Benfica Outcast Nelson Oliveira Enjoying Rennes Renaissance

Allan JiangTransfers CorrespondentSeptember 8, 2013

LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 04:  Mikel of Chelsea challenges Nelson Oliveira of Benfica during the UEFA Champions League Quarter Final second leg match between Chelsea and Benfica at Stamford Bridge on April 4, 2012 in London, England.  (Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images)
Warren Little/Getty Images

Benfica have loaned Nelson Oliveira away from the Estadio da Luz in three of the last four campaigns, showing the club's intent to sell him as an asset. The 22-year-old's transfer value is skyrocketing on loan at Rennes, where he is undergoing a career renaissance.

A feeling of worthlessness may have crept into his mindset with Benfica constantly leaving him on the outside looking in.

In the 2011-12 season, Oliveira was behind Oscar Cardozo, Javier Saviola and Rodrigo.

With the benefit of hindsight, he'll be quietly thanking president Luis Filipe Vieira should he decide to pull the trigger with an increasingly mopey-looking Jorge Jesus staring down the barrel.

Under Jesus, 86.3 percent of Oliveira's games were affected by subs; therefore, he was never able to replicate the elite form he displayed for Portuguese U-20 manager Ilidio Vale. 

At the 2011 FIFA U-20 World Cup, Vale structured his team on the counter, heavily relying on Oliveira's pace while praying goalkeeper Mika would summon his inner-Manuel Bento every game. (It worked until the final against Brazil.)

"Dangerous attacker, quick off the mark, good technique, holds the ball up well," was the scouting report produced by FIFA's technical study group on Oliveira as he received the Silver Ball. 

What made him lethal was his acceleration, though this characteristic became a reason to be pigeon-holed as an impact sub in the eyes of managers such as Rui Vitoria, Jesus, Jose Oltra, Domingos Paciencia and Fernando Vazquez.

This stop-start approach to playing is the reason why Oliveira, who has tremendous upside, has yet to score 10 league goals in a season. 

Grandeur is a fitting adjective to describe Oliveira's start to the Ligue 1 season. However, this wouldn't be the case without the trust of Rennes manager Philippe Montanier.

Montanier doesn't see Oliveira as an option of last resort in salvaging a game.

Instead, Oliveira is Rennes' go-to man, as he currently leads the club in goals, is tied for shots per game and is the designated penalty-taker. 

This added responsibility makes him feel important, and when you think back to Montanier's tenure at Real Sociedad, you can understand how he repaired Carlos Vela's confidence. 

There's also a political element in Montanier handing the reigns to Oliveira, because Rennes want to be less reliant on Romain Alessandrini, who wants out after a failed move to Marseille, as reported in a tweet by Get French Football.

On the subject of disgruntled players, Cardozo, who had scored 20 total goals or more in five of his six seasons at Benfica, confirmed his intention to leave, from A Bola via The Express: "My head is far away from Benfica."

For the time being, Lima, one of the most underrated strikers in the world, who saved Jesus' backside with a stoppage-time winner against Gil Vicente, will be the short- to medium-term solution. 

Long term?

Well, Benfica have handed the No. 9 shirt to Rogelio Funes Mori.

His signing is based on the greater-fool theory, given that his time at River Plate was as frustrating as Oliveira's at Benfica. 

Should Oliveira end up permanently at Rennes, he'll be determined to emulate Pauleta's achievements in Ligue 1.


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