The Youthful Revolution at Vitória SC

Yesterday, Vitória SC announced their latest signing, a hot prospect in the form of South African attacker Lyle Foster. The 19-year-old arrives in Guimarães from French club AS Monaco on a five-year-deal having been recently nominated for the prestigious Golden Boy award earlier in the season. 

Lyle Foster, image courtesy of Vitória Sport Clube official website

This signing is the latest in a line of signings that epitomise the direction Vitória are aiming to go in, signing young, talented players with a lot of promise who have yet to play much senior football in their career. New manager Tiágo, the criminally underrated and former Atlético Madrid midfielder and most recently assistant to Diego Simeone, is hoping to continue this youthful revolution at Vitória SC and build on the foundations laid last season. So far this window, Vitória have brought in NINE players, the youngest being 19, the oldest? Just 23 years of age.

In addition to Lyle Foster, earlier this week Os Conquistadores announced the signing of 21-year-old Jacob Maddox from Chelsea, the highly-rated defender who was part of the West London club’s 2015/16 UEFA Youth League triumph. The signing of Maddox also continues Vitória’s mini ‘English revolution’ as he becomes the third Englishman to sign following last season’s capture of both the dynamic Marcus Edwards and defender Easah Suliman. All three Englishman were part of the same Three Lions side that won the U17 UEFA European Championships, defeating Portugal 2-1 in the final with Suliman scoring the opener. It was clear in Maddox’s first interview with the club that the presence of his international team-mates was a key part of his decision to come to Guimarães. “I am very excited. I followed Vitória over the last season and realizing how much Edwards and Suliman like to be here and feel valued here, it is obvious that I was very happy when this opportunity arose and it was an immediate ‘yes’.” As well as the signing of Maddox, Vitória have acquired another Chelsea player in the shape of 19-year-old goalkeeper Nicholas Tié, who signs for the club on a five-year-deal.

Jacob Maddox, image courtesy of Vitória Sport Clube official website

The signing of Marcus Edwards last season followed Vitória’s blueprint with regards to their transfer policy, this was a player who was highly rated throughout his spell at Tottenham Hotspur but ultimately made just one appearance for the senior side. He went on loan to both Norwich and Excelsior in the hopes of developing and subsequently returning to North London ready for first-team action. When this didn’t materialise, it was time for a new permanent club and a chance to play consistent football. He arrived in Guimarães on a free transfer at a club where the conditions were provided so that he could gain confidence and play his natural game. Overall he made 36 appearances for Vitória last season across all four competitions, scoring nine goals and assisting nine. In the January transfer window, another Englishman was recruited in the form of Easah Suliman, a signing with many parallels to the Marcus Edwards situation, both players struggled for senior game time in England, both players were loaned to the Eredivisie, with Suliman playing for Emmen. The talented central defender made just one senior appearance for his parent club after coming through the academy and it was clear that in order to display his early promise, he had to go and get game time. Suliman’s career at Vitória started slower than his compatriot Edwards’, frequently taking up a place on the bench. It was towards the end of the season when he began getting chances, initially filling in for the injured Bednarenko, he kept a clean sheet in his first two starts for the club. His last game of the season came against Marítimo, resulting in a 1-0 win where he again kept a clean sheet and played intelligently throughout, remained calm on the ball and read the game superbly well.

This youthful approach to transfers helps Vitória not only on the pitch but also financially. Vitória allows these young talents the time to develop and as a result, allow their transfer valuations to rise, which ensures Vitória will usually make a solid profit if the player decides to move on, something that will happen should Marcus Edwards choose to leave the club this summer. A prime example being the transfer of Edmund Tapsoba. Vitória acquired the services of the Burkina-Faso defender from Leixões in the 17/18 season, initially to play for the clubs B team. He made the step up to the senior side at the start of the 2019/20 season, played just 16 Liga NOS games and was sold in January to Bayer Leverkusen for just under £17 million, a substantial transfer value, especially when considering the deal to bring him to Guimarães cost next to nothing and as a result, earned them a tidy profit. 

After a long season last time out that finished with Vitória in 7th, outside of the European places, Tiágo will be looking to make improvements this time around in his first senior management role. The lack of European football may work in Vitória’s favour, giving them more time to focus on domestic issues such as the Primeira Liga and both domestic trophies. How Tiágo will fare next season anybody’s guess due to his inexperience at senior level, but there is one thing that’s for certain and that is that the club is making all the right noises going into what is sure to be an exciting 2020/21 campaign.

Words | Aaron Barton | @ProximaJornada1 –  Images | Vitória Sport Clube

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