Manchester United target Diogo Dalot: Everything you need to know
With Manchester United reportedly closing in on signing full-back Diogo Dalot from Porto, here is everything you need to know about the 19-year-old Portuguese prodigy.
1. He has always been considered a top talent
Dalot's talent was easy for all to see when he started kicking the ball. Ever since joining Fintas academy in his hometown of Braga at the age of 6, he appeared destined for greatness. Not for nothing did the Fintas coaches let him train with children three years older than him, which is absolutely incredible for that age group.
When Dalot was 8, both Benfica and Porto wanted to sign him. The kid spent two weeks with the Eagles in Lisbon, but the distance from Braga was too much. Porto were a much more logical option, especially because Dalot supported the Dragons. He never regretted the choice, making steady progress and becoming universally considered the top prospect at the Porto academy. By the age of 16, he was training with the first squad at the request of the coach, Julen Lopetegui.
2. He is a champion of Europe
Shortly afterward, Dalot played a crucial part as Portugal won the under-17 European championship in May 2016. Part of the defensive line that amusingly featured three more Porto players named Diogo (goalkeeper Diogo Costa and centre-backs Diogo Queiros and Diogo Leite), he made a huge impression on the right flank.
Portugal conceded only one goal in the competition, in the 1-1 draw against Spain in the final, and even that wasn't Dalot's fault. The defender, who netted in the semifinals against Holland, duly netted in the final, as well, with a crisp shot, and then proceeded to take a successful penalty in the shootout. He was rightfully chosen for the team of the tournament, and that was the case in the under-19 Euros, as well, when Portugal lost to Ryan Sessegnon's England in the final.
Even though Dalot celebrated his 19th birthday only two months ago, he was an integral part of the under-21 national team as early as 2017, and he has 55 youth caps to his name overall.
3. He provided two assists on his Porto debut
Given his phenomenal potential, Dalot probably had to wait a bit too long while playing for Porto B in the second division before coach Sergio Conceicao gave him a chance in February. Playing in the starting lineup for the first time in place of the injured left-back Alex Telles, the youngster provided two assists in a 5-1 thrashing of Portimonense.
His first home fixture at Estadio Do Dragao was the big clash against Sporting Lisbon, and Dalot wasn't showing any nerves, putting in an excellent performance in the 2-1 win that paved the way to the league title. A few days later, he played in the Champions League for the first time in a goalless draw against Liverpool at Anfield, and the Manchester United scouts were apparently impressed.
Dalot was a ball boy when Porto won their previous championship, in 2013, and nearly was hit by a flare thrown from the crowd when the Dragons scored the dramatic injury-time winner against Benfica. Five years later, he was a champion himself, even though his rise was cut short by an injury. After featuring in just six Primeira Liga matches, he injured his right knee in training in April. He celebrated the title with fans in the centre of Braga, surprising everyone around.
4. He is very versatile, defensively and offensively
Dalot played all of his games this past season for Porto as a left-back, but his preferred position is at right-back because his right foot is stronger. However, his left foot is decent too, and he feels comfortable on the left -- and not only in defence. During his younger days, Dalot was frequently used in midfield and even as a centre-forward, which is why he has a keen eye for goal. When playing for Porto B, he covered the whole flank as a wing-back in a 3-4-2-1 formation, both on the right and on the left.
Such versatility is useful in modern football, and it is hardly surprising that both Barcelona and Real Madrid were keen on signing him before Manchester United entered the race. Very quick, technically sound, tactically astute and tenacious in his tackles, Dalot has everything to succeed at the highest level.
His teammates held him in high regard, as well. "With his potential, character and personality, he can go as far as he wants. I would love to see him as one of the best in the world in a few years' time," Porto's Mexican wing-back Miguel Layun said in February.
5. He has music in his veins
Dalot comes from a family of music lovers. His parents met when singing in a choir, and his sister Mariana is a singer too. In fact, Dalot once missed an important concert of hers in order to sleep well and prepare for a match, and that is definitely in line with his character. A model professional, the youngster always has been extremely dedicated, travelling from Braga to Porto every day and giving his utmost effort in training.
That is why Porto fans adored him, but now they are hugely disappointed by his decision to leave the club so early. The Dragons are stunned too -- they sold Ricardo Pereira to Leicester intending to promote Dalot to the starter at right-back, but now will likely have to find another solution.
It remains to be seen whether the move is justified, and Dalot would hope not to follow the footsteps of Renato Sanches, whose career was ruined by his transfer from Benfica to Bayern Munich in the summer of 2016. Dalot comes from a different background, though, and his character is much stronger. His will and hunger for success is frequently compared to that of a young Cristiano Ronaldo. Could he make a similar impact at Old Trafford?
Michael Yokhin is an experienced international football journalist who writes for ESPN, Blizzard, Guardian and FourFourTwo. Follow him on Twitter @yokhin.