Lille Interested in Extending Lopes Loan


Marcos Lopes - LilleAccording to recent media speculation, French club Lille are seriously considering asking Manchester City for a season-long extension to Marcos Lopes’ loan deal. Lopes is currently on a season-long loan from Manchester City. The Portuguese attacking midfielder has been in impressive form lately, most notably scoring the winner over current league-leaders Lyon last weekend. Reports indicate, however, that Manchester City are keen to extend the young midfielder’s contract before agreeing to any kind of extension. His current deal runs out in 2016. Continue reading

MID-SEASON REPORT: 10 Portuguese Players Who Could Break Out This Season


Andre Gomes has been a revelation this season for Valencia. Photo: John Sibley / Reuters

Andre Gomes has been a revelation this season for Valencia. Photo: John Sibley / Reuters

There is no question that the Portuguese national team is in a transitional phase. The Selecção’s group stage exit in Brazil just reinforced the claim that the squad will look very different in the next few years. There has perhaps never been a time in recent memory when the country has had so many promising young players.

In the summer, we chose ten that we thought would be able to make a positive impact at club level this season. Since then, four of these players have made their debuts for the senior Selecção, to go along with André Gomes and Bruma who had been selected before. This article will look at the progress of each player and will assign them a grade based on their development so far. Continue reading

Opinion: 10 Players Who Could Break Out This Season


Many are looking for Marcos Lopes to have a big season at Lille, where he is on loan from Manchester City.

Many are looking for Marcos Lopes to have a big season at Lille, where he is on loan from Manchester City.

10 Portuguese Players Who Could Break Out This Season

Portugal is once again producing quality young footballers at a scale not seen since the ‘Golden Generation’  that emerged in the late 1990s.

But at no time has there been more Portuguese youngsters playing abroad in Europe’s top leagues. Only three of the ten players on this list will be playing in Portugal this season.

Please note, this list includes only players that have yet to establish themselves as national team players but who we believe can conceivably do so during Euro 2016 qualifying. Both Bruma and André Gomes have received call-ups but have yet to establish themselves as regular players.

Here now is a list of 10 Portuguese young stars to watch this season.

Ruben Vezo , Central Defender, Valencia FC

Last season was probably the best debut season Ruben Vezo could have asked for. He was definitively promoted to Vitória de Setúbal’s first team after two successful seasons with the club’s under-19 side. And it only took him half a season to catch the eye of La Liga giants Valencia.  After making 12 appearances for Vitória de Setúbal , the central defender was off to Spain. Used primarily as a backup at Valencia for the rest of the season, Vezo still managed to appear eight times, scoring once.

This season, under new manager Nuno Espirito Santo,  Vezo should play a more prominent role, especially considering Ricardo Costa and Jeremy Mathieu have left the club. Vezo will now compete with Nicolas Otamendi and Shkodran Mustafi for playing time, two well-established internationals. This is no easy task, but Vezo has the tools to develop into a solid defender. And at only 20-years-old, he has plenty of time to reach that potential.

Raphaël Guerreiro , Left-Back, FC Lorient

Having been born and raised in France, it could be said that Raphaël Guerreiro is a bit different from other players on this list. Born to a French mother and a Portuguese father, Guerreiro’s allegiances thus far lie with Portugal, despite never having played in the Portuguese league. He is already an established first-team player at French side Lorient. Despite having played only one season in top-flight, Guerreiro is already viewed as one of the most promising left-backs in Ligue 1.

It appears that little will change this season, with many touting him for another good campaign. With another successful season under his belt, larger clubs will surely come knocking for Guerriero’s services.  He has reportedly drawn interest from Premier League clubs West Ham and Liverpool . If he can manage to stay healthy, Raphael Guerreiro could be the subject of a bidding war next summer.

André Gomes, Midfielder, Valencia CF

The 21-year-old midfielder began making a name for himself in Benfica’s reserve squad with some dominant performances at the beginning of the 2012-13 season. He would make his senior debut with the club that season in a Portuguese Cup match against  Freamunde, scoring a goal in a 4-0  victory. His performances would earn him some playing time in the Champions League as well.

Gomes has exceptional technical ability and is versatile as well. He played in defensive midfield last season with Benfica, but his attributes are better suited for an attacking role. After being heavily linked with a move to the Premier League in January 2014, his rights were sold to an investment fund for €15 million. Gomes will be part of a resurgent Valencia side this season.

João Teixeira , Midfielder, Benfica

Few would have expected João Teixeira to have been as involved in Benfica’s pre-season as he has been, playing mainly as an anchor man in the midfield. Teixeira made 28 appearances for Benfica’s B team last season, but only 16 of those were starts. Still only 20-years-old, Teixeira has been a welcome surprise in Benfica’s otherwise underwhelming pre-season.

