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Andre Silva: Portugal’s EURO 2020 wildcard and a man in demand

Andre Silva

Andre Silva is a man in demand. Firing on all cylinders for Frankfurt this season, the Portuguese international is ready to be unleashed at the Euros.

Andre Silva was enjoying himself in the Mediterranean sunshine.

One big loud thwack after another he was putting the ball into the back of the net like some sort of futuristic automaton taken from the factories of Porto.

One the side-lines, blanketed by the the hills of Viana do Castelo, the spectators stood in awe of the kid they had given the sobriquet of “Deco.”

The ball stuck to his feet like glue. His opponents slipped, tumbled and nosedived to thwart Silva’s on-coming advances with no avail.

After 15 goals, things were becoming a bit ridiculous. That was when his coach Luis Machado decided to put an end to the debacle by taking the young “Deco” off the pitch.

The game was already won. The torturer had already struck. There was no need to rub further salt in the wounds.

Born to be a star

Word of the 15 goal a game striker playing for local club Salgueiros travelled like wildfire around Porto.

Super-agent, Jorge Mendes, did not take too long to pounce and neither did FC Porto.

Under Mendes’ helm and Porto’s guidance, Andre Silva developed an esteemed reputation back in his native Portugal.

By 18, Silva had already become Portugal’s next great hope.

The star of the U19 team who marched to the finals of the European Championship. Silva scored five goals at the the tournament (4 in 1 game against Hungary) . But narrowly missed out on both the top-goalscorer award and the gold medal.

His record at youth level made Portuguese mouths water. 11 goals in 11 matches for Portugal’s U19 and 8 goals in 10 games for Portugal’s U20 enshrouded the attacker in a frenzy of public attention. Some even drew comparisons with Cristiano Ronaldo.

“Andre was a competitive animal. He always worked with seriousness, honesty, dedication, ambition, determination and with a lot of spirit.”

Porto B coach, Luis Castro.

Back at Porto the club were taking their time. In the end, 14 goals and 3 assists during the 15/16 season for the B team was enough to attract the attention of then first team coach Julen Lopetegui.

By the time Andre Silva made his debut for Porto’s first team he was already 20 years of age.

His goal and two assists in four Liga NOS starts towards the end of the season capped off by a brace in the Taça de Portugal Placard (Portuguese Cup) was enough to keep his name in the reckoning in an otherwise dire season for the club.

A perfect start

In the summer of 2016, Porto began a metamorphosis. When Nuno Espirito Santo arrived as head-coach he brought a youthful face to the Portuguese giants, a new dynamism and playing style.

Santo lured Diogo Jota on-loan from Atletico Madrid to partner up with Silva in a last minute move which proved to be the catalyst in the trio’s fortunes.

When Porto travelled to the island of Madeira to play CD Nacional a few weeks later Santo started both Diogo Jota and Andre Silva up-front for the first time.

Wearing bright yellow jerseys under the floodlights of the Estádio da Madeira it would prove to be a serendipitous beginning.

The game ended in a 4-0 victory. 20 year old Jota with a hat-trick, his second assisted by Andre Silva, before Silva himself rounded up the score.

The pairs’ intelligent movement off the ball. Their penchant for running in behind defences and Silva’s ability to draw away defenders while Jota carried the ball forward provided the perfect combination.

Silva went onto to score 21 goals that season registering 8 assists. Meanwhile Jota netted 9 times and turned provider on 7 occassions.

Joao Carlos Teixeira, a member of that Porto team remembers that season well.

‘I’m not surprised by how far they (Jota and Silva) have come. You could see the quality they had. They were very humble people. They worked very hard in training and they had their heads the right way so you could tell they were going to make it,’ he tells First Time Finish.

Diogo Jota and Andre Silva’s record playing together for club and country:

32 Games

Diogo Jota:

10 Goals

8 Assists

Andre Silva:

20 Goals

8 Assists

30 goals and 16 assists combined, averaging 1.43 goals per game.

