Diego Moreira, or, to give him his full name, Diego Manuel Jadon da Silva Moreira, is a winger who primarily operates down the left flank. He is currently on a season-long loan at Olympique Lyonnais from his parent club, Chelsea.
Despite his tender years (he only turned nineteen in August), he has already been on the books of four major European clubs in four different countries: Standard Liège, Benfica, Chelsea and now Lyon. However, he had only made a total of three first team appearances in senior football before moving to France at the start of September 2023.
Football genes on both sides of the family
Moreira has an interesting, multi-cultural background and is qualified to represent four countries in international football. The first is his native Belgium. He was born in Liège in 2004 whilst his father, Almami Moreira was playing for local club Standard Liège in the Belgian First Division.
His father was an accomplished midfielder who began his professional career at Boavista before spending four seasons in Liège, interrupted by a loan spell with Hamburger SV. He subsequently embarked on an itinerant career path taking him to Russia, Serbia, China, Spain and back to Portugal. Having represented Portugal at youth level, he went on to earn six international caps for his native Guinea-Bissau. It’s through him that Moreira Jr qualifies for both Guinea-Bissau and Portugal.
Diego Moreira also benefits from a healthy dose of footballing genes on his mother’s side. His maternal grandfather was a German midfielder called Helmut Graf, who also played for Standard Liège between 1976 and 1982. That ancestry qualifies Moreira Jr to represent Germany but he has pledged his own allegiance to Portugal for now and has been involved with their national team setup since 2019 when he first integrated the Under-15 squad.
He has moved up through the age groups and is now bouncing between the Portuguese U-20 and U-21 squads. He was involved in some UEFA Euro U-21 qualifying matches earlier this year but has more recently featured in the European U-20 Elite League and played in the 2-1 win against England at Stadium MK in October.
Early move to Portugal
Having spent his formative years in the Standard Liège youth system, Moreira decamped to Lisbon in August 2020 to join Benfica. He really began to make a name for himself playing in the UEFA Youth League in the 2021-22 season. He scored three goals and provided several assists as Benfica tore through the competition in swashbuckling style to lift the trophy for the first time in their history.
Benfica also lifted the Campeonato Nacional de Juniores in 2021-22 (the top-level U-19 competition in Portuguese football) and went on to conquer the inaugural Under-20 Intercontinental Cup, beating the 2022 U-20 Copa Libertadores winners, Peñarol of Uruguay, 1-0 in the final at the Estadio Centenario in Montevideo with Moreira playing the full ninety minutes.
At the end of that highly successful season with the juniors, Moreira was handed a debut for the Benfica first team in the final match of the season away at Paços de Ferreira. He entered the fray for his senior debut as a 68th minute substitute for João Mário as Benfica saw out a 2-0 win in front of 5,635 supporters at the Estádio Capital do Móvel.
However, that wasn’t to prove the platform for a breakthrough into the first team squad for the 2022-23 campaign. In fact, Moreira would only go on to play one further minute for Benfica, as a late substitute in a UEFA Champions League qualifier against FC Midtjylland in August 2022. His refusal to sign a new contract that summer saw him ostracised from the first team squad and he spent the season languishing in the B team and the Under-23s.
Brief interlude at Chelsea
When his contract expired in the summer of 2023, Moreira signed for Chelsea on a free transfer. However, his initial stay in west London was a brief one. He made a couple of appearances for the U-21 team in the Premier League 2 in August before his senior Chelsea debut came in the EFL Cup Second Round against AFC Wimbledon. He started on the left side of a front three at Stamford Bridge but was hauled off at half time to be replaced by Nicolas Jackson with Chelsea struggling at 1-1 and had to watch from the bench as his team mates completed a 2-1 win.
There was one further Chelsea U-21 appearance on the first of September before he signed his loan deal with Lyon later that same evening, just minutes before the summer transfer window slammed shut. It was hoped that he could help fill the gap in the Lyon front-line that was created by the recent sale of Bradley Barcola to PSG.
Difficult start at Lyon
So far, he hasn’t had much of an impact on Lyon’s battle against relegation from Ligue 1. He has only featured for a total of 208 minutes in the three months since he joined the club and has yet to contribute any goals or assists. He came off the bench for his debut in a 0-0 draw against Le Havre in mid-September and got his first start in the following match, a 1-0 defeat at Brest.
Moreira didn’t appear again until mid-November when he was a late substitute in a 2-0 home defeat to Lille. He did start the following two games, defeats on the road at Lens and Marseille, but was substituted in both of them.
His lack of experience is sometimes evident in his play and he’s yet to gel with his new team mates, often opting to dribble or shoot rather than pass when the opportunity arises. He’ll need to mature quickly and find some end product if he’s to play a significant role in helping to preserve Lyon’s Ligue 1 status. Perhaps for now his best role is as an option from the bench.