When I heard Ricardo Quaresma had made the cut for Paulo Bento’s provisional 2014 World Cup finals squad I thought about my most vivid memory of the winger. It was February 2007, in a friendly against Brazil at the Emirates. Another money-spinning game between two Nike sponsored teams. Quaresma along with a 22-year old Cristiano Ronaldo were simply unplayable tearing into Gilberto, Maicon, Lucio and company that night.
Quaresma was undeniably the star of the show. He had the tricks and the troubling pace that made Dunga’s unbeaten Brazilian side look amateur at times. Given the freedom to play by one Felipe Luis Scolari, the man once again at the Selecao helm trying to coax the same sense of freedom and artistry from the team on home soil.
There was only a two year difference in the Sporting academy graduates but Quaresma has the more manly physique to go with the skill and the swagger. He picked out Simao to score the first of Portugal’s two goals but the first half highlights and second half highlights were dominated by one man.
While Ronaldo was helping United snatching back the Premier League title from Chelsea, Quaresma helped guide Porto to its 22nd league title. Ronaldo’s career continued to flourish while Quaresma’s began to falter.
The move to Inter joining fellow countrymen Jose Mourinho didn’t work out. Considered the long term successor to Luis Figo, Quaresma claimed Moratti’s club wasn’t run properly and he was off to Chelsea in January. Brought in by his former international coach Scolari in the January transfer window before Big Phil himself got the boot a month later. He made all of five forgettable appearances.
A move to Besiktas didn’t work out nor did a move the Middle East usually reserved for players well past their prime or for those putting financial gain before silverware and recognition. Throughout his career his work ethic has continually been called into question whether it was Frank Rijkaard at Barcelona or Co Adriaanse at Porto. He is now back at the club where he arguably enjoyed his finest years and has been given what might be his final World Cup chance.
There’s still every chance he’ll be cut from Bento’s final squad but he has impressed enough this season at the Dragao working harder defensively, something that has often been his downfall and caused the friction with managers. He is still doing what he does best carving out chances for others and scoring wonder goals like the beauty against Napoli in the Europa League.
He didn’t feature in the qualifying campaign including the dramatic Zlatan vs Ronaldo play-off but there’s clearly places up for grabs in Bento’s 4-3-3 formation. Nani’s position could be his best route into the side after the United winger has struggled to get much game time this season at Old Trafford. Porto teammate Silvestre Varela has similarly disappointed this season.
After missing out in 2006 and in 2010, it could be third time lucky for the 30-year old once tagged Harry Potter for his magical box of tricks. They are different players from the ones that tore apart the boys in yellow in 2007 but the thought of Ronaldo and Quaresma finally teaming up on the biggest stage in Brazil is still a tantalizing prospect.