Fabio Paim: The wonderful child that Chelsea and Jorge Mendes could not save

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“Do you think Cristiano is good? Wait till you see Fabio Paim. “

If you’re going to listen to someone to learn about Portuguese soccer talent, Sporting Lisbon scout Aurelio Pereira is near perfect.

Cristiano Ronaldo is the obvious place to start, but Pereira also discovered the likes of Ricardo Quaresma and Joao Moutinho. Only those three players have almost 350 international matches between them, but none have excited Pereira as much as Fabio Paim.

Hardly known as the most modest people, even Ronaldo himself considered Paim, a childhood friend, as the best player. Paim was the talent of a generation and he was destined for greatness.

But there was little fanfare when Paim joined Chelsea, and even less attention was paid when he left Stamford Bridge without being able to make a single first team appearance for the club.

Paim’s agent, Jorge Mendes, negotiated the loan of Sporting Lisbon to Chelsea in August 2008, despite the fact that the attacking midfielder had spent the previous season on loan at Pacos de Ferreira, which only prevented relegation from the Portuguese top flight. thanks to Boavista’s involvement in a bribery scandal. .

Even in his early 20s, the potential and promise that Paim had always brought about was still evident when he showed up for the Blues reserves under Brendan Rodgers, but the move turned out to be the knockout blow of his career.

“It was there that I stopped training and doing my job,” he told Globoesporte in 2017. “I started drinking. I had money and I started doing a lot of things that I hadn’t done before. The doors were open so that he could do whatever he wanted ”.

In truth, Paim had started to derail long before moving to west London.

He started to attract attention as a child and grew up in Estoril, joining Sporting Lisbon at just six years old. At the age of 14, Real Madrid, Barcelona and Manchester United were regularly monitoring his progress, and it was reported that the French Football Federation had made an offer to his family to move to France so that he could subsequently represent the country internationally.

Such was the interest in 16-year-old Paim that Sporting, desperate not to lose Europe’s most prodigiously talented teenager for free, gave him a contract worth € 20,000 a month, although he later suggested that they paid him much more. and the figure was just his “official” salary.

But an advance from the first team did not manifest itself at Sporting. Locations in Lisbon’s local team Olivais Moscavide and the second division Trofense followed, and he finally made his debut in the top flight in the aforementioned period with Pacos de Ferreira.

By then, however, the fame and fortune that came as a direct result of the hype he had created with such exciting exhibits in his youth career had led him to develop a particular vice.

“I spent a lot of money on cars. I love cars. I spent generously on the ones I wanted. All of them. Ferrari, Lamborghini, Porsche, Maserati and even a Punto. All the cars you can imagine.

• • • •

READ: The Nine Stages of Freddy Adu’s Career: From Wonder Boy to Tramp

• • • •

“When you have a lot of money, you need a support system around you. I would have done it differently if I could.

“I knew what I was doing. I thought I was more talented than the others. Like everyone else, I wanted to feel good, wear nice clothes, drive a nice car, and behave without humility.

“But it’s normal, that’s what people work for, to be satisfied. In the field, I did what I had to do to retire to my place. I spent time with the people I loved and did what I wanted.

“At that time, no one criticized me when things were going well. But when I stopped playing, they started pointing fingers. I just wanted to be with my cars. “

In the same interview, he added: “I was not used to having money. When I started playing, I didn’t even have proper boots. I was not prepared for that.

“He didn’t have what young players have now, which is an example to follow. You need role models. I am proud and a bit ashamed to convey this message to you. “

The London lifestyle only compounded the problem, and he returned to Portugal to experience further disappointment at Rio Ave and Real Massama before finally leaving Sporting for good in 2010.

• • • •

READ: Where are they now? A wonderful kid from all Football Manager games

• • • •

From that moment he became a soccer nomad, traveling the world between 12 clubs in seven different countries, from Angola to Luxembourg, passing through Qatar, Malta and Lithuania.

By 2017, Paim had fallen so low that his possible debut with Rio de Janeiro state league Paraiba do Sul was canceled after both sides failed to perform with the minimum number of players.

To his credit, Paim refuses to blame anyone but himself for his difficult career situation.

Commenting on the comparisons with Ronaldo, he told Globoesporte: “He’s out of this world. Today there is no comparison. In the past, yes.

“At one point I was able to do more than him but I didn’t have what he had, which is the strength and the desire to be what I wanted to be. He had a great work ethic and I didn’t. He had the quality, at least as much as he, but he didn’t have the rest.

“I would have preferred to have less quality if I had more of the other part. It would have been one of the best in the world. But nobody is born perfect. I thought being talented was enough, but it isn’t. “

Paim’s legacy may not be what he and the rest of Portugal expected, but it could still be more important than he initially anticipated.

Village Rob conlon

This article was originally published in August 2018.

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