From Arsenal, via the Portuguese national team, to South Africa, this is the story of Luís Boa Morte, currently playing in the 12th tier of English football for for Hampshire Premier League Division One side Four Marks.
Boa Morte started his youth career at Sporting Lisbon in Portugal, the country of his birth. His parents were from São Tomé and Príncipe and moved to Portugal before the birth of Boa Morte in 1977.
In 1997, just after he took over at Arsenal, Arsene Wenger decided he was to bring the then 19-year-old to his new club, for a fee in the region of £1.75 million.
He made his debut on 23 August 1997 as a substitute against Southampton. During Arsenal’s double winning 1997–98 season, he made 15 league appearances, mostly as substitute and four in the FA Cup, although he did not appear in the final itself. He scored two goals this season, with both coming in a League Cup tie against Birmingham City.
However, Boa Morte was frustrated by a lack of first team chances and 1999 moved to Southampton for around £500,000.
In only his second appearance for Dave Jones’ Southampton, away to Middlesbrough on 11 September 1999, he was sent off for handling the ball in the goalmouth in the 77th minute, with Paul Gascoigne scoring the resultant penalty as Middlesbrough went on to win 3–2.
In January 2000, Jones was replaced as manager by Glenn Hoddle, who dropped Boa Morte from the team. After Hoddle’s appointment, Boa Morte only made three further appearances and in July 2000 he had a trial at Fulham, following which he moved to Craven Cottage, initially on a season long loan.
It was here he really began to find his feet in English football. In the season long loan he scored 18 goals in 39 Division One matches, now the Championship, as Fulham romped to the title.
This impressive form led to his first call up to the Portuguese national side and he made his debut against France in April 2001. Shortly after he scored his only goal for his country, against Angola in November 2001.
His contributions to the championship-winning season resulted in him being signed permanently in June 2001 (on a fee of £1.7 million paid to Arsenal), despite Southampton’s attempts to bring him back after the expiry of the loan arrangement.
In Fulham’s first two seasons in the Premiership, he was not able to replicate his form of the Championship winning season, scoring only three goals, although his form returned to some extent in 2003–04, since when he averaged eight goals per season for Fulham.
In 2005, amidst rumours he was about to sign for Newcastle, he signed a new contract with the Cottagers and was made club captain.
In 2006, he was called up the Portugal’s World Cup squad, having narrowly missing out on their Euro 2004 squad, where Portugal were runners up.
He remained at Fulham until January of 2007, when he made a £5 million move to West Ham, managed by Gianfranco Zola.
Boa Morte again struggled at West Ham, only managing to score twice in his five years at the club. It was during his time at the club that he made his final cap for Portugal, in a 2010 World Cup qualifier.
He left West Ham in 2011 for pastures new and to move to Greece, to join Larissa, managed by his former Fulham boss Chris Coleman, in the second tier of Greek football. He spent half a year there, making seven league appearances, before leaving the club in January.
He signed for South African club Orlando Pirates but failed to make any kind of impact, featuring in just three matches for the club and leaving just four months later.
Boa Morte came back to England to try and find a new club and after an unsuccessful trial at Portsmouth, he joined Chesterfield in October 2012. He commented “The most important thing for me now is to play football,” and confirming the initial length of his contract added “I’ll be here until the end of January but that doesn’t mean I won’t stay until the end of the season.”
However, Chesterfield did not renew his contract in January and Boa Morte was again without a club.
On 28 August 2013, Boa Morte signed for Hampshire Premier League Division One side Four Marks, in the 12th tier of English football.
Career in full:
- 1997–1999: Arsenal 25 (0)
- 1999–2001: Southampton 14 (1)
- 2000–2001 → Fulham (loan) 39 (18)
- 2001–2007: Fulham 156 (27)
- 2007–2011: West Ham United 91 (2)
- 2011–2012: Larissa 7 (0)
- 2012: Orlando Pirates 3 (0)
- 2012–2013: Chesterfield 12 (0)
- 2013-: Four Marks 0 (0)
Total 347 (48)
2001–2009: Portugal 27 (1)