The 22-year-old winger has made just 10 appearances for the Reds this season, with seven of these coming in the Championship. He has made just one start which came in the first game of the season against Bristol City.
For this reason, it isn’t a surprise that the Reds won’t be taking up the option of making his deal a permanent one in the summer. He’ll be heading back to Portugal having failed to get many matches under his belt.
However, according to the front page of Portuguese newspaper A Bola’s sport section (25th March), the winger will still have the opportunity to prove to Benfica manager Bruno Lage that he is worthy of a place in the first team squad for next season.
The Premeira Liga club had originally been expected to send the winger out on loan once again to gain some more experience. But it seems he is going to have a chance to impress during pre-season.
It wouldn’t be a surprise to see him go on to be a success at Benfica. The winger’s style of play would be better suited to football abroad, rather than a physical division such as the Championship.
There is still a chance that Portuguese teammate João Carvalho could follow him out of the City Ground exit door this summer. Similarly to Gonçalves, he has struggled for first team opportunities recently.
However, although Carvalho has only made one start under Martin O’Neill, he has shown far more throughout the season than Gonçalves.
The Portuguese Under-21 international is yet to register a single goal or assist for the Reds. These statistics certainly aren’t good enough for a player of his calibre.
He has been competing against the likes of Matty Cash for a place in the starting line-up this season. Although the 21-year-old has made 23 more appearances than Gonçalves, he has managed to find the back of the net eight times.
Aitor Karanka regularly opted for Cash over Gonçalves during his time at the club. In comparison, O’Neill has utilised Gonçalves as a substitute against Brentford, Hull City and Aston Villa. But he struggled to make an impact in any of those games.
However, Cash has only just returned from an injury which has seen him sidelined recently. It wouldn’t be a surprise if Gonçalves saw himself fall further down the pecking order once again.
In this case, it certainly seems the best option for all parties for Gonçalves to return to his parent club. It’ll be interesting to see whether he can make an impact for Benfica in the Premeira Liga.