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. Continue reading →
Transfers windows haven’t been kind to Benfica recently and there were no exceptions this winter window with the departure of the influential Argentine Enzo Perez, who left the club to join rejuvenated Valencia in Spain for €25 million. The Portuguese League Player of the Year was joined by highly rated Portuguese youngster, Bernardo Silva on the way out of Lisbon as his loan deal with resurrected French side Monaco was made permanent for €15,75 million. On the other hand, there were some additions to the Benfica side, the more notable being Jonathan Rodríguez who joined the Portuguese giants on a two-year loan deal following controversies. Continue reading →
After days of speculation, Benfica confirmed yesterday the loan of Bebe to Cordoba until the end of the season. Bebe moved from Manchester United to Benfica in the summer and has found playing time non-existent at the club since his arrival. At Cordoba, Bebe will help the team fight for survival in La Liga, but the battle is an up-hill one, with the team currently sitting in 18th place. Continue reading →
With the International break upon us the Primeira Liga was on hiatus this week, with the players joining their national squads for some important fixtures. Here is a review of what hit the headlines this week in the World of Portuguese Football. Continue reading →
Artur played a huge part in Benfica’s win. Photo Andre Alves/ASF
Rio Ave 0-0 SL Benfica (2-3 on Penalties)
Artur the hero as Benfica make history
Benfica won their fifth Supertaça and fourth domestic title of 2014 as they met Taça de Portugal runners up Rio Ave for the opening fixture of the new Portuguese footballing season. The clubs made their 16th and maiden appearance, respectively, in the annual Supertaça Cândido de Oliveira at the Estádio Municipal de Aveiro in front of a crowd just short of 30 000. A replay of the Taça de Portugal and Taça da Liga finals, both sides hoped to add some silverware to their trophy cabinets in the hope of gaining some much needed momentum ahead of the league’s commencement in under a week’s time.
SL Benfica: Artur; Maxi, Luisão, Jardel, Eliseu; Salvio (Bebé 106), Talisca (Derley 69), Enzo Perez, Ruben Amorim; Gaitán (Ola John 100) and Lima
Rio Ave: Cássio; Nuno Lopes (Wakaso 88), Marcelo, Prince-Désir, Tiago Pinto; Pedro Moreira (Diego Lopes 55), Filipe Augusto, Tarantini; Ukra, Hassan (Boateng 55) and Del Valle
Benfica’s line-up was an adaptable 4-4-2, with young Brazilian signing Talisca playing off Lima as a second striker, accompanied by the usual cast of Enzo and co. The greatest change was seen at the back, with a new-look left side as Jardel replaced Garay, with Eliseu at left-back.
Rio Ave came into the match with competitive fixtures under their belt having earned a spot in the play-offs of the Europa League. Pedro Martins chose a starting eleven including Pedro Moreira and Valencia-bound Brazilian youngster Filipe Augusto playing behind captain Tarantini. Both Lopes and Pinto would provide attacking threat from full back, with a talented front three consisting of Ukra, Hassan and Del Valle.
Talisca lively as Benfica dominate
From the outset, Benfica showed an attacking intent demonstrative of Jesus’ footballing mentality, nearly scoring as early as the 3rd minute with a dangerous Gaitán set-piece. Delivered into the heart of the box, it was met by a dangerous header from Luisão that was well-saved by Cassio.
Eliseu and Maxi both provided danger from the flanks, the latter blasting an effort across the face of goal, with Talisca’s outstretched leg at the second post only centimetres from searching from a defining touch
Gaitán and Salvio were efficient with their play, cutting in and running laterally, with Talisca’s incisive runs the outlet, although his shots lacked polished, seen just after 20 minutes when given a golden chance to break the deadlock from a Gaitán ball after cutting in from the right.
Benfica’s dominance continued through the first-half, accounting for of 67% possession, with chances created at a premium, as an Eliseu cross resulted in two consecutive opportunities for Salvio, the first cleared off the line by Prince and the second saved.
Rio Ave continued to struggle to muster any real attacking threat as constant pressure from Benfica, especially from Ruben Amorim as the midfield anchor, and Enzo, with the latter’s work ethic duly awarded with man-of-the-match.
The northern club’s best chance came from a silly error from frango-prone Artur, taking on his opponent and nearly losing the ball in the process to Venezuelan De Valle. This short-lived respite from a Benfica attack didn’t last long, as a quick counter-attack after a clearance was followed by a Talisca effort down the throat of Cássio who coughed it up to the oncoming Gaitán who couldn’t finish it.
