Sporting CP have a wonderkid in their defence, and it won’t be long before the giants of Europe come knocking for him.

No, not Ousmane Diomande (though he is also rather good). I’m talking about the 22-year-old homegrown Portuguese talent – Eduardo Quaresma.

If ever there was a poster boy for keeping faith in young players, it’s Eduardo Quaresma. The young defender has been on something of a rollercoaster despite only just beginning his professional career.

It was only 4 years ago that a then 18-year-old Quaresma was the subject of extensive media speculation, linking him with the likes of Manchester United and Chelsea FC. This, after having only made nine senior appearances for Sporting CP in Portugal.

Choosing instead to sign a new contract and stay with Sporting, it soon looked as though those clubs may have dodged a bullet. Quaresma initially did not progress as anticipated, and failed to impress on loan at Hoffenheim in the Bundesliga – with the German club choosing not to activate an optional transfer clause in that deal.

Eduardo Quaresma made just 4 appearances for Hoffenheim in the Bundesliga.

At just 21 years old, some had already written Eduardo Quaresma off entirely.

They were wrong.

Quaresma has taken the 2023/2024 season by storm. Starting as a regular feature on the bench, he initially earned a spot in the starting XI due to the absence of Diomande at the African Cup of Nations, but soon showed why he deserved to retain that spot, even after the AFCON champion returned to Portugal.

Sporting is, as always, deep in battle at the top of Liga Portugal. Which means the pressure was heavily on Quaresma stepping into the side. But he has handled it exceptionally. 

And that composure can easily be seen on the pitch as well. While Quaresma may not be a “quarterback” defender – he’s not regularly pinging balls across the pitch to his forwards (though he definitely has it in his locker) – he is dependable. Calm, measured, and consistent in his ability to pass the ball. Nowadays that’s perhaps the minimum expectation for a top centre-half, and he has it.

Stats courtesy of fbref – Comparison excludes top 5 European Leagues.

Fascinatingly, Quaresma actually seems just as comfortable taking on opposition pressers directly. It’s rare to see a defender so comfortable in their close control to dribble their way out of danger, but Eduardo Quaresma is one of those enigmas.

And not just in his own defensive third, either. When given licence to roam he’s more than happy to carry the ball into the opposition half before finding a more creative teammate to progress the ball further.

Quaresma isn’t the finished article – defenders in their early twenties rarely are – but he shows the characteristics of a player who has the capacity to feature at the very top of the game. Defensive awareness is often an area that young defenders need to improve upon, but Quaresma already demonstrates a strong positional understanding.

He’s constantly on the lookout for danger. Where is it going to develop? Where do I need to be? Who is about to become a problem? Always thinking a step ahead of the play. 

And when the danger does arrive, Quaresma is strong and effective in the challenge. If you had to nitpick, you could accuse the youngster of occasionally being a little too committed. He welcomes those who want to try and get past him, and while they rarely do, he still tends to give them the opportunity.

Standing at 6 feet tall, Eduardo Quaresma isn’t a giant of a centre-half, and that is sometimes reflected in the battle for aerial dominance. It’s not a strength, but not necessarily an obvious weakness. 

Much preferring to battle it out on the ground, Quaresma certainly isn’t concerned with getting physical. Often coming out on top despite not enjoying a notably large frame.

Stats courtesy of fbref – Comparison excludes top 5 European Leagues.

So good has Quaresma’s re-emergence been in 2024 that many are already calling on Portugal national team manager Roberto Martinez to hand the youngster his international debut. Quaresma has featured for Portugal at U21 level, and a senior appearance could soon be forthcoming. Though Euro 2024 may come just a touch too soon.

With the expected departure of Ousmane Diomande in the Summer, Quaresma may soon find himself as one of the key men in the Sporting defence. Links with major European clubs will undoubtedly return, but it does seem unlikely that Sporting would part with both in the same window.

Another season in Portugal certainly wouldn’t be the worst outcome for Quaresma. Player development is often an unpredictable beast, and having only just established himself as a vital part of Ruben Amorim’s defence, another year of development will only benefit.

A player revitalised, a player reborn, this is only the beginning for Eduardo Quaresma.