Cometh the hour, cometh the man. It was hard enough for FC Porto to take their first steps since the departure of their talismanic forward Hulk this week after a 17-day break. That it was in the UEFA Champions League made it even tougher, but they need not have worried.
When Hulk left behind the green-red-and-yellow-striped captain's armband, there was only one player who was going to pick it up. Lucho González has come through for the Portuguese champions time and again, and he did so once more at GNK Dinamo Zagreb on matchday one, leading his side out and netting the opening goal to break stubborn home resistance.
The strike was Lucho's 15th in UEFA club competition. Perhaps the most memorable of those was his stunning long-range volley at Hamburger SV in November 2006, yet few have been as important as Tuesday night's, proving that Porto coach Vítor Pereira still has plenty of quality in his squad.
The Dragons have undoubtedly lost a genuine leader in Hulk, but Lucho was the obvious figure to put them back on the road to success. A cool head and a shrewd passer of the ball, he has 'winner' written all over him – quite literally, as he has a tattoo of Diego Maradona's autograph on his neck.
The 31-year-old won four Portuguese Liga titles in his first four-year spell at the Estádio do Dragão, and followed that by sealing a fifth just over three months after returning to the club. In between, Lucho snared five more trophies in a two-and-a-half-year stay at Olympique de Marseille, during which time he retained his family home in Portugal.
As the midfielder told UEFA.com's David Crossan, who was at the Stadion Maksimir on Tuesday, there was extra poignancy to his goal against Dinamo, coming hours after he received the sad news that his father had passed away. That he carried on and performed admirably was a typical demonstration of the player – and the man – that Porto have at their disposal once again.
The opinions expressed here are the writer's own and not those of UEFA.
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