Martins’ move earns some respite but Benfica roll on
The second half brought with it several changes in personnel, skewing the tie slightly more towards Rio Ave’s favour, although Benfica still continued to pepper Cássio’s goal. Martins showed his attacking intent in bringing on Ghanaian forward Emmanuel Boateng for the ineffective Hassan, and Diego Lopes for Moreira. Both showed their intent going forward in taking advantage of space left in between the Benfica’s lines and down the flanks.
This change stemmed the flow of Benfica chances but still brought little to change the complexion of the game as the capital club settled back into their rhythm; recording a total of 32 shots to Rio Ave’s 5. Jesus brought on former Marítimo striker for Talisca in the hopes of putting the game to bed, fruitless as the match remained scoreless upon the end of normal time.
Cassio heroics nearly the difference
The first-half of extra-time started with two Benfica set pieces, a corner and free-kick, leading to two stunning saves from the Brazilian shot stopper from Enzo and Jardel headers, respectively.
Jesus took initiative, bringing on Bebé and Ola John, but the last two chances fell to Rio Ave, both from corners. The first nearly snuck in, with Artur having to palm it over the bar. The second came at the 118th minute, Jardel misreading the ball’s projection, steering the ball onto the bar!
The match ended after 120 minutes with still no goals to account for, leaving the result to be decided by dreaded penalties.
Redemption for Artur
The battle of the keepers continued into penalties as the first two spot kicks were saved by Brazilian shot stoppers. Launching himself off his line, Artur guessed right, saving skipper Tarantini’s penalty. Cássio followed suit with a brilliant save from Derley. Finely dispatched penalties from Augusto, Lima, Ukra and Bebé followed; but the much maligned Artur was the hero with three penalty saves to his name.
Jesus Jorge and his Benfica side were justly rewarded for their sheer dominance in a game earmarked by the heroics of Rio Ave keeper Cássio and a tenacious Rio Ave defence. Although their general play was largely excellent, Jesus still has work to do as his side was dogged by inefficiencies in the final third. With reinforcements needed in various positions, underlined by Jesus himself; a lot can be taken from a positive performance. It is paramount that established players, such as man-of-the-match and midfield lynchpin Enzo, stay on. Both sides will have a lot to take from the match in Os Encarnados’ vying for more silverware and Rio Ave’s journey through Europe as the new season goes under way in less than a week.
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.
Following Portugal’s abysmal World Cup campaign, many are calling for an entire squad overhaul. And whether or not that will happen is anybody’s guess. Paulo Bento has earned quite a reputation for favoritism, consistently choosing the same players time and time again. While these players have performed well for Portugal in the past, many of their performances recently have been far from their best. For instance, for this World Cup, Bento called up players such as Helder Postiga, Nani, and Eder, none of whom played regularly at all last season. Some would argue that players such as Postiga, Nani, and Eder don’t deserve to play for the national team due to a lack of playing time at their clubs, and that players who play club football more regularly should earn the call instead. Essentially, Paulo Bento is rewarding mediocrity. The competition for places on the team has dwindled to nothing. Good performances won’t earn a call-up.
Many Portuguese fans have felt this way recently, and many feel the World Cup highlighted the holes in Paulo Bento’s plan. With Paulo Bento to stay in charge until at least Euro 2016, a change in coach does not look likely. The only think fans can hope for is a change in mentality from Bento. At the heart of this change should be a re-evaluation of the squad: determining which players deserve a place in the team, and discarding those who don’t.
So, here are 12 players who deserve a place in Paulo Bento’s squad, in no particular order.
Lima has played in Portugal ever since the 2009-2010 season, when he joined Belenenses from the lower divisions in Brazil. After a successful first season at Belenenses, Braga purchased the striker, who became a cult figure at the club. In his second season at Braga, Lima truly came of age. In 30 appearances, Lima scored 20 times, helping Braga to an impressive 3rd place finish, and also finishing as the joint top goalscorer in Portugal. As a result of his scoring exploits, Benfica came knocking. And in the two seasons he has been at Benfica, Lima has managed 34 goals in 56 appearances. Portugal has a long-standing striker problem ever since the retirement of Pauleta. Hugo Almeida, Helder Postiga, Nelson Oliveira, and more recently Eder have all been given chances, but none have truly won over the position. Though Lima was born in Brazil and has only been in Portugal for five years, naturalization is certainly an option. Lima isn’t getting any younger, however. At 31, Bento may have to act sooner rather than later if he wants Lima in the national team.
