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Somewhere halfway between Claude Makelele and Ramires.
That is the verdict on the style of Everton new boy Francisco Junior from the man who scouted him, Emerson Thome.
The former Premier League defender has been scouring the Iberian peninsula and beyond on the hunt for fresh talent to enrich the Blues’ ranks for more than four years now.
He is the man responsible for Joao Silva and Apostolos Vellios – among others – and he would have been delighted to see his latest find, Portugal Under-21 star Junior, impress on his Everton reserve team debut this week.
Thome first became aware of Junior after watching him shine for Benfica’s under-16 team back in 2008.
Since then he has watched him blossom and had no hesitation in recommending him to David Moyes after hearing of his availability on a free transfer.
“Francisco is an unusual type of player for England because of his size but as you will see when he plays, his size doesn’t matter," explained Thome, who made almost 200 appearances in English football with Sheffield Wednesday, Chelsea, Sunderland, Bolton, Wigan and Derby County.
“He may not be the biggest guy but he is strong, aggressive, composed on the ball and quick with the ball. He has not got a big frame but he is good tackler, likes to get stuck in and also works hard for the team defensively.
“Francisco can also build for the team because of his quality on the ball. He can see a pass, his range of passing is good and he can be creative – he is an all-round midfield player. He likes to take the ball and get forward and play one-twos and he has the ability to do that and affect the game higher up the pitch because of his great mobility.
“He likes to play central midfield – that is his position. He is not a holding midfield player like (Claude) Makelele but physically he reminds me of Makelele a lot. I would say that going forward he has more than him – he is maybe a mixture of Makele and Ramires. He does not drive forward as much as Ramires but does not sit as much as Makelele.
“He is a high-energy midfield player, very busy, and he also knows how to use his body to protect the ball. He is small but strong and compact and will be able to cope in England, besides, in the modern game ability is more important than size.”
As for Junior’s challenge to adapt and compete for a place in the first team, Thome says it is about how quickly he can take to English life and how quickly he can comprehend the ethos at Everton.
The Brazilian-born scout doesn’t see it being a problem, and also sees him becoming an interesting foil to established Blues’ man Marouane Fellaini.
“I do think he needs to understand what Everton expect from him,” Thome added. “The ability is there, no doubt, and I think the gaffer and the coaches see that, but he does need to settle and that is the key.
“Personally I don’t think he will need much time to settle as he has been about a little bit now. Hopefully he can do that quickly and I think he can work well with the players already there. Fellaini likes to sit in there and I can see him being the big guy in there and Francisco digging in around him – bang, bang, bang – and I think that would work.”
Based in northern Portugal, Thome has been scouting for the Blues since 2008 following the end of his nomadic yet colourful playing career.
Born in Porto Alegre in 1972, Thome started off with Internacional but soon switched to the Portuguese league with first Academica and then the smaller FC Tirsense.
There he began to show his true promise and was soon picked up by Lisbon giants Benfica.
Seeking a fresh challenge he arrived at Sheffield Wednesday, of all places, where his classy displays earned him a move to Chelsea and a reputation as a top Premier League centre-half.
And it was in England that he stayed, right up to the tail-end of a career footnoted with a brief spell in Japan.
It was at that point when an old footballing friendship – as it so often does in the game – presented an unexpected but rewarding new direction as Tony Henry, an integral part of the Blues scouting team, approached him about working for Everton.
Since then he has been looking after Portugal and Northern Spain, while he has even travelled back to his homeland on scouting missions for the club.
Thome said: “I had no relationship with Everton from my playing days but I had good friends there. There was Tony Henry who I knew for many years and he is an important international scout.
“When I finished my career in Japan he approached me. I was very glad to have the opportunity to get back in football and with such a good club as Everton.
“I came back home to Portugal, got myself sorted and started working for Everton in late 2008. I am based in Porto and watch games pretty much every single day.
“Obviously I cover Portugal, but also games in Spain and I have been to Brazil for Everton.”
Most recently, aside from Francisco Junior, the fruits of his labours have been the signing of young strikers Joao Silva and Apostolos Vellios – the latter in particular looking a shrewd acquisition.
David Moyes has described many times how the club has to employ a different type of recruitment strategy to some of their rivals, and Thome is both happy to take on that remit and a big fan of the philosophy.
“Everton is a club that needs to look everywhere and for everything,” he said. “You need to look at the best players and also under them as well.
“I think the scouting team is doing a fantastic job and the gaffer is doing so well for the club in the transfer market.
“I first saw Vellios in an international tournament with Greece. I saw him twice and I said to Everton ‘move as quickly as you can’ because there is great potential there. We managed to get him and he came as a bargain.
“When you get lads like these (Silva, Vellios and Junior), three young international players who you can pick up at those sorts of prices, then they are great pieces of business.”
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