Continental capers from Scandinavia to the Med
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. It was a career of skill, it was a career of foolishness. He had everything before him, and in a flash, he had nothing before him. The complications of Ricardo Quaresma’s story seem almost straight out of a Charles Dickens novel.
Quaresma’s career has been a tale of two promises. Although the second is well on its way to being kept, to say that the first promise of Quaresma’s career has been broken is an understatement. It was shattered.
Bursting onto the scene after being promoted from Sporting Lisbon’s B team in 2001/02 at the tender age of 17, Quaresma dazzled teammates, football directors, and of course, opponents with his immense skill. Sporting fans were left in a state of bliss by the winger’s tricks and flicks and took delight in watching him daze and confuse his markers. Quaresma played in 36 games and scored five goals in his debut campaign.
The winger, along with Portuguese Liga legends Joao Vieira Pinto, Mario Jardel, and current national team manager Paulo Bento, triumphantly led Sporting to a league and cup double.
It was here that the first promise was made. Quaresma, who undoubtedly had the skill to do so, was going to follow in Luis Figo’s footsteps and become one of the greatest talents in Europe.One year later, a young Cristiano Ronaldo began to impress in the same manner. Both playing in the same team, and with similar styles, the comparisons of the two players began. Although Sporting fans agreed that both were destined for greatness, it was Quaresma who was pegged to outshine and take over for Figo. Ronaldo was in the shadow of his teammate.
Ronaldo (No.11) and Quaresma (No.7) line up for Portugal's under-21 side
At the end of the campaign, the Portuguese side sold their two star wingers. Ronaldo headed to Manchester United in exchange for €15 million, while Quaresma was sold to Barcelona for €6 million and Fabio Rochemback. While Ronaldo’s stock continued to rise as he began his trek to fame at the Theatre of Dreams that is Old Trafford, Quaresma struggled to find form with the Catalan club, scoring only one goal in 22 appearances. Near the end of the season, the winger fell out with Frank Rijkaard after criticising the Dutchman for his lack of playing time. One step forward, two steps back - the trend that has marked Quaresma’s career.
In the same move that saw Deco move from FC Porto to Barcelona, Quaresma was shipped back to his homeland, along with €20 million, to join the newly-crowned European champions. Unlike his time at Barcelona, Quaresma impressed from the start with the Dragons.
Making his debut as a substitute in the UEFA Supercup against Valencia, Quaresma cut through David Albelda, leaving the rugged midfielder’s head spinning, and unleashed a curling 30-yard effort that flew past Santiago Canizares and into the net. Although Porto would ultimately lose the game, Quaresma had quickly won the respect of the fans, players and coaching staff. It was no wonder he earned the nickname ‘Harry Potter’. In his following outing - the Portuguese Supercup, against archrivals Benfica - Quaresma scored the only goal to seal a win over his new club’s eternal nemesis. There’s no better way to impress Porto management than by gunning down the Eagles.
In his four years with the Dragons, Quaresma re-emerged onto the European scene, after wilting in Catalonia. He became an idol and hero at Porto, scoring 24 goals in 114 league matches. The trickster led his side to three consecutive league titles between 2005 and 2008, a Portuguese Cup, a Portuguese Supercup, and an Intercontinental Cup. His skills helped Porto to consecutive appearances in the Champions League round of 16 and earned him enough recognition to finally maintain a consistent spot on the Portuguese National team.
The master of the trivela, a signature move where he displays his skill by crossing or striking a ball at goal with the outside of his foot, Quaresma’s magical displays for Porto once again made him a star. The winger earned another multi-million euro transfer away from Portugal, this time to Internazionale. Pundits believed that after maturing as a player and sharpening his skills with Porto, Jose Mourinho’s tutelage would be enough to finally allow Quaresma to transcend the final barrier and become an elite player. But instead of jumping over the final hurdle, Quaresma crashed into it and began a descent that has stained his career.
At Inter, all of Quaresma’s flaws, particularly on the defensive end of the field, were exposed for the world to see. While at Porto, the winger was spared of most defensive duties by manager Jesualdo Ferreira, who preferred to have him hover around the midfield line. This allowed Porto to have a dangerous outlet on a counter-attack but also spared Quaresma’s blushes defensively. Mourinho, a manager well known for expecting his entire squad to perform on both ends of the pitch, did not appreciate Quaresma’s lack of two-way football. The former Chelsea manager noticed how his countryman’s presence on the field was to the detriment to Inter defensively.