In the past two seasons, fans of Sporting Lisbon and the Portuguese national team have witnessed Cedric Soares realize his potential. Always regarded as one of Portuguese football’s brightest prospects, Cedric has made the starting right-back spot at Sporting his own. The defender helped Sporting to an impressive 2nd place finish this season, playing in 28 matches for the club. And still only 22, Cedric has the time to develop further and to become an important member of the Seleccao for years to come.
Arguably Sporting’s finest player last season, his exclusion from the Portuguese team for the World Cup left many with a bad taste in their mouths. In the mold of a stylish no. 10, Adrien Silva is a creative spark behind Sporting, and a huge reason that the team finished as high on the table as they did. His call to the national team last season shows that Paulo Bento is not averse to his inclusion in the team, but a place in the starting eleven may be a bit harder to achieve. Bento is known to favor a three-man midfield of Veloso, Moutinho, and Meireles, which worked wonders at Euro 2012. Since then, that combination has fallen flat many a time. And with Bento not even willing to change his midfield trio with the inclusion of proven talent William Carvalho, a place for Adrien may be a long time off.
Sporting Lisbon employed much the same tactic last season as Portugal does currently. Both teams play a 4-3-3, with virtually the same midfield set-up. William Carvalho provides the defensive anchor, Andre Martins provides some tenacity and creative spark, and Adrien does the dirty work, while also popping in with some creativity. Andre Martins enjoyed a solid season at Sporting, which was his first in the top flight that saw him perform regularly. With two senior team caps under his belt, Martins has already been in and around the team, and at the very least can provide cover for the ageing Raul Meireles and Miguel Veloso.
Bento made a bold decision with his team selection this summer. Instead of choosing a natural left-back as back-up for Fabio Coentrao, Bento chose utility man Andre Almeida, who is capable of playing almost anywhere in midfield and defense. Almeida is a right-footed player, who Bento employed at left-back. A series of mediocre performances followed from Almeida, who while solid, lacked any attacking acumen going forward. Antunes, on the other hand, is equally adept at attacking and defending, a quality that he has showed at Malaga, where he has won a starting spot at left-back. And he is no stranger to the national team. Having appeared for the team after an impressive U-20 World Cup showing in 2007, Antunes fell off the radar after an ill-fated move abroad to Roma. But after finding his way back to Portugal, Antunes earned a move to Malaga, where he has flourished, appearing 36 times last season alone. His performances have not gone unnoticed, with West Ham reportedly naming Antunes as one of their top targets.
Jose Fonte, despite being somewhat of an unknown in English football, has become one of the driving forces behind Southampton’s baffling rise to the English Premier League. Fonte became a regular for Championship side Crystal Palace after leaving Sporting before the 2007-2008 season. Establishing himself as a started, Fonte spent three seasons at the club before agreeing to a move to Southampton, who were at that time playing in the third tier of English football: League 1. Many were taken aback by this decision, but few will fault the defender now. Two seasons in League 1 saw them promoted to the Championship, and after only one season, the team earned passage into the English Premier League. During the entirety of this revival, Fonte maintained a starting position, and has kept it during his two seasons in the Premier League. And he hasn’t only kept it. He’s become one of the club’s finest performers. Last season, whoscored.com rated Fonte at 7.21, making him the second best performer for Southampton. Though he is 30 years old and not getting any younger, stats like that are hard to ignore. Once again, he at least deserves to earn a call to the team.
Portugal has been gifted with talented goalkeepers in recent years. Players such as Vitor Baia, Ricardo, and Eduardo have graced the spot in between the sticks in recent years, and more recently, Rui Patricio has rightfully made the starting spot his own. And even after Patricio’s injury at this World Cup, backup goalkeeper Beto slid in an performed with confidence and skill. Of the three goalkeepers that Bento called on this summer, only two are still playing regularly in a top league. Beto was instrumental in Sevilla’s Europa League win last season, and Rui Patricio is one of Sporting Lisbon’s shining jewels. Eduardo, on the other hand, played well for Braga last season on loan from Genoa, but has transferred to Dinamo Zagreb in Croatia. The point of this is not to say that Dinamo is not a good team, but rather to point out that the Croatian league is not anywhere close to being a top league. It’s not even comparable to, let’s say, the French league. And now we come to Anthony Lopes, who was Lyon’s starting goalkeeper last season, appearing 32 times in the league. And this season, it looks as if not much will change. With Lopes playing regularly against players like Ibrahimovic and Falcao, why not call him up to the team, even if it is to serve as a back-up.
