Every time Porto wins a trophy, there is only one place to go in the city: Avenida dos Aliados, in the center of the city.
The fans gather there waiting for the players and coaching staff to celebrate the victories together. It was no different in May after the northern giants were crowned champions of Portugal again.
For a second, though, one of the team’s rising stars, Fabio Vieira, feared he might not be able to join his colleagues on the big stage. A security officer had not recognized him and asked for his identification.
Vieira couldn’t believe it. He had just finished the league campaign with six goals and 14 assists to his name and yet he was standing at the entrance of the match.
“Lady, that’s me,” he insisted, smiling, while being helped by a reporter from the club’s television channel with shouts of “he’s a player, he’s a player.”
The episode tells how fast things have happened for Vieira.
Last season was the first in which he enjoyed regular senior football and while it may not have been enough to establish him as an undisputed starter, or even make his face hugely recognizable around town, it was enough to convince the arsenal of secure a €40m (£34.2m) deal for the 22-year-old attacking midfielder.
“Players like Fabio are worth a lot of money, so if you can catch them before they fully blow up, why not? That’s smart business,” former Porto youth coach Manuel Tulipa told BBC Sport.
“He is that type of creative midfielder who comes up with the solution when you have problems during a game. He can see what is happening around him and anticipate what will happen. That is the dream of any manager and the type of footballer that clubs always are. “. after.”
With a left foot that oozes class, the boy from Argoncilhe, a suburb south of Porto, has been described as a rebel on the pitch.
He is self-confident and no matter the situation, he refuses to play the obvious ball and pass backwards or sideways. He may sound risky, but as a result the ball often ends up in the back of the net.
“Fabio has the intelligence of the old wise men,” Porto assistant coach Vitor Bruno summed up.
It will now be up to Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta to harness that footballing intelligence and ensure he reaches his potential.
‘I got it all figured out’
Having reached the age of eight, the elegant midfielder spent all of his formative years at Porto, and yet his path to the top was not an easy one.
His cousin and soccer coach Mara Vieira joined the club at the same time and even worked alongside him for a time, witnessing his time through the youth ranks.
“We are talking here about a 12-year process to get into the senior team and realize his dream of playing for his boyhood club,” explained Mara, who is also executive director of the School of Tactical Periodization. “Despite the quality of him, there were times when he didn’t play much and he wasn’t really appreciated by one or two coaches.
“For example, he only made it to the national setup at under-18 level. He had to watch his friends being called while he stayed behind, but he never doubted himself. He used to say he had it all figured out.”
Viera may have taken longer to bloom than expected, but once she did, she didn’t look back.
He was a key member of the Porto team that won the 2019 UEFA Youth League, beating a Chelsea side that included the likes of Conor Gallagher, Billy Gilmour and Tariq Lamptey. Two years later, he was named the best player in the European Under-21 Championship.
More aggressive than Odegaard
With Porto coach Sergio Conceicao’s reluctance to embrace youth, Vieira had to wait for his chance to shine.
He finally became a regular following Luis Diaz’s departure for Liverpool last winter, contributing to 11 goals in his last 12 league games. While it has been argued that he would have benefited from another season at the Dragao stadium, the club’s unending financial crisis saw him leave for less than his €50m release clause.
A versatile player with an eye for killer passes, Arsenal will be able to use him in a number of different ways.
He has appeared in every position in midfield, but operated mainly from the right flank, cutting down the infield. He is incisive in the attacking third and will be fierce competition for Martin Odegaard.
“He has all the tools: he can dribble, combine, slow down, burst into the box, score. Players like this have to be close to the goal,” said Tulipa.
“However, one thing he needed to improve on was his off-ball actions, but he did in recent months. He has become a more collective athlete under Conceicao’s guidance and found the right balance between the different moments of the game.”
Adjusting to life in north London shouldn’t be a problem for him, according to his cousin.
“It’s a huge change, but because of everything he’s been through, his reading ability and intelligence, he can get through this too,” Mara concluded.