Everton signed Arsenal U18s goalkeeper Joao Virginia for an undisclosed fee in August 2018.
The 18-year-old Portugal youth international signed a three-year contract and was brought in to compete with
Mateusz Hewelt as the third string 'keeper behind
Jordan Pickford and Maarten Stekelenburg and for the first-choice slot in David Unsworth's Under-23s team.
Virginia joined the Gunners from Benfica three years ago and built a good reputation in the North London club's youth setup, playing his first games for their U23s team in 2017-18.
Virginia was listed among the subs for the Valencia pre-season friendly
(wearing #13) but was then given the #33 shirt vacated by
He would go on to play a significant part in the Under-23s league and cup
double, appearing for the first team only for the second half of the
friendly against Gor Mahia in November.
Despite being well regarded in most reports, Marco Silva would decide
to bring in Jonas Lössl for the following season, with Virginia getting
farmed out on loan to Reading, while Stekelenburg still had a year
remaining on his contract.
The young Portuguese stopper's time with the Royals did not go as
planned: just two league appearances and two defeats later, Joao was
dropped to the bench for the next six matches before a change of manager
eventually left him out of the squad entirely. In January 2020, the loan
deal was terminated early to allow him to return to Finch Farm and assess
his next options.
David Unsworth would select him for a handful of
Under-23s games before the season was terminated due to the Covid-19
pandemic but at the age of 20, he would make his full senior debut early in the following season in a Carabao Cup tie against Salford City. That was followed by a new
4-year contract that would tie him to Everton until 2024, a sign, it would appear, of the club's belief in him despite his travails at Reading.
Carlo Ancelotti had dispensed with Lössl, but brought in
Robin Olsen on loan, seemingly reducing
Virginia's chances even further. But that would change with Jordan
Pickford picking up an injury, and Carllo Ancelotti insisting on the
strange insurance policy of naming two substitute
goalkeepers in the expanded 9-man subs bench. Olsen was injured so
Virginia got his Premier League debut as a sub against Burnley. This
plus Ancelotti's decision to start Virginia in a couple of League Cup
games, giving him his senior Everton debut.
With Ancelotti gone and Olsen's loan spell ending, new manager Rafa
Benitez would bring in not one but two experienced goalkeepers in
Asmir Begovic and Andy
Lonergan as cover
for Jordan Pickford. Lonergan even picked up Virginia's Number 31 shirt, providing confirmation that Virginia had no Everton
future, but it was only a season-long loan deal that could be negotiated
with Sporting Lisbon.
But in Portugal, the young keeper found himself very much the second choice behind
Antonio Adan as he sat on the subs bench for 30 consecutive league games
before starting the last game of the season – and getting subbed off 11
minutes before the end. He only saw sporadic outings in the minor cup competitions
before returning to Everton and an uncertain future with 2 years still
on his extended contract.
With Begovic and Lonergan retained for the 2022-23 season, another
season-long loan spell was inevitable for Virginia and this was
negotiated with SC Cambuur of the Dutch Eredivisie, where they finished
9th last season.
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