Guerreiro deserves to be considered for the National Team. I highlighted the left-back in an article last week, and the reason is clear. Guerreiro is playing regularly for a team in the top division in France, and is only 20 years old. There is a chance that he could switch alliances and choose to play for France, a move that would be devastating for Portugal. He won’t take the starting spot from Coentrao, and no one is expecting him to. But he certainly deserves a chance in the team, even if it is initially just to tie him down to Portugal.
You may be wondering why Quaresma was included on this list; a player who has dozens of caps for Portugal. The reason is simple. Paulo Bento chose to leave Quaresma at home this World Cup, instead choosing Vieirinha, who had just come off a season ravaged by injuries. While Quaresma’s seasons recently have been lackluster, once the winger arrived at Porto in January, he looked a different player. And 10 goals in 24 appearances later, many were left scratching their heads when Bento left Quaresma off the team. Quaresma could have surely brought something to the team, at the very least as backup. While he is 30 and will soon be 31, Quaresma still possesses a skillset that can be of use to the team.
Few were expecting for Diogo Figueiras to have the impact last season that he did. After an impressive 2012-2013 debut season for Pacos Ferreira, Figueiras earned a move to Spanish club Sevilla. Still a virtual unknown, the right-back managed an impressive 22 first team appearances for the Spanish club, helping the team as they won the Europa League. With first-choice right back Coke a possibility to leave, Figueiras will look to build on what was a very solid first season at Sevilla. And one way he can build on his season is to be rewarded with a call to the National Team, something that he undoubtedly deserves. He is certainly capable of providing competition for Joao Pereira.
Another member of Sevilla’s impressive Europa League winning squad last season, Daniel Carrico is enjoying something of a revival after a horrendous season in England. Once viewed as Sporting Lisbon’s golden boy, Carrico was given captaincy at the Portuguese club at just 22. But the center defender’s form dropped as Sporting muddled through some of their worst seasons in history. As a result, Carrico was sold for close to nothing to newly promoted Premier League side Reading. At Reading, Carrico only managed a handful of appearances, and a loan deal to Sevilla for the 2013-2014 season was arranged. In his season at Sevilla, Carrico became one of the club’s most dependable performers, with his performances earning him a permanent move this summer. Long thought of as one of Portugal’s most up and coming defenders, few will argue that Carrico reached the potential that many saw in him during his Sporting years. But few will argue that Carrico’s season last time out was one of his finest. And not only that, but he is versatile. Capable of playing both at center back and defensive midfield, versatility is something that Paulo Bento looks for. So Paulo…nudge nudge.
Often labeled as Manchester United’s biggest flop, many English football fans assumed that Bebe’s career was a joke and that he had very little to offer the world of football. Oh how they are wrong. Rightly derided in England, Bebe’s time at Manchester United, though not abysmal, was certainly not worthy of the price that the club paid for his services. But a good decision on their part was to loan him back to Portugal. A semi-successful loan to Rio Ave during the 2012-2013 season was followed by a hugely successful loan to Pacos Ferreira last season. At Pacos, Bebe finished the season as the top scoring Portuguese player in the league, which is even more impressive when one considers that the winger was playing for a team who had to avoid relegation via a playoff. Following arguably his most impressive season yet, Benfica are extremely close to signing him, and you can expect that he won’t be loaned out.
Some players come into the spotlight because of playing for a big club. Their performances may not be any more noteworthy than other players’, but they continue to get press recognition because of the club that they play for. As a result, there are sometimes players whose solid performances fly under the radar; players who do not get as much hype. In Portugal, there has become a domination from teams known as “The Big Three.” Made up of Sporting, Benfica, and Porto, the “Big Three” has not been as clearly defined in recent seasons (Pacos Ferreira finished third in 2012/2013, Braga has risen to prominence, as has Estoril). This past season, however, “The Big Three” were back again with Benfica finishing 1st, Sporting 2nd, and Porto 3rd. As stated above, players from clubs outside of the “Big Three” in Portugal sometimes don’t really rise to prominence until they earn a move to one of the “Big Three” or abroad. That’s not to say their performances aren’t worthy of recognition. So, Portugal Football has decided to list the…
Top 5 Under-24 Liga Zon Sagres Players from the 2013/2014 Season…Outside the “Big Three”
1. Joao Mario – Vitoria Setubal (on loan from Sporting Lisbon)
The very fact that Joao Mario tops our list despite only spending half of a season at Vitoria Setubal says a lot. A center midfielder by trade, Mario is widely regarded as one of Portugal’s top prospects. In his 15 league appearances for Setubal, Mario helped his team to notable draws against Benfica and Sporting, and played a large role in the team’s impressive season. His performances were impressive enough to earn him a starting spot with the Portuguese Under-21 team and a role in Sporting’s first team for this season.
