Porto’s portly front man is a hell of a physical specimen. On the pitch he looks like a weight lifter wearing football boots but is he all brawn and no football brain? In the limited times I’ve seen him in European competition I always thought he was hit and miss. But people who know plenty more about football than I do think he’s a bit special.
His ex-manager Andre Villas-Boas still rates him and reportedly tried to convince Roman Abramovich to stump up the ￡84 million it would take to trigger Hulk’s buy out clause in the January transfer window. In the last 12 months Spurs and Arsenal have been linked – although for significantly less money – and apparently Man City are interested in bringing him to the Etihad as the long-term replacement for Carlos Tevez.
With the big man up against his potential future employers last night it seemed as good a game as any to evaluate him. To ask questions about him that extend beyond, ‘Why does he get to have his nickname on the back of his shirt?’
The Brazilian has many attributes. In addition to having the strength of a herd of oxen he has a Large Hadron Collider of a left foot, decent pace and an eye for a silky flick. How will he apply these skills in the pressure cooker environment of a knockout European tie?
Hulk’s fortunes reflected that of his team. He got off to a blistering start bossing the visitors’ backline barging people out the way and bringing his teammates in play. For the first half an hour especially he was full of running and produced the moment of the half, providing the sort of cross that Andy Gray used to coo about for Silvestre Varela to sweep in from six yards.
The Brazilian has many attributes. In addition to having the strength of a herd of oxen he has a Large Hadron Collider of a left foot, decent pace and an eye for a silky flick.
When Porto were in charge he looked an asset. Always a threat in possession he also had clever movement off the ball. Throughout the first half he constantly manoeuvred into positions that if found by his teammates could have hurt City.
So far so good right?
Not quite. I’ve always believed you find out more about a player when things aren’t going so well. As City got more into the match Hulk’s decision-making got worse. As the game got away from Porto the characteristics that made him a force in the first half were making Hulk a liability.
When the visitors went ahead instead of holding it up and getting his teammates involved he was doing crazy flicks and tricks and losing the ball. As the frustration overtook the powerful running turned into petty fouls and he was too willing to use his famed left foot to shoot when others were better positioned.
If you compare that to the performance of Manchester City’s current strike force Hulk’s inability to get back in the game looks worse. Much has been said of the Mario’s temperament but when things were going badly for him he got on with it, made good decisions and got his and City’s reward with the pressure that led to the equaliser. When Sergio Aguero came on he fouled everyone he got near but when he was called upon he was in the right place at the right time to win the game. When put up against those contributions from the visiting strikers a single assist at home doesn’t sound like much.
On last night’s display if he went to City Hulk would be at least 3rd choice striker behind Ballo and Kun. Maybe even Dzecko would get in ahead of him. But forecasting a player’s career on one game is an easy way to make you look a fool.
On the face of it Hulk would make a suitable replacement for Tevez. They’re both strong, direct and have complicated ownership issues. But ￡84 million is an awful lot of money to spend on a player who probably won’t be your number one striker, even for petrochemical billionaires. At that price they’re better off looking elsewhere, but if they could work out a swap deal Hulk to City could be worth a punt.
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