By Tom Kundert
Upon looking at the goalscoring record of Benfica’s Paraguayan striker Oscar Cardozo, just the fact that he is considered something of an enigma is an enigma in itself.
When Benfica president Luis Felipe Vieira splashed out just shy of 10 million euros for the beanpole marksman in the summer of 2007, he confidently announced “Benfica have bought a striker to guarantee twenty goals a season.”
Cardozo has proven as good as Vieira’s word, finding the net on a staggeringly consistent basis. He has scored 127 times in 204 matches in all competitions for Benfica.
So it follows that Cardozo is an idol of the Estádio da Luz, right? Wrong. Cardozo is far from the darling of the Benfica faithful, even attracting boos from sections of the crowd on a mystifyingly regular basis.
His gangling awkward style and slow movement is at odds with the quick-moving, quick-thinking and skilful teams that Jorge Jesus has built in the Portuguese capital, largely on the back of several extravagantly talented fellow South Americans.
But Jesus has been Cardozo’s most ardent advocate, and the Paraguayan has missed precious few matches since the charismatic Portuguese coach took over – and has suitably repaid Jesus with goals, goals and more goals.
It is hardly surprising therefore that speculation linking the striker with a move to a more competitive league has been a constant over several seasons. That nobody has taken a punt on him, when you consider the kind of money splashed out for strikers with far less flattering CVs, is somewhat surprising.
Chelsea are the latest team to be linked with a swoop for Cardozo. UK tabloid The Sun claimed the Londoners were preparing a 24-million euro swoop for the player as Didier Drogba’s replacement.
On Wednesday night Cardozo has the chance to impress his hypothetical future employers at close quarters. A strong performance and goals to propel Benfica past the Blues may just persuade Roman Abramovich and his army of advisors that Cardozo can truly cut it at a higher level.
Indeed, Cardozo can boast a healthy record when it comes to Premier League opposition. He has scored 7 times in 6 matches against English teams. Chelsea, you have been warned.
Competition: UEFA Champions League
Date: 4 April 2012
Time: 2:45 pm ( US/ Eastern )
Venue: Stamford Bridge (London)