It was much more than a golden-leaf hairstyle that marked Ricardo Quaresma’s influential Euro 2016 final performance for Portugal.
The 33-year-old winger was given an unexpected chance to shine as he was introduced after 25 minutes in the game to replace his captain Cristiano Ronaldo. Portugal all-time record goal scorer collided with Dimitri Payet and was unable to continue with his knee injury. Tears and standing ovation as Ronaldo was taken off got replaced by a slight anxious feeling in the gut following the introduction of Ricardo Quaresma.
Euro 2016 the catalyst for change
The 33-year-old Portugal international made one start at the competition and his appearance in the final match was sixth in total.
Portugal’s No.20 has always lived in a world of his own and was never trusted beyond reasonable doubt that he would move on to do something unexpectedly stupid much to the detriment of his own and his team’s. Heavily criticised for his selfish style of play during his early days, the flamboyant winger known for his repertoire of tricks, speed and agility remains remembered as a player who never quite lived up to the expectations.
A well-travelled Portugal star ruined his shots with the likes of Barcelona, Inter Milan and Chelsea due to his extravagant style of football and a hot-head which cost him more than what he was willing to pay.
Former Sporting CP player and a beloved Porto star searched for his place under the sun with Besiktas and Al-Ahli, respectively, before his most recent spell in Turkey started in 2015. Quaresma re-joined the Superlig powerhouse after his second stint with native Porto and enjoyed a busy season during which he helped his club to a league title with 26 appearances, two goals and 13 assists.
Either loved or adored for his eccentric persona and alike style of football, Quaresma reached the peak of his career last summer with an inspiring performance against France which might have acted as a catalyst to his overall career.
Portugal’s changed man
Having previously scored a winning penalty against Poland in the quarter-finals, Quaresma was given a chance to step up and fill in his captain’s shoes which he did in a remarkable fashion.
Months after the historic success and the total of three appearances in his country’s FIFA World Cup qualifying campaign, Quaresma is once again out to prove his worth over and over again at the Confederations Cup in Russia.
Having successfully recovered from an injury which kept him under doubt for the Latvia qualifier, Besiktas star was rewarded with a starting place in Portugal’s Confederations Cup opener against Mexico.
Just after the half-hour mark the experienced Portugal opened the scoring before running to his captain’s embrace to thank him for a wonderful assist. Cristiano Ronaldo worked his way through the field and into the box before slotting the ball behind Mexico’s defence line for Quaresma who used a brilliant dummy to send Ochoa to one side and tap the ball into the empty net.
The Portuguese international struggled to shake off his selfish side minutes later when Ronaldo’s heel got him in a nice position at the edge of the box. Instead of trying to tee up one of his teammates, Quaresma fired a shot which went just wide of Ochoa’s goal.
Portugal’s well-travelled journeyman deserves plenty of credit for his performance however. His impact on the match was much more than just netting the opening goal as he once again established himself as an instrumental figure for Fernando Santos’ side that stands at 3/1 betting odds to win the Confederations Cup despite the opening draw.
The second youth
The 33-year-old fired six shots on goal – three more than any other player on the pitch – whereas it was his recognisable tricky change of pace that made him a constant threat for Mexico defenders.
Quaresma switched positions during the match, going from left flank to the right, menacing Mexico along the way, proving that head appears to have finally won the battle over his restless heart.
A world-class potential who largely failed to deliver to the promise is enjoying a stellar run for his national side, where he has managed to position himself as one of the key players at the age of 33.
His success might be coming well overdue but just in time to help his team through what is likely to be Portugal’s biggest test ahead of crucial qualifying stage and before a much-desired return to Russia for a competition that could easily be the last challenge of his well-travelled career.
Quaresma’s biography is much more than a simple football book, but rather a drama novel with all of the elements that could turn it into a Hollywood blockbuster. And all the Portuguese star wants to make sure is that there is a happy ending to it as he goes through his second youth aware that mistakes from the pasts must not be repeated.
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