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Feb 4, 2009

Trading on reputation

During their time together at Sporting Lisbon Ricardo Quaresma and Cristiano Ronaldo were comparable young wingers destined for the top. In fact Quaresma was probably the more famous of the two; but while his former colleague has gone on to win the Ballon D'or, the Inter Milan winger has been lumbered with the Bidone d'Oro and booed out of his club.

The Bidone, or Golden Bin, is awarded annually to Serie A's worst player and after barely four months in Italy, following his €18.6m transfer from FC Porto in September 2008, listeners of RAI Radio voted Quaresma as the donkey of the league. In the eyes of the Italian fans his mediocre performances on the pitch simply did not justify the large transfer fee that took him to the San Siro.

And the treatment the 25-year-old received from his own fans at the San Siro during Sunday's 1-1 draw with Torino confirmed to the Portugal international that his future lay elsewhere. While the league leaders conceded ground in the title race Quaresma's every touch was greeted by boos.

The following day, transfer deadline day, Chelsea hijacked Tottenham Hotspur's last-gasp deal to offer the winger a way out of his Italian nightmare and chance to get his career back on track in the Premier League, under the tutelage of former mentor Luiz Felipe Scolari.

Chelsea's former Portugal boss worked with Quaresma at international level and although he was certainly not a first team regular for Scolari his loan deal under the Brazilian at Stamford Bridge represents Quaresma's best chance to prove his crtics wrong at a top-level club.

The problem for Quaresma is that he has never really flourished outside of Portugal. At Sporting Lisbon he was the star, ahead of the younger Ronaldo, and cemented his reputation by helping the club to win the Portuguese Liga and Cup double in his debut season in 2001/02. By 2003 both he and Ronaldo had secured high-profile moves to two of Europe's biggest clubs; 18-year-old Ronaldo joined Manchester United while 20-year-old Quaresma went to Barcelona.

While his peer started to flourish at Old Trafford, Quaresma failed to transfer his quality to the Spanish Liga. He scored on his debut in a friendly against AC Milan but that proved to be a false dawn and his time at Barcelona was largely disappointing.

The Lisbon-born winger made more substitute appearances than starts during his single season at the Camp Nou and his frustration entered the public domain when he claimed he would never again play under Barca boss Frank Rijkaard.

Fortunately for the hot-headed youngster Barcelona were desperate to sign Porto's newly-crowned Champions League winner Deco and Quaresma was quickly thrown into the deal as a makeweight.

Back in Portugal, Quaresma rediscovered the trademark speed and grace that earned him the nickname "mustang" and the trickery and dribbling skills that had brought comparisons with Ronaldo. Once again he marked his debut with a goal, although Porto lost the 2004 UEFA Super Cup 2-1 to Valencia, and back on familiar turf his form continued, rather than stuttered as it had in Spain.

Despite the break up of Porto's Champions League winning side and the loss of manager Jose Mourinho to Chelsea Quaresma helped the transitional club reach the last 16 of Europe's premier competition. The following season, under new manager Co Adriaanse, the winger won his first silverware since his debut season at Sporting; another Portuguese Liga and Cup double.

With confidence restored Quaresma flourished at the Estádio do Dragão and broke into the Scolari's national team squad. He missed out on World Cup 2006 after playing in the qualifiers but did make the final 23-man squad for Euro 2008, although he was used sparingly by Scolari, who perhaps had reservations about the winger's ability away from the home turf of Portugal.

Back on the domestic front Quaresma wracked up two more Liga titles and was playing so well in 2008 that he was linked with various big money moves. "If someone offers £25 million, there will be little we can do," Porto president Jorge Nuno Pinto da Costa said.

Quaresma was initially tipped to return to Spain, this time with Real Madrid, but it was Internazionale who eventually paid €18.6m for the wide man. Quaresma once again started his new venture brightly. He was voted Man of the Match on his debut in a friendly against Locarno and scored with a trademark trivela shot with the outside of his foot in his first Serie A game.

However, despite the presence of fellow Portuguese Mourinho as Inter's manager his performances once again dipped on foreign shores. Eventually Quaresma was dropped from Inter's Champions League squad for the second phase of the competition and the winger bid arrivederci to the San Siro.

Rather than heading back to Portugal to once again to rebuild his confidence, Quaresma took the brave step of testing himself in the Premier League - a decison possibly influenced by the success former Sporting team-mate Ronaldo enjoyed in English football, while he floundered in Italy and Spain.

as a cosequence the deal with chelsea was struck and if we look at it in a positive note, it could be a deal that suits both parties. The Blues are desperate for a winger, given the season-long injury to Joe Cole and the disappointing contribution of Florent Malouda, and Quaresma is desperate to impress, so that his loan deal becomes permanent.

But on the negative side, Chelsea, a club once flush with cash, now appear to be scrabbling around for scraps in the Golden Bin and Quaresma, who is desperate for a final chance to prove his quality outside of the Portuguese Liga, is unlikely to be the man to get the Blues faltering title challenge back on track.

Either way, the 25-year-old winger has earned his move to Chelsea on reputation, not current form, and following his time at Stamford Bridge the midfielder's next move will have to be based on ability. Simply put, Quaresma's career depends on him being a success in the Premier League.

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