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Prodigious Joao Felix set for harsh lesson in Spain's school of hard knocks | Graham Hunter

It was with an understandable hint of trepidation that news of Joao Felix's Atletico Madrid move ...



Soccer

Prodigious Joao Felix set for harsh lesson in Spain's school of hard knocks | Graham Hunter

It was with an understandable hint of trepidation that news of Joao Felix's Atletico Madrid move was met in early July.

Commanding a fee well in excess of €100 million, the 19-year-old had only just come through his first season in Benfica's first team.

The chosen replacement for a Barcelona-bound Antoine Griezmann, Joao Felix, during his admittedly brief spell in the Spanish capital, already appears to represent a shrewd acquisition on Atletico's behalf, however.

"We are looking at an outrageous talent," explained Graham Hunter on Thursday's OTB AM, "and he's doing now at Atletico what made him sexy at Benfica."

Indeed, while there is relatively little by way of Joao Felix's match highlights with Atletico to fawn over just yet, football fans were captivated by the emergence of footage as demonstrated in a training session from his Benfica days.

There is no shortage of substance beyond this flash exterior, however.

"There is still a clutch of hard-bitten, tough soldiers at Atletico," noted Hunter, "and every single one of them is saying, 'Give that kid the ball!'

"They win the ball, they look for Joao Felix.

"It's stunning that he's handled the move, handled the pressure and have the people around him respect him so much, so quickly."

With the respect of his teammates, however, comes the ill-attention of those charged with halting the Portuguese's progression.

"He was fouled constantly," explained Hunter of Joao Felix's La Liga debut against Getafe.

"Teams are going to go looking for this kid, knock him over, push him, jump on him, kick him, and I want to see referees applying the rules rigorously where he's concerned."

This close attention should come as no great surprise to the slightly built Felix, but it will undoubtedly serve as the source of some frustration given Athletico's creative reliance upon him.

Destined to spend a healthy portion of this opening season on the floor, Joao Felix will be forced to find alternative routes beyond the reach of Spain's attentive defenders.

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Atletico Madrid Barcelona Diego Simeone Graham Hunter Joao Felix La Liga Real Madrid