Talented, amiable and intelligent, Tomas Podstawski is not far off being perfect. Better yet, on top of all those fine qualities, the Portugal captain also happens to be impressively modest to boot. For a start, he is making no bold claims ahead of the FIFA U-20 World Cup New Zealand 2015, despite having performed superbly to help his side finish runners-up at last year's UEFA European U-19 Championship.
"We know we had a very good EURO," the defensive midfielder told FIFA.com. "Of course we would have liked to win, but we came up against a stronger team than us when we faced Germany in the final. But I feel as if we've improved over the last few months and I'm convinced we'll give our best in each match. The most important thing is to make our supporters happy by putting on a show, and above all to do our country proud."
Given that he has a Polish father, Podstawski could theoretically be trying to make a whole different country proud. "I've been asked several times to play for Poland," he explained. "But my mother is Portuguese, I was born in Portugal, I feel a Portuguese citizen in my own right and my first language is Portuguese."
The youngster speaks Polish as well, of course, but he is also fluent in French and English, which no doubt comes in handy in his life away from the game. After all, not only is Podstawski one of Portugal's most promising young players, he is also an assiduous student of International Relations. "I wanted to have a plan B in life, with football obviously my plan A," he said. "And I don't regret it: it's very enriching. University opens me up to new things – it shows me other aspects to life, other perspectives. Between club matches and national team get-togethers, football is nonetheless taking up more and more of my time. It's getting harder to combine the two, but I'm sticking at it. I do my best."
That is easy to believe, given how conscientious Podstawski is as a footballer. Patient and hard-working, he brings the same attitude to both disciplines, with his work ethic shining through in his tireless efforts as a ball-winner, distributor of passes and accelerator of play. As for his patience, he is calmly awaiting his first-team chance at Porto, despite having been a fixture for Portugal's youth sides at every level. "Getting into the first team sooner or later is obviously my goal," he said. "While I wait, I've been forcing myself to train as rigorously as possible to be ready when the coach decides to call on me."
'A huge honour'
The youngster's blend of ambition and humility comes largely from his parents. Podstawski's father is a PE teacher and his mother a former professional gymnast, and they taught him the values necessary to blossom in his chosen sport. "I owe them everything: the way I play, my motivation and my passion," he said. "When I was young, they made me do so many things. After school finished, they used to take me to the park with my brother, who has also become a footballer. We rode bikes, swam, and played tennis and volleyball. If we finally opted for football, it's because this country breathes football more than any other sport."
Given that popular enthusiasm, winning the World Cup in New Zealand would surely be the perfect way to bring joy to the supporters back home. The European hopefuls have a tough task on their hands, however, with Qatar, Senegal and Colombia their opponents in Group C. As captain, Podstawski is well aware of the stakes involved. "Wearing the armband for my country is a huge honour for me," he said. "I know the responsibilities that come with it. I want to help my team-mates as much as they help me, and for us to show the world and the rest of our country how good Portugal are as a team, whoever we're playing."
A kind of big brother to his colleagues, as well as a chip off the old block at home, Podstawski could perhaps even be described as the ideal son-in-law. He insists, all the same, that he has his own fair share of faults. "Who doesn't? But I'll leave it to other people, my friends and supporters, to come up with their own opinion about me." What is certain, though, is that with Podstawski in midfield, Portugal can begin their World Cup bid with the right balance of belief and composure.