With the team’s first-choice holding midfielder, Ljubomir Fejsa out injured for the foreseeable future, Teixeira is now creating competition for Ruben Amorim.  Benfica manager Jorge Jesus has a history of nurturing young talent, as he did with Andre Gomes. And should Teixeira be given a first-team role this season, look for big things.

João Mário, Midfielder, Sporting Lisbon

João Mário has long been viewed as a top Portuguese prospect. The midfielder has been at Sporting since he was 11-years-old, but has only managed one first team appearance so far. After spending the entire 2012-2013 season playing for Sporting’s B side, João Mário was loaned out to fellow Primeira Liga outfit Vitória de Setúbal for the second half of last season. He immediately earned a regular place on the team and managed to make 15 league appearances.

His performances were enough to earn him the ‘Young Player of the Month’ award for January and February, ahead of the likes of William Carvalho, Ricardo Horta, and Bebe.  João Mário was recalled to the Sporting senior squad this summer and he appears to be in contention for a starting position. His work this pre-season has not gone unnoticed.  Former Sporting midfielder Luis Vidigal delivered a glowing recommendation for the player in a recent interview. ‘ It is only a matter of time before Marco Silva realizes the value of João Mário,’ Vidigal said.

Bruno Fernandes, Attacking Midfielder, Udinese Calcio

Unlike most players on this list, Bruno Fernandes never played for one of the ‘Big Three’ of Portuguese football. In fact, the Udinese midfielder never even played for a club in Portugal’s top division.  The former Boavista youth player accepted a modest offer from Italian club Novara in 2012. He has adjusted well to the Italian game, helping Novara to promotion the following season and earning a move to Udinese last summer.

Fernandes started last season in Udinese’s reserve squad, but eventually earned his way into the starting line-up.  He impressed with his vision, technical skill and creativity, playing mainly in the ‘Number 10’ position behind the striker. Fernandes would make 24 Serie A appearances, scoring four goals.  And he is finally receiving some recognition in his home country, having been selected for the U-19 and U-20 youth squads.

Tozé, Attacking Midfielder, Estoril-Praia

A supremely-gifted attacking midfielder who will be officially on-loan for the next two seasons at Estoril. The 21-year-old is a graduate of FC Porto’s youth academy and has been a regular player for Portugal at every youth level. He was dominant last season playing for Porto’s reserve squad in the Segunda Liga, scoring 21 goals in 40 appearances.

As well as having an eye for goal, Tozé has a well-rounded game. He is technically skilled and is versatile as well. He could play in the centre of the pitch, as well on the wings. He should receive more playing time with Estoril, who will be playing in the Europa League this season. Current manager José Couceiro, did an excellent job with a young squad at Vitória de Setubal last season.  Tozé appears ready to make the next step.

Marcos Lopes, Attacking Midfielder, Lille OSC

Perhaps the most talked-about teenager in world football.  Marcos Lopes first made a name for himself as a Benfica youth player, before leaving for Manchester City in 2011. He would score in his first ever appearances for The Citizens in a January 2013 FA Cup match against Watford, only minutes after coming on as a substitute. He continued his dominant performances for Manchester City’s youth squad.

Lopes played for Portugal this summer at the U-19 UEFA Championships, helping his country to the final where they eventually lost to Germany. An attacking midfielder, with exceptional technical ability and vision, Lopes feels most comfortable on the left side of the pitch. His style of play has often been compared to Ronaldinho.  The 18-year-old will spend this season on loan at Ligue 1 club Lille.

Ricardo Horta, Winger, Málaga CF

19-year-old Ricardo Horta was one of the top revelations last season in Portugal’s Primeira Liga. The supremely talented winger is a former Benfica youth player, who moved south to Vitória Setúbal in 2011. He started playing regularly for the club last season, eventually helping them finishing a better than expected seventh in the league table. Horta would score seven goals for the club along the way.

It came as no surprise when La Liga club Málaga signed him this summer. Horta has not wasted any time impressing his new fan base. He scored a beautiful long-range goal in the pre-season against Australian club Perth Glory in late July. And he has dazzled fans with his exceptional skill, making him one of the top young players to watch this season in La Liga.

Bruma, Winger, Galatasaray S.K.

Once hailed as ‘Portugal’s next big thing,’ Bruma’s career has stalled due to a serious knee injury sustained last January. The timing for the winger’s injury could not have been worse. He was just beginning to find his feet at Galatasaray with a series of positive performances in both the Turkish league and the Champions League.

Bruma was selected to the national team for the first time in October 2013, just a few months  before his injury. Any hopes he had of representing his country at the World Cup were all but finished.  But Bruma is now healthy and back playing football.  He had a positive pre-season, which is something that his new manager  Cesare Prandelli should take note of. At only 19-years-old, Bruma already has the tools to become an elite player and soon.

