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With the International break on as Portugal was set to play Albania in Group I Qualifying there was a lot of interesting stories to read. So here is a review of what hit the headlines this week in Portuguese Football: Continue reading
Manchester United to Sporting (loan)
Portugal National Team and Manchester United winger Nani has returned to his boyhood club, albeit on loan until the end of the season. Nani began his career at Sporting before moving to English giants Manchester United in the summer of 2007 after two impressive seasons in Portugal. A mixture of injuries and indifferent form has held Nani back recently, and the winger has not had a truly successful season since 2012. This move will surely help Nani’s chances at playing time.
This move may come as a bit of a surprise to those who haven’t been following it from the beginning. Nani was greatly out of favor with David Moyes, who took charge at Manchester United last season after club legend Sir Alex Ferguson retired. After Moyes’ subsequent sacking, Netherlands manager Louis Van Gaal took the reins for this season. Almost immediately, Van Gaal made it clear that Nani did not feature in the team’s plans, and that the winger should begin looking for a new club. Juventus, Milan, and Inter were all interested in bringing in Nani, but a move never materialized, likely due to Nani’s huge wage demands.
With Manchester United looking for a defender, they turned their eyes to Marcos Rojo, who enjoyed a stellar World Cup with Argentina. Once the English team made a bid, Sporting demanded that Nani be part of the deal. Manchester United accepted the deal, which sees Nani join Sporting on a season-long loan, with Marcos Rojo joining Manchester United for a fee of around 10 million euros. As part of the deal (possibly the most crucial bit), Manchester United will pay all of Nani’s wages during the loan, which is something that Sporting is financially incapable of doing.
And the funny thing is…Nani left Manchester United and will now be playing in the Champions League.
Manchester United to Benfica
Benfica have announced today the signing of Manchester United’s Bebe on a four-season contract after drawn-out negotiations between the two clubs. This spells the end of the player’s time in England, a time that he surely does not look at fondly, having been labeled a “flop” at Manchester United. Bebe has already been pictured wearing Benfica’s jersey and will join up with the team shortly. This is Benfica’s second Portuguese signing of the summer, following the club’s announcement of Eliseu’s purchase yesterday.
Bebe has been labeled a “flop” almost ever since joining Manchester United from Vitoria Guimarares in 2010, and for somewhat good reason. The winger arrived at Old Trafford after Sir Alex Ferguson had been recommended him by scout Carlos Queiroz. In fact, as he later admitted, Ferguson had never actually seen Bebe play, but acted on the recommendation. Bebe was signed for an eye-watering 7.4 million pounds, an enormous sum for a player who had not yet played a game in the Portuguese top flight. The winger remained at Manchester United for the 2010-2011 season, despite rumors that he would leave on loan. Immediately demoted to the reserves, Bebe played the majority of the season in that category as he familiarized himself with the English style of play. As his play for the reserves improved, Bebe was given time with the first team, most notably scoring against Wolverhampton Wanderers in the League Cup and against Buraspor in the Champions League. All-in-all, it was a relatively successful first season for Bebe, though he couldn’t shake the label of “Ferguson’s flop.”
Since that time, Bebe has been loaned out to Besiktas, Rio Ave, and Pacos Ferreira. After an injury ridden time on loan at Besiktas, Bebe was loaned to Portuguese side Rio Ave for the 2012-2013 season, where he found playing time more easy to come by than at United. Following his promising loan to Rio Ave, another loan was arranged for him at Pacos Ferreira last season. At Pacos, Bebe saw time in both the Liga Zon Sagres and the Europa League, impressing especially in the Liga Zon Sagres. Despite Pacos narrowly escaping relegation, Bebe managed to score 12 goals in 27 times from the wing, finishing the season as the league’s top-scoring Portuguese player.
His label as a “flop” may be a bit premature. Still only 24, Bebe still has the best years of his career ahead of him. And with stars set to leave Benfica this season, space may open up for the winger, where he can truly show his skill-set. Jorge Jesus has a knack of getting the best out of players and developing raw talent, so this move may be exactly what Bebe needs.
Manchester United to Arsenal?
Reports coming out of England recently have suggested that Manchester United outcast Nani could be on his way to Arsenal. It is common knowledge that Nani is on the way out of Manchester United, after yet another row with head coach Sir Alex Ferguson. The winger has been in bad form this season, but one must not forget his form last season. When in form, few will argue that Nani is one of the foremost wingers in the world. But being in form is a problem for Nani. In the last two seasons combined, the winger managed 28 assists in the Premier League alone. This season has not been so fortunate. Sir Alex Ferguson seems to be fed up with the winger once-and-for-all. News of spats between the two are not new, but recently, Ferguson has signaled that Nani’s time at Old Trafford may be up. Hearing this, a host of clubs were, and are, rumored to be tracking the winger. Among these are Juventus, Inter, Porto, Benfica, and now Arsenal. For articles concerning these rumors, visit our Transfer Rumors section.
