Joao Felix: The Next Kaka

Joao Felix
Joao Felix of Benfica celebrates his side's goal during the Portugal Cup football match between SL Benfica and Sporting CP at Luz Stadium in Lisbon on February 6, 2019. (Photo by Carlos Palma/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

João Félix is one of the hottest young names in football. The 19-year-old has burst onto the scene with Benfica scoring seven goals in just 13 appearances, including some starring performances. That quality has brought his name into the news the past couple of days with all the big clubs taking a look at the teenager. With that in mind lets take a look at why Joao Felix is attracting so much attention.

Joao Felix: the Next Portuguese Wonderkid?

Who is Joao Felix?

Born in Viseu, a city in the central region of Portugal, Felix hasn’t always been a top prospect. Yes, it’s true that he spent seven years at Porto, one of the best academies in Portugal. But he was released at age 14 because of his slight frame. You would think academies would’ve stopped releasing players because of their physique, especially at fourteen. Because it always seems like they get burned by it.

As is the case with Joao Felix, who could not have benefited from the move more. Since moving to Benfica he has grown to 180 cm(5’11”) and demonstrated elite talent.  There is no denying that this kid has the talent to be outstanding.

He burst onto the scene quickly after making the move to Benfica in 2015. By September of 2016, he became the youngest player to ever make his debut for Benfica B. By 2017 he had debuted for the Portuguese U21 side. He was even called up to the first team to start this season.

He started the season coming off the bench through Christmas. Then Benfica lost 2-0 on the road against Portimonense, who currently sit 9th. Their star striker, Jonas, was sent off in that game, only just returning this past weekend.  The coach used that loss to change his system and bring Joao Felix into the starting eleven.

Here Comes Joao

So after that loss, Benfica changed to a 4-4-2 and made Felix one of the strikers, and they have been flying since. Benfica has won all their league games, only losing once to Porto in a cup game. Felix himself has six goals and two assists in that run, but it’s his combination play that has made Benfica so much stronger.

The change in system, and starting strikers, also means the addition of Haris Seferovic to the Benfica starting eleven. The 26-year-old Swiss international is currently enjoying the best run of his career with nine goals and three assists since the switch. Seferovic and Felix have already formed a strong partnership that benefits Benfica all over the field.

It was on display perfectly this past weekend as Benfica hammered Nacional 10-0, that’s right TEN to zero. The third goal was made by the two strikers as Joao Felix picked up the ball in a central position. Then without hesitation, he fired a no-look through ball that hit Seferovic perfectly in-stride. Seferovic finished it off nicely, but it was the pass from Felix that did all the work for him.

That’s a 19-year-old kid, in his first season with the first team, playing a no-look, line splitting pass into stride. That’s the type of quality and skill that scouts look for when trying to find the next great player. Anyone could play the pass or even play it well. But only a kid destined for greatness could play it perfectly with that level of confidence.

His Comparisons

With confidence like that, it’s no wonder that he is drawing comparisons to all sorts of great players. There have already been comparisons to his compatriot Cristiano Ronaldo, which is totally unfair to the kid. Ronaldo is too lofty a comparison for anyone, but there are worth comparisons for Felix.

On the Wikipedia page for Felix, it says that he is most compared to Rui Costa. The Portuguese international playmaker used to work wonders in the no.10 position, especially in his time at AC Milan and Fiorentina. Costa is a strong comparison, but there is a better one.

When Kaka burst onto the scene for both AC Milan and Brazil, he was an incredible phenomenon. Kaka could do it all, playing in the no.10 position or as a second striker, the Brazilian had the skill to climb all the way to the Ballon d’Or. Not the most athletic, Kaka had timing and vision nearly unmatched.

But watch any of Kaka’s highlights and something else stands out; his spacial awareness. Kaka always knew where the open space was, when it was going to be open, and how to get the ball there. Its a trait shared by all the great players; the trait that made players like Xavi and Andres Iniesta so effective.

Felix & Kaka

And it’s a trait that Joao Felix possesses. He understands when and how to use the space around him. He has the touch and skill to use it, and the tricks for everyone to enjoy it.  The guy looks like a Brazilian Futsal player with all the backheels and tricks he pulls.  Something Kaka would surely appreciate.

As his body and mind mature those skills will only become more prevalent, allowing him to impact more games like Kaka. He has already had a major impact with Benfica at just 19. When Kaka burst out at Milan he was 21, so there is still plenty of room for this kid to grow. And with all that visible potential its no wonder the biggest clubs in the world are trying to sign him.

His Best Fit

Do a quick google search and its easy to see how coveted this kid is. Everyone from Manchester UnitedLiverpool, to Real Madrid, Barcelona, to Juventus, Inter & AC Milan want to sign Joao Felix. But what has complicated their pursuit is the reported 100 million price tag Benfica have reportedly placed on their star talent.

A place like Inter Milan could be really good for him, but not at that price. Unless they do something drastic like sell star striker Mauro Icardi they don’t have that type of money. And the other places are going to wait until that reported price tag comes down.

But until that happens the best fit might be for him to stay at Benfica. He will get plenty of chances to play, and as long he keeps playing well he will get better and better. Then there is no doubt this kid will be making that big money move to a club near you.

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