Opinion: Bernardo Silva – Benfica Loses a Gem


Photo: AS Monaco

Photo: AS Monaco

Bernardo Silva

Benfica to Monaco

It was announced this week that Benfica had officially sold 20 year-old Bernardo Silva to Ligue 1 side Monaco for just under 16 million euros. Silva has spent the first half of the season on loan at Monaco, and has impressed in both the league and the Champions League. Some may have predicted this move from the start, as Monaco had the option to purchase the midfielder as a part of the loan agreement, but there were signs that Benfica president Luis Filipe Vieira intended to bring Silva back for next season. Now, with the dust settled, all we can do is look back at what it could have been for Benfica. This is not to say that Silva’s career is over, by any stretch of the imagination. The midfielder is touted to have a bright future, and could very well be one of the most important Portuguese players of his generation, but this move has deep implications for the Portuguese game, and represents a trend currently occurring in Portugal. Continue reading

Rui Jorge Names Squad of 23 for Playoff Matches


Rui JorgePortugal Under-21 coach Rui Jorge named yesterday a 23 man squad to face the Netherlands in the playoff for the 2015 UEFA U-21 European Championship. The playoff is a two-match series, with first played in Netherlands on the 9th and the other in Portugal on the 14th.  Needless to say, these two matches are of great importance. This is the closest the U-21 team has come to qualification to a major tournament since 2007, which is the last time the team appeared in a U-21 Euro.  Continue reading

Preview: Portugal vs Albania


Paulo Bento - Portugal

Portugal vs Albania

Match Preview

The Portuguese National Team will kick off their UEFA Euro 2016 qualification campaign tomorrow when they host Albania. Portugal is also joined in Group I by Denmark, Armenia, and Serbia. France will also play all of the teams in Group I, but the matches will not count towards the final group standings, as France is automatically qualified as host of Euro 2016. With Serbia, Denmark, and Armenia all wildcards capable of giving Portugal trouble, one feels that the matches against Albania are must-wins for the Portuguese.

Paulo Bento named a decidedly new-look Portuguese team for this match, most likely as a response to team selection criticism after the World Cup. Bento has earned a reputation lately for being set in his ways. Many believe he is too much set in his ways, but the fact that he has stuck with players who are past their prime is one that cannot be overlooked. Players such as Raul Meireles, Helder Postiga, and Miguel Veloso have all seen better days, but are still automatic starters under Bento. Players such as William Carvalho, Jose Fonte, and Adrien Silva have been given few opportunities, despite stellar performances. In fact, with the example of Fonte and Adrien, Bento has not even selected these players, despite their solid performances in the Premier League and the Portuguese Liga, respectively.

When it was announced that Paulo Bento would stay on as coach until at least Euro 2016, many fans feared more of the same favoritism for two more years. This favoritism, many fear, could cost the team qualification for Euro 2016, which could be the first time Portugal has not qualified for a major tournament since the 1998 World Cup. But, with the team that Bento selected for tomorrow’s match against Albania, many of the hardcore opponents will be appeased. In the team that Bento named, no less than seven players have the opportunity to make their debuts. These players are Pedro Tiba (Braga), Andre Gomes (Valencia), Anthony Lopes (Lyon), Ricardo Horta (Malaga), Bruma (Galatasaray), Ruben Vezo (Valencia), and Adrien Silva (Sporting). All seven are enjoying positive starts to their respective seasons, and it is encouraging that Bento is giving opportunities to young, capable players. And there are some statistics that show Bento’s change in heart:


Average age of 2014 World Cup squad: 27.9 years old

Average age of squad named for Albania game: 25.6 years old

Average number of appearances for 2014 World Cup squad: 34.5 caps

Average number of appearances for squad named for Albania Game: 23.4 caps


As the numbers show, the team that Bento named for tomorrow’s match is both drastically younger and more inexperienced. This decision to boot experience and age in favor of younger, more inexperienced players could prove to be a positive decision. The Portuguese are coming off of a tournament that they were expected to perform much better than they did. With their star man Cristiano Ronaldo seemingly at his height as a footballer at the age of 29, the 2014 World Cup was supposed to be Ronaldo’s. Portugal had an experienced team, which was led by arguably the finest player in the world at the time of the tournament, and the team was expected to beat out the United States and Ghana easily to earn a second-place spot behind Germany (at least) in Group G. The rest is history, and the decision by Bento now to bring in new faces suggests that he is preparing the team to move on and look ahead to future challenges (such as Euro 2016).