A record breaker

Silva scored 6 goals and 3 assists in his first 7 senior international appearances, including a hat-trick against the Faroe Islands which made him the youngest hat-trick scorer in Portugal’s history.

The step to Milan during a summer of frivolous spending proved too soon however.

Even though the chapter started brightly with Silva scoring 6 goals in his first five starts for the club, including a hat-trick against Austria Vienna in the Europa League group-stages.

But these were turbulent times in Milan. The pressure to return the club to its former glory was on. Especially after such a prosperous summer.

Money did not yield results. Vincenzo Montella was sacked midway through the season replaced by Gennaro Gattuso.

Neither favoured Andre Silva with the 22 year old making just 7 starts in Serie A during the season.

“It was difficult to adapt to a new language, new people, new culture and a new playing style.”

Andre Silva via LB.

The move might have come too soon. But the turbulence at Milan did not help either. Less than a year after his arrival, the Italian giants discarded him and sent Silva packing to Seville.

Redemption

Sevilla’s 2018/19 season under Pablo Machín was far from prosperous. The club slumped to a 6th place finish in La Liga and were knocked out by Slavia Prague in the round of 16 in the Europa League.

But it was at the back where most of the problems lay. In attack the club scored over a 100 goals in all competitions.

Beginning his career with another hat-trick in La Liga, Silva’s time in Spain proved an important learning curve. Playing second fiddle to Ben Yedder, the Portuguese would have learnt a lot from the prolific Frenchman.

Silva’s 11 goals in all competitions could have been improved if it were not for a knee problem which made him miss a large part of the end of the season.

Sevilla tried to keep hold of him, but Milan’s asking price was unfeasible for a club of their stature. Especially without Champions League football.

Made in heaven

Frankfurt on the other hand were desperate. They were faced with the seemingly impossible task of replacing a 47 goal strike partnership in Sebastien Haller and Luka Jovic.

The answer became Andre Silva.

Silva could not refuse. After all, Adi Hütter’s free flowing attacking style of play got the best out of plenty of strikers over the years.

At Frankfurt, Silva was given the freedom to thrive in the Austrian’s system.

This season, his partnership with both Kamada and Kostic has been breath-taking. Playing in the focal point of the attack, in a team like Frankfurt who create so many chances, Silva has provided the deft finishing touch. His goals have been crucial to catapult Frankfurt into a Champions League place in the Bundesliga.

A reported €30m release clause has made Andre Silva once again one of Europe’s hot-properties.

And it is easy to see why.

Perfect match

Under Adi Hütter Frankfurt have developed a distinct style of play. Hütter’s system likes to utilise the wide-flanks, with the wingbacks stretching the opposition defence in the attacking phase of the play and trying to put deliveries into the box.

Therefore it should not come as a surprise that via Fbref, Frankfurt have completed the second most crosses into the box (81) in the entire Bundesliga and have also attempted the 2nd most with 394, behind Bayern Munich.

This style of play definitely plays to Andre Silva’s strengths. Silva’s best asset is his ability to create space inside the box. He has a knack for being able to draw defenders away from him, or to anticipate where the ball will drop.

His 7 headed goals alongside Sasa Kalajdzic is the joint highest in Europe’s top five leagues.

His 0.72 non penalty goal-rate per 90 also ranks him in the 96th percentile for strikers in Europe’s top five leagues via Fbref.

The best strikers can sniff out where the ball will come, and they also have an innate sense for the goal. Silva has both. He averages 3.28 shots per 90 this season in the Bundesliga which is the third highest behind Lewandowski and Kramaric.

Most impressively, for forwards who average at least 3 shots per 90 in Europe’s top five leagues, Andre Silva has the best shot on target percentage getting more than half of his shot on target at 56.47%.

