Francisco Trincão’s Resurgence in Attack at Sporting

At 24 years of age, Francisco Trincão is finding a new lease on life in Rúben Amorim’s attack at Sporting, and he is on course to win the first league title of his career. The winger has scored 6 goals and 4 assists in 24 league appearances for the Lions, who sit four points above Benfica and have a game in hand on their crosstown rivals, and he could be on track to earn a recall to the Portugal national team for the first time since September 2021.


Trincão burst onto the scene six years ago in Finland, playing a pivotal role in the 2018 U-19 Euros. Just weeks after their senior team was bounced from the 2018 World Cup in Russia, Portugal were preparing to salvage their last chance of summer silverware. The majority of their squad had stayed the same since the 2016 U-17 Euros, in which Portugal were victorious. However, there were some noticeable absences that threatened to jeopardize the Seleção’s chances of winning the tournament.



Rafael Leão had taken the summer off to look for a new club after unilaterally cancelling his contract at Sporting. Diogo Dalot, vital in Portugal’s championship in Azerbaijan two years prior, stayed put in Manchester to impress new manager José Mourinho. Gedson Fernandes elected to remain in Lisbon to get into manager Rui Vitória’s good graces, and was promptly rewarded with a starting spot at Benfica.


João Félix, widely considered to be the brightest talent from Portugal’s class of 1999, also took the summer off to train with Benfica. With so many important pieces missing, one of the new boys needed to step up in order for Portugal to claim the trophy.


Enter: Francisco Trincão.


Trincão had previously become the youngest player in Braga history to sign a professional contract, attracting the interest of RB Leipzig and Atlético Madrid. In December 2017, he was called up by then manager Abel Ferreira for a Europa League match against İstanbul Başakşehir, but not before having to ask his parents for permission to fly to Turkey.


Braga president António Salvador joked that he thought Trincão was 19, not 17, due to his maturity. He began to polish his skills in Portugal’s second tier, but despite scoring 5 goals for Braga’s B side in the 2017/18 season, Trincão didn’t appear on the radar of most scouts until the U-19 Euros.



Born in Viana do Castelo, a seaside town near the border with Spain, Trincão began his footballing development at local club Vianense. Nevertheless, wanting to try his luck at one of Portugal’s three giants, he joined Porto’s academy in 2009. Each week, he would make the hour-long drive with his father from their quaint village of Viana do Castelo to the booming metropolis of Porto, but he struggled to make the grade. “I was still very young, my parents thought it was too early for me to learn football in such a professional manner,” said Trincão in an interview with Observador.


The competition in Porto’s academy was too much, so he headed back home to Vianense for a fresh start. After a few months of training with his hometown club, he was spotted by the scouts of Braga, a far more modest, ‘family’ style club than the likes of Porto. Trincão joined Braga’s academy at the age of 11, and marched his way up the youth ranks.


After a brief loan spell at local side Palmeiras, he was rewarded with his first professional contract. Such was his talent that just before he headed off to Finland to compete in the U-19 Euros, Salvador renewed that same contract, inserting a €30 million release clause into it.


It didn’t take long for Trincão to make himself known. 24 minutes into their first group stage match, Portugal midfielder Florentino Luís won possession on the edge of the opposition box. Trincão latched onto Luís’s pass, taking a touch to gain a few yards of separation from Norway captain Leo Østigård, and firing a rocket of a shot past Julian Lund. A few minutes before the final whistle, he’d tap home an errant pass from Elves Baldé for the icing on the cake.


In the semifinals against Ukraine, he whipped in a corner that was converted by Jota for the opener. Two goals later, he capitalized on an errant backpass, hesitated and meditated his options whilst being marked tightly by captain Valeriy Bondar, before curling his shot into the corner of Vladyslav Kucheruk’s goal. He doubled his tally shortly after, capitalizing on a poor clearance from Kucheruk to slot home the fifth.



The stage was set for an epic final with Italy, who had defeated them in the group stage. Just minutes before halftime, Trincão trapped a cross with his chest, patting it down for Jota to score a goal eerily similar to James Rodríguez’s Puskas-winning goal against Uruguay in the 2014 FIFA World Cup. In the 72nd minute, Trincão pounced on a botched save from Alessandro Plizzari and extended the lead to two. Portugal would go on to win a thriller of a match, with Trincão lifting the first trophy of his professional career.


Despite the promise shown in Finland, Trincão was starved of playing time under Ferreira, the player only making late sub appearances against Marítimo, Setúbal and Belenenses during the first eight months of the 2018/19 season. Nevertheless, this didn’t stop several clubs from chasing after his signature during the January transfer window. Trincão travelled to Turin to agree a deal with Juventus, but after lengthy negotiations, the deal collapsed, and he returned to Braga.


He became somewhat of a regular impact sub during the final weeks of the season, gaining rhythm before jetting off to Poland for the 2019 U-20 World Cup. Once again, he didn’t take long to make his mark. Seven minutes into the first match, he made a darting run past the South Korean defenders, took a measured, yet powerful first touch to put himself within scoring range, before coolly slotting the ball into goal. It was the only goal of the match; a combination of Trincão’s proactive movement, excellent first touch, and calm finishing ability.


