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

Fernando Santos: What Can We Expect from Portugal’s New Boss?


Portugal Cyprus Euro 2012 Qual

Could we see Ricardo Carvalho back in the team?

The Portuguese Football Federation announced this week the appointment of Fernando Santos as the Selecao’s head coach. Santos has filled the position left vacated by the departure of Paulo Bento, the team’s previous coach. Bento was known for his stubbornness, which resulted in stagnant team selections, as well as some players being exiled from the team. With Santos now in charge, there is a natural hope for a renewed team; one that is open to any player deemed worthy to represent it. Let’s take a look at what we can expect from Fernando Santos, in terms of player selection and tactics. 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.

 

 

 

 

Lokomotiv Moscow Snap up Fernandes


Manuel Fernandes - Lokomotiv Moscow 2014

Manuel Fernandes

Besiktas to Lokomotiv Moscow (free transfer)

Manuel Fernandes is set to move again. After starting his career in Portugal, the midfielder has played in Spain, England, and Turkey. He can now add Russia to that list, after his transfer to Russian Premier League club Lokomotiv Moscow was announced today. The midfielder was without a club after his contract with Besiktas ran out, and the Russian team were the most enticing offer. Fernandes had also been heavily linked with a move back to Benfica, the club where he began his career, but the player instead opted to stay abroad.

A player whose talent is undoubted, Fernandes has struggled for form over the past few seasons. That, coupled with injuries, meant that Fernandes’ stock has fallen greatly in the past season. After starting his career brightly at Benfica and making his debut for the national team at 19 years old, Fernandes had two stints on loan in England, first with Portsmouth then at Everton. After returning from Everton, Fernandes moved again, this time permanently to Valencia for a fee of 18 million euros. After lukewarm performances and injury problems, Fernandes signed for Besiktas for a measly 2 million euros after a successful loan spell. At Besiktas, Fernandes’ performances ranged from sublime to abysmal, and his career stagnated.

This move comes in the prime of Manuel Fernandes. Aged 28 years, many players have the most success during this time in their career. Can Fernandes prove everyone wrong? Can he finally find his prime?

Portugal Impress at Toulon


Portugal U-20s Third Place Toulon 2014

photo courtesy fpf.pt

Portugal Under-20 Team

Toulon Tournament

Third Place

The future of Portuguese football looks bright. The Portuguese under-20 team defeated England 1-0 yesterday to claim third place in this year’s edition of the Toulon Tournament. The tournament is set up for youth teams to participate, with most teams sending under-21 squads. Portugal typically sends an under-20 side, and has used the tournament as a way to prepare for the U-20 World Cup.

The team has had varying degrees of success in the past, finishing fourth last year and failing to leave the group in 2011 (just before reaching the final of the U-20 World Cup). This year, the team surprised everyone, finishing third. Let’s look at how they made it there.

The team was coached by Ilidio Vale, who has been at the helm since 2010, guiding the team in two U-20 World Cups and two Toulon Tournaments previous to this tournament. The coach chose commanding Sporting Lisbon defender Tobias Figueiredo as the team’s captain. Other notable players included in the squad were Ruben Vezo, who squeezed his way into Valencia’s first team at the end of the season, Joao Cancelo, who made his debut for Benfica’s first team at the end of the season and is a regular for Benfica B, Ricardo Horta, who played a vital role in Vitoria Setubal’s impressive run this season, and Bruno Fernandes, who made 23 first team appearances for Udinese this season. And indeed it was these players who performed well for Portugal at the tournament, each playing a role in the third place finish.