Arsenal may be the most likely deal to go through as of right now. Soon after the Arsenal rumor hit the press, Sir Alex Ferguson hinted that he may be interested in acquiring the services of Theo Walcott, of Arsenal. Could a swap be in the pipeline? Surely, if these rumors are true, a swap would be the smartest move for both clubs. Nani could work wonders at The Emirates, while Walcott could fill the role as backup to Ashley Young and Valencia at United. The players are very similar. The main difference between the two is that Walcott is quicker, while Nani has a penchant for crossing and producing wonderful goals.
Player to Watch
Alexandre Henrique Gonçalves de Freitas, known simply as Alex, is possibly one of the league’s better known stars. Due to his exploits at last summer’s U-20 World Cup for Portugal, the winger has made his name known, most notably by scoring in the heart-clenching 3-2 final loss to Brazil. Alex was instrumental in the team’s success, playing in all six of the team’s matches, starting five.
Alex joined Santa Clara from Porto’s youth setup at the beginning of the 2010-2011 season, and immediately cemented his spot in the starting eleven. The midfielder played in a total of 26 matches during the season, and became a very important asset to the club as the season progressed. This season has started well for Alex. He currently has a goal to his name this season, and will look to build on what was a very productive season.
Alex combines skill and accuracy to make him appear classier than one would expect for a player of his age and experience level. Actually, he doesn’t just appear classier, he is classier. Though he is a winger, he does not only possess the lightning quick speed and quick feet, like many Portuguese wingers do. What is special about Alex is his accuracy. As evidenced in the U-20 World Cup, Alex possesses a very accurate left foot and the ability to make timely, accurate runs, one of which resulted in a goal in the final.
With Alex firmly one of the Liga Orangina’s finest prospects, the big clubs may soon swoop. Porto made the mistake of releasing him, which led to his eventual move to Santa Clara. While that certainly has helped his development, it may come back to bite Porto if they choose to resign him. After his impressive performances for the Portugal U-20 team, a U-21 call-up must not be far away. It is not hard to imagine Alex playing for the Portugal National team at some point in the future, and if he continues progressing at the current rate, we may not have to wait long.
Portugal 2-3 Brazil
Portugal fell in extra time after a 111th minute strike from Oscar gave Brazil the advantage. Portugal were not favorites coming into this game, mainly due to their apparent lack of attacking prowess. Previous to the game, Portugal had only scored five goals in the entire competition. Attacking didn’t turn out to be the problem, however. Brazil ripped open Portugal’s defense on numerous occasions. The game started off on a sour note for the Seleccao when a deflected Oscar free kick wriggled its way into the back of the Portuguese net. Portugal responded quickly however, when Nelson Oliveira burst into the box and squared the ball into the onrushing Alex, who made no mistake with his finish. Portugal took the lead soon after. Nelson Oliveira blew past the Brazil defense, and finished from a tight angle to make the score 2-1 Portugal. The lead lasted for a little under 20 minutes, however. Oscar scored again to level the game at 2-2 and send the game into extra time. Oscar scored again and completed his hat-trick in extra time to give Brazil the victory in a game they dominated.
Mika, Cedric(Julio Alves), Mario Rui, Roderick, Nuno Reis, Danilo Pereira, Sergio Oliveira, Sana(Ricardo Dias), Pele, Alex(Caetano), Nelson Oliveira
Portugal 2-0 France
Portugal strolled to an easy 2-0 win over a strong France side to book a place in the final of the 2011 FIFA U-20 World Cup. Portugal got off to a great start when Danilo towered over the French defense to head home an Alex corner kick. France had their opportunities, but Portugal’s solid defense stood firm. Portugal doubled their lead soon after, when Nelson Oliveira converted his penalty kick. The Seleccao never looked back, and came out with a 2-0 win, and their goals conceded tally stay at zero.
Mika, Cedric, Mario Rui, Roderick, Nuno Reis, Pele, Danilo, Julio Alves, Alex(Luis Martins), Sergio Oliveira(Tiago Ferreira), Nelson Oliveira(Rafael Lopes)
The Portuguese Under-20 Team is through to the second round after two 1-0 wins over Cameroon and New Zealand each. Portugal’s overall play improved from their lackluster display against Uruguay in their opening match. The team added to their rock-solid defense a creative offense, and while it hasn’t gotten them goals, it has helped them just enough to reach the next round.
Portugal vs Cameroon
Portugal earned a deserved 1-0 victory over their African opponents on Tuesday. Nelson Oliveira scored the Seleccao’s only goal, which was enough to get them the win. Portugal controlled the majority of the match, and enjoyed much more success in their attack than they did against Uruguay. Their attack all payed off when two poor clearances from Cameroon’s defenders gave Nelson Oliveira a one-on-one situation. The Benfica man took his goal well, calmly lobbing it over the keeper to make the score 1-0. Portugal continued to control the match, but the game would end at 1-0.
