The new Ronaldo? Joao Felix will be worth every penny of €126m transfer fee

Cristiano Ronaldo Joao Felix Juventus Atletico 2019
The Portuguese sensation arrives at Atletico Madrid with plenty of pressure on his shoulders, but he will thrive under it

Every young talent in football is at some point or another compared to a former great – few, though, are weighed down with a label as big as ‘the new Cristiano Ronaldo’.

It only adds further pressure onto the shoulders of Joao Felix, Atletico Madrid’s €126 million (£113m/$142m) summer arrival from Benfica who is still just 19 years old.

If the price tag and comparisons weren’t enough, another Portuguese football legend, Jose Mourinho, has said the investment puts a lot of responsibility on his shoulders and means Atleti should be expected to fight for the Champions League this year.

But Felix hasn’t shied away from any of the attention.

"Several Portuguese players have played here; big players that were important for Portuguese football. I want to do as well or even better than them,” he said upon signing.

"I hope to do as well as possible, think positively, work hard in order to complete a great season and be a star at Atletico Madrid.

"Age influences some things but I'm mature enough to face this situation. I know what it means to be at an important club, and everybody says that even though I'm 19 it doesn't look like it.

"I am here to make my history,” he added.

“The comparisons are not that good. Cristiano is Cristiano and I want to be myself."

By being himself, Felix will be nothing like Ronaldo either.

Other than their nationality and the fact that they are exceptional attacking footballers, these two players have very little in common – making the comparisons all the more unfair on the youngster.

While Ronaldo emerged as a winger and developed into a centre forward, Felix, as well as being able to play out wide, is primarily a second striker who plays just behind the main man.

Joao Felix Diego Simeone quote PS

One other thing they do appear to share, however, is the mentality to be the very best.

"Cristiano Ronaldo has won five Ballon d'Or trophies and this is the dream of every player. Obviously I would like to be like Cristiano,” Felix said of the ongoing comparisons, showing just a glimpse of his hunger.

Diego Simeone has been won over by it too, saying: “The best thing about him is his willingness to learn and when a player is like that the path to the top is always shorter.”

The youngster has already made a huge impact on his team-mates as well, with Koke singing his praises.

"He has a lot of personality," the midfielder said.

"It's not easy to be 19 and have the pressure of what has been paid for him.

"You have to give him some time. If he plays two bad games, you can't kill him.

"He enjoys playing football. He has a lot of quality, but what I like most is the mischief [he creates], the dribbling. He likes to have the ball; he is not afraid to ask for it.”

Perhaps the biggest pressure Felix faces in the Spanish capital, though, is succeeding Antoine Griezmann.

While the Frenchman may not be remembered fondly by all at Atleti after he left in controversial circumstances, he performed his role in Simeone’s 4-4-1-1 to perfection.

He didn’t just bring hard work to the position, but also flair and magic in a balanced way that few could.

Felix, in every aspect, is the perfect replacement for Atletico’s talisman, having operated in the same role at Benfica to great effect – scoring 14 times and providing nine assists from that position alone last term.

Joao Felix Atletico Madrid 2019

With his incredible understanding of the game, eye for a pass, clinical finishing and creativity, the Portugal international has the potential to bring even more magic to the role than Griezmann ever did.

“We’re still in pre-season but it’s clear that he’s a huge talent,” Jan Oblak said, with Felix having shone over the summer, most notably by scoring twice in Atleti’s 2-1 win over Ronaldo’s Juventus.

“With talent like that he can grow to be a magnificent player.

"I’m sure that this is the right place for him. He’s going to progress a lot under Diego Simeone and he’ll learn a lot.

“There’s no doubt that he’s a great talent and if he continues as he’s started, if he trains hard and keeps playing at the level he’s shown, he’ll be a world-class player, no doubt." 

The main concern over Felix’s move to Atletico is whether a defensive coach like Simeone can get the best out of him.

‘Cholo’ has a long list of attackers he’s failed to coach to success in his time with the club, with Gelson Martins and Thomas Lemar the latest additions to a catalogue that already contains Jackson Martinez, Luciano Vietto, Raul Jimenez and Vitolo.

The challenge for Felix, ahead of the start of the new Spanish season this weekend, is not to join that group.

The challenge is to join the likes of Radamel Falcao, Diego Costa and Griezmann on the list of players who have thrived under Simeone in Madrid, as well as the selection of legendary strikers such as Diego Forlan, Sergio Aguero and Fernando Torres who came before ‘Cholo’.

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"If he's humble, respectful and can listen, he'll be a player who grows up to give us a lot to talk about,” Forlan himself said of the 19-year-old.

“He has a big future."

That future does not necessarily consist of being ‘the new Ronaldo’, but, if he can fulfil his potential, he can certainly reach Cristiano’s level of football immortality.