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'It all happened very quickly' – Blackfield's Besant signs for Cristiano Ronaldo's former club in Portugal Nacional

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A YOUNG keeper who spent time on loan at Blackfield & Langley from AFC Bournemouth has signed for Cristiano Ronaldo's former club Nacional in Portugal after impressing during a week's trial.

Joe Besant, 18, who made 11 Wessex Football League appearances during the truncated 2020/21 season, had already started pre-season with Blackfield & Langley after being released by the Cherries.

Besant, who stands 6ft 4in tall and has size 13 feet, said: "It all happened in a very quick manner. After being released from Bournemouth only a month prior, I had already started pre-season with Blackfield and was due to start pre-season on the books at Eastleigh.

Blackfield's Joe Besant saves Ben Wright's penalty attempt (Photo: Les Chase)
Blackfield's Joe Besant saves Ben Wright's penalty attempt (Photo: Les Chase)

"Only a few days before I flew out here, I was contacted by a football agent, who had got in touch, as he had heard of me through a link to one of my previous clubs. He spoke to me about potential opportunities that he may be able to get me in the Portugal youth set-up, and Nacional came back almost immediately, saying that they'd like to give me a trial.

"I was shocked that an opportunity came about so quickly, but I was extremely excited to visit new surroundings and show them what I've got."

CD Nacional Madeira, commonly known as Nacional, play in Liga Portugal 2, the second-highest division in Portuguese football, after being relegated last season.

The club had Cristiano Ronaldo on their books between 1995 and 1997.

Besant added: "I felt that I started to adjust a lot quicker than I had first thought, although I don't speak any Portuguese and only beginning to learn a few basic words to help me out, little by little.

"One of the first things I noticed about the style of football out here is that it's more of a technical game than physical. Most of the game is played on the floor, and the ball rarely goes route one unless looking for a specific pass. So this gives me a good opportunity to get on the ball as much as possible.

"Being away from the place I've called home all of my life has its challenges. However, I cannot thank my family enough for how supportive they've been throughout it all, and they continue to help me through this transition in my life. I'm very grateful.

"Being at a new club with new surroundings, sometimes it's hard to hit the ground running. However, in the next few months, I hope to be a regular in the U19s, and by the end of the season, hopefully catching the eye of some first-team staff and given the opportunity to train up with them as much as possible."

Joe punches the ball clear for Blackfield against Brockenhurst (Photo: Les Chase)
Joe punches the ball clear for Blackfield against Brockenhurst (Photo: Les Chase)

Besant spent the time at Blackfield under the tutelage of manager Fawzi Saadi, a former player and a coach with AFC Bournemouth.

"Last season allowed me to go out on loan from my club at the time to get valuable minutes playing in men's football. Luckily I had connections with the Blackfield manager Fawzi, as he had coached me a few times previously at Bournemouth.

"I really enjoyed my time at Blackfield, as it gave me the game time that I'd lacked. The style of football implemented at Blackfield was similar to what I'd been used to in the past, so it was good to consistently get on the ball and trust the good ball-playing players we had there.

"Game time is vital for the consistency and confidence of a goalkeeper at a young age. So I was happy that Blackfield gave me that, and thank them for their support throughout the past year."

Blackfield & Langley manager Fawzi Saadi said: "When we took Joe on loan from AFC Bournemouth, we knew he had potential. But we wanted to help get that out of him, especially playing men's football.

"I was very grateful to Bournemouth for loaning him to us in the first place because with the way I like to play football, everything starts with the keeper. The keeper is a crucial element, and it isn't easy to find a keeper who can use his feet and distribute well. So Joe was the best option I could have found."

Saadi, who was given the manager's job at Blackfield in May 2020 after the previous manager Glen Howes left to take charge at AFC Totton, continued: "I call him the beast, the quiet beast. When you see him, he's enormous, size 13 shoes, and the biggest hands you'll ever see, but in the changing room, he's the quietest personality.

"We could see how he's grown from the experience with us, and the contract with Nacional is proof of his physical, technical and mental development.

"I said to Joe at the start of the year, 'I know you have enormous potential, and I think you can make a real living out of this. Would you be interested in playing abroad?' and I offered to help him out.

The 36-year-old former attacking midfielder, Saadi started his football career at Christchurch before making the switch to AFC Bournemouth.

He added: "Before our pre-season friendly with Fawley, he had been scheduled to play 45 minutes. But he came up to me, respectfully, and asked if I minded if he didn't play because he had the trial. He still showed up and helped our other keeper warm up, though, which shows his personality.

"I was so chuffed for him, and with me being around football, it was nice to get that little buzz of knowing he had that something and being proved right. We're so chuffed for him, personally and as a club. The dressing room was buzzing for him too, and we all wish him luck."

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