2 years ago, Pedro Gonçalves was rumoured to be in the sights of Liverpool and Manchester United as he played a crucial part in getting Sporting to their first Portuguese league title in 19 years as the top scorer with 23 goals. His performances earned him Transfermarkt’s Liga Portugal Player of the Season for the 2020/21 season. But in 2023, during this period when Portuguese football has been ransacked by Europe’s elite clubs for the next big thing, Pedro Gonçalves seems to have slipped through the cracks. And in this article, we will be discussing why this is.
The first point to make would be that Goncalves does not want to leave Sporting CP. This is the likely answer as in October 2021, he signed a new contract, tying him to the club until 2026 and it also included a release clause of 80 million euros (£71,245,801). However, this has not stopped other similar deals from going through with other players.
One very recent example is Enzo Fernández from Benfica for £106.8 million, which was the release clause set by Benfica when they signed Enzo last summer for £10 million. It can be said that after his amazing performances in the World Cup which earned him Best Young Player of the Tournament, that Chelsea was comfortable paying this clause for a 22-year-old who showed on the biggest stage, he could play alongside the world’s best players and look like he was meant to be there. And with Pedro Goncalves not even making Portugal’s 30-man squad for Qatar 2022, he missed out on the chance to be another one of the tournament’s shining stars alongside players such as Enzo Fernandez and Azzedine Ounahi, 2 players who made transfers as direct result of their performances.
A second point could be Sporting CP not wanting to let Pedro Goncalves go. He is one of Sporting’s star players and since his arrival, has been one of the best players Sporting has had. However, the immense amount of talent that Sporting has let go does make this a doubt as Sporting is well versed in the art of buying low and selling high as well as being comfortable with letting their best players go. Some of the more notable players who have left Sporting in previous years include Bruno Fernandes, Matheus Nunes, Joao Palhinha, Nuno Mendes, Raphinha, Wendel, Rafael Leao and Pedro Porro. Looking through all these talents and seeing where all of these talents have been since leaving, ranging from Champions League finals to being star players in title-winning teams. Sporting definitely doesn’t have a problem selling superstars if the price is right or a player wants to leave so if Pedro Goncalves didn’t want to stay, he’d probably be lining up for Liverpool or Manchester United on a weekly basis.
The third and most intriguing point could be that Sporting CP can not replace him. From both a performance and transfer perspective, Pedro Goncalves was one of Sporting’s best signings over the last decade and has been essential to the success that the club has had in recent years. And whilst there may be a wealth of talent around the globe who could fill in Pedro’s spot, there’s no guarantee they will be around for long. The Portuguese league, over the last decade, has been the target of Europe’s biggest clubs for talent. You’d struggle to find any major club that does not possess a player from Liga Portugal. Going over the list of players who’ve departed for the big-time in the last decade, you could field a Champions League-winning team with talents such as Ruben Dias, Darwin Nunez, Eder Militao, Joao Felix, Luis Diaz, Ederson, Diego Dalot, Richardo Pereira, Ruben Neves, Danilo Pereira, and Enzo Fernandez.
And with Enzo’s transfer to Chelsea happening 1 season after he had signed for Benfica, it shows how the pulling power from these clubs is too strong for the Portuguese clubs who want to keep their players. And with Pedro Goncalves being essential to Sporting, both on the pitch and off the pitch, if Sporting couldn’t tie him down to a long-term contract, they’d be losing a player that they could not replace, no matter the talent of his replacement. And even with the new contract, there is an 80 million euro release clause which most top clubs would be willing to pay if they really wanted him. Whether that was from Pedro Goncalves’ agents, fitting in a clause that will allow him that option of leaving the club and moving on, or if it was from Sporting, making sure that if they sell Pedro, it will only be for an amount they feel is worth letting go of a potential club legend.
Currently, Pedro Goncalves is having another great season with 10 goals and 5 assists in 18 games. And despite Sporting only being 4th in Liga Portugal, he has not let that affect his performances as only Mehdi Taremi and Joao Mario have more goal contributions than him this season, and that’s only by 1. Factor in that he has had to switch to LW following the arrival of Pablo Sarabia last year and the talented Marcus Edwards starting at Goncalves’ natural RW position and he has been performing, once again, above standards. And if he carries on playing like this until the end of the season, he will have shown that he can perform at all levels of club football. He showed in 20-21 that when his club is the best in the league, he is the best goalscorer in the league. In 21-22, he showed that against Europe’s best teams in the Champions League, he could still score and assist at this level at the same right as established stars as Pedro got 6 goal contributions in 5 games and had the most goals in the group stage). And in 22-23 currently, he is displaying how despite his team not performing as well as they could be, he can still perform at the very highest level.
Do you think Pedro Goncalves is the forgotten man in Portuguese football? Leave a comment below with what your thoughts are