Portugal were grouped with Mexico, Chile, France, and China in Group A. After duly dispatching Mexico with two deflected goals from Joao Teixeira and Helder Costa, the Portuguese continued their march on with another impressive victory, this time over Chile. Goals from Leandro Silva, a beautiful individual effort from Helder Costa, and Bruno Fernandes ensured the team defeated Chile 3-1. Next, the team faced a Chinese side that tied hosts France 1-1. Not thinking twice, Portugal defeated China 4-1, with Ricardo Horta scoring twice and Ruben Semedo and Helder Costa picking up the other goals. To qualify for the final, Portugal needed to defeat France in their final Group A game, and despite their best efforts, Portugal fell 2-1 to France, thus finishing second in the group, qualifying for the third-place match.

England were the other second-placed team in the tournament, meaning that they would be Portugal’s opponents in the third-place match. Portugal and England have a long footballing rivalry, with both the countries’ senior teams meeting in Euro 2004 and the 2006 World Cup. On both of those occasions, Portugal came out on top of the rivalry, and this time out, Portugal managed a win again. Ricardo Horta scored the only goal of the game, which was enough for Portugal to edge out England 1-0 and claim third-place for the 2014 Toulon Tournament.

Eder and Amorim Replace Martins and Fernandes


Manuel Fernandes and Carlos Martins have both had to pull out of the Portuguese squad due to injury ahead of the team’s upcoming games against Azerbaijan and Luxembourg. Called to replace them are Eder and Ruben Amorim, both of Braga. Both have enjoyed solid starts to their respective season, each having a hand in Braga’s qualification to the Champion’s League. This is Eder’s maiden call for the Seleccao, while Amorim has appeared once before for the team.

Pizzi Earns Maiden Call


Paulo Bento released a squad of 23 for the Seleccao’s upcoming games against Luxembourg and Azerbaijan. Notable inclusions are Pizzi (who has enjoyed a great start to this season at Deportivo), Manuel Fernandes (who was omitted from the Euro 2012 squad), and Nuno Andre Coelho (who made the last call-up by the skin of his teeth). Rolando, Hugo Viana, and Hugo Almeida all miss selection. Here’s the full list:

Goalkeepers: Beto (Braga), Eduardo (Istanbul BB), Rui Patrício (Sporting)
Defenders: Bruno Alves (Zenit), Fábio Coentrão (Real Madrid), João Pereira (Valencia), Miguel Lopes (Porto), Nuno André Coelho (Braga), Pepe (Real Madrid), Ricardo Costa (Valencia)
Midfielders: Carlos Martins (Benfica), Custódio (Braga), João Moutinho (Porto), Manuel Fernandes (Besiktas), Miguel Veloso (Dynamo Kiev), Raúl Meireles (Chelsea), Rúben Micael (Braga)
Forwards: Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid), Hélder Postiga (Zaragoza), Nani (Manchester United), Nélson Oliveira (Deportivo), Pizzi (Deportivo), Varela (Porto)

Who should make the Portuguese team for Euro 2012: Goalkeepers


As is the case before any major tournament, a number of players are vying for a limited amount of spots for their respective national teams. The Portuguese team is no different. Many Portuguese players are enjoying stellar seasons for their clubs, and are certainly hoping for a call to represent their country at this summer’s Euro 2012. We’ll break down these candidates position-by-position, in an effort to predict how Paulo Bento will choose the final squad. First up is the goalkeepers.

Goalkeepers

Definites: Rui Patricio (Sporting)

Maybes: Eduardo (Benfica), Beto (CFR Cluj), Quim (Braga)

Outsiders: Ricardo (Vitoria Setubal), Hugo Ventura (Olhanense), Daniel Fernandes (Twente)

 

The goalkeeping position is rarely a problem for the Portuguese team. There has always seemed to be a strong goalkeeper at the start of every major tournament. For the 2002 World Cup, Vitor Baia was the undisputed choice. For Euro 2004, the 2006 World Cup, and Euro 2008, Ricardo was between the sticks, and for the 2010 World Cup, Eduardo was first-choice. These keepers certainly met all expectations, and have established the fact that the goalkeeping position is consistently one of the strongest on the Portuguese team.