Portugal last met Albania in qualification for the 2010 World Cup. At that time, the team was led by Carlos Queiroz, who if nothing else, instilled a defensive solidarity in the team. In the 10 matches during qualification, the team only conceded five goals in total. When the team met Albania in those qualifying matches, both teams’ tactics cancelled each other’s out. Both were defensive-leaning teams, and though Portugal possessed much greater talent, the outcomes were stale matches. The two times the teams played, the outcomes were a 0-0 draw and a last-minute 2-1 victory for Portugal.

This time around, Portugal plays a much more open, attacking style of play, one that can be used towards a much more positive result against Albania. Though the team will be lacking their start man, Cristiano Ronaldo, there is no shortage of talent and dynamism in the team. As this is a qualification match, Paulo Bento will likely keep his experimenting to a minimum.

Rui Patricio is a no-brainer to start in goal as a result of solid performances both for Sporting at the Seleccao recently. In front of Patricio will likely be a familiar back-line, something that Bento may be reluctant to change. Fabio Coentrao merits inclusion at left-back, while Joao Pereira could very well start on the right. There is a possibility that Joao Pereira could be benched in favor of Andre Almeida. Pereira’s future at Valencia is currently up in the air, and Bento has given hints that his starting spot is not set in stone. Pepe will likely start, seeing as he has been Real Madrid and Portugal’s starter for some time. The other center-back spot will likely come down between Ricardo Costa and Luis Neto. Though Ricardo Costa is 33 and not playing in a major league, Bento will likely choose him to start.

In midfield, Bento will likely have learned his lesson with William Carvalho. Carvalho will most likely start ahead of Miguel Veloso. Ahead of Carvalho will likely be Raul Meireles and Joao Moutinho. Meireles, who is one of the players whose lackluster performances lately have been noticed, may be benched in favor of Adrien Silva, whose performances for Sporting have been wonderful. On the wings, Nani will likely resume his starting position, after playing regularly for Sporting. Filling the hole left by Ronaldo will likely be Vieirinha, who is impressing at Wolfsburg. Up top should be Eder, who is the team’s most viable option as striker. Bento has also hinted that Ivan Cavaleiro could be used as striker for the team, but it remains clear who will start.

Here’s the full lineup, as predicted:

Portugal-Albania predicted lineup

If the team can learn from its previous mistakes, Portugal should have no problem with this game. The fact that Bento is giving opportunities to younger players, the morale and drive of the team should be very high. A positive performance in this game could very well put their underwhelming performances at the World Cup behind them. Put simply, a win tomorrow can be the first step towards a new chapter in Portuguese football.


 

PortugalFutbol prediction: Portugal 4-1 Albania

Granada Signs Luis Martins


Luis Martins - Gil Vicente

Luis Martins

Gil Vicente to Granada

Portugal U-21 captain Luis Martins has sealed a move abroad to Spain, signing for La Liga side Granada on a four-season deal. The left-back had been at Gil Vicente ever since January of 2013, when he arrived from Benfica. At Gil Vicente, Martins established himself as the team’s first-choice left back, a status that he held for his entire time at the club. There is no fee announced for the transfer, but it is expected that Luis Martins will be at least a regular team member at Granada. The Spanish team had been searching for a left-back for some time, and Martins is who they chose.

Portuguese Liga Week in Review: Round 1


Photo: Sergio Miguel Santos

Photo: Sergio Miguel Santos

The Primeira Liga began last weekend, and with the transfer window still open, there is still plenty of news to report. Orlando Mac takes a look at the major headlines over the past week.

Luis Felipe’s Interview


 

Luis Felipe Vieira’s interview this week on BTV had many people talking, with Financial Crisis, Player Transfers, and Portuguese Players making up some of the talking points. Some Eagle fans were quite critical of the interview claiming they didn’t get honest answers from LFV, but the fact is that any CEO of any business will not outright tell you they failed, or that there is trouble at hand. That would lose them public confidence and in turn create a bigger crisis. So like any CEO Luis Felipe did some dancing around questions until he could get in the words he wanted. I thought overall he did a good job in breaking down the key areas of concern, and if you read between the lines a bit, as you have to do in these situations, everything is still headed in the right direction, for now.

Sporting Hold-out Trouble


 

You couldn’t escape the news on Sporting CP’s troubles with Rojo and Slimani both faced discipline from Sporting for trying to force a move away from the Avalade. I applaud Bruno de Carvalho for his efforts to not be held ransom over the two World Cup stars, but was disturbed by the constant press releases on their own site. It looked unprofessional at times with the he says, she says reports. Unfortunately this is still part of cleaning up Godinho’s mess at the club, but it really proved how 3rd party contracts can have a harsh effect on a club, at the most inopportune moments. Sporting was also reported to be filing a tampering complaint with FIFA against Manchester United over the Rojo fiasco.

