When Hugo Viana was signed by Sir Bobby Robson for Newcastle in 2002 he had the accolade of being European Young Footballer of the Year under his belt and the chance to show his talents in the Premier League. However, the then 19 year old seemed to be weighed down by the pressure that came with his £8.5 million price tag and the sparkling form that he showcased in Portugal with Sporting Lisbon was never reproduced. Added to the fact that his continental style of play that required plenty of time on the ball far from suited the pace of English football and it soon becomes clear as to why Viana failed to cut it in the Premier League. But was it simply a case of a big move too early in the career of Hugo Viana?
Ironically it may be the speed of Hugo Viana’s rise to fame that contributed in his similarly rapid falling by the wayside. The young attacking midfielder spent just one season with Sporting before the interest from across Europe inevitably arrived given the recognition he received with his young footballer award. Seeing as Sir Bob had jumped to the front of the queue to sign Viana it seemed as though the Newcastle manager had made a real coup by bringing the youngster to St James’ Park. The first glimpses of the Portguese starlet weren’t too discouraging either. A creative midfielder with a terrific left foot who could pick a pass, it looked as though Viana might fit right into Newcastle’s attractive brand of football. But early optimism was soon replaced by the stark realisation that Viana was never going to cut it in the Premier League.
Viana’s age and inexperience were major factors in the youngster not being able to find his feet at St James’ Park, but I doubt that if he returned to the Premier League that he would be able to make a bigger impact now. As is the case with many foreigners that come to England, the pace and physicality of the Premier League were far too great for Viana and games just seemed to pass him by as he failed to get on the ball and influence proceedings. Viana therefore spent most of his time on the bench in his two seasons at Newcastle and it is as a substitute that he made most of his league 39 appearances. He was employed as a winger on occasion, but clearly lacked the pace to cause full-backs any difficulties. Yet in the centre of midfield he failed to get stuck in and grab games by the scruff of the neck as flashes of skill were lost in amongst general inactivity. Thus as he failed to establish himself as a first team regular, Viana’s exit from Newcastle was always on the cards.
A season-long loan to Sporting in 2004 was followed by a permanent move to Valencia in 2005 for a transfer fee of £1.5m, with the difference in the fee Newcastle paid and the fee they received saying much about his time on Tyneside. Viana is still on the books of Valencia but he hasn’t exactly shone at the Mestalla either, as a temporary spell at Osasuna was proceeded by a loan move to Braga, where the 27 year old can now be found playing his football back in Portugal. Viana has won 33 international caps with Portugal along the way, but the amount of moves he has made tells its own story. So the case of Hugo Viana is largely one of too much too soon, and although a talented footballer, the midfielder’s style of play was never suited to the Premier League and his spell at Newcastle was always doomed to fail.