On Monday night, Ricardo Quaresma scored arguably the finest goal of the 2018 World Cup so far, and perhaps one of the most memorable in recent tournaments.
It was a stunning finish pulled off with characteristic Quaresman audacity, an outside-of-the-boot curler of the type that is by now a staple of the Portugese winger’s repertoire.
This isn’t Quaresma’s first trivela rodeo. Far from it, in fact. He’s done this so often – even being known to whip in the odd corner or free kick in the same manner – it’s almost a trademark.
In some ways, the trivela sums up what Quaresma is all about. Spectacular. Unpredictable. Hard to control.
He’s a man whose name you’ve probably seen featuring prominently in YouTube compilations with titles like ‘Best Ever Skillz OMG’ or ‘Top 10 Must Watch Unreal Tricks’. But probably not one you’ve seen in many articles discussing big money moves to European megaclubs – at least not in the past seven or eight years.
Quaresma is one of those players you’ve been aware of since they were a teenager and who you continuously tell yourself will be a Ballon d’Or candidate as soon as they mature and fulfil that vast potential. Until, suddenly, you wake one day and they’re now in their mid-thirties playing in Turkey or the UAE, but with a YouTube highlight reel that makes them look like Maradona in his prime. Let’s call this phenomenon Kerlon Syndrome.
O Cigano’s journey is typical of many precocious footballing tricksters. He played for Sporting alongside Cristiano Ronaldo and was equally feted at the time. Portuguese fans salivated over the thought of the two wonderkids tearing it up for the national team. Quaresma joined Barcelona the same season his compatriot moved to Manchester, at which point the two men’s careers went in two entirely different directions.
Where Ronaldo was driven and obsessively focused on improving himself as a sportsman, Quaresma occupied his time by throwing water-bottles at his managers or complaining bitterly to the press about sitting on the bench. He became simultaneously a lethal weapon and a massive liability, a Saturday night special as likely to go off in your own pocket as take out an aggressor.
And so he slipped into the realm of flamboyant mediocrity, crashing in wondergoals on a sporadic basis in, mostly, Europe’s second-tier leagues. He lasted a single season at the Nou Camp before returning to Portugal with Porto. A move to Inter Milan was earned after four hot-and-cold years in Oporto, but he failed to make the grade in Serie A or during a short loan spell at Chelsea. Besiktas, Al Ahli, Porto again and then Besiktas again were his next destinations.
So combustible had his temperament remained throughout that Portugal manager Paulo Bento opted to leave him out of the 2014 World Cup squad. To be fair, as he waved goodbye to his twenties, there’s no doubt Quaresma knuckled down to some extent, having seemed to realise his time as a professional footballer was ebbing away. “Talent alone is not enough to have a great career,” he said in an interview prior to that 2014 omission.
But by that stage the die was cast.
That goal against Iran was more than just a reminder of what might have been for Quaresma. It was his big moment, a rare occasion on which he outshone Ronaldo, the man whose sporting parabola he ought to have replicated.
For those who’ve long admired his gifts, it was wonderful to see the world get the chance to appreciate him at last.