For almost a year now there’s been rumors flying around that Bayern is interested in a young but experienced left-back. But what makes the blond Portuguese so special? It’s time to find out: Who is Fabio Coentrao?
Fabio Coentrao (Fábio Alexandre da Silva Coentrão for the name nerds) was born in Caxinas, a suburb of Vila do Conde, a city in Northern Portugal.
Unsurprisingly that’s where his career started when he joined Rio Ave FC, the club where the careers of Rui Jorge and Jose Mourinho started 15 respectively 25 years earlier. Soon he became a first-team regular of the second-tier team and was chosen to represent Portugal at the 2007 U-20 World Cup. There he gained first international attention, especially his performance against New Zealand was outstanding. His technical superiority was obvious. The World Soccer Magazine then included him in a list of the 50 most promising talents. Coentrao was ranked #19, higher than for example Marouane Fellaini, Mesut Özil, Toni Kroos, Theo Walcott and Ever Banega.
The next logical step was a move to one of the ‘Big Three’. Coentrao decided for Benfica. After a disappointing first half of the season for the 19-year old, he joined Nacional on loan for the rest of the season to gain valuable experience instead of watching matches from the bench.
For the 2008-09 campaign, he was supposed to play for the Spanish club Zaragoza but hardly did so he left after 6 months. And what’s the best you can do if you’re struggling? Return to the place where you were successful. That’s what Coentrao did, he joined Rio Ave for half a year and (of course) was a regular and an important part of the team.
2009-10 was his breakout season. He became Benfica’s starting left-back and played his first matches in the Europa League. Not only did he impress the fans and the media (he was voted Portugal’s Breakthrough Player Of The Season) but also Carlos Queiroz, coach of the national team. Fabio Coentrao was a part of the 2010 World Cup squad and even their starting left-back during the entire tournament.
Despite Portugal being eliminated in the Round of 16, Coentrao again made a lasting impression on the football world. He was the left-back in many all-star teams (but not in the “official” one voted by the FIFA online community that, for whatever reason, went for three right-backs and one center back instead).
It’s no surprise that suddenly tons of rumors appeared. Pretty much every European top club was linked with the newcomer but most of those rumors soon turned out to be completely fictional. Bayern however really was interested but not willed to pay the in the eyes of the club too hefty transfer fee. Since then, Coentrao extended his contract (mostly to guarantee that Benfica receives a good compensation if he gets sold) and played in the Champions League.
But what makes him special? In a nutshell: Fabio Coentrao is one of the best so-called modern full-backs. He is fast, technically adept and perfectly capable of contributing to the offense. Coentrao wasn’t a full-back until a few years ago, he was a left winger and still plays that position from time to time (what of course would mean that Bayern kills two birds with one stone as he could also operate as Franck Ribery’s backup).
Many say that he focuses too much on offense, that he’s not a great defender. I, for one, can’t remember having ever seen him overchallenged defensively. Quite the opposite, he did an outstanding job against Brazil at the World Cup (with Dani Alves AND Maicon being his opponents at the same time). The only weakness I’ve found is his heading ability but that’s pretty much the least important full-back ability I can think of. After all, Philipp Lahm’s headers aren’t exactly Miroslav Klose quality, either.
Fabio Coentrao, an all-around highly talented left-back with a hell of a development over the last years. A risk that’s worth being taken.