Lisbon (AFP)

The shattered dream of the Little Prince of Lisbon: despite a penalty, the nugget Joao Felix (20) saw his C1 title hopes soar in the city where he spent four years with Benfica, after the defeat of the 'Atlético 2-1 against Leizig Thursday in quarterfinals.

Was he really worth 126 million euros? The most expensive rookie in the history of Atlético Madrid last summer, Portuguese international striker Joao Felix (5 caps) saw the end of a disappointing first season with the Colchoneros on Thursday evening after the elimination of the 'Atlético in the quarter-finals of the Champions League.

Returning on a mission to the city which revealed him to the whole world under the colors of Benfica Lisbon (2015-2019), Joao Felix was mown in the area in the 70th by Lukas Klostermann and himself transformed the penalty equalizer for Atlético (71st) ... However, insufficient to sustain the title hopes of the Spanish team.

- Costume too big? -

Hero of the evening for a few minutes before the victory goal of Tyler Adams (88th) for Leizig, Joao Felix saw his dream collapse. And the match of young Portuguese talent Joao Felix was like his season at Atlético: raw talent in the feet, annihilated by disappointing results.

His first year in Madrid was disrupted by numerous injuries (sprained ankle in October, sprained left knee in February, and traumatic bone edema in an ankle in July), and degraded by sometimes average performance in the field.

Thursday evening, he finally convinced Spain that he was indeed the expected prodigy, and showed Portugal that he was able to silence the critics with his game ... Even if he has not yet shoulders wide enough to lead Atlético to the coronation it lacks in the Champions League.

At 20, was the costume too big for the "Menino de ouro" ("the Golden Boy", in Portuguese)? The legacy of the number 7 that he carries on his back, that of the iconic French striker Antoine Griezmann, who left for Barça the same summer, was it too heavy?

Despite a difficult start in Madrid, the genius of Joao Felix is ​​undeniable. The Portuguese diamond, born in Viseu (south-east of Porto) and trained in the youth teams of FC Porto, offered some glimpses of his immense talent with the ball to the feet this season, like his magnificent double, with a volley from the left and a half-end of the right, in a friendly last summer against Juventus of his compatriot and team-mate in selection, Cristiano Ronaldo (2-1).

- "Obligatory passage" -

Or as, more recently, during the "manita" of the Colchoneros against Osasuna, on June 17 for its first match after the pandemic: associated in attack with Diego Costa, the duo were sharp, and Atlético confirmed its back in force in the wake of a Joao Felix finally released.

"He went through the essential step of the footballer: a great season, an injury, on his return he was not at the same level ... He really started his season when he returned against Villarreal, Sevilla and Liverpool (end February - early March). He is young, and we have great hopes that he will be decisive for the team, "his coach Diego Simeone had wished at a press conference.

Already excellent in the round of 16 of the Champions League, during the Madrid feat against the English ogre Liverpool, crowned champion in the Premier League seven days before the end of the championship with 23 points ahead of his dolphin, the nugget Joao Felix shone in "his garden", but not strong enough to qualify Atlético.

Despite its young prodigy, the Madrid team has finished dreaming: the Colchoneros have won nothing this season (Supercopa lost on penalties against Real Madrid in January, eliminated in the round of 16 of the Copa del Rey against a club of D3, 3rd in La Liga far behind Real Madrid and Barça). And Diego Simeone will have to continue to wait to lift the European trophy which still escapes his record, after two finals lost against the neighbor Merengue in 2014 and 2016.

© 2020 AFP