Jack Stroudley takes a look at our latest widely reported rumour.
If you’re a regular on Twitter then I’m sure you’ve heard the name Joao Palhinha crop up frequently over the past week, as Fulham and Wolves battle it out to obtain the Portuguese international’s signature for the upcoming season.
If you believe the rumours and reports then it looks like we’ve been successful in signing the 26 year old from Sporting Lisbon for a fee rumoured to be around €18 million. There’s a lot of hype surrounding Palhinha, so I thought I’d do a deep dive to see if the player lives up to it. So – who is Joao Palhinha?
The fact file
Joao spent the youth stages of his career playing across three different clubs, starting at Alta de Lisboa in 2008, making the switch to Sacavenese in 2009 and then settling at Sporting Lisbon in 2012. He made his professional debut aged 19 for Sporting Lisbon B, coming on as a late substitute in a 3-2 victory against Portimonense. Palhinha continued to play in the second division for the remainder of the 2013/14 season as well as 2014/15 before getting his first loan moves. Firstly to Primeira Liga side Moreirense and then to Belenenses.
Palhinha returned to Sporting Lisbon in 2017 and made his competitive debut for the club in 2017 during a 2-2 draw away at Maritimo. He was then sent out on loan for two seasons to Braga where he played 76 times for ‘Os Arcebispos’ and impressed with his defensive stats and improvement.
The 26-year-old returned for the beginning of the 2020/21 season and has been a prominent figure for Sporting Lisbon over the past two seasons. His club form was also recognised by his country as he was called up for the squad for the first time in March 2021. Since then, he’s gone on to make 14 appearances and score two goals for Portugal.
A deeper dive
When we take a deeper dive into Joao Palhinha, is he worthy of the hype? He plays in a midfield two, he doesn’t tend to venture far forward and plays more as a traditional ‘six’, sitting in front of the defenders breaking up play and then distributing the ball to slightly more creative players.
If he does sign for Fulham this would allow Harrison Reed to play more as an ‘eight’ and bring others into play (the potential signing of Al-Musrati from Braga would do the same but I’m not sure we’ll spend big on two midfielders this transfer window).
Statistically, Palhinha is a very solid ‘six’ option, averaging 3.89 attempted tackles per 90 minutes and successfully completing three of those. Compared to the stats of defensive midfielders in the Premier League last season only Wilfred Ndidi and Christian Norgaard successfully completed more tackles per 90 than Palhinha. It’s not just in tackles where Palhinha excels, he is also in the top 10% of midfielders for aeriel duels won, defensive duels per 90 minutes and fouls won per 90.
While the current Sporting Lisbon midfielder likes to sit back and let more creative players dictate play, he does also have the passing ability and range to impact a game when necessary. The twitter page @TotalAnalysis has created a nifty little pass map for his more attacking performances over the course of the season showing that Palhinha is comfortable picking up the ball and breaking opposition press. The pass maps show both a good ability at short range passing, but also a player who’s more than capable of providing longer more diagonal passing to help break through defensive lines.
Yes or no?
To conclude, do I think Fulham should be signing Joao Palhinha? Yes! He’s an incredibly good player who will help us control the midfield (something we have sometimes struggled with in the Premier League) while also bringing the ball forward to help more attacking players create opportunities and hopefully goals.
At €18 million, the Portuguese international should be snapped up by most Premier League clubs and if we’re the lucky ones to have a player of his calibre on our books then we should absolutely get this one over the line.