Room for improvement

Off the ball despite once being dubbed as Deco, Silva is not as effective. He averages almost 3 dribbles per 90, but his success rate of 37.66% is not ideal.

This is mostly because Silva lacks the ability to change direction quickly when in possession and will often make it easy for defenders to anticipate his movement.

However, this does not mean he is entirely useless especially since dribbling is not a major requirement in his role. Lewandowski for example averages less dribbles per 90 and has a 37.5% success rate but you would not necessarily criticise him for it.

With Silva averaging 1.39 progressive runs which is more than Kane, Lewandoski, Haaland, Dani Olmo or Lautaro Martinez, he is by no means ineffective when it comes to driving the play forward in possession either.

When he drops deep, or joins Frankfurt’s early attacking phase, Silva can be effective at creating opportunities for his teammates too. His 0.39 key passes per 90 actually ranks him in the top ten for strikers 25 years old or younger in the Bundesliga in 7th place joint with Marcus Thuram.

He’s especially effective in the final third. In the Bundesliga he ranks in third place for deep completions with 1.39 per 90 for strikers 25 years old or younger.

Off the ball, Silva’s energy is vital and a key element of Frankfurt’s ability to defend from the front. Silva doesn’t average the most pressures per 90 just 10.81 which puts him in the 21 percentile, however his 31.4% success rate via Fbref ranks him in the 91 percentile for strikers in Europe’s top five leagues.

Having averaged 8.86 pressures per 90 last season, it is clear Silva has improved on the frequency of pressuring his opponents and it is an area of his game which seems to be getting better with age and maturity.

Time to shine

A few years ago there were dark premonitions in Portugal about the inevitable retirement of Cristiano Ronaldo. Now things do not seem as bleak.

With the likes of Bruno Fernandes, Diogo Jota and Joao Felix impressing at club level, coupled by Andre Silva’s resurgence, the Portuguese have a lot to be optimistic about.

It would not be a surprise if they retained the European Championship trophy this summer having assembled a much stronger squad this time around.

Andre Silva, who was once upon a time dubbed as the heir to Ronaldo’s throne could be the key wildcard for the Portuguese at the tournament.

He became only the third fastest player to reach 14 goals for his country in 29 caps behind Eusebio and Peyroteo (the fastest in this century), a feat which took Cristiano Ronaldo 41 appearances, highlighting his importance to the national team.

Overall, Silva has an amicable record for Portugal scoring 16 goals in 38 games.

His special relationship with Jota at Porto could also be revived in Portugal’s system with the Liverpool forward thriving at Anfield too.

A fitting system

Even though Andre Silva is likely to start on the bench the possibility of a Jota, Silva and Ronaldo front-three is mouth watering. Not to mention the prospect of Bruno Fernanes in behind them with the likes of Ruben Neves or Renato Sanches working as pivots.

Portugal’s system is not too disimilar to the one in which Silva has thrived in for Frankfurt this season.

In their Nations League games, Portugal averaged 16.35 crosses per 90. Meanwhile Frankfurt currently average 16.69 crosses per 90 in the Bundesliga.

Of course Hutter’s system is more concentrated on wing-play and stretching out the opposition, meanwhile Portugal’s crosses will often come from deeper creative outlets like Bruno Fernandes or one of the wide-attackers such as Bernardo Silva rather than at Frankfurt where most of the crosses will come from the wing-backs.

Nonetheless, having showed his prowess in the box to attack crosses, Andre Silva would certainly not be unfamiliar playing the role in Fernando Santos’ system.

You would not bet on him to finish top-goal scorer at the Euros just yet, but in Silva Portugal will have a powerful trump card ready to wield if necessary.

Having set the Bundesliga alight, his future will not be determined by the tournament with Silva’s departure from Frankfurt almost inevitable this summer unless a devastating injury strikes.

But his German outfit will keep a close eye on him in the summer and they will hoping a couple of goals will add a few more zeros at the end of his transfer fee.

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