Reports broke yesterday that Arsenal is now in pole position to sign Sporting Lisbon wonderkid, Joelson Fernandes. It’s believed that the Gunners offered £13.6million for the winger and the Portuguese club may be forced to accept that due to the youngster’s reluctance to sign a new deal. His current deal runs out in 2022 and has a 45million release clause but that may no longer be enforced. Spanish outlet Mundo Deportivo have today revealed that Barcelona is also interested in the 17-year-old but accept the fact that Arsenal is ahead in the race for his signature.
Here’s what Joelson Fernandes brings to Arsenal
Age: 17 | Height: 5’8” | Weight: 66kg | Position: LW | Role: Inverted Winger / Inside Forward | Right-Footed
It’s hard not to get excited about Joelson Fernandes when you remember that the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Luis Figo, Nani and Bruno Fernandes were birthed from this same academy. Once he secures his moves to the Emirates, he’ll join the long list of world-class Lisbon exports.
According to transfermarkt, Fernandes has only made 4 senior appearances this season, all of which were substitute cameos. Instead, the youngster has played the majority of his football in Liga Revelacao, the youth league of Portuguese football, where he has scored 5 goals and provided 2 assists in 28 games. Despite this limited sample size, Fernandes is still one of the most talked-about and heralded talents in Europe.
Originally from Guinea-Bissau, the winger moved to Portugal when he was 11 years old and was snapped up by Sporting scouts upon arrival. The rest, as they say, is history, as he’s gone onto, represent Portugal at U15, U16 and U17 level. At club level, he has become Sporting Lisbon’s youngest ever player to make a senior appearance at 17 years, four months and three days old. The previous record was held by Cristiano Ronaldo at 17 years, eight months and two days.
From those who have seen him live, the youngster is described as a flashy winger that looks to directly run at defenders coming in from the left flank. His blistering pace, explosive acceleration and trickery on the ball have made him a thorn in the side of many a full-back this season.
His sudden changes in direction and ability to travel with the ball at rapid speed have made him unplayable at times. But, what makes him even more of a standout prospect is his decision making, as he knows when to stop dribbling and create opportunities for his teammates instead.
Mikel Arteta has made it clear that his priority this summer is to get a centre-back, defensive midfielder and an attacking midfielder. After that, he would be open to signing a winger that can take on players 1v1. This would help the Gunners immensely as they’ve often come unstuck against low-block defences this season. Joelson Fernandes fits that bill but it’s vital fans don’t expect too much of him.
It’s important to remember that the winger is only 17 years old and should not be expected to transform Arsenal’s attack next season. However, if he does impress in training and the U23s he could have a similar meteoric rise to the first team set up just like Gabriel Martinelli and Bukayo Saka. Arsenal has often been criticised for missing out on wonderkids before they blossom, this time they’re right on time with their approach.