Weekly Wonderkids: Episode 11

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One of Football Index’s unique attributes as a platform is that it allows traders to pick and choose which players to buy and sell, which to stockpile, and which to keep an eye on in the future. Traders can spot a promising footballer, buy stock in said player, and watch them flourish as the player’s profile grows on the world stage. If you truly believe that a teenage prospect who’s only registered a handful of substitute appearances will go on to become a Golden Boot winner, you have the power to put your money where your mouth is and add him to your portfolio.

Each Monday, Zach Lowy will analyse a new U-23 player who Football Index traders should consider buying in a new weekly series called “Weekly Wonderkids.” With this series, you’ll be able to discover which youngsters you should place your trust in – and money – and why.

Name: Francisco Trincão

Age: 20

Club: Braga (on loan from Barcelona)

Just weeks after their senior team was bounced from the 2018 World Cup in Russia, Portugal were preparing to salvage their last chance of summer silverware at the Under-19 Euros. The majority of their squad had stayed the same since the 2016 U-17 Euros, in which Portugal were victorious. However, there were some noticeable absences that threatened to jeopardise the Selecção’s chances of winning the tournament.

Rafael Leão had taken the summer off to look for a new club after unilaterally cancelling his contract at Sporting. Diogo Dalot, vital in Portugal’s championship in Azerbaijan two years prior, stayed put in Manchester to impress new manager José Mourinho. Gedson Fernandes elected to remain in Lisbon to get into manager Rui Vitória’s good graces, and was promptly rewarded with a starting spot at Benfica. João Félix, widely considered to be the brightest talent from Portugal’s class of 1999, also took the summer off to train with Benfica. With so many important pieces missing, one of the new boys needed to step up in order for Portugal to claim the trophy.

Enter: Francisco Trincão.

Trincão had previously become the youngest player in Braga history to sign a professional contract, attracting the interest of RB Leipzig and Atlético Madrid. In December 2017, he was called up by then manager Abel Ferreira for a Europa League match against İstanbul Başakşehir, but not before having to ask his parents for permission to fly to Turkey. Braga president António Salvador joked that he thought Trincão was 19, not 17, due to his maturity. He began to polish his skills in Portugal’s second tier, but despite scoring 5 goals for Braga’s B side in the 2017/18 season, Trincão didn’t appear on the radar of most scouts until the U-19 Euros.

Early Beginnings in Braga

Born in Viana do Castelo, a seaside town near the border with Spain, Trincão began his footballing development at local club Vianense. Nevertheless, wanting to try his luck at one of Portugal’s three giants, he joined Porto’s academy in 2009. Each week, he would make the hour-long drive with his father from their quaint village of Viana do Castelo to the booming metropolis of Porto, but he struggled to make the grade. “I was still very young, my parents thought it was too early for me to learn football in such a professional manner,” said Trincão in an interview with Observador.

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I never dreamed of success. I worked for it.

A post shared by Trincão (@trincao77) on

The competition in Porto’s academy was too much, so he headed back home to Vianense for a fresh start. After a few months of training with his hometown club, he was spotted by the scouts of Braga, a far more modest, ‘family’ style club than the likes of Porto. Trincão joined Braga’s academy at the age of 11, and marched his way up the youth ranks. After a brief loan spell at local side Palmeiras, he was rewarded with his first professional contract. Such was his talent that just before he headed off to Finland to compete in the U-19 Euros, Salvador renewed that same contract, inserting a €30 million release clause into it.

Breakthrough in Finland

It didn’t take long for Trincão to make himself known. 24 minutes into their first group stage match, Portugal midfielder Florentino Luís won possession on the edge of the opposition box. Trincão latched onto Luís’s pass, taking a touch to gain a few yards of separation from Norway captain Leo Østigård, and firing a rocket of a shot past Julian Lund. A few minutes before the final whistle, he’d tap home an errant pass from Elves Baldé for the icing on the cake.

In the semi-finals against Ukraine, he whipped in a corner that was converted by João Filipe for the opener. Two goals later, he capitalised on an errant backpass, hesitated and meditated his options whilst being marked tightly by captain Valeriy Bondar, before curling his shot into the corner of Vladyslav Kucheruk’s goal. He doubled his tally shortly after, capitalising on a poor clearance from Kucheruk to slot home the fifth.