This article was a collaboration between Rui Miguel Martins of FutebolFactory.com and Sam Biggers of PortugalFutbol.net.

 

 

 

 

2014 U-19 European Championship Preview: Portugal


Portugal U19 vs Lithuania - 2013The UEFA U-19 European Championships have long been a showcase for some of the brightest young talent in Europe, and this year looks to be no different. Players such as Daniel Sturridge and Mesut Ozil have shone in the tournament in the past, and more recently, players such as Paul Pogba have found success. And while each team is playing to win, there is an added benefit.  The top three teams from each group earn passage into the following summer’s FIFA U-20 World Cup. It was how the Portuguese qualified for the past two U-20 World Cups (in 2011 and 2013), and there is the hope that they can emulate that success again.

The Portuguese Under-19 Team will begin their European Championship campaign tomorrow, as they face Israel in their first match. This Portuguese team is much heralded, and is widely considered as one of the favorites coming into the tournament. And for good reason. The team has three of possibly the brightest Portuguese Under-19 prospects in the country in Andre Silva, Tomas Postawski, and Marcos Lopes. Silva is the spearhead of the team’s attacks, scoring 6 in qualification. Currently on the books at Porto, Silva split his time between Porto’s B team and the U19 team. Despite this, the striker managed 15 goals in 20 appearances for the U19 team and scored three for the B team. All at 18 years old. Another Porto prospect, Podstawski, who also holds Polish citizenship, appeared 24 times for Porto’s B team last season, following a stellar season with Porto’s U19 team. And finally, we come to Marcos Lopes. Widely believed to be “the next big thing” in Portugal, Rony Lopes, as he is called, has gained notoriety as a result of his performances at Manchester City. After impressive performances for first the club’s development squad and then the reserve squad, Lopes made his debut in City’s first team during the 2012-2013 season. Brought on late into an FA Cup tie against Watford, Lopes scored a tap-in from close range following a save from the opposition goalkeeper. This goal, scored just after Lopes’ 17th birthday, made him the Manchester City first team’s youngest ever goal scorer in a competitive match. But he hasn’t stopped there. More impressive performances in cup ties this season at Manchester City have earned him a season-long loan move to French side Lille OSC.

This Portuguese Under-19 side will face stiff competition in their quest for victory. On paper, one may dismiss the opposition joining Portugal in Group A, but upon further inspection, Portugal may face some challenges. Alongside Portugal in Group A are Israel, Austria, and Hungary. The threat that both Austria and Israel face is the strength in defense. In the six games Israel  and Austria each played in qualifying, each only conceded three goals. In the same amount of games, Portugal conceded six, against teams like Wales and Norway. Clearly, Portugal’s strength is in attack and not in defense. But one can hope that with players of the caliber of Podstawski, Lopes, and Silva, Portugal’s attacking prowess will greatly outweigh the defensive expertise of their opponents in Group A.

This competition is also known for being largely unpredictable. For instance, last year’s edition saw Serbia crowned as champions. Not many predicted a victory from a nation such as Serbia over teams like Spain, France, and the Netherlands. So, while Portugal is considered favorites to win the tournament, and some would argue have the tools at their disposal for victory, it’s all up in the air.

Rony Lopes Loaned to Lille


Marcos Lopes - Portugal U19

Marcos Lopes

Manchester City to Lille (loan)

Manchester City wonderkid Rony Lopes, also known as Marcos Lopes, has joined Lille on a one-year loan deal. Still only 18, Lopes’ impressive performances for Manchester City’s U19 team, which he captained, earned him some time in City’s first team last season. Though only confined to a handful of matches in the League Cup and the FA Cup, Lopes impressed greatly. In the FA Cup tie against West Ham, many would argue that Lopes was Manchester City’s best player, assisting two goals. Not only has he made a name for himself at City, but Lopes is making waves in Portugal’s youth teams. Currently captain of Portugal’s U-19 team, he will lead the team into this summer’s UEFA U-19 European Championship. And it won’t be the first time either. Lopes played in all four of Portugal’s matches last summer, as the team was knocked out in the semifinals of last year’s edition by eventual winners Serbia. Having already made an appearance for the Portugal U-21 team at only 18, Lopes has shown that he is playing on a different level than most his age.

So, in order to provide more playing time and thus more opportunity for development, Manchester City is shipping Rony Lopes off to France. The loan is set to last all season, and with Lille finishing third last season, Champions League football is a possibility, provided they progress through the qualifying rounds. It is not announced whether the loan will have an option for Lille to purchase Lopes, but that seems very unlikely, due to his huge potential. Manchester City certainly don’t want him to go. And Lopes seems very excited about the possibility of playing regularly for a team, saying he is “eager to work hard and return stronger next year!” Here’s his full tweet:

 

Marcos Lopes on the Move?


