Years Team Apps
Jorge Manuel Vasconcelos Leitão (born 14 January 1974) is a Portuguese retired footballer who played as a striker.
He was best known for his six-year spell with Walsall in England, but also amassed totals of 169 games and 28 goals in the Portuguese second division, over the course of seven seasons.
Born in Nespereira, Cinfães, Leitão started playing in amateur football. At already 24 he signed with C.D. Feirense, being relegated from the second division in his first season and netting 14 goals in his second. In July 2000 he moved to England with Walsall, who paid £150,000 for his services after three impressive trial games.
Leitão scored a career-best 18 goals in 44 matches in his first season with Walsall, with the Saddlers promoting to the second levelafter disposing of Reading in the play-offs final. He was also named in the Division Two Player’s Team of the Year.
In the 2001–02 campaign, after a difficult start, Leitão’s fate was transformed following the sacking of Ray Graydon. In the first game under new manager Colin Lee, he scored a brace at Charlton Athletic in the season’s FA Cup fourth round. The team also managed to finally stay clear of the relegation zone, and he netted the goal that saved Walsall from the drop, the only one in an away win against Sheffield United on 13 April 2002; two weeks later, he extended his contract for a further two years.
The 2002–03 season was Walsall’s most successful in the league since the 1950s, with Leitão pairing with Brazilian José Junior for a Portuguese-speaking front line which scored 30 goals during the course of the campaign. Highlights included a brace against Stoke City (4–2 home win), one against Grimsby Town (3–1, home) and the game’s only against Brighton Albion (also at home); however, after the loss of Júnior to Derby County in the summer – his replacement being former Arsenal and England star Paul Merson – the team suffered relegation, with Leitão netting seven goals (his lowest figure in one full season) in 39 games.
In late December 2005 Leitão signed a pre-contract deal with S.C. Beira-Mar in his country, citing homesickness as a factor in his sudden departure from English football. Though the contract did not come into effect until June 2006, both Merson (now the team’s manager) and chairman Jeff Bonser offered to release the player earlier, in recognition of the dedication he had given to the club in his five 1/2 years of service. The penultimate of his 258 official games for Walsall (71 goals) was a 0–3 away defeat against Bristol City, in which he also suffered a groin injury; in his last, at Bescot Stadium against Blackpool, he was treated to a near half-hour rendition of his name by the home fans, eventually being reduced to tears before leaving the field through a guard of honour composed of some of his teammates.
After helping Beira-Mar promote to the Portuguese top division in 2006, Leitão had his first – and only – experience in the competition, scoring twice in 11 appearances as the Aveiro club was immediately relegated back. He subsequently played two 1/2 seasons with his first professional club Feirense (in level two) and, aged 35, moved to modest F.C. Arouca, which he helped promote to the second division for the first time ever.