Mika, Nuno Reis, Roderick, Cedric, Luis Martins(Mario Rui), Pele, Danilo Pereira, Julio Alves(Ricardo Dias), Alex, Nelson Oliveira, Caetano(Amidio Balde)
Portugal vs New Zealand
The Seleccao U-20 sealed their place in the second round with their 1-0 win over New Zealand. Mario Rui scored the only goal of the match, but that was enough to give Portugal a deserved 1-0 win. Many are wondering, however, how the score was not more than 1-0. Portugal had many opportunities, mainly through Nelson Oliveira, who enjoyed a splendid game.
Mika, Nuno Reis, Roderick(Tiago Ferreira), Mario Rui, Cedric, Pele, Danilo Pereira(Sergio Oliveira), Alex, Julio Alves, Nelson Oliveira, Caetano(Ricardo Dias)
The Portuguese Under-20 team will now face Guatemala in the Round of 16 of the 2011 FIFA U-20 World Cup. Guatemala have not looked impressive at all, losing 6-0 to Saudi Arabia and 5-0 to Nigeria, so a comfortable win should be in the bag. The quality of this Portuguese team is evident, and will continue to grow as the team finds its feet in this competition. Nelson Oliveira and Caetano have already shown that they are destined for bigger things, and players such as Pele, Danilo Pereira, and our entire defense have shown what they are capable of. Portugal will go far in this tournament. Mark my words.
The Portuguese National Under-20 Team settled for a draw tonight against Uruguay. Both Portugal and Uruguay controlled the game from time to time and were, overall, even. Portugal showed more possession in the first half of play, but Uruguay stepped up their game in the second half and shackled Portugal’s play. Both teams came close at times, most notably when Sergio Oliveira hit the post with a marvelous free-kick, and when Uruguay’s captain, Diego Polenta, rattled the crossbar with a long-range effort.
Overall, Portugal played a defensive, possession-first game. The service to the forwards was not always the best, with Sana to be partially at fault. Danilo Pereira and Pele both excelled in their defensive midfield duties, but they would often leave Sana and Sergio Oliveira to do most of the creative attacking work in the midfield, due to their defensive approach. By far the most important aspect of the team was the defense. Nuno Reis and Roderick were water-tight, shutting down Uruguayan advances all night. The outside backs (Cedric and Luis Martins) were solid also.
Mika, Nuno Reis, Roderick, Luis Martins, Cedric, Pele (Julio Alves), Danilo Pereira, Sana (Tiago Ferreira), Sergio Oliveira, Nelson Oliveira, Rafael Lopes (Alex)
Mika: 7 : Benfica’s new signing certainly lived up to his reputation with an assured display. He always looked confident in his handling.
Nuno Reis: 7 : The pairing of Roderick and Reis complement each other well. The defense was one of Portugal’s strong-suits tonight, no doubt because of him.
Roderick: 7 : As stated above, Roderick performed well in his defensive duties, constantly breaking up plays. His range of passing was also a sight to behold.
Luis Martins: 6.5 : Martins had a solid game defensively, but I would have liked to see him attack more.
Cedric: 7 : Portugal’s number 8 had both a solid defensive and offensive game. His runs forward furthered Portugal’s attack and gave Uruguay headaches
Pele: 7 : Genoa’s new signing met all expectations. Pele is naturally a very gifted player, and it was shown tonight. He constantly got himself out of sticky situations using his skill. Along with Danilo Pereira, He anchored Portugal’s team and supplied the link between the defense and midfield.
Danilo Pereira: 7 : Much the same with Pele, Danilo fulfilled his role well, holding the midfield down with style. The only downside to his performance was his lack of attacking.
Sana: 6.5 : Virtually Portugal’s only creative midfielder, Sana was constantly on breakaways and feeding the forwards passes, only for them to make a mess of them. It must have been a frustrating night for him.
Sergio Oliveira: 6.5 : Apart from hitting the post in the second half, Porto’s midfielder didn’t do much. He hit many speculative shots, but could have helped Sana more in the midfield.
Nelson Oliveira: 6 : Overall, Nelson Oliveira did not play well. He did not play badly, but he just had a bad game. Missed an open opportunity when Sana put him through on goal in the second half, but he missed his shot.
Rafael Lopes: 5 : A very dissappointing performance from the forward, who just couldn’t find his feet. The only thing he did was make Uruguay’s players angry. He was nowhere to be seen for large chunks of time in the game.
Alex: 6.5 : The Santa Clara man came on for the ineffectual Rafael Lopes, and did better than his predecessor. He made some good passes and generally looked good on the ball. Would be a good replacement for Rafael Lopes in the coming games.
Julio Alves: 6 : Overall a very mediocre performance from Atletico Madrid’s new signing. Mind you, he did only have a handful of minutes at the end.
Tiago Ferreira: N/A : Not enough time on the field to give a rating.