Benfica’s Nelson Oliveira has tasted the ups and downs that professional football has to offer over the past few seasons, but just what is it he’s done to excite Stoke and Cardiff into shelling out the potential £1m fee required to bring him to the Premier League on a season-long loan?
Oliveira was a prolific scorer for Sporting Braga and Benfica’s junior teams, before breaking into the first team reckoning at the Lisbon club in 2011/12, thanks to an impressive contribution for the Portuguese under-20 side at that age-group’s World Cup the preceding summer.
The tall striker – who has been dubbed ‘the Portuguese Eric Cantona’ in some quarters due to a perceived similarity in playing styles with the Machiavellian Frenchman – fired his nation to the tournament’s final with four goals. Noted along the way were his intelligent hold up play and reliable finishing as he was voted the tournament’s second-best player.
The 2011/12 campaign saw him make a total of 13 appearances for Benfica, including when notching the second goal in a Champions League win against Zenit St Petersburg. He also excited Chelsea’s interest after a lively second half cameo at Stamford Bridge in the same competition.
Although only two of those outings were starts, he was brought in as a surprise selection for his country’s senior team for the 2012 European Championships, tasting action from the bench in all four matches the Selecao played in Poland and Ukraine.
The following season he was loaned to Deportivo La Coruna and after a pleasing opening to his spell at the Riazor that brought two goals in his first four games, the Barcelos native was reportedly being followed by Manchester United, Manchester City and Barcelona as well as the Stamford Bridge club, with a £24m price tag slapped on his head.
However, he fell behind veteran striker Riki in the pecking order as the season wore on and ended up making 28 of his La Liga 30 appearances from the bench as Depor were relegated for the second time in three seasons amidst fan recrimination against a core of Portuguese players at the club.
That spell in Spain continued an unfortunate trend towards Oliveira being used as an impact sub, rather than being allowed to develop his potential with a prolonged spell of starts.
As such, Stoke and Cardiff will undoubtedly be gambling on a player delivering on the potential he had shown before his annus mirabilis at the Riazor.
Whilst the biggest clubs may no longer be queuing up to bat their eye-lids at the Benfica man, his latest suitors could pick themselves up a real bargain on a loan-with-a-view-to-buy if they are prepared to give him starts in which to remind the world of his gifts.
With the need for starts in mind Stoke would seem an ideal club for Oliveira, with Peter Crouch and Kenwyne Jones linked with Britannia Stadium exits. The Potters are currently 10/3 fifth favourites for Premier League relegation this season.
All odds and markets accurate as of publication’s time and date.