At the end of last season, PortugalFutbol.net outlined the Primeira Liga’s top 5 under-24 Portuguese players playing outside of Portugal’s “Big Three” clubs (Sporting, Porto, Benfica). The purpose of this list was to shed to light some of the league’s lesser-talked about up-and-coming talent. For instance, out of the five players listed in last year’s edition, four of them have made their National Team debut since last season. This year, PortugalFutbol has expanded this list to ten.
For the purposes of brevity, we’ve split this year’s list into two parts. Part I outlines the honorable mentions, while Part II will reveal the actual Top 10 players listing.
So, let’s review the criteria for players to be included on this list. Obviously, the player must have been under the age of 24 for the 2014/2015 season. In addition, the player must have played for more than 1530 minutes (half of the total minutes) in the league. And without needing explanation, all players on this list had to have played their season for a club other than FC Porto, SL Benfica, or Sporting CP, or the majority of their season. As you will see, there are two players on our list who had minutes at Porto and Sporting, but the majority of their success this season was realized at a non-Big Three club.
First up, let’s look at the honorable mentions:
Of the five honorable mentions, four were on loan from a “Big Three” club. First up is Iuri Medeiros, who joined Arouca in January on loan from Sporting. His arrival played a huge part in Arouca’s survival this season, and he went on to make 17 appearances, scoring a beauty against Benfica along the way. Almost a veteran of this league, despite being only 23, Tiago Rodrigues played an integral role in Nacional’s success this season. The center midfielder joined the Madeirans on loan from Porto in January, and went on to make 18 league appearances. It’s not often that young players can make the transition from the second division to the Primeira Liga as seamlessly as Ricardo Valente did this season. After an impressive half season for Leixoes in the Segunda Liga, Valente moved to Vitória Guimarães in January, where he scored eight goals in twelve league starts. Just down the road, Fábio Cardoso also enjoyed a positive half-season at Paços Ferreira, on loan from Benfica. The central defender made 16 league appearances and helped Paços to a comfortable mid-table finish. And finally, there’s Bruno Gaspar, who spent the entire season on loan at Vitória Guimarães from Benfica. At Vitória, Gaspar quickly established himself as the team’s starting right-back, despite being just 21 for the majority of the season. His performances in his 24 starts last season were enough to convince Vitória to sign him permanently this season.