UEFA.com’s weekly wonderkid: Rui Pedro

Having scored Porto’s first goal in 520 minutes of football on 3 December,  substitute Rui Pedro captured the front pages of the Portuguese papers. What next for the classy 18-year-old?

Name: Rui Pedro
Club: Porto
Debut: 29 November 2016 v Belenenses (Portuguese League Cup)
Position: forward
Nationality: Portuguese
Born: 20 March 1998
Preferred foot: right
Height: 1.82m

They say …
“He showed incredible cold blood to do what he did way after 90 minutes. We have to congratulate him because it was incredible.”
Iván Marcano, Porto captain after Rui Pedro’s breakthrough goal

“Rui Pedro and André Silva are the future of the national team. They complement each other and are talents who can thrive at any level.”
José Tavares, Porto B-team coach

Background …
Born in nearby Castelo de Paiva, Rui Pedro joined Porto from hometown club Sporting Paivense in 2012, aged 14, and was first capped for Portugal at U15 level. Currently the UEFA Youth League’s second highest scorer with six goals in four matches, one shy of Salzburg’s Mergim Berisha, he made his senior debut in a 0-0 League Cup draw against Os Belenenses, made a rather bigger impact in his first Liga game four days later and – another four days on – made his UEFA Champions League debut in the 5-0 thrashing of Leicester City.

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On his UEFA Champions League debut against Leicester

Playing style …
Not very tall but with a nose for goal, he can play as a lone striker or as part of a front two, dropping back to collect the ball or featuring on the wing. A decent finisher, he uses his impressive turn of pace to find spaces in the box.

Shades of …
In terms of pace and instincts, think Arsenal’s Alexis Sánchez.

Eureka moment …
That goal. Porto had not scored in 520 minutes in all competitions when 75th-minute substitute Rui Pedro hit their 95th-minute winner against ten-man Braga on 3 December. He got to a through-ball fastest and calmly lobbed goalkeeper Marafona to spark huge celebrations at the Estádio do Dragão.

Best-case scenario …
The 21-year-old André Silva’s success with Porto should inspire Rui Pedro, who knows what a great school for strikers the club is. A loan spell may stand between him and a sustained stab at the senior ranks with the Dragons, but he has definitely caught Nuno Espírito Santo’s attention.

He says …
“It was my most important goal because it was for the senior side. I just thought about getting the ball away from Marafona and never thought about the responsibility. The coach believes in me and I have to respond to that with goals.”

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