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João Manuel Vieira Pinto (born 19 August 1971 in Portomarker) is a former Portuguesemarker footballer, who played mostly as a forward, with formidable skills and scoring ability.

He made his name mostly at a domestic level and as a key figure in the Portuguese national team's "Golden Generation".

Football career

As a youth, Pinto played for the Bairro do Falcão (where he was born, in Campanhã, Porto's east side) and the Águias da Areosa, and once tried to join F.C. Porto's youth system; refused, he moved to Boavista FC instead. As a child, he impressed with his speed and ball control, and was subsequently one of the brightest stars in Portugal's wins in the World Youth Championship in Riyadhmarker and Lisbonmarker, being the only player ever to have been on the winning side in this competition twice (along with goalkeeper Fernando Brassard, whom however did not play in the first tournament). Additionally, he made his first division debuts at only 17.

Pinto's performance in the first youth competition earned him a transfer to Atlético Madrid in 1990, but he was placed instead with the club's B team. After a forgettable season, he rejoined Boavista, played every game, scored eight goals and helped his team win the 1992 Portuguese Cup, in a final against citymarker rivals Porto. Shortly after, he signed with Lisbonmarker's S.L. Benfica.

In Benfica, Pinto's career was threatened in late 1992 by a collapsed lung during an international in Scotlandmarker for the 1994 World Cup qualifiers. He did recover, but was unable to help Benfica win the title. However, in the next season he played some of what most agree was the best football he ever played at Benfica, his best moment coming in a derby against Sporting Clube de Portugal, where he scored three goals and was on the play of the remaining three of a massive 6-3 victory in the Estádio José Alvalademarker. This result proved to be decisive for Benfica's title in 1993-94.

Dubbed "The Golden Boy", Pinto won club captaincy from veteran António Veloso, after the latter's retirement in 1995, but was unable to win a national title again. Arguably, the lack of quality of a poorly managed Benfica side played a part in his lack of development after 1995, as he was considered as the main talent of the Portuguese squad, alongside playmaker Rui Costa. Finally, after a wage dispute with Benfica's president João Vale e Azevedo, he was released from contract weeks before the UEFA Euro 2000 (making him the only free-agent in the competition), where he helped the national team reach the semifinals.

After the end of Euro 2000, Pinto had several offers from abroad, and after almost signing with Porto, he settled for Sporting instead. After a relatively poor season in 2000-01, Sporting hired four-time "Portuguese Golden Boot" winner Mário Jardel, and Pinto returned to his golden years in a magnificent run by Sporting, where he captured his second title. Named the "father of the team" by Jardel, Pinto played all but one game, and scored nine goals.

Although a highly talented player, Pinto was also known for a series of red cards for aggression and bad tackles. His feud with Porto player and national teammate Paulinho Santos lasted for years, and both players would be frequently sent off after hitting each other. Other incidents that stirred some controversy included one case of aggression against a fireman during the half-time break and elbowing an C.F. Estrela da Amadora player during a practice match.

The lowest point, however, was when he hit Argentinemarker referee Ángel Sánchez (in the third group stage game, against South Korea, at the 2002 World Cup), who had sent him off after a bad tackle early in the match.Pinto was suspended for six months. He also got the reputation of being a diver, but he began to foul less in his later years.

He ended his Portugal career with 81 caps, 23 goals, and appearances in Euro 1996, Euro 2000, and the 2002 World Cup. Never recovering fully from the incident at the World Cup, Pinto failed to impress in the following seasons, when Sporting failed to reach the top two spots, and in 2004 he was released from contract, returning to Boavista. Although he was close to signing with Al-Hilal of Saudi Arabiamarker in the January transfer window, he remained with his first professional club.

After a second season carrying Boavista's squad (who almost qualified for UEFA Cup, with Pinto scoring nine league goals and receiving numerous man of the match awards), Pinto accepted the invitation of Sporting Clube de Braga's board in July 2006,signing for one season. He scored two goals in 24 appearances helping Braga reach fourth place, and extended his contract for the 2007-08 season.However, during February 2008, Pinto trained with Toronto FC of Major League Soccer and, on February 22, announced the termination of his contract at Braga.

Honours

Team



Individual



Personal

Still in his teens, Pinto had two sons from his first marriage. The oldest, Tiago (born 1988), started his football grooming at Benfica, completed it at Sporting and first played professionally with C.D. Olivais e Moscavide.

Pinto's younger brother Sérgio was also a professional player, having spent his entire professional career in Germanymarker.

References

  1. Retirement beckons for João Pinto
  2. Porto to ask Sporting questions
  3. Braga bag João Pinto's experience
  4. João Pinto prolongs career at Braga
  5. Pinto expected on Monday


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