João Carlos Teixeira talks about his time at Liverpool, training with the likes of Gerrard, Coutinho and Suarez and his memorable Premier League debut.
Sitting hunched over in an interview room in Feyenoord’s Sportcomplex Varkenoord, 28 year old Joao Carlos Teixeira’s eyes light up and a smile stretches across his face.
It’s 9am in the morning in Rotterdam, but as he recounts the memory of his first Liverpool game, all the grogginess vanishes from his face and he looks alive.
‘It was a great feeling,’ he remembers to FTF over a virtual Zoom call ‘At the time I was only 21. I really enjoyed that game. It was an important match in the race for the (Premier League) title.’
The game against Fulham back in 2014 at Craven Cottage was a Premier League classic.
One which could have had even more significance in the club’s history had things played out differently during the emotional roller coaster of the 2013/14 season.
Things started horribly for the Reds. Just eight minutes in Kolo Toure had put the ball into the back of his own net past Simon Mignolet. Sturridge equalised just before the second-half, but past the hour mark Fulham took the lead again through former Manchester United academy product, Kieran Richardson.
Eight minutes later Philippe Coutinho levelled things at 2-2.
With the Reds desperately needing to find a way through a resilient Fulham defence, Brendan Rodgers decided to make a gamble.
He took off Raheem Sterling and put on Joao Carlos Teixeira for his club debut.
It was a bold move, but one which completely changed the dichotomy of the game.
Fulham’s defence had the better off Sterling all game. The young Englishman struggled to use his pace against a low defensive block playing mostly with his back to goal.
But Teixeira slotted in infront of Fulham’s defensive wall, alongside Gerrard and Coutinho.
The Portuguese midfielder started brightly. He blazed a ball over the crossbar, before he did what Brendan Rodgers had told him to do. Teixeira played a through ball to Daniel Sturridge in Fulham’s penalty area. The Liverpool forward took it well and was scythed down in the process.
Gerrard stepped up to take penalty and the Liverpool captain did not disappoint.
With four minutes still to be played, Teixeira continued to catch the eye by making a vital block in the dying embers of the game as Fulham desperately poured forward to snatch back a draw. His defensive contribution earned him an impassionate appraisal at the end of the game from Liverpool’s captain.
As Phil Dowd blew his final whistle, Gerrard rushed over to Teixeira and screamed.
‘That what you did there was f****ing brilliant!’
‘It was a moment that I will never forget,’ Teixeira adds with a proud smile.
Over seven years on, Teixeira has not changed much. His boyish face still looks like an adolescent teenager. You could hardly tell that at 28 years of age he is now a seasoned pro.
His Premier League debut was seen by many including Steven Gerrard as the beginning of a metamorphosis which would blossom into a love affair between the club and the player.
In the end things did not turn out that way, but Joao Carlos Teixeira still looks back on his time at Liverpool with fond memories.
‘It was a great time for me, I was only 18 at the time when I got there. In the beginning everything was new and a little bit difficult because I had to adapt to the country, the language and the club, but I very much enjoyed my time in Liverpool.’
Arriving from Sporting Lisbon, Teixeira mesmerised the club’s supporters even before he had donned the red strip with a dazzling display at Anfield in the NextGen series whilst still wearing the green and white of Sporting by scoring in front of the Kop.
He took a bit off time to adjust, but once he did, Teixeira earnt rave reviews from everyone around Liverpool. Alex Inglethorpe the club’s academy manager compared him to Modric, Xavi and Suarez back in 2013.
‘It’s just something that happened (his technical brilliance), obviously I worked hard at Sporting, but I think it was more of a gift,’ Teixeira says.
“This is the start for him now; I’ve just told him that he needs to push on, keep learning and building on what he has just achieved.”Steven Gerrard on Teixeira after Fulham to Liverpoolfc.com
During most of the 2013/14 season Teixeira trained with the first team.
‘(In training) I really liked Philippe (Coutinho), I really appreciated the way he played and tried to copy him. But there were so many. Sturridge, Sterling and even Gerrard and Suarez.’
