My Favourite Player: Ricardo Quaresma

MY FAVOURITE PLAYER: PORTUGAL’S RICARDO QUARESMA

When you think of great Portuguese players, the usual suspects appear; Eusebio, Ronaldo, Figo, Rui Costa, Nené just to name a few. All these players were incredibly talented and brought great joy to a very proud footballing nation.

However, for me, there is one other son of Portugal, another product of the famous Lisbon academy that goes under the radar, a player that I consider to be one of the most underrated footballers of certainly my generation. The tattooed, tempered, incredibly gifted winger: Ricardo Quaresma.

Considering his immense talents, the man born and raised in Lisbon has not had the easiest of journeys along the rollercoaster ride that is professional football. His rise to stardom as fast as his decline into the obscurity of the Dubai first division, Quaresma has seen it all and experienced his fair share of highs and lows, but now back at his beloved Besiktas, the glorious winger is finding some outstanding form.

He started out a youngster in a very famous Sporting Lisbon Academy, playing alongside another wonder kid, Cristiano Ronaldo. 17 years ago it was, in fact, Quaresma who showed better potential, often prompting the phrase “the next Figo”. During this period Quaresma played 15 games for the B team. After this, he was drafted into the senior squad, scoring three goals in his maiden season and helping “The Leoes” to a famous league and cup double.

He did this wearing their famous green and white jersey, which prompts another one of Sportings nicknames “Verde e Brancos” literally meaning the green and whites. Quaresma would be seen wearing a baggy fitting, long sleeve, Reebok jersey, the baggy fit a sign of the times, and also a sign that the pacey winger probably needed a bit of beefing up.

After his exploits in the Liga Nos, it was pastures new for the wonder kid. Probably the most flattering and “when-they-come-knocking-you answer-the-door” transfer is of course Barcelona. This came for Quaresma who found his way to the Catalan club during 2003 and 2004.

Quaresma would wear the number 20, which would adorn the back of his shirt in big bold gold lettering. The shirt of that season was as traditional as ones before and since, with the maroon and blue stripes featuring, and this time we were treated to a collar. Despite its promise, the move turned sour for Quaresma leading to his refusal to play for the club, this meant his days were numbered and once again he was on the move.

Sadly even with the accolades and famous comparisons,  the Portuguese trickster hadn’t, as of yet, found his feet. However, his next move during the summer of 2004, changed this. Quaresma signed for Portuguese giants Porto.

This club was to change his career, for the better. His time there saw him wear many different kits coming in an array of fits and designs but one thing was the same throughout his years at the club and that was the iconic blue and white stripes that are synonymous with Porto

Over 4 years Quaresma played 114 games scoring 24 goals, his time there was laden with trophies, winning the Primera division 3 times, winning the Taca de Portugal, Cândido de Oliveira Super Cup and the Intercontinental Cup. A brilliant 4 years. Arguably the best time of his career. He will always be remembered for his exploits in Porto.

After this time a few choice moves followed, including stints at Chelsea, Al-Ahli and Inter Milan, where he would earn himself a Champion’s League winners medal.

I think where I began to really be impressed with Quaresma was during his time in Besiktas. I love wingers with flair and quick feet, the type of players that get you excited and you don’t really know what they’re going to do next, and this is what I saw from Quaresma during the period 2010-2012. The way he could manipulate a ball with the outside of his boot, or drag defenders wide and then go past them with a trick or with pace, it just all looked so easy.

I became a big fan during this time and have followed his movements back across to Porto and back to Besiktas where I think he’s massively overlooked as a footballer. Even now he’s still producing moments of magic and is one of the best players in the league.

EURO 2016

Internationally, he hadn’t had the best of times but that all changed in 2016. The triumphant Portuguese side upset the odds and won the European Championships and Quaresma played an integral part in this, even scoring a vital penalty against Poland in the quarter-final.

The reason that Quaresma is underrated in my opinion is because of his natural ability. The faints and drop of the shoulder, his unique ability at finding a pinpoint pass with a rabona or with the outside of his boot. I also think his ability at finding space and exploiting a defenders weakness with devastating effect goes unnoticed at times. He’s also underrated for me because he was unfortunate to have played at the same time as two other wingers, Nani and Ronaldo. For me, I think he had the ability to eclipse both of his teammates but a mixture of ill-informed transfers and maybe managers not understating the maestro, meant his path wasn’t as paved in gold as the other two. I fully believe that if Quaresma had been born later or earlier, he would have been the Ronaldo of his day.

Winning a combined 17 trophies both internationally and domestically, Ricardo Quaresma has cemented himself as a Portuguese legend. You might think what might have been for him, but just look at what he has done and has achieved, playing for top clubs and wearing some iconic kits, an incredible talent and one that still is very underrated.

by Nathan Lord