Luisao Tampering


 

On the topic of tampering it was also reported this week that Benfica could file a complaint with FIFA over Juventus’ attempt to lure Luisao, the Eagles captain, to Italy. Juventus is reported to have suggested to Luisao to have his contract terminated so he could join them on a free transfer. This really angered not only LFV but also the loyal fans of the club who took to twitter en masse to show their displeasure. Luisao is a long serving Benfica player with over 10 years of service, first signing with the club in 2003. Of anyone that could request a transfer he would be the one who through his service would merit a transfer request, but in a summer that Benfica loses Garay, Luisao’s move would decimate the back line. So I can’t see LFV allowing it to happen.

Nani Coming Home?


 

After the embarrassing start to the Rojo situation reports suggest that Sporting are trying to turn the tables and have requested that Nani be included in any deal for Rojo. As reported it would be on loan, but Manchester United would be covering most of Nani’s wage bills. This would be a great coup for BdC, and having Nani back in the Liga would be the delight of not only the Sporting fans, but would make for some great games for Liga fans in general.
All in all it was a very interesting week in the Portuguese Liga with many talking points, especially 17 year old wonder boy Neves who impressed with his maturity and positioning. All in all it was an impressive start to the season, keep it locked here to PortugalFutbol.net for your Portuguese Football fix, and follow us on twitter as we post links to late breaking news regularly.

Paulo Bento Names 23 for World Cup Squad


Paulo Bento

Paulo Bento announced yesterday a list of 23 players that will represent Portugal at this summer’s World Cup. Seven players who were included in last week’s 30-man squad announcement were dropped. Some exclusions were predictable. Some not. Let’s look closer.


 

Final Squad

Goalkeepers: Beto (Sevilla), Rui Patricio (Sporting), Eduardo (Braga)

Defenders: Bruno Alves (Fenerbahce), Pepe (Real Madrid), Joao Pereira (Valencia), Fabio Coentrao (Real Madrid), Neto (Zenit), Ricardo Costa (Valencia), Andre Almeida (Benfica)

Midfielders: Raul Meireles (Fenerbahce), Joao Moutinho (Monaco), Miguel Veloso (Dinamo Kiev), Ruben Amorim (Benfica), Rafa (Braga), William Carvalho (Sporting)

Forwards: Ronaldo (Real Madrid), Helder Postiga (Lazio), Hugo Almeida (Besiktas), Nani (Manchester United), Eder (Braga), Varela (Porto), Vieirinha (Wolfsburg)

 

Standby players (dropped players): Anthony Lopes (Lyon), Rolando (Inter), Vitorino Antunes (Malaga), Quaresma (Porto), Andre Gomes (Benfica), Joao Mario (Vitoria Setubal), Ivan Cavaleiro (Benfica)


 

Statistics

(2014, 2010, 2006)

Average Age of Squad: 28 years old, 27.8 years old, 27.9 years old

Average Caps of Squad: 35.9 caps, 27 caps, 34.5 caps

Number of Players from Liga Zon Sagres: 7, 10, 8

Number of Players from Premier League: 1, 3, 6

Number of Players from La Liga: 6, 6, 2

Number of Players from Serie A: 1, 0, 1

Number of Players from Ligue 1: 1, 1, 2


 

Analysis

Goalkeepers:

The inclusion of Rui Patricio and Beto are completely warranted. Few can argue that both Patricio and Beto are two of Portugal’s most in-form goalkeepers at the moment. Beto is coming off a successful season that saw him win the Europa League with Sevilla (and saving two penalties in the shoot-out in the final). Rui Patricio is already established as Portugal’s no.1, and his performances for Sporting Lisbon did nothing to hurt that this season, leading the Lisbon-based team to a second-placed finish in the Liga.

The last goalkeeper spot was between Anthony Lopes and Eduardo. While Anthony Lopes enjoyed a decent debut season for Lyon, establishing himself as the team’s starting goalkeeper, Eduardo has World Cup experience. During the previous World Cup, Eduardo was Portugal’s starting goalkeeper, and lest we remind you that his performances at the last World Cup earned him a move abroad to Genoa. While Anthony Lopes has an extremely bright future, and his performances this season may merit inclusion, the decision to choose Eduardo over him is one that I understand and agree with.

