Eder Militao: Why the Porto star is coveted by Manchester United, Real Madrid and Barcelona
For possession-obsessed top clubs, the search for the modern, high-aggression centre-back with a satin touch and the passing range of a cruise missile has become incessant.
Many top teams are now intent on a level of technical skill whereby all players – and at a push the goalkeeper – could be capable of playing in central midfield, if asked. For the biggest, having a centre-back who can pass commandingly is simply a tactical necessity, despite the rarity of players who can live up to the role's requisite skill and physicality.
Upon discovering FC Porto‘s 20-year-old Brazilian Eder Militao, it seems many of the likely names in European football are queuing up to collect the latest multi-talented man at the back.
Manchester United are reported to have had him scouted, and Mourinho supposedly requested his recruitment as one of his last demands of the club. Similarly, Real Madrid are reported to have enquired about his pricetag, while Barcelona were rumoured to have sniffed about in the summer.
So, the crucial question: Are the scouts from Europe's biggest clubs wasting a return ticket to Lisbon?
Why European giants want Militao
Signing for Porto from Sao Paulo for a couple of million, he did so amid interest already from Manchester City. Since then he has only kicked on, becoming crucial for the Portuguese side after moving to his preferred role at centre-back.
In some ways it's hard to judge a Porto centre-back, simply because of the lack of competition domestically. Porto have not finished below third in the Primeira Liga in a decade. Their expected goals (xG) per game this season is 2.37, compared to the 0.97 of their opponents.
As such Eder Militao is called into defensive action less frequently than at other clubs. When he had been called upon, he's reacted well. He's played in 18 matches this season and only seen 10 goals find his side's net.
He's quick and he frequently makes last-ditch aggressive tackles and blocks. His positioning is good when he realises there is a threat, and his speed and footwork allow him to cut out danger when he sees it in enough time. However, his instincts for danger could be slightly sharper and his head is not on a swivel at times.
His physicality can certainly be questioned – he is 6'1″ and he wins 57 per cent of aerial duels, which is not the most convincing for a centre-back. Although it's his preferred position, the aerial concerns explain why he has been deployed at right-back and defensive midfield in his career. His only goal of the season came in the Champions League against Schalke and while it was a good header, he was completely unmarked. If you are buying Militao, you need a bigger man next to him.
That said, when he is on the ball, it's clear why major clubs want him. He's confident playing out from the back, loves a dribble and is technically assured. He takes risks, but rarely makes mistakes and avoids punishment for them with his determination to win the ball back.
His passing is accurate and he has a good range, as his two assists this season can attest as well as many more from his Sao Paulo days. He can cross exactly where he wants to, thanks to his days at right-back in Brazil.
In short, he would do well at the back of most possession-oriented attacks. His defence can lapse, but with a few more seasons at centre-back under a top manager, he has all the attributes to contribute at the very highest level.
Will a transfer happen?
Porto have pledged to offer him an improved contract as Porto president Pinto da Costa has confirmed: “There was talk of one or two clubs. There is a termination clause, we are trying to negotiate to renew the contract and increase the clause.”
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The likelihood is good that Porto try to sign him onto a contract with a higher wage and release clause than the current €45m (£45m) – and challenge him to earn a move for a larger fee. However, while Militao is full of promise, he's certainly not the definite article just yet and Porto can't afford to throw Madrid or Manchester United money at him.
For Militao, it might be tempting to spend another year developing with guaranteed first-team football in the Champions League – but is probably not in his overall interest to do this. When big clubs come knocking around Liga Primeira, you don't pass up the jump to some of the most prestigious and dominant teams in world football and seriously advance your career.
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