Joao Felix never reached the lofty heights expected of him throughout his time at Athletico Madrid. Can he succeed at Chelsea?
Chelsea have completed the signing of Joao Felix on loan from Atletico Madrid for the remainder of the 2022/23 season on an €11m (£9.69m) loan fee, plus wages.
The Blues beat off competition from Man Utd and Arsenal to acquire the Portuguese forward — who becomes their 4th January signing after Benoit Badiashile, David Datro Fofana and Andrey Santos.
Before departing, Felix agreed to extend his contract with Athletico Madrid by one year — taking his deal up until June 2027.
“Chelsea is one of the great teams in the world and I hope to help the team reach their objectives, so I am very, very happy to be here and very excited to play at Stamford Bridge.”Felix on his loan move to Chelsea.
In this article, FootballOrbit looks at the possibility of the Portuguese forward reviving his career at Stamford Bridge.
The rise of Joao Felix
Joao Felix started his career with a difficult spell at FC Porto, with the club releasing him for being too physically slight.
Subsequently, he joined Benfica’s academy at the age of 15. He was quickly identified as a potential superstar due to his elegant, artistic and enigmatic playing style.
He rose through the Benfica setup and got promoted to the senior team, where he had his breakthrough as a superstar in the 2018/19 season.
That season, he scored 20 goals and provided 11 assists in 43 matches in all competitions.
Furthermore, his 15 goals and 7 assists in 26 Primeira Liga games helped Benfica clinch the title.
Felix then became the world’s most expensive teenager when he made a blockbuster €127m (£112m/$135m) transfer to Atletico Madrid in 2019 — signing a 7-year contract.
His decision to join Diego Simeone’s side then was seen as awkward, given the team’s rigid defensive style of play.
Joao cherishes having freedom to be creative with the ball at his feet in space, which he wouldn’t get at Athleti.
The transfer was doomed right from the beginning!!!
For Athletico Madrid, the-then 19-year-old Felix was expected to be the next big thing — “The new Cristiano Ronaldo”.
But their ultra-defensive system and a bad relationship with manager, Diego Simeone, hampered the youngster.
He struggled through his first campaign at the Wanda Metripolitano, failing to make the desired impact and battled with injuries.
In January 2020, his soured relationship with Simeone became public when the manager criticised his big-money signing as well as questioning his commitment:
“As well as talent you need to have commitment,” “When a player realises why he is playing for Atletico then everything comes together.”
Felix never reached the lofty heights expected of him throughout his time in Madrid.
There were moments of brilliance, but he was never consistent. He occasionally exhibited tricks, dramatic flicks, goals and glimpses of a player once mentioned among football’s elite.
Evidently, he was lacking in confidence and got limited by a coach who was unwilling to sacrifice his conservative principles to accommodate an exciting talent.
2022 FIFA World Cup Star
Despite the fact that Portugal got eliminated by underdogs Morocco in the quarter-finals, Joao Felix had a decent outing at the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
The 23-year-old started 4 of the 5 games played by Fernando Santos’ side and was among Portugal’s best performers.
In Qatar, he had the highest shots per game for Portugal (2.8) and scored a goal against Ghana. He also chipped in with 2 assists.
Felix was in the thick of things throughout and played between the lines so that he could provide the creative spark in the attacking third.
He reminded everyone of his massive potential as one of the world’s best young footballers.
His performances at the World Cup caught the eyes of other clubs and it became apparent that a transfer his necessary.
Even the Athletico hierarchy were aware of this. In early December, the club’s CEO, Miguel Angel Gil Marin, told TVE:
“I personally think he’s a top talent, a world-class player.
“For reasons it isn’t worth getting into — the relationship between him and the mister [Simeone] is not good, nor is his motivation.
“It makes you think that the reasonable thing is that if there’s an option that’s good for the player, good for the club, we can look at it.
“I’d love him to stay, personally, but I don’t think that’s the player’s idea.”
