Football News

“You’re fat! You have to lose five kilos” — Sergio Oliveira recalls career-turning point ahead of Chelsea showdown

By Ben Green

Published: 15:23, 13 April 2021

Porto midfielder Sergio Oliveira has recalled the moment Sergio Conceicao confronted him during a loan spell at Nantes to help shape his career.

Oliveira, 28, has been the standout candidate in Porto’s exceptional run to the Champions League quarter-finals this season, where Dragoes will look to overturn a two-goal deficit against Chelsea.

The two clubs meet once again at a neutral venue for the second leg, with Sevilla’s Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan the destination of choice, and Conceicao will be backing his side to shift the momentum of the tie, given their last-gasp heroics against Juventus in the round prior.

Oliveira was the protagonist in Turin, netting a brace, including an extra-time free-kick to condemn The Old Lady to another season without European glory while simultaneously booking Porto’s ticket in the last-eight.

It’s been quite the journey for Oliveira, who was a perennial fringe player at Porto before his meteoric rise to prominence this season, with this being the first campaign in which he has mustered over 20 Primeira Liga appearances for the club.

His form has culminated in a goalscoring purple patch that has led to him becoming one of only two Portuguese players to net at least five goals for a Portuguese club in a single Champions League campaign, joining Nuno Gomes for Benfica during 1998/99 in that department.

The 10-capped Portugal international was also recently selected for the national team and he will be hoping to make Fernando Santos’ squad for the Euros this summer.

But, things were not always quite so rosy for Oliveira, who recently recalled the moment Conceicao, who was manager of Nantes between 2016/17 where he took took the midfielder on loan, made clear the changes he would have to make to reach the next level.

“The first time I met the boss was in France. He looked at me and said, ‘You’re fat! You have to lose four or five kilos,'” Oliveira reflected.

“I looked at him and said ‘OK’. Over time, I started adapting to a style of play which he loves, which is really physical, going for 50/50s, playing with quality – an expansive style.”

Oliveira went on to explain that when Conceicao was first appointed Porto manager in 2017, he initially told him to search for playing opportunities elsewhere, but the midfielder got his head down, performed when called upon, and now the duo have a blossoming relationship.

He added: “The next season he went to Porto and I asked if I could go with him, and he said it was best that I left for better opportunities, because at Porto I’d play less.

“But I said, ‘No, I want to go with you because I want to find my space in the team.’ He said, ‘OK, but you should know you’re not my first choice.’

“I wasn’t involved in pre-season, then I was on the bench for nine games, and my first game was my Champions League debut in the group stage against Monaco [in September 2017]; he called me out of nowhere and said I’d play and that he totally trusted me – it was an unforgettable moment.

“We’ve had our differences as we’ve both got strong personalities, but we’ve got total respect for one another and we’ve got a great relationship today.”

Quite incredibly Oliveira has netted 19 goals across all competitions this term, having notched just 14 in a Porto shirt before. He is both Porto’s top scorer in the Primeira Liga (12) and the Champions League this season (five).

Chelsea meanwhile are looking to keep a clean sheet in four consecutive matches in the Champions League for the first time since a run of six ending in March 2008, but Oliveira’s fruitful shooting boots will give Thomas Tuchel’s side plenty of food for thought, teeing up a fascinating showdown in Andalusia.