The stage was set for an epic final with Italy, who had defeated them in the group stage. Just minutes before halftime, Trincão trapped a cross with his chest, patting it down for Jota to score a goal eerily similar to James Rodríguez’s Puskas-winning goal against Uruguay in the 2014 FIFA World Cup. In the 72nd minute, Trincão pounced on a botched save from Alessandro Plizzari and extended the lead to two. Portugal would go on to win a thriller of a match, with Trincão lifting the first trophy of his professional career.

Making the Step Up to the Pros Under Amorim

Despite the promise shown in Finland, Trincão was starved of playing time under Ferreira, the player only making late sub appearances against Marítimo, Setúbal and Belenenses during the first eight months of the 2018/19 season. Nevertheless, this didn’t stop several clubs from chasing after his signature during the January transfer window. Trincão travelled to Turin to agree a deal with Juventus, but after lengthy negotiations, the deal collapsed, and he returned to Braga.

He became somewhat of a regular impact sub during the final weeks of the season, gaining rhythm before jetting off to Poland for the 2019 U-20 World Cup. Once again, he didn’t take long to make his mark. Seven minutes into the first match, he made a darting run past the South Korean defenders, took a measured, yet powerful first touch to put himself within scoring range, before coolly slotting the ball into goal. It was the only goal of the match; a combination of Trincão’s proactive movement, excellent first touch, and calm finishing ability.

Portugal exited early from the competition after losing to Argentina and drawing to South Africa, but once again, it didn’t stop teams from pursuing Trincão in the transfer market. Nevertheless, Braga refused to sell their young diamond, and certainly not for a dime less than the full value of his release clause. Eventually, their (and his) patience was rewarded. Ricardo Sá Pinto handed him his first start for the club against Slovan Bratislava on December 12.

The Slovaks took the lead via Andraž Šporar, but Braga equalised two minutes later, with Rui Fonte heading Trincão’s corner kick into the goal. Slovan Bratislava went ahead again, but two minutes later, Braga equalised. Trincão tiptoed around the edge of the box, waiting for the right angle, before slamming home his first ever goal for the club. Braga would go on to win 4-2, and Trincão was rewarded with another start in the Taça da Liga against Pacos Ferreira. Once again, he didn’t disappoint, and grabbed two assists.

It wasn’t until the appointment of Rúben Amorim, however, that Trincão finally became a fixed name in the starting eleven. Prior to 2020, Amorim’s only previous coaching experience had come with third division side Casa Pia, who were docked six points after Amorim gave match instructions without having the required coaching level to do so. Amorim was suspended from all activity for an entire year, and although the bans were subsequently lifted, Amorim still handed in his resignation.

It would be both the first month of Amorim’s time as a manager and the first month of  Trincão’s time as a starter. Together, they formed an eye-catching chemistry, and as a result, Braga’s form took a turn for the better. They won each of their six matches in January, including the Taça da Liga Final against Porto. On the last day of the month, Barcelona signed Trincão for a fee of €31 million, leaving him at Braga on loan until the end of the season.

Where Does Trincão Fit Into This Barcelona side

Since the start of the new decade, Barcelona’s attack has been a circus, to put things mildly. Luis Suárez is out for the rest of the season, as is Ousmane Dembélé, two players who played a massive part in the first half of Barcelona’s season. But rather than sign anyone during the window, Barcelona merely cleared out space in their wage bill. They sold Carles Pérez to Roma and Abel Ruíz to Braga, but were forced to keep Trincão at Braga until the end of the season due to financial obstacles from FFP.

Nevertheless, Barcelona miraculously found a way to sign a player after the closure of the window, signing Martin Braithwaite from Leganés. Thanks to a loophole designated to help skew power in favour of La Liga’s financial powerhouses, Barcelona were able to sign a striker after the deadline, but Leganés weren’t able to sign a replacement for Braithwaite.

Things are looking desperate right now, but Trincão has the potential, skill, and technique to take Barcelona’s attack up a level.

Trincão’s combination of speed, trickery and end product is desperately needed in a Barcelona team that has seemed overly stale this season. He’ll provide a dynamic combination in a position that is looking more and more stretched. With the sale of Carles Pérez to Roma and Dembélé’s season-ending injury relapse, Barcelona are deprived of options on the right wing at the moment. Lionel Messi is playing through pain to carry the load going forward, and aside from the ever-versatile Sergi Roberto, there isn’t a single option in the squad to replace him when he gets overly fatigued.

With La Pulga turning 33 in four months, it’s time to get serious about replacing the greatest player in club history. With the signing of Trincão, Barcelona are finally starting to have that conversation.

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