This time around, Rui Patricio is our man. A major part of Sporting’s success in the Europa League this season is down to his heroics in goal. It’s not just for Sporting, however. Patricio has emulated his club form on a national stage for Portugal. Our former stalwart is Eduardo. Arguably just as talented as before, a lack of playing time has been Eduardo’s main problem. After lackluster performances last season for Genoa, Eduardo was shipped off to Benfica for a season-long loan. Unable to dislodge Artur Moraes as first choice, Eduardo has been warming the bench ever since joining the club. Although his playing time has been scarce, his proven ability in the past will most likely win him a place on the team at Euro 2012. Another goalkeeper that has been loaned this season is Beto. Beto was the standout performer in the 2008-2009 season for newly-promoted Leixoes. His performances caught the eye of Porto, who snapped him up for a nominal fee. Despite possessing proven talent, Beto has never earned a starting spot over first-choice Helton. This season, in search for regular playing time, Beto was loaned to Romanian side CFR Cluj. Since then, he has played regularly, and a call-up to Euro 2012 may not be too unrealistic. Braga has continued to establish itself as one of Portugal’s top teams, and right at the heart of it all is Quim. Formerly the undisputed first-choice at Benfica, and even earlier at Braga, Quim has played a pivotal role in Braga’s surge to third-place this season. Although he has amassed 32 caps for the Seleccao, he has only appeared once at a major tournament. His performances this season show that he still has it, even at 36, but will that be enough for Paulo Bento? The outsiders looking in at a spot at Euro 2012 with Portugal are Daniel Fernandes, Ricardo, and Hugo Ventura. None of the three have appeared very much, if at all for Twente, Vitoria Setubal, and Olhanense respectively, and a spot on the Portuguese bus to Euro 2012 looks unlikely.

 

Probable bus-riders: Rui Patricio, Eduardo, Beto

 

Name

Club

Age

League Apps

Cup

Apps

Continental

Apps

Total

Apps

Rui Patricio Sporting

24

25

5

12

42

Eduardo Benfica

29

0

8

0

8

Beto Cluj

29

21

0

0

21

Quim Braga

36

26

2

10

38

Ricardo Setubal

36

3

3

0

6

Daniel Fernandes Twente

28

0

0

0

0

Hugo Ventura Olhanense

24

0

0

0

0

Wanted: Manuel Fernandes


The heartbeat of the Besiktas’ midfield is Manuel Fernandes. There is no arguing that. Since joining the Turkish team on loan from Valencia in January 2011, Fernandes has come-of-age. His performances on loan were of such a high standard that at the end of the season, Besiktas opted to purchase him outright. Since then, he has been transformed from a talented player to a talisman for the Turkish team. The midfielder has scored six in all competitions this season, including two in his last two matches. He has also assisted countless others, which has helped him cement himself as one of Besiktas’s most important players.

While Manuel Fernandes’ talent has been undeniable, contract disputes and injuries have hampered any sort of consistency. Fernandes broke onto the scene for Benfica in the 2003-2004 season. In only his second game for the club, he scored, making him the second youngest goalscorer for the club. He soon established himself as an important member of the team, and, in the process, picked up his first cap for Portugal. After two loan spells abroad, both in England (for Portsmouth and Everton), Valencia snapped him up for a fee of around 18 million euros. At Valencia, injuries hampered his natural progress. After failing to make Unai Emery’s plans last season, he joined Besiktas on loan from January until the end of the season. After a successful half-season at the Turkish club, he was bough outright for 2 million euros. Since then, he has established himself as one of the finest midfielders playing in Turkey, and is considered by many to be a shoo-in for the Euro 2012 squad.

His fine performances for Besiktas have not gone unnoticed. Real Madrid and Tottenham are both said to be courting the midfielder. Reports coming out of Turkey even suggest that a 17 million pound deal has already been agreed between Tottenham and Besiktas for the midfielder. Though these reports appear to be untrue, a similar deal may not be too far off.