2. Andre Andre – Vitoria Guimaraes
The oldest on our list, Andre Andre has become an irreplaceable part of Rui Vitoria’s side. Andre has garnered attention abroad from his performances this season, and it comes as no surprise. The center midfielder made 37 appearances in all competitions, leading the team through a campaign both in the Liga Zon Sagres and the Europa League. Dinamo Zagreb are said to be interested in Andre, but if he gets another solid season under his belt, there will likely be larger clubs interested.
3. Bebe – Pacos Ferreira (on loan from Manchester United)
Bebe was the laughing stock of English football after his ill-fated move from Vitoria Guimaraes to Manchester United in 2010. And to a certain extent, he still is. But not in Portugal. Bebe was on loan this season at Pacos Ferreira from Manchester United. Though the side struggled, barely managing to avoid relegation, Bebe shone. The Manchester United man struck 12 times for the team in only 27 appearances. These statistics are even more impressive when you consider that he scored these from his primary position out wide. His scoring exploits made him the highest scoring Portuguese player in the league last season, and Manchester United have opted to take him on their pre-season tour most likely as a result of his performances. But Manchester United will have to fend off interest from Benfica, who are reportedly very interested in acquiring his services.
4. Ricardo Horta – Vitoria Setubal
Last season was possibly the best debut season Ricardo Horta could have hoped for. A product of both Benfica’s and Vitoria Setubal’s youth setups, Horta was promoted to Setubal’s first team this season. After impressive performances early in the season, Horta was awarded a starting spot and never looked back. Finishing the season with seven goals in 34 appearances on the wing, Horta was named to the Portuguese Under-20 team’s Toulon Tournament squad, scoring the deciding goal in the third place match against England. Malaga are said to be very interested and extremely close to signing the player, and it comes as no surprise. And he’s only 19!
5. Danilo Pereira – Maritimo
A product of Benfica’s famed youth academy, Danilo Pereira first rose to prominence at the 2011 FIFA U-20 World Cup, where he performed admirably in Portugal’s midfield, helping them to a second place finish. A move abroad ensued, and after some more spells abroad, Pereira ended up at Maritimo last season. Pereira appeared 28 times for the Madeira-based club, helping them to a mid-table finish. His performances drew the interest of Sporting, who many speculate see him as the natural successor to William Carvalho.
Manchester United winger Bebe was included in Rui Jorge’s 23-man squad for next month’s match against Poland. This game is a must-win for the team, who will almost guarantee qualification to the next U-21 Euro of they win on September 10th. Here’s the full squad:
Goalkeepers: Anthony Lopes (Lyon), Cristiano Figueiredo (Braga B), Mika (Benfica B)
Defenders: Anibal Capela (Braga B), Cédric (Sporting), Ivo Pinto (Cluj), Luis Martins (Benfica B), Nuno Reis (Olhanense), Pedro Mendes (Sporting B), Ruben (Maritimo), Vitor Bastos (Vitoria Guimaraes B)
Midfielders: Andre Almeida (Benfica B), André Martins (Sporting), Danilo (Roda JC), David Simao (Maritimo), Josue (Pacos Ferreira), Sérgio Oliveira (Porto B)
Forwards: Abel Camara (Beira-Mar), Fredy (Belenenses), Rui Fonte (Espanyol), Salvador Agra (Real Betis), Bebe (Manchester United), Wilson Eduardo (Academica)
Due to the recent injury of Bebe, Besiktas are now looking at Braga’s young winger, Pizzi, as his replacement. Bebe joined Besiktas on loan from Manchester United, where he had failed to make the grade, but a recent injury has ruled him out for six months. Besiktas now move their attention to Pizzi, who shone for Pacos Ferreira last season. Pizzi is now with Braga’s first team, with a starting spot likely. According to reports in Portugal, the required fee is around 5 million euros. If the move does materialize, Pizzi will join up with fellow Portuguese players Simao, Bebe, Hugo Almeida, and Manuel Fernandes.