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 fifth and final installment, Portuguese playing in Italy will be highlighted. To see an updated list of all Portuguese players playing abroad, visit out Portuguese Players Abroad page.
The Italian Serie A has a distinctive set of Portuguese playing on a weekly basis. It has some blossoming players who are touted for stardom, unknown players who have already been surprising the league, and seasoned veterans that bring experience and leadership to their squads. Each competitor is unique in their own way, and collectively, they are worth keeping an eye on during this season.
The most exciting prospect to join the Italian league this summer was André Silva. The former Porto striker joined Italian giants AC Milan for a substantial fee in July, and he is bringing with him the weight of a nation thirsting for an out and out striker. While he may have not yet locked down a permanent starting spot at his new prestigious club, he has been making the most of his opportunities. He already has five goals for Milan in the Europa League, including a hat-trick in the group stage. At just 21 years of age, he has great potential, but needs to solidify frequent appearances for himself in Italy.
Sharing a home stadium with Silva, but for the other Milan club, both João Mario and João Cancelo hope to have influential seasons with Inter Milan. Mario has already been in Italy a year, with many impressive displays for Inter last season. The dynamic midfielder should feature regularly for the club, having several appearances already this season. Already an expected piece in Portugal’s squad, Mario needs to end his season in full fitness and in good form to have an impact on Portugal’s World Cup hopes next summer. Cancelo joins Inter for the year after a fanatical transfer window that saw him receive many high profile suitors. Taking his place in Portugal’s congested right-back position; Cancelo will look to have a better season than his compatriot in Barcelona for one of the final spots on next summer’s roster. However, he was recently unfortunate to pick up an injury while on international duty with Portugal and looks to have a few weeks on the sidelines. As long as he recovers well, it is difficult to see Cancelo not getting plenty of starts for Inter, considering how much they did want him in the offseason. It will be intriguing to see how he comes back from injury and he will need to go from there.
Another intriguing duo to play together in Italy is Fiorentina’s Bruno Gaspar and Gil Dias. Both move from Portugal to Florence hoping to ignite their careers and their chances of playing for Portugal. Of the two, the latter looks more likely to develop well in Italy. Gaspar is getting into the middle of his career, and has not featured for any Portuguese youth or senior side in quite some time. Early signals from the coaching staff seem to confirm that he will be a rotational player for Fiorentina, something that will not help his chances to hit a career-best form this season. Gil Dias on the other hand is only 20, and has proved to be serviceable within Fiorentina’s ranks. He scored a goal on the 10th of September and has featured a few times already in Italy. While he was never a player touted to become Portugal’s next great winger (others his age have held that title), it is sometimes those ones forgotten about that force their way into national team squads. With one goal already in the bag in Italy, a season of 8-10 goals would certainly gain some attention for the young winger.
Three veterans complete the segment of Portuguese playing in Italy. The less familiar Mario Rui suits up for Napoli this season while the very well-known Nani and Miguel Veloso play for Lazio and Genoa, respectively. All indications seem to suggest that Rui will be a squad rotational player this year, often making his way to the substitute bench but be limited in starting appearances. With the immediate need for a younger backup to Guerreiro on the outside, Rui will do well to earn more appearances throughout the season. He had great potential throughout his younger years, but is in a critical season hoping to rekindle his career.
With Nani and Veloso, Portugal has two aging players hoping to represent Portugal one last time at a major competition. Veloso has seemed to fallen out of favor with Fernando Santos ever since his late- game heroics in Albania only two years ago. Still, if other relied upon veterans, such as Nani, are not fit or in form next summer, there is still an outside chance of Santos adding the midfielder. Admittedly however, Veloso’s best days seem to be behind him while Nani is hoping to remain on Santos’ good side when it comes to selecting veterans next summer.