Sporting lost their opening Champions League match against Real Madrid on Wednesday, but the team left a positive impression at the Santiago Bernabeu, none more so than 21-year-old winger Gelson Martins.

Gelson continued his flying start to the season with a dazzling display in the Spanish capital, leading to gushing praise from the local press.

“A constant nightmare for Real Madrid’s defenders”, “a memorable display”, “a recital” were some of the phrases used by Spain’s newspapers to describe his performance.

PortuGOAL looks at the reaction triggered by the Portugal U21 international’s dribbling skills.


Gelson first came to attention in Portugal in successive youth tournaments for the national team in 2014 (U19 European championships) and 2015 (U20 World Cup), scoring goals and shining brightly in both tournaments.

Jorge Jesus’s vow  

When Jorge Jesus became Sporting coach last year he immediately stated he had big plans for the Cape Verde born wide player. The coach backed up his promise by giving him 42 appearances despite the fact he only turned 20 shortly before the start of the season. The skilful and speedy winger responded to the faith shown in him by scoring 7 goals in all competitions.

This season he has built on that form, starting every one of Sporting’s five games in 2016/17, scoring two goals and providing three assists.

Another indication of Gelson’s standing in the eyes of coach Jorge Jesus is that he is an automatic starter despite the heavy investment made by the Lisbon club, above all in the attacking sector. For the time being expensive new recruits such as Lazar Markovic, Joel Campbell, Alan Ruiz, André Souza and Luc Castaignos are behind Gelson in the pecking order.

Even accounting for his excellent start to the new campaign, it is fair to say the uninhibited nature of his football at the home of the current Champions League holders in midweek took everyone aback, not least the Spanish press.

“Gelson astounds the world with a superstar display at the Bernabeu,” wrote Marca. “He was a constant nightmare for Sergio Ramos, Varane and especially Marcelo. It was a memorable display from a 21-year-old player unknown in Spain.”

Both El País and AS were similarly impressed. “A Cape Verdean who maintains the fabulous tradition of the great wingers produced by Sporting’s youth academy. Today Gelson was a constant nightmare for Marcelo and his team-mates,” wrote the former, while the latter said “it seemed like he was Figo’s son.”

In its match report Catalan newspaper Sport stated “Gelson gave an authentic recital”.

“The Heir”

Back in Portugal Gelson features heavily in today’s sports press, with A Bola running a big feature on the new golden boy of Alvalade. The paper labels Gelson “The Heir” to the great wingers that have been produced by the Lisbon club: Futre, Figo, Simão, Quaresma, Ronaldo and Nani. It is pointed out that four of these wingers went on to enjoy great success in the Spanish capital (see image, right).

O Jogo goes so far as to say that Real Madrid have now earmarked Gelson as a future transfer target, speculating that the Merengues will make their move next summer.

That may be jumping the gun, but should Gelson maintain his current rate of progression, it is not fanciful to imagine him becoming the next Alcochete nurtured player that earns Sporting a huge windfall. One month ago João Mário was sold to Inter Milan for a fee that could rise to €45 million. Gelson’s buyout clause is €60 million.

Shades of Ronaldo 2003

Gelson’s performance on Wednesday has drawn comparisons with Cristiano Ronaldo’s famous match for Sporting against Manchester United in 2003. The Madeiran’s display in that pre-season friendly was so mesmerising it persuaded United manager Alex Ferguson to take the then 17-year-old to Old Trafford that very summer, reportedly after several of the English team’s players had implored the Scot to seal the deal.

Were Real Madrid’s players similarly enamoured with Gelson? Real Madrid left-back Marcelo certainly won’t forget him in a hurry. “Gelson gave me a hard time,” admitted the Brazilian international after the match on Wednesday. Watch this space.

by Tom Kundert

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  • Rated 5 out of 5 stars

    He was sensational. This guy has it all and this performance will only add confidence. Hopefully, people will keep realistic and not put unnecessary pressure on him, calling him the next whoever. But I fear it maybe too late. Remember Bruma?

