ever with his decision. He made no attempt to hide his delight when speaking to fpf.pt after the match in Manchester.
“I work every day to improve and it’s not this goal or this game that’s going to stop me doing that. I know that to return to the Seleção I have to keep working very hard, starting from tomorrow.
“This is a joyful day for me. Scoring in this stadium, against Argentina, is obviously a very happy moment. I feel I’m growing as a player and coming to the Seleção will help me in this evolution. The squad has treated me fantastically all week. It’s with enormous pride that I wear the Portugal shirt, and I hope to wear it for many years.”
Guerreiro may have come out of the blue for many, but for the more attentive he showed excellent potential from a young age. He passed through France’s famous Clairefontaine football academy, and began his career at local team Caen, where he soon stood out and was considered the best left-back in Ligue2.
Rumours began swirling that big clubs were after his signature, but Guerreiro made the wise move of signing for Lorient, where he had a good chance of nailing down a first-team place, the Ligue1 side paying €2.5 million for his services.
The full-back soon established himself as an automatic starter. A tenacious and aggressive defender, his speed, accurate passing and good crossing make him a useful attacking weapon.
Real Madrid ambition
His game has drawn comparisons with Real Madrid’s Portuguese left-back Fábio Coentrão. Guerreiro may soon be competing with Coentrão for a starting spot in the Seleção, and if his career continues on an upward trajectory and pans out as he desires, even at club level.
“My father is a Benfica fan and me too, and I’d love to play for them. But my dream is to play for Real Madrid,” he said in the Eurosport interview. “When you’re a footballer you can’t be indifferent to the history of that club.”
One month shy of his 21st birthday, Guerreiro still has a lot to learn to reach such heights. For now, Seleção coach Fernando Santos must be delighted that in an ageing Portugal squad, at least in one position he has two high-quality alternatives to wage a healthy battle for the starting berth.
Name: Raphael Adelino José Guerreiro
Date of birth: 22 December 1993 (20 years old)
Place of birth: Le Blanc-Mesnil, France
Height: 1.70 m
Weight: 67 kg
Current club: Lorient (France)
Portugal caps: 2 (1 goal)
by Tom Kundert