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Who Is Reading’s New Signing Tomas Esteves?

Guest writer Bruna Reis takes a detailed looked at Reading’s new right back.

FC Porto v AS Monaco - Pre-Season Friendly Photo by Carlos Rodrigues/Getty Images

The miles travelled out of love to reach his dream

Tomas Esteves was born in Arcos de Valdevez, a municipality along the northern frontier of Portugal and Spain. He began his footballing career locally at Associacao Desportiva e Cultural Aboim/Sabadim (ADECAS) at the age of eight before joining FC Porto a year later to begin realising his potential as a youngster.

During his time with Porto, his mother Clara Esteves would journey 250 km from Arcos de Valdevez to Olival, where her son attended training. Travelling equivalent to an hour and 15 minutes on a weekly basis demonstrated the determination and mindset Esteves possessed at such a young age with the ambition to grow into one of the most talked-about players at a worldwide level.

“I cried of happiness because my son fulfilled a dream. I would do it all over again,” expressed Clara.

The 18-year-old full-back has been with Porto’s academy for over nine years.

In the 2016/17 season, he was promoted to Porto’s under-15s where he made 27 appearances, scoring two goals. The following season, he continued showing his impressive ability skills at such a tender age, before he became part of an unforgettable season where he was established as one of the most highly rated defenders who has shown to be a physically strong right-back, who continuously excels in defensive tasks.

He was fast-tracked into Porto’s B squad at 17, where he established a solid place in Rui Barros’ team and caught the eye among popular youngsters like Fabio Silva, Fabio Vieira and Vitor Ferreira. The Portuguese side contested the UEFA Youth League during the 2018/19 campaign and the number two featured in all four games, reaching the final against Chelsea and coming out 3-1 winners in Nyon, Switzerland. History was made for the Invicta side as they became the first Portuguese team to ever win the competition.

He progressed through the ranks of the Portuguese national team, representing the Selecao das Quinas under-15, under-16, under-17, under-19 and currently at under-21 level. He currently represents Portugal under-21s; after showing immense flair for a number of years, he broke into that team at just 17.

Plenty of Europe’s biggest clubs have kept tabs on the 18-year-old, his recovery speed is a notable asset to his continual improving game. At such a youthful age, he shows a high level of maturity and assured confidence, an ability carrying the ball up the pitch is beneficial to his attacking game.

Manchester City had been monitoring Esteves during the youth league match against Tottenham and were left impressed by the-then youngster player as he stood out in his 90-minute performance at the back, securing a passage to the quarter-finals of the competition with a 2-0 victory. But in the end it was Spanish champions Barcelona who went a step further than most. According to Portuguese newspaper O Jogo, the Catalans put forward a €10m bid to the player last summer but Porto immediately turned the proposal down. Their next step was to increase his buyout clause to around the €30m mark.

An expired contract for Maxi Pereira that summer meant Esteves was in Porto’s pre-season plans ahead of the 2019/20 campaign, inheriting the Uruguayan’s number-two shirt. He featured for 45 minutes against Fulham and the whole match against Real Betis; he slowly affirmed his place into Sergio Conceicao’s squad.

He earned his first senior call-up in September in a League Cup opening group match against CD Santa Clara before making a debut in December, replacing Wilson Manafa in the last 15 minutes of a 3-0 away win at Casa Pia AC. Overall, he made 10 appearances last term with two of those in the cup, although in those eight league call-ups, he was on the bench for six and on the pitch twice against neighbouring rivals Boavista and Deportivo Aves.

During this summer transfer window, there was interest from Europe with the likes of Wolverhampton Wanderers as a potential replacement for Matt Doherty who joined Tottenham Hotspur at the end of August. Valencia were also keen to acquire a double deal from Porto - Esteves and Diogo Leite - but it is understood that no concrete offers were put forward.

Going places: record-breaking in almost 100 years

In 2019, he became Porto’s youngest full-back in 94 years to debut for the club - at 17 years and eight months.

Upon this achievement, Esteves expressed his contentment to Sport TV:

“I’m very happy with my debut, I’ve dreamt of this for a long time, my debut for the first team of my club. I will keep this shirt that symbolises my first game. I dedicated this moment to my mum, for all the sacrifices, for taking me to all the training sessions.”