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  • Guest - jalil ahmed

    Rated 5 out of 5 stars

    Gelson Martins is wonderful player with awesome dribbling skills and pace.. he is great talent wothout any doubt but all he needs is to be consistent and work more harder than ever to become a superstar player for sporting cp and Portugal..

    Gelson can full up shoes of aged and inconsistent Nani in Portugal squad as he is immense talent and in my opinion way better than nani.. He needs to improve his finishing skills and his passing otherwise he will be next great winger of sporting lisbon..

    Today I have read on Jornal Record newspaper that President of Cape Verdean Football offered Gelson and Ruben Semedo to play for Cape Verde national team.. In my opinion it will be huge loss for Portugal to miss these two fantastic players who have potential to become starters for Portugal very soon I wish Fernando Santos call these two players same like nelson semedo in upcoming qualifiers and give them some minutes to ensure that they will play for Portugal in future.. It will be huge huge loss to lose these two players as we know that Portugal centre defenders are aged and we surely need any young and talented defemder to step up and seal the place of aged Bruno Alves and in my point of view Ruben Semedo is Portugal best CB in Portuguese Liga or across all Europe.. His tackling ability, player marking and ball clearance is wonderful as we have seen this season and especially against Real Madrid.. He is wonderful defender he will surely become starter in upvomping tournaments for Portugal so we must ensure that he only play for Portugal..

    Talking about Gelson he will be next great winger and he can snatch starting position in Portugal from nani in upcoming seasons so we must not allow him to represent Cape verde and call him up for Portugal squad as quickly as possible as we did with Nelson Semedo..

    You people forgot about Bruma and you think that he is still flop I have watched him playing in turkey this season.. wow what a wonderful player he I now as we all have seen him in u20 world cup 2013.. he has worked harder than ever to come back to his best and he is in form of his life right now.. his speed ia classic and his dribbling skills have very improved now.. he is scoring goals and providing assists in every other match.. I wish he plays in any good league to show his talent to the world and remove flop tag from his name.. He should also given chance to Portugal team as we are lacking creative and goal scoring attackers..

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  • Jalil ,
    Bruma is young so he can always improve. But Bruma was playing great for sporting Lisbon and was amazing at the u20 world cup. However, he thought he was better than sporting and wanted a move. he believed the hype and suffered. His time in Spain was decent, still not showing the talent he once had. Can he improve? Yes, will he be the player he was made out to be? Remains to be seen. Gelson can be better, as long as he stays grounded and stays away from serious injuries.

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  • I hate to tell you guys this, but Gelson has done nothing, and is not even responsible for his own abilities.

    "No (when asked if he has the best team in the league). The team works for me and is run by me, which is why they are the best in Portugal. The secret is in the coach".

    -Jorge Jesus.

    Stay classy.

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  • Chris
    Rated 5 out of 5 stars

    LOL! Good ol JJ. When they win its all me, when they lose its the ref or UFO's or bigfoot.

    These comparisons must be nice for the ego and the wallets at Sporting but what good can come of them? This is how football works I guess. Ronny Lopes was hyped up, so was Bebe, Nelson Oliveira. Maybe leave Gelson alone and let him develop as best he can. Kid seems to have a good head so far like Andre Silva.

    Why are people slamming Nani still? Seriously? The guy was off the charts at the Euro. Damn.

    Bruma isnt a flop imo, a flop is someone who was supposed to reach a certain level and then never got anywhere close. Bruma is a jerk. He had 1 good U20 tournament then tried to blackmail Sporting into a big contract, Sporting said no (and rightfully so) and now he is playing in Turkey. Karma done good.

    from Burlington, ON, Canada
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"More reinforcements will arrive at no cost, but I don't want to talk much about them."

Jorge Jesus
(Sporting coach says the club will be making more January additions (free transfers) to the squad)


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