Ricardo Quaresma: Could Porto's 'Golden Boy' Make His World Cup Return?
At the same time as a certain Cristiano Ronaldo was coming through the Sporting CP academy, there was another young, tricky winger who was being touted as the next golden boy of Portuguese football.
Ricardo Quaresma was known by all hipsters across Europe as the winger who'd beat his man with a rabona or a trivela and loved to use the outside of his right boot to cross the ball. Nobody expected however, that he'd become one who didn't fulfil his potential.
While Cristiano Ronaldo was tearing Europe to shreds and being regarded as one of the best forwards of all-time, Ricardo Quaresma was being released by Al-Ahli in Dubai for poor performances and a lack of fitness. The mercurial winger spent just 5 months in Dubai making 11 appearances and scoring 3 goals, helping himself to a UAE Presidents Cup medal before his release and subsequent return to Europe.
However, in January the ex-Barcelona and Inter Milan winger Quaresma rejoined the club where he initially made his name at the Dragao stadium. During his first spell at Porto, he was the man to replace outgoing Champions League winner Deco, after Barcelona paid €15M plus Quaresma’s playing rights (valued at €6M) for the playmaker. He’d suffered a torrid time at the Camp Nou, refusing to play under Frank Rijkaard towards the end of his time there. But Quaresma started brightly with a goal on his debut against fierce rivals Benfica in the Super Cup. He bagged 5 goals in 32 league games in his first year, whilst also being an ever present in their run to the Champions League knockout round.
Porto have been struggling all season, languishing now in 3rd place 5 points off league leaders Benfica. Quaresma has 3 goals and one assist in his 7 appearances this season and is still not playing at full fitness. He’s formed a good understanding with lead striker Jackson Martinez and it’s clear he has matured in his style of play. He’s no longer a one trick pony. He’s learnt to bring his teammates into the game more and not rely on his pace and skill to beat a man every time. His form has been impressive and with youngster Bruma ruled out of the World Cup through a knee injury and injury-plagued Danny not in Paulo Bento's plans for Brazil, he may have a chance of sneaking into the squad.
Portugal have always had options on the wings and that's no different now, but with Nani out of form and Varela hardly setting the world alight it leaves Portugal with just Ronaldo and Vieirinha, who has yet to prove he can do it on the biggest stage. Quaresma has the experience of playing at the highest level and would at least be an option for impact off the bench. His pace and flair would prove a lift to the team, as well as fans who would finally get to see the partnership of Ronaldo and Quaresma at the highest international level.
Should he make it into the Portugal squad for the World Cup, it would be the first World Cup of his career and only the second ever major international tournament he's competed in. He played a big part in qualification for the 2006 World Cup, however Luiz Felipe Scolari left him out of the final 23 man squad. He was called up for Euro 2008 but was used sparingly by Scolari. He wasn't apart of Carlos Quieroz's 2010 World Cup campaign and was only used as backup during this campaign for 2014.
If he can get to full fitness and keep his form going, there's no reason we couldn't see Portugal's two golden boys together on the wings for the European Seleccao in Brazil.
Follow Daniel on Twitter, @DMF180593