At times, football can be a cruel game. For every successful career, there are those who fall by the wayside, outstanding talents destined never to grace the sport’s greatest stage. In the case of Portugal’s young star Fabio Coentrao, his ability has never been in doubt, but he has had to work hard to show the desire and will to win required at the top level.
Coentrao exploded onto the scene with Rio Ave, where his dazzling wing-play, electric pace and ability to beat defenders in the manner of a Portuguese star of a previous generation earned him the nickname ‘Figo das Caxinas’ in reference not just to the great man but also to his hometown, Vila do Conde.
In 2007/08, Benfica swooped to sign the young winger, giving him his long-awaited opportunity to prove himself on a bigger stage. But the youngster initially struggled in his new surroundings, and many seasoned observers wondered whether his unquestioned potential would ever be translated into the successful career that seemed to lie ahead of him. Coentrao swallowed his pride and went out on loan, firstly to Madeira, where he played for Nacional, then to Real Zaragoza, in Spain, and finally back to his first club, Rio Ave.
The talented winger grew in confidence, and was finally ready to turn potential into reality. At the start of the 2009/10 season Benfica coach, Jorge Jesus, gave him his big chance at left-back, and Coentrao has gone on to put together a string of impressive displays. It was not long before international football came calling, and three years after starring for his country in the FIFA U-20 World Cup, the Benfica player was selected by national coach Carlos Queiroz for the decisive play-off qualifier against Bosnia-Herzegovina.