Joao Felix started his football journey with Porto at the age of eight, making the trip from his hometown city Viseu several times a week, later describing the 150-mile round trip as a ‘trek’. He was a diminutive yet gifted youngster who soon caught the eye of talent spotters around the country and switched clubs to Benfica as a 15-year-old in 2015.
Taking advantage of the ‘B’ team model in Portugal, where top-flight clubs have reserve teams in the second tier, Joao made his professional debut for Benfica’s second string at the age of 16 - the youngest player to represent the side at the time.
He played 30 league matches in two seasons between 2016 and 2018, also featuring for the club’s Under-19 side in the UEFA Youth League, scoring six goals as they finished runners-up to Red Bull Salzburg in the year that Chelsea were holders.
Clearly a technical forward who could make a difference in the final third, it was no surprise when Joao was promoted into the Benfica first team at the start of the 2018/19 campaign, a season that would prove to be a breakthrough one for him personally and a successful one for the club as they secured the Primeira Liga title.
Having scored crucial goals against title rivals Sporting Lisbon and Porto, as well as a Europa League hat-trick against Eintracht Frankfurt in the quarter-finals, he finished with 20 in all competitions (14 of which were scored with his right foot and 18 of which came from inside the penalty box). The last of those came on the final day as Benfica beat Santa Clara 4-1 to seal the title in what proved to be Joao’s final game for the Eagles.
A senior international debut followed that summer amid Portugal’s victorious UEFA Nations League campaign before the forward swapped Lisbon for Madrid, joining Atleti for a record fee for both clubs. Still only 19 upon arrival in Spain, the teenage Joao Felix was eased into the side under Diego Simeone and required to adapt to a different style of play under the Argentinian coach, mostly featuring as a second striker alongside Luis Suarez or operating from out wide.
He returned nine goals in 36 appearances, including three in six in his maiden Champions League campaign, as Los Rojiblancos finished third in La Liga and reached the quarter-finals in Europe’s premier club competition. They were beaten by RB Leipzig in the delayed, truncated knockout stage, with the penalty won and converted by Joao not enough in a 2-1 defeat to the Germans.
Earlier in the campaign, he was recognised individually with the prestigious Golden Boy award honouring him as the best young player in Europe and marking both that breakthrough campaign with Benfica and the start of his Atletico career.
2020/21 saw Atleti crowned Spanish champions for the first time in seven years and Joao Felix started the season in fine form, netting eight of his 10 goals before Christmas, although injury and illness then resulted in a stop-start run in the team through late winter and spring. His most significant contribution came in the penultimate La Liga clash against Osasuna as he teed up Renan Lodi for a crucial goal in a comeback win that kept Simeone’s side top a week before their coronation.
He also played in both legs of their Champions League tie against Chelsea when we were on our way to lifting the trophy.
The past 18 months have seen the forward recover from an ankle injury that hindered his minutes early in 2021/22, although he still has 15 goals in 55 appearances over that timeframe and was named Atleti Player of the Season last term by the club’s supporters after ending the campaign strongly.
That included scoring and creating goals in the Champions League last-16 victory against Manchester United, having also assisted two years earlier in a win at Anfield against Liverpool at the same stage of the same competition. A run of seven goals in eight matches from February to April 2022 earned him the fan accolade, with his season ended early by injury following Atleti’s narrow European exit at the hands of Manchester City.
Joao has made 20 club appearances to date in 2022/23 with the Colchoneros currently fifth in La Liga, 14 points behind leaders Barcelona. At the Qatar World Cup, he scored in Portugal’s opening game and provided two assists during the tournament overall.
He has 28 international appearances and has played twice for Atleti since Portugal exited at the quarter-finals, scoring in a 2-0 win over Elche late last year.