As the summer transfer window dust begins to settle, European teams can finally nestle into their seasons with their filled out rosters. With 16 of the 23 members who made up Portugal’s Confederations Cup squad playing their trade outside of Portugal, it is imperative that the Portuguese abroad have a strong season as the team prepares for the World Cup next summer. For this first installment, Portuguese playing in Spain will be highlighted. To see an updated list of all Portuguese players playing abroad, visit out Portuguese Players Abroad page.
Sharing a boarder with Portugal, Spain has always been in prime position to poach top-level talent from the Portuguese Liga. Cristiano Ronaldo of course needs no introduction; however, it is an important season for him in Spain. Last season saw Ronaldo again dominate Europe on his way to another La Liga and Champions League. It also saw him being superbly managed by Zidane throughout the course of the season. Ronaldo entered the final month of the season in top form and full fitness, a feat that has eluded him throughout his career. With the World Cup looming next June, it will again be imperative that Ronaldo again ends the season with full health.
Valencia boasts a promising duo of Portuguese in Gonçalo Guedes and Rúben Vezo. Guedes and Vezo both represent young talent, optimistic of being in Russia next summer. Guedes made a stunning move to Paris last January, only to be left on the bench all too often and has been loaned to Valencia for the season. He is a raw talent, dangerous in the box and always has an eye for goal. His success hinges on his ability to earn a spot in the Valencia lineup.
Vezo is yet another young center back that Portugal is begging to become a competent replacement to Pepe and Fonte. Although he has not yet cracked the squad under Fernando Santos, he has impressed for Valencia so far this season. Despite a recent injury setback, Vezo seems to have all the promise of a gifted defender.
Perhaps the most likely center back heir to play in Spain is Villarreal’s Rúben Semedo. Powerful, strong, and fast, Semedo has the ingredients to be a prominent defender in La Liga this season. He has shouldered the burden of being the successor to Pepe at the center of defense, and that burden has at times seemed to weigh him down. Still young with a lot of improvements to make, it seems as if the center back job at Villarreal is his to lose. He will need to hold on to that spot and gain valuable experience this season.
In Barcelona, André Gomes and Nélson Semedo represent opposite ends of the Portuguese spectrum. Gomes has been given chance after chance, but has failed to impress for both Barcelona and for Portugal. His future was in speculation for the entire transfer window up until deadline day, but he is staying at Barcelona for the time being. He will need to impress his new boss, as his tendency to make errant passes is going to see him go down in the pecking order of a very talented midfield. This would be a reality that will undoubtedly cost Gomes his hopes of featuring for Portugal over the course of this season.
Conversely, Nélson Semedo has made a recent move to Barcelona with all the excitement that could be conceivable. The former Benfica right-back has gone from Portugal to try and convince the world he is a top defender. He is part of the overcrowded right-back position for Portugal, but it must be comforting to Santos that he has such quality and depth for that position.
Tucked up in Northern Spain in the Basque region, SD Eibar hosts a twosome of Portuguese who still seek to break into the national squad rotation. Bebé and Paulo Oliveira both are able to feature weekly in La Liga, but have a combined one cap between them. While Bebé might have missed his opportunity to break into the Portuguese attack, with so many young attackers available to Santos, Oliveria represents yet another center back. Without clear cut center backs coming up through the ranks, weekly La Liga experience could be enough to get a call up, who knows.
In Deportivo, both Luisinho and Bruno Gama are players most certainly towards the end of their career. Both were promising youngsters at one point, especially Gama, but both unlikely to have big seasons or to ever feature for Portugal.
Also to add to that list is Daniel Carriço of Sevilla and Antunes who plays for Getafe. Both are aging and will most likely never appear for Portugal again. Carriço does embody quite the fiery player however, and is entertaining to watch whenever he is able to feature.
Finally, it is easy to forget about Kévin Rodrigues playing in Sociedad, but he does play at a position that is in desperate need of a backup. Rapha has of course won the starting spot at left back for what hopefully is the next decade. Nevertheless, at just 23 years of age, Rodrigues has shown potential to fill in on the bench when Santos decides it is time to move on from the elderly Eliseu. He plays for a surprisingly good club this season, and seems to have locked in a spot in their defensive plans. His season is certainly worth monitoring if you are a Portuguese supporter, or if your name is Fernando Santos.