Mais Futebol journalist Nuno Travassos said of Esteves last year (in The Guardian): “He was a member of the team that won the UEFA Youth League last season and is a player that has seemingly inexhaustible energy. His technical ability is superb and he is also tactically intelligent and a modern right-back in the way that he can stay wide but also go inside to find space if needed.”

In the summer, he put pen to paper on a contract extension that would keep him at the Dragao until 2024.

“I feel very happy with this contract extension. I would like to thank the president and the club for the confidence they have in myself. I will work hard to reach the expectations and I’m sure I’ll be happy at my own club.”

Club’s president Pinto da Costa said: “He renewed because our coach transmitted that he has high hopes for this players and sees a high potential in him. The passion Tomas has for football and the club, this can only work out.”

What to expect of him at Reading

Over the last few days, Reading’s interest in the 18-year-old has gone from strength to strength as he became Royal’s fifth signing of the transfer window right on deadline day. It is evident that he is a player with bags of potential but, still at 18, he has a long way to go.

He will benefit from this loan move, playing in a competitive and fast-paced league. Despite the fast pace of play in the Championship, he possesses the capability to adjust to a quicker and physical league. Reading fans can expect him to be a joy to watch and hopefully he will contribute his way to get Reading to the Premier League next season.

The highly rated youngster will provide needed cover at right-back, given the injuries of Andy Yiadom and Felipe Araruna. It is expected that he will be involved in Reading’s first few games after the international break as the Royals travel to the Riverside Stadium to face Middlesbrough on October 17.

Regarded as an attacking full-back with technical ability and positional prowess, he also has the ability to carry the play further up the field and position himself on the right side of midfield and central midfield. Esteves has the ability to step up from the Portuguese top-flight football.

Linking up with Reading is an excellent move for him and a chance to showcase his talent further in an ambitious league. The one-year loan deal without a buy clause comes at the right time as he was left out of Conceicao’s squad for the current season, as he was not registered to play. He lost his space after the arrival of Boavista’s Carraca. Also with other options in the squad and Conceicao referring to one of the most utilised players in the squad, Wilson Manafa and Jesus Corona as right-backs, this may have been a better option to obtain further game time.

Reading’s boss, Veljko Paunovic was pleased with the club’s recent addition:

“Tomas is a young, talented, versatile full-back, full of promise, potential and a real hunger to succeed. He will add good competition for places amongst our squad and I am delighted he has agreed to join us at Reading. I am excited to start working with him as part of this special group of players.”

The new inclusion in the squad has sparked debate on social media among fans who are exhilarated with the Portuguese international.

Esteves’ strengths

  • Pace and acceleration when carrying the ball with his feet but also covers the pitch well without it.
  • Determination to get on the ball and defend well.
  • Strong passing accuracy with 87% per game last season.
  • Accurate long balls with 60% per game.
  • 87% accuracy for ball carrying in his own half.
  • 89% accuracy in the opposition half.
  • In a change of formation he can play as a wing-back in a 3-5-2.

(Courtesy of sofascore.com)

Esteves’ weaknesses

As he is a player who often likes to cut inside into midfield and provide passes on either flank helping in the build-up, he still has a margin to improve on the quality of his crosses.

Football Talent Scout

Here Esteves is shown cutting inside to play a through-ball and assist a teammate.

Football Talent Scout

Again, he reads the game in advance, cuts inside from the midfield, proving a great through ball to the wings and his passing quality is proof of this.

He is often regarded as a threat in the opposition’s area, especially on counter attacks due to his pace and acceleration provided by the endless energy and creativity, reading the game clearly throughout the 90 minutes.

For his age, he is highly agile, possesses strength and coordination when dealing with opposed threats and recovering the ball.

Overall, Reading have acquired a thoroughly gifted player who, with game time, can only exhibit his qualities that Europe’s biggest clubs have been eyeing up in the last few years. Sitting in second place of the Championship table after four games, Esteves’ bravery and tactical astute to play in different tactical systems will push the Royals to continue fighting for a top spot.