Ángel Gutiérrez y Alberto Sáenz/Atlético de Madrid

João Félix

Benfica to Atlético Madrid, €126m

João Félix, the fourth most expensive player of all time, burst through with Benfica after moving to the Portuguese giants as a youth player in 2015 – having already been released by rivals Porto for being too skinny. He made his debut for Benfica B in Portugal’s LigaPro aged 16, and in doing so became their youngest ever player.

Felix made his first senior start for Benfica in August 2018 and scored his first goal a week later against rivals Sporting Lisbon, becoming the youngest ever goalscorer in a Lisbon derby. A further record followed when he became the youngest to score a hat-trick in the Europa League, in a 4-2 victory over Eintracht Frankfurt. During the 2018/19 league season, Felix also impressively averaged one key contribution – either goal or assist – every 72 minutes.

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Tactical analysis
Joao Felix is, above all else, a goalscorer. He shows predatory instincts inside the penalty area and intelligent movement to create goalscoring opportunities. The 19-year-old largely played in a front two for Benfica, alongside Haris Seferovic. He generally started as the right-sided striker but drifted to different areas, dropping into space between the lines (below) during build-up phases to either set and spin or turn and advance play. Importantly, he has shown himself very difficult to follow.

Felix scans before he drops when making those movements and as the ball travels towards him, so that he knows his next move once he receives possession. When a build-up is happening without his direct involvement, he often drifts to the blindside of opponents (bottom), particularly when forward or diagonal passes are being played and a defender’s focus is on the ball.

This is particularly key in the final third, where he therefore has enough time to create space before making his final movement to finish the attack. He predominantly makes his runs between defenders, and looks to receive in the space behind the defensive line – unless possession goes high and wide, and he instead halts his run and changes direction in pursuit of a cut-back.

The Portuguese is predominantly right-footed, scoring 14 of his 20 goals in all club competitions last season with his right foot; of the remaining six, three were scored with his left, and three his head. Eighteen of his 20 goals came from inside the penalty area; 11 were scored from central positions, between the posts; three came on the right side of the penalty area, and six on the left.

Role at new club
Felix is capable of becoming the ideal successor to the departing Antoine Griezmann. His time in a front two at Benfica makes him suited to their manager Diego Simeone’s 4-4-2, and in the long-term he will likely partner fellow new signing Alvaro Morata.

His movement around the penalty area, and ability to find spaces behind and between compact defences, with the timing and direction of his runs will also suit a team long comfortable at both dominating matches and soaking up pressure.

The multiple changes taking place at Atléti this summer include the departure of influential players who represented their spine; Diego Godin and Rodri have already left, respectively for Inter Milan and Manchester City, and Griezmann is expected to follow.

Simeone can be expected to retain the same philosophy and his trusted 4-4-2; with the classy Koke and Saúl Ñíguez behind Felix in midfield, his runs will regularly be found. The replacement for Griezmann, he will even inherit the Frenchman’s number seven shirt.

João Félix

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