Tomás Araújo – another diamond from Seixal by Helner
Tomás is arguably the most complete center-back SL Benfica has produced in recent years. If you think of the characteristics center-backs should have in order to stand out nowadays, then Tomás ticks most of the boxes. His performances since the UEFA Youth League last season have had me in awe. I previously had some doubts on how high his ceiling could be but his development in the last two seasons has been much better than I could have imagined. His transition to the B team was as smooth as possible, he didn’t miss a step and has been able to consistently put up solid games.
Let’s start with his defensive qualities without the ball. The youth teams usually play with a high line, so he is used to having to control the space behind his back and adopting the correct body orientation. In case of need he can make use of his speed to catch up to opponents. He is very good at winning aerial duels on both ends of the pitch, which also makes him a threat offensively. He is not as aggressive without the ball as he is with it, sometimes he loses ground duels owing to the superior physicality of older players, but this growth will come naturally with time.
His ability on the ball is incredibly good, with passing and ball control being two of his biggest strengths. Vertical passes, diagonal passes, passes under pressure, dribbling through pressure, you name it. He can comfortably do it all.
The center-back position is a delicate one since there is little room for error. To me, Tomás stands out because he is not error prone at all. He understands his positioning is crucial at the back, therefore he doesn’t make rash decisions. His jumps and tackles are always well thought and timed.