Thursday, February 24, 2011

The curious case of Ricardo Quaresma

On the 13th of July, 2 years ago, Ricardo Quaresma signed for Turkish side Besiktas for a fee of 7.3 million euros, ending a spell at Inter that could only be described as disastrous. With all due respect, Besiktas are not quite the club he can expect to challenge for major individual accolades at. They lie sixth in the Super Lig table and are challenging for the Europa League and the Turkish Cup, having one out of their last five matches. 

A far cry from his days at Porto where he set the Champions League alight with his craft with the ball and posed a constant threat to the likes of Arsenal and Liverpool. So how did it all go wrong for this prodigiously talented individual who, now entering his peak, never quite got the career that his potential deserved?

In 2004, Quaresma left Barcelona after sustaining a serious injury and falling out with Frank Rijkaard, ending up in his native Portugal offering his services to FC Porto. It was there that he came into his own, netting a debut goal and taking on a key role in an attacking Porto side, who were playing some of their best football with him in the thick of it. Every flick, feint and stepover was met with thunderous applause from the fans. The level at which he played would've put him in strong contention for the Ballon D'Or, if not for a phenomenal season from Ronaldinho and the fact that players in the Portuguese league were awarded fewer points as compared to players in “tougher” leagues such as the Premiership (Premier League as it was known then) and the Primera Liga.  With a string of impressive performances for Os Dragões, he inevitably caught the attention of some of the biggest clubs in Europe. Clubs that included a certain Inter Milan.

Jose Mourinho, identifying the winger as one of his three targets in the summer transfer window upon his arrival at Inter, enticed Quaresma by sending a series of encouraging text messages to him. Inter then launched a formal offer and soon enough, he arrived at Inter Milan, with 18.6 million euros and Pele going in the other direction. Sadly, it was all going down south for the then 24 year old from there on. In the initial stages of his time at Milan, he did well and put in convincing displays whenever he was given a chance to take the field.

However, as time passed, Jose Mourinho, for reasons unknown, left him warming the bench and deprived him of first-team opportunities. To quote: "He is a great talent, but the joy I have at seeing the way Ibra (Zlatan Ibrahimovic) works for and with the team I do not yet have with Quaresma. He will have to learn, otherwise he won’t play, and I am sure he'll change and become more tactically disciplined. He likes kicking the ball with the outside of his foot, but if you ask me about him in a few months' time, we'll be talking about a different Quaresma."

Unfortunately, this was never to be as Quaresma, after returning from a loan spell at Chelsea, was barely given a chance to play. Despite having more than proven himself whilst at Porto at the highest level, Mourinho somehow thought him to be ill-equipped when it came to handling the tactical rigidity of the Serie A. In all honesty, Quaresma never did underperform at Inter unlike most experts claim. He was never given a chance to perform at all. He was left to rot on the sidelines, lost his passion for football and eventually sought reprieve in the form of Besiktas. The reason why Mourinho signed him in the first place, much so less why he refused to consider him in his plans for Inter, is still largely unknown.

It is notable, however, that at Besiktas, he has seen a resurgence, returning to form and enjoying his football. Perhaps, then, a better team may just come knocking and finally provide him with the means to fulfil his potential and take the world by storm once more.

By Joshua Tong-Lok