KAZAN, Russia (AP) — Cristiano Ronaldo is finally getting an attacking partner he can count on.
Andre Silva, the 21-year-old forward who is about to make his debut in a major tournament with Portugal, has been successfully teaming up with Ronaldo to give the European champions an impressive attacking force entering the Confederations Cup.
Together, the young Silva and the veteran Ronaldo have scored 18 goals since they started playing alongside each other following Euros 2016.
Silva, who has just moved from FC Porto to AC Milan in a transfer worth nearly 40 million euros, has scored seven goals in eight games since his debut with the national team in a friendly against Gibraltar in September.
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“It’s a dream to be playing with Ronaldo,” Silva said ahead of Portugal’s Confederation Cup debut against Mexico on Sunday in Kazan. “I’ve always imagined myself playing with him. I’m very happy to be playing alongside our captain.”
Few players have succeeded alongside Ronaldo in Portugal’s attack recently. Nani, Ricardo Quaresma and Eder were in the squad when Portugal won the European championship last year, with Eder scoring the extra-time winner in the final against host France, but none made it to Fernando Santos’ squad for the Confederations Cup, the World Cup warm-up event.
Silva has been compared to a young Fernand Torres, the former Spain striker currently playing for Atletico Madrid. The tall forward is a constant danger on set pieces inside the area. He is cool and calm when he has chances in front of goal.
In addition to being an idol, Ronaldo also serves as a mentor for the talented young forward.
“Cristiano talks to me and gives me advice,” Silva said. “He’s been playing this game for several years, I’m just starting. I try to listen to him and he tries to help me as best he can. I think that we communicate well and we have a good understanding, and that leads to these good results.”
Ronaldo scored twice and set up Silva’s goal in the team’s 3-0 win at Latvia in European World Cup qualifying last week, the team’s last match before Sunday’s Group A opener against Mexico at Kazan Arena.
The duo scored goals in the same match three other times — World Cup qualifiers against Hungary, Andorra and the Faroe Islands.
Silva’s first goal with Portugal’s main squad was an 86th-minute close-range strike against Andorra, capping a 6-0 rout in which Ronaldo scored four times. It was only Silva’s third match.
In his next game, Silva scored a hat-trick against the Faroe Islands, when Ronaldo added one goal in another 6-0 victory.
“Since I joined the national team I’ve felt very welcomed,” Silva said. “I arrived at a good point in time, when the team had just won the (European) title. The most experienced players received me with open arms and made me feel welcomed. It’s a very united group and I’m very happy to have gotten along with everyone from the start.”
A regular of Portugal’s youth teams, Silva began attracting headlines when he joined Porto’s senior squad and played well from the start, finishing the season with 21 goals. His rapid rise led to speculation about moves to some of the top European clubs, and he eventually signed with Milan for next season.
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