Benfica scoring sensation Joao Tomas is good copy these days – and not just for his finishing.
His dozen League goals by mid-February had played a major role in stoking his side’s championship challenge, but his quotability make him a journalists’ favourite too.
The first sign of Joao Tomas, the Lisbon Lip, came during his war of words with co-striker Pierre Van Hooijdonk. The pair have worked well together this season, sharing 27 goals. Yet there was absolutely no evidence of solidarity when they began squabbling over top billing.
Van Hooijdonk, never one of the game’s diplomats, followed up a tirade on the poor standards in the Portuguese League by stating that he was the No1 forward at Benfica. Joao Tomas countered by commenting: ‘I’m not concerned about what Van Hooijdonk may have said. I think I’m better than him.’
A month later, Joao Tomas was again on his soapbox and this time his target was ex-FC Porto sharpshooter Mario Jardel, whom many expect to quit Galatasaray for Benfica this summer.
‘I don’t think we need to buy another striker. At the moment it wouldn’t be wise, given our financial situation. It would be a risk to buy Jardel. He’s a player who needs to be fed by his team-mates, otherwise, don’t bother. He would not fit in the Benfica team.
‘Every day there’s so much speculation about it. I think it’s badfor the club. It unsettles our dressing-room.
‘Last year, Jardel said he was tired of playing in Portugal and wanted to go abroad. Now he says he’s fed up being abroad and wants to return to Portugal. What sort of choices are these?’
Some might see Joao Tomas as an arrogant young upstart. After all, he joined Benfica only midway through last season from Second Division Academica Coimbra, for whom he had scored 18 goals in the first half of 1999-00. And even this term, he has been on the Benfica bench several times. However, he does, at least, have the talent to back up his self-confidence.
Joao Tomas is a pure goalscorer whose best work is done in the box. He shoots well with either foot, is strong in the air,balanced and opportunistic. He is just the sort of natural marksman Portugal have been crying out for, and it was no surprise when national coach Antonio Oliveira gave him his first cap in a friendlyagainst Israel last November.
Joao Tomas believes Benfica are the best thing that could have happened to him. ‘To come to a club which looks to win every match and challenges for the League every year has speeded up my development,’ he says. ‘I’ve made great progress. ‘
Born May 27, 1975, in Oliveira do Bairro
Previous club Oliveira Bairro, Academica Coimbra
International debut November 2000, v Israel
International caps 1 (0 goals)