With Liverpool strengthening in the midfield department, Joao Carlos Teixeira spent the 2014/15 season on-loan at Brighton where he became a fan favourite during a difficult campaign for the Seagulls.
When he returned to Anfield, he was 22 and raring to prove his worth.
But he had come back at a tumultuous period. During the early part of the 2015/16 season Teixeira found himself largely shunned by Rodgers. However in October Rodgers was axed. In came Jurgen Klopp who put Teixeira on the bench for his first game against Tottenham, before the German gave him his first start in Liverpool’s senior team against Bournemouth in the League Cup.
‘Both (Jurgen and Brendan) have different styles of playing, but as people they were both really nice guys. They were both always very close to the players. They liked to know how you were feeling. I really enjoyed working with both of them,’ Teixeira explains.
It was under Klopp that Teixeira got his first senior Anfield experience and goal against Exeter City in the FA Cup.
Almost five years after Joao’s first Anfield goal in front of a meagre crowd in Sporting colours, he found the back of the net again. This time in front of a full crowd.
‘When you go onto the pitch and you hear You’ll Never Walk Alone, you get goose bumps and it’s an incredible feeling. The atmosphere (at Anfield) is something that you just never forget.’
Under Klopp Teixeira made seven first team appearances, mostly in the cup barring a short cameo against Leicester City in the Premier League.
But in 2016, at 23, Joao Carlos Teixeira decided he was ready for another adventure.
When Nuno Espirito Santo’s new burgeoning Porto came calling, it was hard to refuse.
‘I was getting back to my home country to a big club like Porto and I just took that decision at the time. I knew it was hard to get into Liverpool’s first team and at the time I needed to play.’
Teixeira joined a strong team in Porto. Some of his teammates included the likes of Diogo Jota, Andre Silva and Ruben Neves.
‘It was a great time in Porto, I didn’t play much, the season didn’t go how I wanted but it was great. We had great players and I enjoyed playing with them even if it wasn’t the best for me.’
Teixeira’s former teammates are now excelling in the Premier League and Bundesliga and they could play a key role for Portugal at the Euros in the summer. In Jota, Liverpool now have another Portuguese star. Joao has not been surprised by the rise of his countrymen from Porto.
‘You could see the quality that they had. They worked very hard in training and their head was in the right place. You could tell they were going to go far and hopefully they will go even further.’
But whilst Porto thrived beating the likes of Leicester City 5-0 in the Champions League and only narrowly missing out on the league title, Teixeira found his minutes limited.
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A new country
He left Porto for Vitória S.C. back in 2018, and enjoyed a stellar 2019/20 campaign scoring 10 goals and registering 3 assists in 30 games.
To date it was the best season of the nimble footed midfielder’s career.
His performances attracted eyes from Rotterdam. Feyenoord lured him do the Netherlands during the summer transfer window.
‘I like the Dutch league very much because the teams here try to play nice football, the games are very open and wide with everyone attacking and high pressing games which I enjoy a lot,’ Teixeira says.
Teixeira’s time so far has been riddled with injuries, with the 28 year old fracturing his fibula back in December. It came right after he produced a man of the match performance against VVV Venlo contributing to his team’s 3-0 victory with two assists.
‘That backed me up a little bit, I had to do my rehab and recovery for three months.’
It’s been a steady return to first team football. Teixeira has started the last two games for Feyenoord in their quest to secure European football next season.
For now, the 28 year old is concentrating on his future with the club.
‘My mind is here, I want to stay here, I feel really well, I like the club and I like the people. And I can’t wait to play in front of the fans with a full crowd.’
And of course like everyone else at Feyenoord he is determined to bring European football to the club next season.
‘Europe is always really fun and enjoyable to play in because you get to travel to different countries against different cultures and teams.’
The dream opponent in Europe? Teixeira is yet to return to England. With Liverpool in with a chance of qualifying for either of the three European competitions next season, the possibility of a Feyenoord vs Liverpool clash is still on the cards.
‘Hopefully one day I will get to play against Liverpool. I actually never went back to play Anfield after I left, so hopefully that can happen.’
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