Marcos "Rony" LopesMarcos Lopes

Manchester City to Porto (loan)?

Manchester City starlet Marcos Lopes has wowed everyone this season with his numbered, yet impressive performances for Manchester City. Only 18 years of age, Rony Lopes (as he’s also called) managed four official appearances for Manchester City’s first team this season, and he didn’t just show up. He impressed. Named captain to City’s U21 squad for this past season, Lopes’s performances were impressive enough to warrant a place in and around City’s first team. Now, only 18 years old, it appears that Marcos Lopes, having already made a handful of appearances for City and debuted for the Portugal U-21 team, is ready for more first team action. Arsenal and Galatasaray are said to be interested in the attacking midfielder, but Manchester City would be foolish to let him go.

It is rumored that Manchester City have thought up a better alternative. City are currently interested in Porto’s Eliaquim Mangala and Fernando. The two players have indicated that they’d be open to a move to the Midlands, and a move doesn’t seem that far off. That is, if they can sweeten the pot enough for Porto. There is no shortage of money at Manchester City, but the club may be looking for additional methods of securing Mangala and Fernando. One bait is sending Marcos Lopes on loan to Porto for the season, a move that would surely be beneficial for both parties.

Marcos Lopes: Star of the (Near) Future?


Marcos "Rony" LopesFor those who follow the English game closely, the name Marcos Lopes may ring a bell. For those who don’t follow the English game very closely, prepare to hear that name more and more as time goes on. Marcos Lopes is a winger/attacking midfielder who turns out for Manchester City’s youth teams. And he doesn’t just turn out…He’s one of their most important and exciting prospects. Last year, having just turned 17, Marcos Lopes entered the pitch for Manchester City’s main team in an FA Cup draw against Watford. Although he was only on the field for a matter of minutes, the winger still managed to pounce on a rebound and score on his debut. The goal made him the youngest ever goalscorer for Manchester City. And it wasn’t just an accident. At the end of that season, Lopes was named the Manchester City Academy’s Player of the Year. As a result, he was made captain of the youth academy team for this season, 2013/2014.

Marcos Lopes - Watford debutOne may think that making a breakthrough at a club with a caliber such as that of Manchester City would be harder than, say, a team such as Aston Villa or Sunderland. That assumption is totally correct. Ahead of Lopes in the pecking order at City are the likes of Sergio Aguero, Stevan Jovetic, Jesus Navas, and James Milner. Seasoned internationals. Bought for millions. This is what makes Marcos Lopes’ situation all the more special. Still only 17, he is already having a go at the first team. Time will tell whether or not he continues to receive opportunities, but there is still one thing that may greatly influence his development: his coach.

Marcos Lopes - Manchester City academyWhen Lopes debuted for the first time on that fateful night against Watford, the coach of Manchester City was Roberto Mancini. The fact that Lopes was considered for first team action under Mancini speaks wonders for the player’s work-rate and dedication. During his tenure, Mancini had tons of cash at his disposal and typically looked to purchase talent rather than develop it. Marcos Lopes’ debut wasn’t a fluke. Over the summer, Mancini was replaced with Manuel Pellegrini, who had a much different philosophy. Pellegrini had just left Malaga, a club who had originally been gifted with mass monetary resources (like Manchester City), but had then seen the money dry up. What Pellegrini was left with at Malaga was a squad with relatively few recognizable names. What he did was nothing short of a miracle. Helping the club to sixth in La Liga and the quarterfinals of the Champions League, Pellegrini relied on young, unproven players. This paid off, with Isco being at the heart of most of the success. With Pellegrini’s background as a youth development expert, we should logically expect to see more of Marcos Lopes, right? Right.  A couple of weeks ago, Manchester City began their League Cup campaign at home to Wigan Athletic. Starting on the left wing for City was none other than Lopes. Pellegrini obviously has faith in the 17 year old, as do much of the backroom staff and players, and for good reason.

Marcos Lopes - Portugal U-19Oh, and he also is a starter for the Portuguese Under 19 team. Debuting for the team at only 16 years of age, Lopes has gone on to make 13 appearances, scoring eight times. A call-up to the Portugal U-21 team is likely not far off, or maybe even the Senior Team. But who knows. If Marcos Lopes continues to develop as rapidly as he has been, the Seleccao may not be very far away.

Tijane Reis Goes on Trial at Stoke City


Tijane Reis – Chaves to Stoke City?

Tijane Reis, of Chaves, has gone on trial with English Premier League side Stoke City. Stoke manager Tony Pulis is evidently keen to add a winger to his squad, and Tijane is high on his list. Tijane has impressed for the third division side Chaves, enough to earn a call-up to the Portugal Under-21 team. Not many players from the third division earn a call-up to the U-21 team, so the fact that he did speaks wonders to his skill.