Paulo Futre, Portugal's natural talent

Portuguese football has a very interesting place in the history of the game. While it has become more popular and known in recent years due to how much of a superstar Cristiano Ronaldo has been in the world of sports (and you can even count Luis Figo's impact at Madrid and Barcelona before him), there is no denying that this country has had a lot of ups and downs in the history of football.

After a successful era in the 60s led by Eusebio, both with the national team and one of their biggest clubs, Benfica, Portugal often struggled for relevance in the sport, and to a lot of people it didn't recover until the mid-90s with Figo's generation of players, which would end up having a key role later on. But there is a name that is often forgotten in these discussions, Paulo Futre.

Atlético Madrid - Vicente Calderon stadium
Estadio Vicente Calderón - Atlético Madrid's stadium where Futre had some of his best years
Futre is mostly known for his time at Atlético Madrid and the beautiful love story he built with this club, but there is a lot to more to him than just that. One of the most naturally gifted players of his generation and Portugal's entire football history, Futre is a symbol of a time where the country wasn't producing a lot of top players and he also played a huge role in the success Porto enjoyed in the eighties.

So, this is Paulo Futre and this is his career.

His first years in Portugal

Born as Paulo Jorge dos Santos Futre in Montijo, Portugal, in February of 1966, he started to show a lot of promise in the world of football and joined arguably the best academy in Portuguese football, Sporting's, at the age of nine. He started to make a name for himself in the league when he made his professional debut at 17 years old in the 1983/84 season, showing a bit of his class and natural talent.

However, by the end of that season, Futre requested a better salary but it wasn't given to him, leading to falling out with the people at Sporting and decided to sign for another big club in the country, Porto. The rest, as the saying goes, is history.

The three seasons that Futre spent at Porto, from 1984 to 1987, were some of the best both the club and himself ever had. They won the league in the first two seasons, but the greatest accomplishments came in the 1986/87 in the European Cup where they won the competition for the first time in the entire history, defeating a Bayern Munich side that had the likes of Lothar Matthäus and Andreas Brehme by a 2-1 score.

Futre was a standout performer during those three years at Porto and that European Cup victory gave him the Player of the Match award, cementing himself as one of the finest players in Europe at the time. And after that season, and being offered a very good salary at the time, he decided to go to Atlético Madrid in Spain.

The love story had begun.

Atlético Madrid supporter with a flag

His time in Atlético Madrid

Being a recent European Cup winner and having a Player of the Match performance in the final, Futre's signing for Atlético Madrid in 1987 was considered a weird move for him, even if salary was thrown into the mix. However, this would end up being a great decision on his part.

He spent six years at Atlético and became a club legend, helping a team that wasn't always at their best to challenge the likes of Real Madrid and FC Barcelona. His technique, skill, creative vision and charisma endeared him to the Atlético faithful, which led to him being captain for most of his stint there.

While his trophy cabinet with Atlético might be viewed as "paltry" (only a Copa del Rey in 1992, albeit against Real Madrid in the final), the value of Futre's time at this club is based around the positive impact that he had there, the memories he created with the supporters and the sheer spectacle that was watching him display his magic there.

By the time he left in January of 1993 to Benfica, hammered by injuries, he had given everything he had to Atlético Madrid and the rest of his career would prove that.

After Atlético

The reality is that Futre's career after his first stint with Atlético Madrid can only be viewed as a lot of struggles due to how injuries were constantly tearing him apart. That was one of the greatest in football during the nineties: that a player this good, this talented, wasn't capable of playing regularly over the years.

His time in Benfica was short-lived, only playing sixth months, due to injuries and the same can be said about his time in Marseille. He went to Serie A to play with Reggiana from 1994 to 1995, and while some of his performances were quite good, he was still suffering because of the injuries.

This was particularly tragic when he signed for AC Milan in the 1995/96 season. Arguably the best team in the world during those years, Futre only managed to play a single game there and it was the final match of the season due to injuries once again. The fact that a player of his caliber was never given a proper chance in AC Milan at the time because of this was certainly painful.

Afterwards, he had a year in England with West Ham United, apparently refusing to play until he was given the number 10 shirt, and returned to Atlético Madrid the following season, but he was a shadow of his former self. He would end up retiring next season with Japanese football club Yokohama Flügels in 1998.

Paulo Futre was one of the most naturally gifted players of his entire generation, achieving a lot of success with Porto and Atlético Madrid, but sadly, there was never a time where injuries didn't take a huge toll on his career later on.
Nathan Annan is from South Africa and loves to write, and above all about his favorite sport, football. Nathan's interest in football was sparked late but after watching a few matches in his hometown of Johannesburg during the 2010 South Africa World Cup, he was hooked.