Simao should seize the chance

Back in 1996, when as a 16-year-old teenage prodigy as part of his country's all-conquering under-16 European Championship-winning team, Simao seemed destined for so much more. But, despite over 350 appearances with four of Spain and Portugal's biggest clubs, he has won just one league title — the Portuguese Liga in 2005. Over to Richard Brown.

Simao was once regarded as one of the brightest young prospects in world football, but now having just tipped the balance at 30, it is fair to say the Portuguese star who was expected to rule the world has failed to realise his potential.

Yes, 50-odd appearances for both Sporting Lisbon and Barcelona is hardly flunking in a career. Nor is scoring nearly 100 goals in under 200 games for Benfica, but now at his fourth club in Atletico Madrid, the winger can only count a hat-trick of Portuguese cups in his all-too barren trophy cabinet.

Back in 1996, when as a 16-year-old teenage prodigy as part of his country's all-conquering under-16 European Championship-winning team, he seemed destined for so much more.

But, despite over 350 appearances with four of Spain and Portugal's biggest clubs, he has won just one league title — the Portuguese Liga in 2005.

There are no European titles, either, although that may change in May, as his Atletico team-mates prepare to contest the UEFA Europa League final against Fulham.

It would be a welcome end to the season for Quique Sanchez Flores' men who endured a tough and arduous league campaign.

A mid-table finish is hardly what was expected after another summer of rebuilding, but that is what has happened following a run of just one win from the opening 11 Spanish Primera Division games.

Alongside the likes of Sergio Aguero, Diego Forlan and Jose Antonio Reyes, Simao is still one of the most feared attacking players in La Liga and he is now hopeful he could end the season with an addition to his neglected trophy cabinet.

Apart from the clashwith Fulham, Atletico will also contest the Copa del Rey against Sevilla. “To be the only Spanish team to play in a European final is a great joy,” Simao said after the 2-2 aggregate win over Liverpool in the Europa League semi-finals. “To get to two finals is the best thing that could have happened to us. It (the Liverpool tie) was a very important game for everything that has happened this season. It's a well-deserved prize.”

Atletico have long had to play second fiddle to their great city rivals Real Madrid, but the frustration has grown recently as a talented group of individuals have failed to perform as a team. Simao arrived in 2007 for a fee believed to be in the region of 19 million Euros. It was a sizeable outlay, even for a club used to operating at the top end of La Liga, and one that was expected to help a perennial push for the top honours.

For their money, the Spanish side were signing an exciting winger and set-piece specialist who made his first-team debut at 17 for Sporting. After two years establishing himself as an important member of Lisbon staring XI, a GBP15million move to Barcelona followed in 1999. It proved to be a slightly frustrating two-year spell with the Catalan giants, coming as it did during a barren spell for the club.

And 46 games later, Simao was back in Portugal, this time with two-time European Cup winners Benfica. He quickly became a fans' favourite at the Estadio da Luz and topped the club's goal-scoring charts for all six seasons he was there, while also captaining the side for much of that time.

By now, he was also a national favourite for his exploits in the international arena for Portugal. After such success at youth level, he made his debut as a 19-year-old in 1998, and has since been a key component in the major summer finals of 2004, 2006 and 2008.

Back in Spain, Simao has performed well if not brilliantly, but now with trophies finally up for grabs, it may be time for the player who promised so much, to actually deliver.

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