This left Quaresma in the role of an impact substitute, heavily relied upon to shift the tide with his offensive ability. But unfortunately for Quaresma, his offensive flaws were also put on display.Although he was loved by Porto fans, Quaresma was often the target of whistles and jeers at the Estadio do Dragao for his poor decision making that resulted in giveaway after giveaway.
A rather moist Quaresma celebrates title glory with Porto in 2008
Wearing the black and blue of Inter, the same rang true. Quaresma, seemingly affected by the pressure on him to perform after an €18.5 million transfer, attempted to do too much on the field. Instead of surprising defenders with a rare trivela, every touch was taken with the outside of his foot. Instead of continuing the flow of possession, Quaresma attempted to dribble past more than one beefy Serie A defender at a time.
No longer holding the trust and confidence of Mourinho, Quaresma only played in twelve games throughout the first-half of the season. A loan move to Luiz Felipe Scolari’s Chelsea didn’t improve the player’s situation as he only managed to make four appearances in the latter half of the season.
In 2008, former teammate Ronaldo was crowned Europe’s best player by winning the Ballon D’or. Ironically, Quaresma was awarded the Bidone D’Oro (the golden traschcan), a mock prize awarded by Rai Radio 2 listeners to the worst player in Serie A.
A second year at Inter saw Quaresma’s situation further worsen. Although he only played one less game, his playing time was cut in half. In 11 appearances, Quaresma averaged 35 minutes per outing, only once completing the full 90.
Two years of misery was enough for Inter to pull the trigger and sanction a permanent transfer out of the club. Quaresma was shipped to Besiktas for €7.3 million.
Just like he did at Porto, the winger had to start from square one if he had any hopes of re-establishing himself. However, at 27 years old, that would be more difficult to accomplish.
Quaresma’s stock sky-rocketed during his first season at Besiktas. Scoring 11 goals in all competitions, many of them the kind of wonder strike Porto fans had grown accustomed to, Quaresma seemed to have rediscovered his swagger. His play led the Turkish side to a domestic cup win. But, near the end of his second campaign in Turkey, Quaresma blew it.
Ricardo's recent shenanigans have left him with some explaining to do...
Down 1-0 to Atletico Madrid during the second leg of a Europa League round of 16 tie, manager Carlos Carvalhal hooked Quaresma at half-time in favour of Ismail Koybasi. The Portuguese winger allegedly exploded with rage and told Carvalhal that he was worthless while rampaging in the locker room.
Besiktas officials chose to side with Quaresma and Carvalhal was discarded. Heading into the last year of his contract, the higher powers at Besiktas wanted Quaresma to return the favour by agreeing to a lower salary. When Quaresma refused, the second promise was made. After negotiations failed, president Fikret Orman told the Turkish press in September that he would end the career of his star player. Quaresma has not turned out for the Black Eagles since.
Little did he know, Orman’s promise would be close to being fulfilled as little as two months later. Since the threats, the former Inter player has been embroiled in levels of controversy that would make even Joey Barton blush.
In October, club official Ahmet Mur Cebi accused the winger of publicly urinating in the Besiktas locker room and flashing his genitals at female employees. Although Quaresma plead innocence, his reputation took a further hit as the footballing world burst with laughter.
Nearly two weeks ago, the winger once again made headlines, for the wrong reasons. Quaresma was arrested by police in Lisbon after having assaulted an officer, who required hospitalisation as a result. Quaresma’s mother had been mugged outside the court house where the player was testifying about having been mugged himself. Quaresma attempted to pursue the individual when he was stopped by the officer. A heated confrontation ensued and ended with Quaresma in police custody.
More than ever, Quaresma’s career can be defined as one of blaring highs and excruciating lows. Now 29, the two recent incidents will surely mean an end to any highs. After his image on the pitch was obliterated at Inter, his image off the pitch has been given the same treatment at Besiktas.
When he sees out his contract at the end of the season, there will surely be several suitors. A third return to Portugal has been rumoured for more than a year now, and it would perhaps be best to end his fluctuating career in the place he experienced the most success. Even if he does manage to revitalise himself once more, Quaresma will spend the last few years of his career wondering what went wrong from his brilliant start at Sporting to his final, brutal year at Besiktas.
Dickens concludes A Tale of Two Cities with Sydney Carton, a brilliant young character, known for wasting his life, being executed by guillotine. The blade is currently hanging ominously at the top, waiting to bring the end of Quaresma’s football career.
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