From: Petrovich
Date: 1 November 2001
Subject: Re: Angoland lad makes good

"Victoria Barrett"  escreveu na mensagem
> (And Pedro? What's the scoop on Mantorras?)

Ah! Mantorras. Quaresma's main rival for 'more pre-season hype' title...
What? $20m? ROTFL.

OK. If you just want an assessment of the player, just skip to the final
paragraphs. But I think the Mantorras story is worthy of a look.

Maybe I should write about the peculiar world of sports media in
Portugal, so that you can get a clearer picture of one of the most surreal
tales of Portuguese football.

As you all know, Portugal is a football-mad country and as such there are no
less than 3 daily sports papers - 'Record', 'A Bola' e 'O Jogo'. Not
surprinsigly, each of them is more or less aligned with one of the 'Big
three' - respectively Sporting, Benfica and Porto.

Actually, when I write 'sports papers' you could as well read 'football
papers' because other sports like handball, basketball or athletics that
have a reasonable number followers here, tend to be reduced to one or two
out of the 32-or-so tabloid format pages of the paper.

Now imagine what is it like to get enough footballing content to fill 32
pages *every day*. Yep. That's right. Pages describing the all details of
training sessions, reporting about player's prefered shoe-laces or favourite
pets, or simply filled with the most absurd rumours, begin to appear. And in
order for the paper to sell such (non-)appealing stuff, the with one or two
bombastic covers, usually regarding the big three.

Things get worse during the summer break - that's when absolutely nothing
happens and the sports papers begin to sell dreams in order to keep ...
selling.  Pre-season thrashings in friendlies against amateur sides are
described as CL finals epics, performances in training give way to contests
of praise between the papers - and suddenly the teams and their players are
discribed as if they were the best in the world and nothing could stop them!
Of course two or three matches into the season and the fever wanes, but
until then the papers have survived - and not only that but having made a
good profit out of the supporters' hunger for the new season.

Mantorras was perhaps the finished product of this delirium. Benfica's last
season was the worst in their history, with only a humiliating 6th place to
show and out of Europe for the first time since 1960. In order to stop the
decline into which the club has slided since the early 90's, the recently
elected Benfica board decided (just like their predecessors and their
predecessors' predecessors...)  that the sorry state of the club was all
dued to previous boards' misdeeds - and decided to break up with the past,
transferring, releasing or relegating to the 'B' side about 3/4 of last
season's squad.

To rule over the whole process, they nominated director of football
ambitious (and with a dubious reputation) estate developer Luis Filipe
Vieira,  then president of Alverca (a club he himself had taken from the
regional leagues to the top flight). He vowed to build a team that would in
his own words "thrash all domestic and European opposition", and thus return
Benfica to their so-called "dued dominant place".

Where have we heard that before, you might ask. Well, the truth is that such
bully talk was like honey for the papers, who filled cover after cover
with the sensationalist declarations of Vieira, as loads of Benfica fans
hungry for sucess rushed to buy them.

Vieira's first deal was bringing in Alverca striker Mantorras. And here's
where the surreal part
starts. The Angolan was playing at Alverca, owned by Vieira who - guess
what - also owned half of the players rights. Surprising, hey? Well, he
agreed for the the biggest ever domestic transfer in portuguese football,
with Benfica playing around 4 million to Alverca *but* with Vieira keeping
his 50% share on the player - demonstrating that there's nothing better than
dealing with oneself!

He then began promoting Mantorras to symbol of glorious things to come at
Benfica, dubbing him 'the new Eusebio' - the last in a long list, but who
cares amid the euphoria? To add spice, he declared - even before Mantorras
had kick a single ball for Benfica or anyone mentioned the possibility of a
transfer! - that Benfica wouldn't sell their star for less than 15 million.

As absurd as all this seems he was spot on. The Estadio da Luz stands had a
new hero, and the 'new Eusebio' tag was taken literally even before he had
worn a Benfica's shirt on a match! On top of it, legions of clubs were said
to be looking to lure him, thus justifying Vieira's warning.

Just to ensure things, Vieira's final measure was getting rid of all
potential internal contenders. To the surprise of everybody he released the
excellent Pierre Van Hooijdonk and transferred Joao Tomas, respectively 2nd
and 3rd League top scorers  last season - a major feat considerang the
weaknesses of that Benfica side. Mantorras was to reign all alone in the
Benfica front, having the almost unknown (and hence unable to overshadow
him) Croation Tomislav Sokota as deputy.

Of course the season started and Benfica began finding that opponents were
not very keen on getting thrashed - only two wins in their first seven
matches. After the first match, a 2-2 draw against lowly Varzim, Vieira
staged a press confrence under the hilarious motto "Let Mantorras play!",
complaining about the close marking on the Angolan by the opposing defenders

To worse things up Jardel's arrival at rivals Sporting took the lights away
a bit from the Angolan. But that didn't prevent Vieira from keeping
proclaiming that Mantorras is worth gazillions - with the dued cover by the
media. And I wouldn't be surprised if he's behind most of those rumours that
make the Angolan as 'almost transferred' to all major european club there
is - after all he has a lot to gain on a Mantorras move.

So is Mantorras worth all the pre-season hype? No. But again, the problem is
the huge - in this case astronomic - expectations put up on him. He has
scored 5 goals in 10 league matches, which isn't bad but isn't great either,
especially if you consider the fact that Benfica has a much better squad
this season, including goal-suppliers like former Porto winger Ljubinko
Drulovic and former Sporting and Barcelona winger Simao Sabrosa..

He's certainly no goal-predator - he wastes way too many chances for that;
like Quaresma, he tends to overwork his moves, thus wasting precious time
with one 'finta' too many, and his style of play is very much based on the
physical contact, and thus prone to an awful lot of offensive fouls.

In short he's no Jardel and no Niculae, but he's got his qualities and above
all, a lot of potential for improvement. He's very strong and has good
ball-technique, but quite honestly I think his major qualities are mental,
rather than technical .

He's a serious worker, much more commited to training and in the pitch than
most of the players in his age - his terrible childhood in war-torn Angola,
including the loss of both parents, surely accounts for some of his
precocious maturity.

He also demonstrates genuine unselfishness in play, making him very useful
not only by the goals he scores but by the team-mates he frees, as defenders
tend to concentrate on him.

I belive he would have profited a lot if he had a seasoned striker on his
side, like, say, Van Hooijdonk, with whom he could share the pressure, and
from whom he could learn, but the politcs of his patron Vieira decided

But he has a long, long way to go, and using the proverbial phrase, if he's
worth $20 million then the world is a scary place...