The New Goalscorer Profile of the U23 Portuguese League

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Liga Revelação

The "Liga Revelação" 2023/2024 lived up to its name and, as usual, revealed some surprising names this season. Within the structures of Sporting, Estoril and Benfica, few would say that their goal scorers would be Rodrigo Marquês, Rodrigo Ramos and José Melro. None of them has an eye-popping physical profile and all of them did most of their training as attacking midfielders, "second forwards" or wingers but have specialized as goalscorers in the under-23 team, even if the areas they occupy are not exactly those of the "9" position. This is not a unique case and we only have to go back a season to remember that Afonso Rodrigues, a winger from Famalicão who now plays for Paços de Ferreira, stood out as the competition's top scorer.


Rodrigo Ramos - Estoril

Let's start with Rodrigo Ramos, the record goalscorer in a single edition of the Liga Revelação with 23 goals. Often used as a winger on the inside or even as a more attacking midfielder, he stands out for being the top scorer in this team, reminiscent of the version of "Pote" - Pedro Gonçalves of Sporting in the 2020/2021 season who at the time was the top scorer in the Liga NOS, not least because of the space he occupies and the objective way he fits in with the goal, scoring several goals with one touch, always giving the impression that the goals are "easy" due to the simplicity of his technical gestures. Rodrigo Ramos began his training at Benfica, leaving at under-15 level, taking the opportunity to develop at Belenenses, where he began to develop his goalscoring streak, despite almost always playing as an attacking midfielder or winger who seeks out interior areas. With an average of 0.85 goals per game and 3.19 shots on goal per game, he shows above-average efficiency, scoring more than expected (0.49 expected goals) (Source: WyScout).



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Although he is often positioned further away from the penalty area, as we can see, Rodrigo Ramos often manages to position himself in areas in line with the goal, the so-called "golden zone", defined by a "rectangle" in front of the goal, a position from which, with just one touch, it is possible to score a goal. Despite being a player of short stature (around 1.70m), he manages to excel in his relationship with the goal.



Rodrigo Marquês – Sporting

Moving on to Rodrigo Marquês. After a troubled start to the season where he wasn't a regular option in the B team (he only played 238 minutes in 10 Liga 3 games, contributing one assist), he was used in the Revelation League, which previously had younger players in his position, but was called up due to internal needs and (very well!) made the most of the opportunity. 9 Goals in 10 Games is the player in this league who needs the fewest minutes to score. With a talented left foot and a strong shot, he has the "genes" of a footballer, being the son of Sérgio Marquês (former Estrela da Amadora, Olhanense and Mafra player) and grandson of Valter Onofre (former Sporting and Braga goalkeeper in the 70s and 80s). Rodrigo Marquês has practically always been used as a winger, but he spent a lot of his formative years as a winger or attacking midfielder, which is how he was seen at the start of the season when he represented the B team. Although he likes to play out wide, looks to play between the lines and has the quality to get into areas that allow him to combine with his teammates, of the three players mentioned, he is the one with the physical capacity to withstand the physical duels that are often characteristic of this position (around 1.80m), while also being able to hold the ball up and cope with loads (he contests around 18.5 duels per game, winning 40% of them, compared to 15 for Ramos with 40% won and 16 for Melro, who wins only 33%). His average number of shots is low (just 2.64 shots per game), which gives him an average of 0.9 goals per game, demonstrating his effectiveness (Source: WyScout).



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Despite being deployed outside the number 9 position in League 3, Rodrigo Marquês has adapted effectively to the position in the Revelation League, scoring 6 of his 9 goals with shots from inside the area and, as we can see, repeatedly using areas framed by the goal to target the opponent. Like Rodrigo Ramos, Rodrigo Marquês uses direct free kicks as another of his weapons and has already scored goals this way.



José Melro – Benfica

Finally, José Melro with 16 goals in 25 games. Perhaps the player on the "eagles" roster who took best advantage of the competitive space of the Revelation League to earn his place, achieving prominence and seeking out new opportunities. Initially used as a substitute, he alternated between coming on as a winger or "second striker" and then settling into the number 9 position. A player of rare opportunism in today's soccer, he always seems to be waiting for a slip or a ball that goes over the top of the box so that he can "head it in". With an above-average killer instinct, it seems that "the ball always goes to him", such as the young striker's intelligence and ability to read events and position himself in areas hidden from opposing defenders, but with one touch he can score. Throughout his formative years, José Melro sought out the best contexts in the district of Santarém to develop as a player until he reached the senior squad of União de Santarém where, from a very young age, he began training with the club's first team, which was competing in the Portuguese Championship and League 3. This constant challenge and stimulus developed in José Melro an instinct and speed of thought that has earned him a remarkable ability to specialize in movements inside the box despite being far from a physically powerful player (around 1.78m), managing, in just 2.34 shots per game, an average of 0.78 goals against an expected value of just 0.43 (Source: WyScout).



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José Melro is another case of a player who, despite occupying areas that are sometimes far from the "9's" natural habitat, manages to be excellent when it comes to finding areas to finish, as we can see on the following map, where he scored 15 of his 16 goals inside the area (!), making him a specialist player in this area of the pitch.



The "pure" 9: Miro - Gil Vicente

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Despite being a totally different player to those mentioned, it wouldn't be fair of me to talk about the goalscorers in the Revelation League and not mention Miro, who is a pure "9", a physically powerful player (1.84m) who has already made his first team debut. With 15 goals in the Revelation League, he is a player who is very available for duels (23 duels per game, significantly more than the 18, 15 and 16 of Marquês, Ramos and Melro, according to WyScout) and has a lower level of effectiveness (he needs to take 3.45 shots per game to average 0.72 goals per game compared to 0.68 expected) (Source: WyScout).



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As we can see, he's a player who occupies a lot more of the winger's areas, naturally scoring in the areas closest to the goal.



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