When Porto wins a trophy, there is only one place to go in town: the Avenida dos Aliados in the city centre.
That is where supporters assemble to see players and coaching staff celebrate victories together. It was no different in May when the northern giants were named Portuguese champions for the second time.
For a brief moment, one of the team’s breakthrough stars, Fabio Vieira, worried he would not be allowed to join his teammates on the big stage. A security guard had not recognised him and had requested identification.
Vieira couldn’t believe his eyes. He’d recently ended the league season with six goals and 14 assists and was still being stopped at the party’s entry.
“Ma’am, that’s me,” he said, beaming, as he was assisted by a reporter from the club’s TV station, who yelled, “he’s a player, he’s a player.” The episode depicted how quickly things have changed for Vieira.
Last season was his first full season of senior football. It wasn’t enough to establish him as an undisputed starter – or even for his face to become instantly recognisable in town. However, it was enough to convince Arsenal to pay 40 million euros (£34.2 million) for the 22-year-old attacking midfielder.
“Players like Fabio are expensive, so if you can get them before they break out, why not?” That’s clever business,” former Porto youth coach Manuel Tulipa told BBC Sport.
“He’s the creative midfielder that comes up with a solution when you’re having trouble throughout a game.” He can see what’s happening around him and predict what will happen. Any manager’s dream and the type of footballer that teams are always looking for.”
The child from Argoncilhe, a district south of Porto, has been labelled as a rogue on the pitch. Thanks to his excellent left foot.
He is self-assured and, regardless of the circumstances, refuses to play the apparent ball and passes backwards or sideways. It may appear dangerous, but the ball frequently ends up in the back of the net.
“Fabio has the wisdom of wise old men,” Porto assistant coach Vitor Bruno said shortly. It is now up to Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta to harness that footballing intellect and ensure he lives up to his full potential.
The talented midfielder joined Porto at eight and spent his formative years there, but his journey to the top was far from straightforward. Mara Vieira, his cousin and football coach, joined the club simultaneously and even got to work with him for a spell, observing his rise through the ranks.
“We’re talking about a 12-year journey here to break into the senior team and realise his ambition of playing for his boyhood club,” Mara, an executive director at the School of Tactical Periodization, remarked. “Despite his talent, there were times when he didn’t get much playing time and was underappreciated by a coach or two.”
“For example, he only made the national team at the under-18 level.” He had to watch as his buddies were called up whilst he remained behind, yet he never questioned himself. He used to think he had everything figured out.”
It may have taken longer for Viera to get through than planned, but he didn’t look back once he did.
He was an important player in the Porto team that won the 2019 UEFA Youth League, defeating a Chelsea team that included Conor Gallagher, Billy Gilmour, and Tariq Lamptey. He was the best player in the Under-21 European Championship two years later.
More Aggressive Than Odegaard
Vieira had to wait for his moment to emerge since Porto boss Sergio Conceicao was unwilling to welcome youth.
After Luis Diaz left for Liverpool last winter, he became a regular, scoring 11 goals in his final 12 league outings. It has been suggested that he would have profited from another season at the Dragao stadium. The club’s never-ending financial woes meant he was forced to go for less than his 50 million euros (£43 million) release clause.
Arsenal will be able to utilise him in various ways due to his versatility and eye for a deadly pass. He has played in all midfield positions, but primarily from the right-wing, cutting infield. He is a threat in the attacking third and will be a tough competitor for Martin Odegaard.
“He has all the tools – he can dribble, combine, slow the game down, break into the box, and score.” “Players like these need to be near the goal”, Tulipa explained.
“One thing he needed to work on was his actions away from the ball, which he has done in recent months.” Under Conceicao, he has developed into a more collective athlete, finding the appropriate balance between the many phases of the game.”
According to his relative, adjusting to living in north London should be easy for him.
“It’s a significant adjustment, but given everything he’s been through, his reading ability and intellect, he can conquer this as well,” Mara concluded.