In Alex Telles, Manchester United recruited a hugely experienced player who had already demonstrated his ability as a left-back in some of European football’s most competitive leagues.
The 27-year-old Brazilian is a true all-rounder; as comfortable flying down the wing as he is stifling opposition attacks. Telles has also shown his aptitude in front of goal, and his conversion statistics would be impressive for an offensive winger, let alone a defender.
Born in Caxias do Sul on 15 December 1992, Telles came through the youth system at Brazilian side Juventude, and made his debut in 2011, in the fourth tier of his native country. However, it was immediately obvious that the youngster had a big future ahead of him, and a move to Gremio – in Brazil’s top division – soon followed.
At the Porto Alegre-based club, Alex established himself as one of the world’s most promising full-backs and, having missed just two league games in the 2013 season, was selected in the Brasileiro Serie A Team of the Season.
The left-back seemed certain to tread a familiar path for young Brazil stars and make the move to Europe. That’s exactly what he did after just one season in the Brazilian top flight, and it was Galatasaray who secured Alex’s services during the January 2014 transfer window.
In the Turkish Super Lig, Telles continued to excel. In a year and a half with the Istanbul giants, he won the Turkish Cup twice and the title in 2014/15. The man from southern Brazil also had his first taste of European football and faced English sides Chelsea and Arsenal in successive seasons in the Champions League.
The following campaign saw Telles join Internazionale on a season-long loan, and gain his first experiences playing in one of Europe’s ‘top five’ leagues. His impressive showings in Italy alerted the attentions of Porto, who signed the full-back on a permanent deal in 2016.
In four years at the Portuguese club, Telles racked up nearly 200 appearances and helped Porto win league titles in 2017/18 and 2019/20.
The defender, who can also operate in midfield, has become accustomed to facing Europe’s top sides and came up against Liverpool, Juventus and RB Leipzig on Champions League duty during his time at Porto.
Telles’s development in recent years has been evident for regular followers of Portuguese football. The Brazilian was selected in the Primeira Liga Team of the Year in each of his last three seasons at Porto and was also voted as the club’s Player of the Season in 2017/18. But it was his final year with the Dragoes that he really caught the attention of Europe’s top clubs.
From left-back, Telles contributed an incredible 11 league goals and eight assists in just 31 appearances. Not that his contributions were limited to the offensive areas of the field, and Alex played a vital role in a defence that conceded just 22 league goals throughout the campaign.
An accomplished shooter from distance, with an excellent crossing range and an ability to rapidly bypass opposition defenders, Telles established himself as one of the most-sought-after full-backs in Europe before joining United in October 2020.
His excellent displays also earned him a maiden call-up to the senior Brazil squad in March 2019, and Alex won a first cap in a 1-1 draw with Panama.
Just weeks before signing for the Reds, Telles was once again selected by his country, for key World Cup qualifiers against Bolivia and Peru.