Portugal exited early from the competition after losing to Argentina and drawing to South Africa, but once again, it didn’t stop teams from pursuing Trincão in the transfer market. Nevertheless, Braga refused to sell their young diamond, and certainly not for a dime less than the full value of his release clause. Eventually, their (and his) patience was rewarded. Ricardo Sá Pinto handed him his first start for the club against Slovan Bratislava on December 12.


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The Slovaks took the lead via Andraž Šporar, but Braga equalized two minutes later, with Rui Fonte heading Trincão’s corner kick into the goal. Slovan Bratislava went ahead again, but two minutes later, Braga equalized. Trincão tiptoed around the edge of the box, waiting for the right angle, before slamming home his first ever goal for the club. Braga would go on to win 4-2, and Trincão was rewarded with another start in the Taça da Liga against Paços de Ferreira. Once again, he didn’t disappoint, and grabbed two assists.


It wasn’t until the appointment of Rúben Amorim, however, that Trincão finally became a fixed name in the starting eleven. Prior to 2020, Amorim’s only previous coaching experience had come with third division side Casa Pia, who were docked six points after Amorim gave match instructions without having the required coaching level to do so. Amorim was suspended from all activity for an entire year, and although the bans were subsequently lifted, Amorim still handed in his resignation.


It would be both the first month of Amorim’s time as a manager and the first month of Trincão’s time as a starter. Together, they formed an eye-catching chemistry, and as a result, Braga’s form took a turn for the better. They won each of their six matches in January, including the Taça da Liga Final against Porto. On the last day of the month, Barcelona signed Trincão for a fee of €31 million, leaving him at Braga on loan until the end of the season.


Rather than splurge heavily during the January window, Barcelona merely cleared out space in their wage bill. They sold Carles Pérez to Roma and Abel Ruíz to Braga, but were forced to keep Trincão at Braga until the end of the season due to financial obstacles from FFP. Braga would lose Amorim to Sporting in March for a league record transfer fee, but they had the last laugh thanks to Ruíz and Trincão’s profligacy in attack, finishing ahead of Sporting on goal differential and achieving a third-placed finish.


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Whilst he was mainly used as a substitute, Trincão racked up 3 goals and 2 assists in 42 appearances in 2020/21 as Ronald Koeman’s side finished third in the table. The Blaugranas would lose Lionel Messi in the summer to Paris Saint-Germain due to financial issues, and they would also part ways with Emerson Royal, Junior Firpo, Antoine Griezmann, Jean-Clair Todibo and Trincão, who joined Wolves on loan.


10 days after making his debut in English football, Trincão scored in a 4-0 win at Nottingham Forest in the EFL Cup. He would rack up 3 goals and 1 assist in 30 appearances in all competitions, starting in 16. He began the season as a starter under compatriot Bruno Lage, only to drop out of the eleven in December. Frustrated with opportunities at Molineux, he admitted:


“I’m working to do that. I’m doing my best for the coach to think that (I should play more). It’s his (Lage’s) decision, I have to respect it. Of course, I think I deserve more and I’m trying to do that and show that every day.


If you just look for the end product, maybe you can say that (we haven’t seen the best of me). But if you look at football in terms of the whole game, you can say I’m doing great things. But normally people look for just the end product. But I’m trying to improve on that because I know it will give me the tools to be better and make people look at me differently.”


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It was no surprise when Wolves declined to take up their £25 million purchase option, with Trincão electing to return to Portugal after a challenging spell abroad. He reunited with Amorim and joined Sporting on a one-year loan deal for a €3 million fee with a conditional €7 million obligation to buy 50% of his economic rights.


Bit by bit, Trincão has been able to return to top form at the Estádio José Alvalade and return to starting week in week out. He is loving life in Lisbon, racking up 13 goals and 4 assists in 52 appearances in his maiden campaign, and he’s already on track to surpass his previous goal contribution tally with 7 goals and 8 assists in 40 appearances for the Lions.


Eight matches remain for Sporting — one of which will see them take on Porto or Vitória in the Taça de Portugal Final — and they will be counting on Trincão as they look to come away with their first domestic double in 22 years. His combination of speed, trickery and end product has given Sporting’s attack a new dimension, and it has seen him consolidate a starting spot at the expense of Marcus Edwards.


With Amorim potentially headed for the exit door, Sporting could be set for a summer rebuild with various players linked with summer departures including Viktor Gyökeres, Ousmane Diomande, Gonçalo Inácio and Morten Hjulmand, but they’ll be looking to renew Trincão’s contract past its current expiry date of 2026. According to German outlet Bild, Bayer Leverkusen are looking to submit an offer of €15 million for Trincão, but with Barcelona set to receive half of a potential transfer fee, Sporting may be inclined to hold out for more and keep hold of their Portuguese winger as he continues his resurgence in the Portuguese capital.


By: Zach Lowy / @ZachLowy

Featured Image: @GabFoligno / Getty Images