Post-reflective Take on Benfica's João Neves

A condensed version of my initial take and projection on Benfica's João Neves, using our guide reflection questions.

Post-reflective Take on Benfica's João Neves

Two days ago, I wrote about the importance of reflecting while scouting and why it's important to re-visit projections – and the chain of inferences behind them.

Today, I'll share a condensed version of my reflections around Benfica's João Neves using the prescribed guiding questions in that essay.

Reflection as a Scouting Optimizer
This essay adapts the Ignatian Pedagogy, a teaching philosophy developed by the Jesuits, to illustrate how scouts can use reflection to enhance their learning and improve their processes.

About João

João Neves is a Portuguese midfielder born on September 27, 2004, in Faro, Portugal. He began his football journey at Casa Benfica Tavira before joining the Benfica academy in 2016 – debuted for the first team in January 1, 2023.

Height and Physical Profile: 174 cm. Built. Dynamic turner once he gets low and sets hands into motion. Great balance and pivot under pressure. Tremendous intensity in all his duels.

This next section will cover my first impression: my first take. The one after will cover reflections and subsequent change to my projections.

Response to guide questions on [Experience]:

Archive from 17 November, 2023

  • What do I already know about a player/role/region?
    • Lightweight but mobile
    • Quick – maybe hasty – to release the ball
    • Follows up forward passes with runs in-behind
    • Portuguese players generally strike the ball well – Joao Neves does too.
  • Where did I get the data from?
    • Two full match compilations. One on Twitter. One on Youtube.
    • Read several glowing remarks about him online, but came out unshaken till I saw myself.
  • Did I arrive at these conclusions myself or rely on another's inference?
    • My conclusions were, at least at that time, contrary to public opinion and the views of my small network of scouts.
      • It is plausible that passively consuming opinions online had raised my expectations to the point where I expected to see Superman on the pitch.

Response to guide questions on [Reflection]:

Archive from 7 May, 2024

  • Did I make any projections?
    • Yes.
      • That he came off as a shuttler – midfielder who moves between lines, gets tackles and interceptions in, connecting phases when needed.
      • That his tendencies didn't indicate a player who'll thrive as a team's main ticker on the ball (especially in the Premier League).
      • That teams looking for outright shuttlers might be better off targeting players who are more gifted in duels (specifically the 1st contact) and command space.
        • As an addendum, I added that I did not see where he fit in Manchester United's, under Erik Ten Hag, game-model – especially given the reported 120 million euros price point.
  • Has it yielded yet?
    • Uncertain. In the meantime, I have already recalibrated my projection.
      • João has ended the season strongly and is reportedly a target for some of Europe's biggest clubs.
      • Since then, I have asked around for feedback and seen more footage of the Portuguese.
    • If not, what kind(s) of error did you make?
        • A logic error:
            • Here is one chain of inferences I made during my initial typing: Robust athlete -> Currently a great shuttler -> What are features of other great shuttlers at this age? -> benchmarked him against those -> Concluded that he was a good shuttler and solely that.
            • Whereas, there’s a frame where shuttling might just be one of his other qualities.
            • This might also be a category error: I overfitted to his tendencies in his current setup and typed him on that alone.
    • Then, revisit old footage and evidence you considered to find where you might have missed the loop.
        • I maintain that the perception of João Neves's aerial dominance is exaggerated by his stature: good for his height but average overall. He does well dealing with 2nd balls, average or a non-dueler on 1st contact, and a below-average aerial cover in set-pieces.
        • Great sense of tempo – when to release, with how much vim, and when to intercede for teammates.
        • High creative ceiling: sees passes and opportunities outside the usual range. Executes some with unconventional releases too: outside foot, clipped, after a dribble. These balls are often matched with runs by his teammates, suggesting a profound trust in João's ability.
        • While his build and frame might suggest a poker-tackler – João's got a knack for gathering the ball after he commits.
        • Especially because of his high offensive ceiling – albeit only seen in flashes at the moment – and the supreme intensity of actions João is one you could build a Champions League midfield around.

The lists and responses in this essay are non-exhaustive.

A tweet I made post-reflection

What Next?

If you enjoyed this, consider subscribing to BallerzBantz, following us on Twitter, and sharing this with someone.

Join us to stay ahead and contribute to this burgeoning community.

Who is the Writer?

Joel A. Adejola is an undergraduate at the University of Kansas (KU), studying Engineering and Philosophy.