Defenders:

Bruno Alves, Pepe, Joao Pereira, and Fabio Coentrao are all staples in the Portuguese team. Pepe and Bruno Alves have flourished at Real Madrid and Fenerbahce, respectively. Alves played in 25 league games, helping Fenerbahce to their first Turkish League title since 2011. Though Real Madrid didn’t manage to win the title this season, Pepe performed admirably in 30 league games, firmly establishing himself as a starter. While Fabio Coentrao didn’t receive as much playing time as he may have liked, he did perform well when he did manage to get a game. According to WhoScored.com, Coentrao managed a 6.96 match rating in the 15 games he participated in in all competitions. While this is nothing spectacular, it shows that Coentrao has the ability to play at the top level, an ability he has shown time and time again while donning the Portugal jersey. His inclusion is a no-brainer. Joao Pereira is another player whose previous performances for the Seleccao merit an automatic call. Currently playing at Valencia, Pereira managed 25 league appearances, as the team only finished 8th in La Liga.

Ricardo Costa has proven himself in a Portugal shirt in the past, and though he 33 years old, he is still an important part of both Valencia and the Seleccao. This was an interesting decision from Bento. Rolando, who spent this past season on loan at Inter from Porto, performed admirably in the Serie A. Some would argue that this season was his finest of his career to date. An outcast at Porto, Rolando managed 29 appearances at Inter, a team many would argue are among the best in Europe. I think the issue of experience is the factor at play here. This World Cup will be Ricardo Costa’s third, while if Rolando was included, it would be his second. Costa also played more of a part in qualifying, most notably scoring in the team’s 1-1 draw with Israel. Moving to Russia, Luis Neto enjoyed a wonderful sophomore year at Zenit. Though the team were pipped by CSKA Moscow for the Russian Premier League title, Zenit performed well this season, and Neto was at the heart of the team’s defense, completing the season with 25 league appearances. The inclusion of Andre Almeida was an interesting one, but one that makes sense once thought about. Many have clamored for Cedric Soares, of Sporting Lisbon, to be called, and for good reason. Cedric impressed for the Portugal U-20 team as they finished runners-up to Brazil at the 2011 FIFA U-20 World Cup, then for Academica on loan from Sporting, then the Portugal U-21 team, and finally Sporting’s first team. This season, Cedric was the undisputed starter at right-back for Sporting, amassing 28 league appearances in the process. Andre Almeida, on the other hand, only managed 10 appearances in the league for Benfica. Why should Almeida be included over Cedric you may ask? This is why. Andre Almeida began his career in midfield, but has been transformed into a solid right-back. Also capable of filling in at left-back, Almeida has extreme versatility. By calling up Almeida, Bento essentially did not need to call up another left-back, due to Almeida’s versatility. This meant that there were more spots open for other attackers. Also, Almeida participated in three finals (two domestic Portuguese cups, one Europa League final). In addition to this, Almeida was a part of a title-winning team in Benfica. Cedric, while he performed magnificently for a Sporting team which managed a second-place finish, is simply not the best choice. There will come a time for Cedric, but this World Cup is not it.

Midfielders:

The core of Portugal’s midfield in Joao Moutinho, Miguel Veloso, and Raul Meireles are all obvious choices, though some not quite as obvious as in the past. Joao Moutinho has established himself as one of the finest box-to-box midfielders plying his trade in Europe at the moment. His performances for Monaco further proved it this season. Helping Monaco to a second-place finish in Ligue 1 this season, Moutinho made 31 league appearances in the process. His performances for the Seleccao have been nothing short of wonderful lately, and many are looking to Moutinho to continue making the Portuguese midfield “tick” at this summer’s finals. Raul Meireles and Miguel Veloso have lost a considerable amount of stock lately. Though they have both put in performances ranging from solid to spectacular for Portugal in recent years, their performances have begun to noticeably decline.  While Raul Meireles helped Fenerbahce win the Turkish League this season, Miguel Veloso only managed 20 league appearances, as Dynamo Kiev finished a disappointing 4th in the Ukrainian League. Even though Veloso and Meireles are noticeably on the decline, their spot is a certainty, due to prior performances. Even if they do not start, they offer a great deal of experience off the bench. William Carvalho, though he’s only appeared twice for the Seleccao, is another obvious inclusion. Carvalho’s performances this season for Sporting Lisbon have been nothing short of astounding. A virtual unknown before the start of the season, William Carvalho is now the subject of transfer speculation, most notably from Manchester United, who allegedly have a 37 million pound transfer in the works. And it’s no wonder. Carvalho won four of nine Liga Zon Sagres Player of the Month awards and six of nine Liga Zon Sagres Young Player of the Month awards. Many are clamoring for Carvalho to take Miguel Veloso’s spot in Portugal’s starting eleven as the midfield’s anchor. It certainly wouldn’t be a surprise.

