FC Barcelona's visit to the Estadio do Dragao will be very special for one of the players who joined the team this summer. Joao Félix will face this Wednesday the team where he took his first steps in the world of football, FC Porto. And if the Portuguese striker 'exploded' at Benfica, the main national rival of the Dragao side, it was because the Lisbon club gave him all the confidence that Porto didn't have in him. Or that is what, at least, one of the two versions of the striker's past at Barça's next Champions League opponents claims.
Joao Félix played in FC Porto's youth academy between 2008 and 2014 and, after a year with Padroense, joined Benfica's youth team. When the Viseu native was already shining at Da Luz, several Portuguese media outlets explained that the Porto sporting directors had decided to dispense with him because he was "too physically weak". Filipe Soares, a midfielder with whom he coincided on his arrival in Lisbon and who currently plays for PAOK Thessaloniki, said that Porto "did not pay enough attention" to Joao and "did not bet on him as they should have". "That was a mistake. In his last year there he had no minutes," he added.
In the same vein, former Benfica youth coach Renato Paiva revealed that the club from the Portuguese capital "always kept an eye on" Joao Félix in his development process and that if they were able to sign him in 2015 it was precisely because their eternal rivals did not trust in his talent. "When he was 11 years old, Benfica and Porto wanted to sign him. He chose Porto, but he didn't play because he was too skinny and physically weak," he told ESPN.
Those closest to the current Barça player, however, were quick to publicly deny the version that had been leaked from the offices of the Estadio do Dragao. In a report published by 'Maisfutebol', his own mother, Carla Félix, clarified that "it was not Porto who released him". "He was the one who wanted to leave," she assured. "He was fragile and developed much later than the rest of the players, but it's a lie that he was released. It was his decision to leave." Mario Silva, a coach who coached in the youth ranks of the Portuguese club, confirmed this in 'Récord': "We didn't send him away.
"We wanted him and Jorge Silva, the captain of his team, to stay with us, but they both decided to go to Benfica," he added. This statement confirmed the Portuguese attacker's account, but also caused fans to take it out on him. It didn't help that, in his second official 'O Clássico', Joao Félix scored a decisive goal in the 'Águilas' 2-1 assault on Do Dragao and celebrated in style. We will see how he is received this Wednesday in a stadium that, by the way, Barça inaugurated in 2003.
The blaugrana '14' has faced Porto five times with a record of two wins, one draw and two defeats. He has not won on either of his two visits to Do Dragao in the Atlético de Madrid shirt - that is, in the Champions League - and between all his duels against his former team, he has only scored the aforementioned goal. He has a bad memory of the last precedent, which took place last season and ended in a defeat for Atlético. Simeone's side lost (2-1) and were eliminated from the continental competition in the group stage.
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