On the 11th of January 2023, Chelsea signed Joao Felix on loan from Atletico Madrid. A loan fee of around €11m was agreed.
Furthermore, the Blues will cover Felix’s over £250,000 a week salary in full over the second half of the season.
Chelsea: A new challenge
Chelsea have gotten themselves an extraordinarily gifted young player who is very good with the ball at his feet.
Felix is a skilful and stylish attacker who is most effective when playing freely across the front line and involving himself in the build-up play.
Right now, finding the back of the net is a serious issue for Chelsea. They have scored just 3 goals in their last 8 games!!!
The Blues currently rank 12th for goals scored in the Premier League, while Raheem Sterling and Kai Havertz are the only players to score more than 3 goals in all competitions.
The need for more goalscorers in Graham Potter’s squad is obvious, and it remains to be seen if Felix can help solve their goalscoring problem.
Furthermore, they are crying out for a creative attacker who can break down stubborn defences to create goals.
And Felix can just be exactly that………
He has the 4th-best minutes per goal contribution (112.4) in La Liga since the start of the 2020/21 season — behind only Lionel Messi (77.5), Karim Benzema (79) and Gerard Moreno (99.4).
Furthermore, he ranks among the top 7 players in La Liga this season for big chances created per 90 minutes (0.78) and shots on target per 90 minutes (1.66), while nobody has completed more through-balls per 90 minutes (0.69).
Manager, Graham Potter, will hope the Portuguese can spark life into the attack following recent struggles.
Joao Felix’s versatility is another huge asset.
Although he regularly plays in a front two for Benfica and Atletico, he is comfortable playing on either wing and can also operate at No. 10 or even as a false 9.
His best position seems to be in the attacking midfielder (No. 10) role, where he will be getting plenty spaces to operate in.
But injuries to the likes of Sterling, Pulisic and Armando Broja means it is likely that Felix will be deployed out wide or up front.
He scored 5 goals and provided 3 assists for Athletico Madrid in all competitions this season.
In total, Felix made 123 appearances for Atletico (77 starts) in all competitions — scoring 32 goals and providing 15 assists. He won the La Liga title in 2020/21.
For Chelsea, the signing of Joao of Felix is a risky move. But they are banking on him to significantly improve after changing clubs.
There is the belief that Felix’s poor form at Athletico is down to Diego Simeone’s tactical set-up and not the player’s inability.
Potter will seek to allow him play with freedom in attack — a chance he never had under Simeone.
Moreover, Felix is very brilliant at threading balls through balls. The 23-year-old is equally efficient in playing progressive passes to teammates on the last line of the defence.
Indeed, he produces lots of shot-creating actions during games, as evidenced during his sporadic time on the pitch for Atletico Madrid this season.
In just 650 minutes of football, Felix produced 29 shot-creating actions. His dribbling and passing allows either himself or teammates to strike at goal.
On the other hand, Chelsea’s decision to go for Felix at this critical time when they really need a pure goalscorer is baffling.
The Portuguese is neither a physical No. 9 who can operate as a reference for other attackers, or an accurate (and consistent) goal-getter.
He is not even an extremely fast winger that can stretch opposition teams and create space for teammates through the middle.
Furthermore, Chelsea already have similar attackers like him in the likes of Kai Havertz and Mason Mount.
Defensively, Joao is also weak. Even at Atletico that play an intense and aggressive style without the ball, Felix doesn’t press well or track opposition players back when his team loses the ball.
But Chelsea are desperate for inspiration from anywhere at the moment.
They are out of sorts having been knocked out of both the FA Cup and League Cup, and sitting 10th in the Premier League.
They are still in the Champions League, though — where they will face Borussia Dortmund in the round of 16.
Ultimately, Joao Felix’s transfer to Chelsea is a huge opportunity for a refresh in his young career.
Just 23 years old, he still has the potential to become one of Europe’s most revered attackers.
He was unable to fulfil his huge potential under Diego Simeone at Athletico Madrid, but could a change of scenery help him finally thrive?