A lot of responsibility lies at the feet of Benfica striker Goncalo Ramos, who is aiming to fire his side past Inter Milan and into the Champions League semi-finals for the first time since 1990.
The striker is growing used to the pressure, shooting into the global football consciousness during the World Cup in December when he was picked to start for Portugal ahead of Cristiano Ronaldo in the last 16 against Switzerland.
Ramos hit a hat-trick as his country thrashed their opponents 6-1, leaping into the limelight having made his international debut just a few weeks earlier, in a friendly.
In March the striker dazzled against Club Brugge in the Champions League last 16 second leg, scoring a brace in the 5-1 win to guide Benfica into the quarter-finals for the second season running.
Inter’s visit to Lisbon on Tuesday is an opportunity for the forward to put himself in the shop window, as many other young Benfica talents have done over the years.
The latest was midfielder Enzo Fernandez, who joined Chelsea in January for a stratospheric 121 million euros ($133 million) fee after winning the World Cup with Argentina, following the likes of Joao Felix, Ruben Dias and Ederson.
Ramos’s development took a step forward at Benfica after Liverpool signed Darwin Nunez last summer for an initial 75 million euros ($82 million), leaving a void up front, which he willingly filled.
The 21-year-old forward became the focal point of the attack, having played a supporting role to Nunez and others since making his debut in 2020.
Ramos came through Benfica’s admired Seixal academy after joining the club at 12 years old, and nearly a decade later many of Europe’s giants are chasing him.
The forward has been linked with Real Madrid, Manchester United and Chelsea of late, while Patrick Kluivert recommended his former side Barcelona to sign him.
“I am very satisfied with Gonçalo Ramos, but not only for what he did against Club Brugge,” said Benfica coach Roger Schmidt in March.
“I love his attitude, which he gives to the team. He is young, he is scoring goals in the Champions League and it is normal for him to attract the attention of other clubs.”
Ramos’s 17 goals in 23 appearances in the Portuguese top flight have helped Benfica open up a seven-point lead at the top of the table.
They did stumble to a 2-1 defeat against rivals Porto, second, on Friday, although it was Ramos hitting the bar which forced Diogo Costa’s own goal to open the scoring.
The striker has also netted seven times in 12 appearances in Champions League, including the qualifying rounds.
“Goncalo has had an extraordinary season at his club,” admitted new Portugal coach Roberto Martinez in March, although for now he is relying on the veteran Ronaldo.
Ramos has formed a strong link on the pitch with Joao Mario, who is enjoying the best goalscoring season of his career.
The former Inter Milan and West Ham midfielder is benefitting from Ramos’s build-up play and well-rounded game, honed over his seasons as a support striker.
“Above all, he is a team player,” said former Braga coach and current Celta Vigo boss Carlos Carvalhal.
“He has an unusual mix — he works, runs, he fights — and he’s a good finisher. He shoots well with his head and both feet.”
Some have compared Ramos to Bayern Munich forward Thomas Muller, a parallel the forward enjoys, although he is stronger in the air.
“I think I have some similarities to him, and he is also an example for me. I like being compared to him,” said Ramos.
Muller, 33, has won the Champions League on two occasions, the same number as Benfica have in their history — while Ramos is yet to lift a trophy in his fledgling career.
Team-mate Rafa Silva, who was officially given the man-of-the-match award in the 5-1 quarter final second leg romp over Club Brugge, gave the trophy to Ramos after his brace.
Benfica are undefeated in Europe this season and have a strong defence, but are fully aware their best chance of reaching the semi-finals hinges on Ramos and his superior finishing.
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