Sunday 15 September 2019

Diogo Dalot profile: Who is Man United teenager in line for debut against Young Boys?

United paid £19m to sign the teenager from Porto this summer CREDIT: GETTY IMAGES
United paid £19m to sign the teenager from Porto this summer CREDIT: GETTY IMAGES

Vicki Hodges

Jose Mourinho labelled Diogo Dalot, or to give him his full name Jose Diogo Dalot Teixeria, as the "best full-back in Europe" for his age group when he paid Porto £19m for the 19-year-old this summer.

The Portuguese is expected to make his Manchester United debut this evening in their Champions League opener against Young Boys in Switzerland and provide competition for captain Antonio Valencia for the right-back role. But what do we know about the teenager so far?

Career to date

The Braga-born full-back joined Porto's academy as a nine-year-old in 2008 and represented the club at every youth level before making his senior debut with the B team last January.

His "exceptional" performances were noticed by Porto manager Sergio Conceicao and earned him a first-team start back in Feburary, with an appearance from the bench in a 5-0 league win over Rio Ave.

His full debut followed seven days later as Porto knocked another five goals past their opposition, this time Portimonense and Dalot (pronounced Da-low) was soon getting a taste for big victories and silverware as Porto went on to wrap up the league title.

Porto enjoyed a higher league win-rate of 83.3 per cent when Dalot featured, as opposed to the 82.1 per cent when he was absent. A lucky mascot, perhaps?

A Champions League debut at Anfield became the latest milestone in a rapidly growing career in early March. The teenager played at left-back that night, against Sadio Mane and then second-half sub Mo Salah. A daunting test but one he came through with more credit in the bank.

A member of the Portugal squad that won the 2016 European U17 Championship, Dalot also represented the U20s at the World Cup a year later. A full call-up from Fernando Santos cannot be far away.

What type of player is he?

Porto youth coach Pedro Miguel has overseen Dalot's incredible rise and development and is one of the best placed indivudals to offer their viewpoint on Dalot's assets.

"He is very strong physically, it is natural that they can compare him to Cristiano Ronaldo, because he can also play on the wing because he is very fast and aggressive. He can produce goals and assists, there's nothing lacking in him as a winger," he said this summer.

"It's not a strange position for him, he's played there a lot of times, of course he feels better as a right-back, but he still has time to adapt, and I'm sure he could.

"He has physical, tactical and even technical qualities to play in attack, no doubt."

Versatility and pace are two of Dalot's strongest qualities and, at six foot tall, he is equally adept at usually his stature to combat any aerial threat.

Dalot was also used as a striker in his younger days which might explain his eagerness to attack and his promising goal return (he scored five during the 2016 European U17s Championships).

How has he adjusted to life at Old Trafford?

Dalot arrived in Manchester recovering from a knee injury, which cut short his explosive run in the Porto side last March.

The teenager under went surgery to fix the problem in the summer and the club have been keen not to rush him back to full fitness.

Despite his tender age, Dalot already ticks the exemplary professional footballer box that Jose Mourinho cherishes. A player who is the first on the training pitch and last to leave and one who hasn't been lured by off-field distractions.

One former Portuguese player, Luis Boa Morte, who had spells with Arsenal, Fulham and West Ham, feels Dalot and Mourinho make the perfect match.

"Diogo Dalot will have the advantage of going to work with a Portuguese coach. I had all the difficulties and a few more. It was different, now they make everything perfect for a player to succeed. In my time, it was rare for English clubs to hire young foreign players, and Portuguese even less.

"The current generation of players is different, they are better prepared and, as such, the adaptation is much easier.

"Who is the young man who would not like to play for Manchester United?"

Where will he fit in?

Dalot, a former ball boy at Porto's Edstadio Do Dragao, will provide competition for captain Antonio Valencia for the right-back role and is seen as a long term successor to the 33-year-old.

United's right-back options had been limited and somewhat fragile. When Valencia suffered a calf injury during the club's draw with San Jose Earthquakes in pre-season it exposed the constraints in Mourinho's squad. Valencia was replaced by Matteo Darmian, a player who had been told by United that he would be free to leave in the summer.

While Darmian ended up staying at Old Trafford, the full-back's long-term future at Manchester remains in the balance. Valencia's current contract, meanwhile, expires next summer and youngster Dalot could prove to be the start of Mourinho's backline regeneration. One of the United manager's biggest bugbears this summer and one which is far from resolved.

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