Anderson Talisca’s unveiling by Al Nassr was as shocking, as it was surprising.
Incensed Al Hilal supporters had to both digest the chastening loss of this long-term target to a bitter rival, plus incendiary mocking laughter as the $8 million ex-Brazil Under-23 international announced his bombshell move while taking in highlights of Friday’s frustrating 1-1 draw for former suitors against promoted Al Batin.
Villain, and hero, status secured instantly in a social media post. Dependent on the persuasion of Riyadh’s impassioned football fans.
The key question, however, is will time transform Talisca’s chuckles into a glaring act of hubris, or can the tables now start to turn in the capital?
A quick scan of the Saudi Professional League standings detail how big gap the gap has grown since 2018/19’s gripping title race was edged by Nassr.
Hilal need only two points to be confirmed as champions for a ninth time this century. They have gained 21 more points than their neighbours – who do hold a game in hand – since the start of 2019/20, scored 22 more goals and conceded 11 fewer times.
It is into this arena that Talisca has entered.
Nassr’s seven-strong foreign contingent requires extensive remodelling. Morocco stars Abderrazak Hamdallah and Nordin Amrabat, plus waylaid Argentina playmaker Pity Martinez, may be the only survivors for 2021/22.
Talisca’s reputation has remained rich, despite a lack of game time this year after China’s stringent coronavirus travel rules left him stuck in Brazil.
A grand talent coveted by Jose Mourinho emerged at Benfica, before gaining more silverware – and greater riches – at Besiktas and Guangzhou Evergrande.
The inability to acquire more ACL trophies for the Chinese heavyweights is an issue, yet a return of 39 goals in 65 matches points to residual potency.
It is attacking midfield where much of a stellar career has been performed.
Yet 2020’s final, coronavirus-interrupted season at Guangzhou witnessed him make 10 of 19 appearances at centre forward, netting six times and providing two assists. A trio of run-outs in the playmaker role featured zero goal contributions, with six displays at right wing returning a single goal and assist.
The tall 27-year-old, then, offers a quandary for whomever inherits him in the Kingdom.
A ratio of 132 .7 minutes per goal for 2020 from centre forward is superior to Nassr’s resident hot shot Hamdallah’s of 139.8 for 2020/21. Yet the Moroccan is a club icon and significant force, for good and bad, in the dressing room.
Can Talisca and Hamdallah coexist efficiently in Nassr’s XI? They share many physical attributes, plus now favour operating in the same areas of the pitch.
Does the new man represent a fresh source of goals for Hamdallah, alternative option in attack or evidence of a transition away from the club’s dominant figure in recent years?
With unattached ex-Shakhtar Donetsk and Jiangsu Suning attacker Alex Teixeira still available, will these Middle East grandees clash again this summer in the transfer market?
It is a good problem to possess sublimely talented individuals. But an XI hampered by dysfunction cannot hope to overhaul Hilal.
Smart and bold solutions must be found.