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Player Profile: Manuel Fernandes  


Manuel FernandesFull name: Manuel Henriques Tavares Fernandes
Position: Midfielder
Date of Birth: 5 February 1986
Birthplace: Lisbon, Portugal


Manuel Fernandes can be bracketed with the likes of Nani, Miguel Veloso, Ricardo Quaresma and Manuel da Costa as part of the next generation of Portuguese football stars with a good shout of making it to the very top of the world game.

Although essentially a defensive midfielder, Fernandes possesses an exceptionally high skill level and his ability to read the game is on par with that a veteran. He also unleashes a fierce right-foot shot with ease.

Fernandes was nurtured at Benfica’s youth academy and made his professional debut with the Portuguese club in the 2003/04 season under Spanish coach, Jose Antonio Camacho. He scored on his second showing with the club, and picked up his first piece of silverware in the shape of the Portuguese Cup that same season.

Championship triumph

The unsmiling Manuel Fernandes – even in training he is said to maintain a dour and intensely focussed demeanour – would cement his place in the Benfica line-up next season. Italian tactician, Giovanni Trapattoni, used the starlet in 29 games as the Eagles lifted the Portuguese championship for the first time in 11 years.

As Fernandes’ stock continued to rise the following season, helped by a wondrous strike against Villarreal in the Champions League, the midfielder admitted he was on the look-out for pastures new.

The club reluctantly arranged for the player to be loaned out to Premiership side, Portsmouth. A spectacular debut goal in the League Cup and several impressive performances seemed to bode well for a permanent transfer to the English club, with Fernandes looking to form solid partnership with compatriot Pedro Mendes.

However, a controversial clause in the loan contract stated that if the Portugal U21 international played in 3 consecutive games the club would be obliged to part with 18m euros to make the move permanent. Pompey were not prepared to pay such a high fee and consequently Fernandes was not able to get a long run in the team.

Premiership liking

Next stop was Everton, again on loan, with Fernandes admitting “the Premiership is the only place I want to play.” He made nine appearances and scored twice for the Toffees, one a now trademark thunderbolt long-range effort that momentarily threatened to ruin Manchester United’s title charge.

Despite becoming a firm crowd favourite, Everton were also unwilling to pay the high asking price, and Fernandes returned to the Portuguese capital in the summer of 2007. Fernandes was welcomed back with open arms by club and the fans, and the Premiership’s loss will surely be Benfica’s gain.

2007/08 eve-of-season update

The hopes of hundreds of thousands of Benfica fans were dashed when the classy midfielder decided to definitively leave the Lisbon club just days before the first competitive match of the season.

A move to Everton and the Premiership where Fernandes had made such a good impression last year fell through at the last minute and Spanish club Valencia stepped in to sign Portuguese international on a 5-year deal. Fernandes joins compatriots Miguel and Marco Caneira at the Riazor Stadium.

by Marco Pereira (03/08/2008)


* League appearances only

** Up to May 2009

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