Angel Gomes kickstarted his post-Manchester United career in outstanding fashion.
The attacking midfielder signed for Lille before heading on loan to Boavista. And he impressed from the outset, providing three assists on his debut.
Three goals and an assist in his next four appearances showed just why Gomes was rated so highly at Old Trafford.
So how have things gone since then?
Since those dazzling early performances, Gomes has tailed off somewhat. He has only managed one more assist in his last eight league games. And he has not found the net since early November.
That should take nothing away from the United academy graduate’s form since heading for pastures new.
Gomes clearly has huge talent and, in time, the 20-year-old should become a star. But those early loan outings have been replaced by less impactful appearances.
That is exactly what you would expect from a player who has only made 25 first-team appearances in his fledgling career. Yet the headline stats only tell half the story.
The former United man continues to impress without getting onto the scoresheet. He had a 92% pass rate against Braga (streets ahead of his teammates), had two shots and played two key passes.
Against Maritomo, and moved into an unfamiliar centre-forward role, Gomes still managed three key passes although his pass rate fell to 68%.
That is to be expected when a player is at the front of his team’s attacks. Yet it shows how much more effective Gomes can be when he drops deeper and sets things up for teammates.
Four shots and a 90% pass rate against Santa Clara suggested he was unlucky not to turn a 1-1 draw into a victory.
His least effective performance to date came against Tondela, where he again played up front but made little impact. While he had three off-target shots and one key pass against Sporting Lisbon last time out.
A work in progress
What Gomes does offer, even when he doesn’t get on the scoresheet, is a creative spark.
That spark will only fire more regularly as he gets experience and it is interesting that he has already been used in three different positions in Portugal.
Known predominantly as an attacking midfielder at United, few would have expected him to get senior chances up front. And yet, in time, Gomes has the skillset to thrive as a false nine.
It was where he played on occasions for United’s U23s but this is a step up.
United fans may no longer be slamming Gomes’s exit as a disaster. But there is plenty to suggest he will have a wonderful career.
Who knows, in time, he could return to United as the finished article. What a tantalising prospect that is.