The World Cup commonly launches a relatively unknown player into the limelight as the next global superstar and someone who is now firmly in that mould is Goncalo Ramos.
The Portuguese striker had only been involved from the bench in each of his national team’s group matches at the 2022 Qatar World Cup, but for the round of 16 match against Switzerland, Fernando Santos made the call to drop Cristiano Ronaldo and start Ramos instead.
To say it paid off would be an understatement. Ramos scored a hat-trick and helped Portugal win 6-1, cruising into the quarter-finals of the World Cup where they will face Morocco. Ramos became the first player to score a World Cup knockout stage hat-trick since Tomas Skuhravy in 1990, and the first to score a hat-trick on their first World Cup start since Miroslav Klose in 2002.
That now means every major European club in existence is being linked with a move for the young striker, so here’s everything you need to know about the latest sensation to come out of Portugal.
It’s important to know that the World Cup hat trick did not come out of nowhere if you’ve been paying attention to Benfica’s form so far this season.
With Darwin Nunez departing for Liverpool in the summer, Ramos became the main striker for the Lisbon side and has thrived when given the responsibility. In 11 league games, Ramos has scored nine goals and got three assists, which is an incredible output.
He also got four goals and two assists in the Champions League qualification campaign and managed another goal and assist during the full group stage.
This is the form he has carried into the World Cup in Qatar and it’s seriously impressive that he was able to wait so patiently for his start and then grasp the opportunity so effectively. It is impossible to fathom the idea that he won’t start the quarter-final against Morocco.
Many of Portugal’s football talents come from the Porto or Lisbon areas but Ramos is from Olhao, down in the Algarve. He moved his way further north in 2013 when he joined the Benfica youth academy.
He has never been loaned elsewhere, moving up to Benfica B in 2019 and then becoming part of the Benfica first team in 2020. Given he is 21, there is a belief that he is a fully established star rather than a youngster who has suddenly been thrust into the limelight. Benfica appear to have done a superb job on his development.
There was a time in the 2021/22 season under Jorge Jesus when Ramos was in the first team but getting very limited minutes, so he was looking to leave in January. A managerial change in January 2022 saw him play more regularly, meaning Benfica must be very grateful to Nelson Verissimo for keeping Ramos at the club.
His first ever Champions League goal came against Liverpool at Anfield in a 3-3 quarter-final draw. That made him the second youngest player to score for Benfica in the Champions League.
Incredibly, Ramos only made his senior debut for Portugal on November 17 2022 against Nigeria. The match against Switzerland in Qatar was his second start.
Ramos appears to be in that mould of strikers nowadays – of which Erling Haaland is the prime example – where they just seem to have every desirable attribute rolled into one player.
It used to be that a striker was tall and scored headed goals, or they were fast and could run in behind, or they were great at dropping back and scoring from range. Nowadays, so many young strikers just have all of those abilities at once.
Standing at 6’0 tall (185cm), Ramos can hold his own in the box when the ball is crossed in and is also a very muscular player. He is not easily shrugged off the ball, but that has been carefully balanced so that he can still sprint in behind a defence.
Others are faster than him, but pace is by no means a weakness of his. He’s a persistent and powerful dribbler of the ball and now his focus needs to just be on scoring as many goals for club and country as possible.
The short answer; anyone. A huge amount of interest has been generated in the 21-year-old. There was already a lot of interest from big clubs, and the World Cup hat-trick has almost acted like a green light for clubs to be more forthright with their interest.
Many clubs almost signed him back in the summer of 2022, with the likes of Newcastle, Crystal Palace and Nottingham Forest holding talks. The latter two are likely out of the picture now, but Manchester United and Paris Saint-Germain were also in the ring.
United were put off by the asking price, but after Cristiano Ronaldo’s departure and the fact they are left with just Anthony Martial as a recognised striker, Erik ten Hag really needs a forward for the long-term.