Sporting Lisbon star Miguel Veloso: Learning to fight back

He now has the pick of joining Manchester United, Real Madrid or Inter Milan, but it was less than two years ago that Veloso was scrapping in the Portuguese Third Division with little Olivais e Moscavide. The decision to send him into the lower divisions came as a shock to his family, but Veloso credits the move to his success this season: "I learned a lot there as a player and a man. I really developed there and it's helped me get to where I am today."

At the time, Veloso's biggest fan, Mum Teresa, wasn't so sure: "It was a great shock because the trainer (Jose Peseiro) had said that he counted on him, but soon he was being asked to move out.

"We were fortunate, though, because the coach at Olivais e Moscavide had a great record in recognising young talent."

Veloso returned to Sporting battle-hardened and boasting a league winner's medal. The experience at Olivais e Moscavide helped shape his prime midfield instincts, having dropped into the lower leagues as an attacking midfielder, but returning as an outstanding defensive prospect.

While Teresa has forgiven Sporting for that decision two years ago, she remains angry with Benfica, which cut loose Miguel when just 14 years of age. The midfielder had spent his junior years at clubs associated with Benfica, where Dad Antonio enjoyed great success.

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Miguel's dumping was devastating for the player, who needed all the support of his parents to recover.

"I am still very unhappy with Benfica, mainly with the people who continue to treat the young players poorly," said Teresa. "Miguel never had great dreams about being a footballer. He's very intelligent and has promised me he'll complete his studies.

"His great reference is his Dad. Even now, he's always asking him for advice. It's been very important for his career."

Veloso ended his schooling midway through Year 11 and returning will be on the backburner as he considers his next career move.

Joining Manchester United is an option Veloso admits is attractive: "Clearly I would consider this hypothesis. Manchester United is a great club. Every player dreams of being part of a great club.

"England? Italy? All these leagues are great references. It is a dream of any player to play in one of these leagues."

But if he has ambitions of moving to United, Veloso again finds his hopes facing a major obstacle after a blow-up between Sporting Lisbon president Filipe Soares Franco and United's Portuguese assistant manager Carlos Queiroz.

"The Sporting president accused me of trying to approach a player [Miguel Veloso] illegally and having a low moral and ethical code," Queiroz said. "These are grave accusations but, nevertheless, despite the personal slurs, this is something to be resolved between the clubs.

"His declarations must be clarified and investigated as it's the first time that a president of another club visits Manchester and publicly accuses a member of the club hierarchy of trying to illegally approach a player. I'm deeply disappointed as this is a position that's based on unjust conclusions taken from facts that are seen as different by both sides.

"I'm sad about all this as when I observe players it doesn't mean that it's to snatch them away, although, as all clubs, we do have the right to keep tabs on prospective signings."

The exchange forced United manager Sir Alex Ferguson to enter the fray, declaring no interest in Veloso.

"It is unfortunate the president has said this and it is more unfortunate that he has chosen Carlos as his target," said the United boss. "Carlos is not in the field of doing these things. His behaviour is impeccable and I feel the president should retract his comments.

"We have a good relationship with Sporting Lisbon and we do not want it destroyed. But what the president has said is totally unfair.

"We are not interested in him and we never have been.

"But our relationship with Sporting Lisbon has been very good for five years now. We approached them about Cristiano Ronaldo, we sat down and we did a deal. We did the same with Nani.

"Why should we bother about tapping a player we are not interested in?"

However, Lisbon sources are convinced United remain determined to land Veloso and Fergie's comments are designed only to bring down the midfielder's price-tag.

Indeed, while the tension between Soares and Queiroz is red hot, powerbrokers at both clubs are determined for the blow-up not to sour a relationship which has not only led to Nani and Ronaldo pulling on a United shirt, but also the exchange of South American scouting information and the strengthening of ties between the clubs' youth setups.

"This issue will surely pass," said Ronaldo. "Everybody knows that Queiroz is simply defending his club. He did a great job in Portugal, not just for Sporting, but also for the national team.

"I have already said that United always welcome good players and Veloso is a very good player. But so are 20 or 30 others. Miguel is a good player, just like others."
So few players in the game have the options that are ahead of Veloso, but the setbacks he's experienced in his teenage years will keep Miguel grounded, insists Teresa.

"He - like all of us - has his feet firmly on the ground. His father's influence and experience has helped him stay grounded. When he is playing well, nothing is exaggerated, just as when things don't go well. No-one gets over-excited - and this helps Miguel."

Teresa must be hoping Franco and Queiroz take lead from the Veloso family and tone down the rhetoric - for her son's sake.

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