Hugo Almeida once won the Champions League with Porto and won the DFB Cup at Werder Bremen. A nostalgic look back at his career.
Hugo Almeida is an almost mythical phenomenon. With more than 1.90 meters and 90 kilograms, his charisma and goal threat, he will also be remembered in the Bundesliga.
From 2006 to 2010 he caused a sensation at Werder Bremen. In the first half of 2016 he played again under coach Thomas Schaaf, this time in Hanover. In 2020 he ended his career at home and has been training himself since 2022 – in highly controversial Iran.
He will regret his failed move to Real Madrid and his injury-related exit from the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
SPOX looks back on the Portuguese’s career.
Armistice between home and Bundesliga
Hugo Almeida was the opposite of previous Portuguese strikers such as the legendary Eusebio. Almeida was more of a target player, pinning the balls and doing the dirty work. Across his career, he still managed 150 goals and 56 assists in 502 games.
Born in tiny Figueira da Foz in 1984, Almeida joined Porto’s youth academy, where he scored 21 goals in 23 games in the reserve team with the right team-mates at his side. It should remain his best goal tally of his career.
Such a colossus is simply physically superior to younger players – but against experienced players and sophisticated tactics, he changes into a target player who rarely gets good deals.
In his homeland he was not a regular player at Uniao Leiria or at Boavista. Only at FC Porto did he succeed – until Werder Bremen took notice of him.
The striker flourished in the Bundesliga, scoring an average of almost every second game – alongside Miro Klose and Diego. Things also went well later in Turkey, where he had fewer tactical guidelines and was able to use his left foot with brute force.
During these years, Hugo Almeida regularly won titles, both in Istanbul and in Bremen.
His 2004 winter loan from Porto to Leiria will not be forgotten. Because months later, José Mourinho’s squad would conquer Europe and win the Champions League. The future “Special One” succeeded without Almeida, who still got a winner’s medal because he was used in the group phase.
Hugo Almeida’s shattered dreams: Real Madrid and the 2014 World Cup
In January 2011 Hugo Almeida left Bremen after four and a half seasons.
That’s where the “Special One” comes into play again. Mourinho is now on the bench at Real Madrid and is looking for a replacement for Gonzalo Higuain. Many names are in the conversation, including Dzeko and Adebayor.
Mourinho and sporting director Jorge Valdano are in talks. Mou tries to convince his counterpart that Almeida could be the right man for a few months – but Valdano disagrees.
“I was in the final stages of my contract at Werder and the opportunity arose to go to Real Madrid,” Almeida told the Portuguese Jornal de Noticias. “José Mourinho wanted me. I’ve been working my whole career to come to a club of this size. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out. The sporting director Valdano didn’t want me and I had to get on with my life.”
Instead, he went to Besiktas in Turkey.
In the summer of 2014, the World Cup in Portuguese-speaking Brazil was coming up – and Almeida made it into the squad. It was to be his last major tournament for Portugal. On June 16, he was also in the starting line-up on matchday one – against Germany. It was one of the games of his life until he had to be substituted early on with an injury and later made just one more appearance for Portugal.
After the World Cup, he was also without a club for three months until Cesena took him on. Later he was drawn to Kuban Krasnodar and Anzhi in Russia, then back to the Bundesliga and to Thomas Schaaf at Hannover 96. In 2016, the world tour continued to Croatia to Hajduk Split and finally back home, where he found accommodation near Coimbra. However, he did not rekindle the interest of a team like Real Madrid. The missed change and the injury-related World Cup are two of the main disappointments in Almeida’s career.
Hugo Almeida: flop at Cesena
A left thigh injury sustained in the game against Germany will keep Hugo Almeida out of the rest of the group stage and Portugal’s entire 2014 World Cup. Cristiano Ronaldo and Co. are eliminated after the preliminary round. Without a team on July 1 due to the termination of his contract with Besiktas, he is looking for a club. Someone who gives a 30-year-old a chance.
During his time in Turkey, he missed several games due to various physical problems. But Cesena sees a great opportunity in him. His nostalgic appearance does the rest. So he finally moves to the Serie A promoted team, which already had Rodriguez, Succi and Defrel in attack.
“It is a great pleasure for me to be part of this team,” said Almeida at his presentation. “My physical condition is good, I’m working to find my rhythm after the minor injury. The past is past, now I only look to my future and in my future there is only Cesena.”
Even as a child he wanted to play in Italy’s tactical league. “My idol was Bobo Vieri. I have the characteristics of a target player, I love taking crosses and playing for my team-mates. For me this is not a new beginning, but the beginning of a new adventure with Cesena.”
Hugo Almeida: New career as a coach
After turning down a transfer to India, Hugo Almeida will make his Serie A debut against Inter Milan.
Back in 2005/06, when he was still in a Porto jersey, he hammered a brilliant free-kick into the crossbar against Inter.
But that is past. There is no longer a Hugo Almeida without physical problems and Diego, Raul Meireles, Lucho Gonzalez, Pepe or Bosingwa no longer play around him. At Cesena, the difficulties of the promoted team against the big players in the league are obvious. Almeida only has half an hour to play against Inter and his team lost 1-0 at home.
The Portuguese has not scored a goal in his nine upcoming appearances either. He fails to prove that he is still a top-class striker.
Hugo Almeida finally ended his career in his home country with Coimbra in 2020.
He is currently an assistant coach at Esfahan and Sepahan in Iran. He’ll probably long for the Champions League anthem or the bright colors of the World Cup