Who is Roger Fernandes: SC Braga’s Portuguese Superstar Making Tradition Fashionable

    Portugal’s golden generation is slowly growing together under Roberto Martinez. The likes of Antonio Silva and Goncalo Inacio in defence, Joao Neves in midfield or Trincao in attack, there is burgeoning quality throughout the pitch. There was a fear, however, that it was a once-in-a-generation crop. Not true. The next wave is already coming as it looks like SC Braga’s Roger Fernandes will be at the top of it.

    When people talk about Portuguese wonderkids, Sporting Lisbon, Porto, and Benfica are the three clubs that come to mind. Roger Fernandes is set to break that trend and in a way that looks special.

    So, who is Roger Fernandes and why is he generating so much excitement in Portuguese footballing circles when that crowd has already seen a golden generation grow together?

    Who is Roger Fernandes?

    Roger Fernandes is an 18-year-old attacker/forward who plays for SC Braga. His rise has been meteoric and that is also understating it. In just the 2023/24 season, he has played in SIX competitions. That is what happens when you start the season with the U18s, progress to the B team and by the time the season is finishing, you’re already starting to become a key member of the first team.

    The most ridiculous thing about Fernandes is that he has taken every step up in level in his stride like he’s playing in the park with his friends. The swagger, the personality, and the sheer self-confidence in his skills translate to all levels which is why he has been so successful.

    Then again, purely self-confidence and swagger never made anyone world-class. Just ask Nicklas Bendtner! The thing is, Roger Fernandes combines it with breathtaking skills and an end product which is not normal for a kid his age and professional experience.

    So, what type of player is he?

    Roger Fernandes playing style

    Modern football has become increasingly intense, with a sharp focus on tactics, patterns, and specific player roles more than formations. Two positions/roles that have become almost extinct in the modern game are that of a classic No. 10, “the creator”, and the old-school winger.

    This is the era of the inside forward who starts on the “wrong wing” and cuts inside to become a goal threat. In some teams, inside forwards are the main goal threats, with the striker’s role mainly to link play up and invite those wide forwards to cut inside and score, like Liverpool.

    Roger Fernandes says no. As a left-footed player who plays on the left wing, Fernandes is a striker’s dream. He is rapid, extremely nimble and shifty, and dribbles like a dream in the mould of a traditional winger who goes outside on the byline and crosses to the centre.

    The result? He’s an assist machine at all levels he has played at. Just in senior football, Roger Fernandes has played just 591 minutes of football at the time of writing and already has two goals and seven assists. Nine goals involvements in about 600 minutes is world-class for a forward. For a teenager in his first taste of senior football who also bucks the traditional trend of a winger? That’s preposterous.

    Fernandes’ case of how he ended up reviving the traditional winger position is a curious one. He started out as a left-back but his attacking thrust and quality on the ball was way too good to be left in his own half for the majority of the game. As a result, he kept moving upwards on the pitch and ended up as a left-winger.

    That shift, however, has allowed him to hone his game in a way that a player who has always been an attacker wouldn’t have. Due to this shift, he can always be relied upon to put in a shift defensively, a requirement for a winger nowadays. He has a good sense of cutting attacks off through interceptions and helping out his fullback in defence to avoid overloads out wide.

    It all results in him having the potential to become a complete winger in the purest sense. One who would make the good old “4-4-2” enthusiasts burst with pride.

    Roger Fernandes potential

    There have been many players in history who started out as defenders and ended up becoming some of the world’s most ferocious attackers. A standout example, who started out in the same position as Fernandes, in fact, is Gareth Bale.

    However, Bale transitioned as per the demands of modern football and moved to the right wing where he could cut in on his left to unleash howitzers from the right half-space.

    In a slightly less glamorous comparison in terms of name but more apt in terms of playing style, expect Roger Fernandes to become a left-footed Antonio Valencia. Valencia started out as a traditional winger on the right and with age, dropped deeper to become a right-back.

    Obviously, Fernandes looks to have a far higher ceiling than Valencia but for tips on how to make himself stand out in a world full of inside forwards all doing the same thing, there are far worse examples to look up to.

    At his best, Fernandes will be a menace for the opposition defenders, needing to be regularly doubled up upon to contain his threat. If he is paired with a smart fullback who can underlap as well as overlap, he will be able to unleash his full array of skills. Add to that a clinical forward who can finish the numerous chances he creates with those skills, and a team will have a banker 20-goal involvements/season player.

    In the immediate future, however, the focus is on becoming the first name on the teamsheet at SC Braga which, if his performances so far are anything to go by, the manager might not have a choice in the matter for long!

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