Rafa is a slightly surprising inclusion to the team. An extremely attack-minded midfielder, Rafa made the move from Feirense to Braga at the beginning of the season, and has absolutely flourished in Braga. Teams such as Roma and Southampton are hot on his tails, and for good reason. Though Braga’s season went south very quickly, Rafa’s performances were certainly not a disappointment. The midfielder’s inclusion naturally comes at the expense of another. Josue made a highly-anticipated move from Pacos Ferreira to Porto at the beginning of the season. A regular under Porto coach Paulo Fonseca, Josue has found playing time and form very hard to come by since Fonseca was sacked. Many view Josue to be the successor to Raul Meireles in Portugal’s midfield, but it appears that that definitely won’t occur during this World Cup. Bento’s final midfield inclusion is perplexing for most: Ruben Amorim over Adrien Silva. Adrien Silva has established himself as one of the finest midfielders in Portugal at the moment, and some would argue he’s one of Portugal’s finest midfielders. Silva is in a similar position to Cedric. Silva was an integral part of Sporting’s team which finished second in the league this season, and many are rightly perplexed by his omission from the squad. Adrien is yet to make an appearance for the Seleccao, while Ruben Amorim has managed 10 appearances thus far in his career. Though Amorim is older, he has more experience on the national level for Portugal, while Adrien has none whatsoever. Amorim, like Andre Almeida, is a much more versatile player than Adrien. Amorim can fill in at right-back aptly, and can also fit in anywhere in the midfield. Ruben Amorim was also part of a team which won the domestic treble, and also participated in the Europa League final. Though he only made 17 league appearances this season, Amorim gained priceless experience at Benfica. This is not to say Adrien deserved to be included; just that Amorim is perhaps a bit better qualified. Adrien Silva will certainly have his time after the World Cup. Not to forget anyone, Andre Gomes and Joao Mario are both very talented players with bright futures ahead of them, but with all respect to Paulo Bento, their inclusion in the 30-man provisional list is laughable.

Forwards:

Ronaldo is really the only staple in Portugal’s forward line. The forward has enjoyed yet another wonderful season, scoring 31 goals in 30 games for Real Madrid, a statistic that normally is otherworldly. But for Ronaldo, it’s just another season. Nani, Hugo Almeida, and Helder Postiga are all favorites of Paulo Bento, and though none have enjoyed fruitful seasons respectively, they still have the ability to offer something for the Seleccao. Nani’s season at Manchester United was a mix of injury and lack of form, combining into a horrendous season, even worse than the rest of Manchester United’s season. Hugo Almeida enjoyed a decent season at Besiktas, managing to put the ball in the back of the net 13 times in 31 appearances. Helder Postiga’s season was not quite as fruitful as Almieda’s, but not as disastrous as Nani’s. After moving from Zaragoza to Valencia in the off-season, Postiga established himself as Valencia’s starting striker following the sale of Soldado to Tottenham. Only scoring three goals, most notably scoring two against Barcelona, Postiga was sent on loan to Lazio, where he has struggled with injury, and has only managed five appearances with no goals. Moving to the wing position, Varela has enjoyed another successful season at Porto. The winger amassed 48 appearances in all competitions, as Porto finished third in the league behind Benfica and Sporting. Few can forget Varela’s wonder-strike in Portugal’s group stage game against Denmark at Euro 2012. His goal gifted Portugal the victory, and many will hope that similar super-sub feats can be achieved by him this summer in Brazil. The final winger included in the squad is Wolfsburg’s Vieirinha. After starting the season promisingly, Vieirinha suffered an injury that has kept out until last month. Now fully recovered, Vieirinha  managed a handful of appearances for Wolfsburg before the season ended. The final striker spot on the call goes to Eder, of Braga. After enjoying a wonderful season for Braga last season, Eder could not manage to replicate his form this season. Only scoring three goals this season, Eder never fully recovered from a loss of form due to injury. Can he find his form this summer? He might have to if/when Almeida and Postiga don’t perform. Can you sense my cynicism?

Transfer Update 1/9/14


Happy new years everyone! Transfer stories in Portugal have been few and far between thusfar this transfer window, but here are the major moves.

Luis Silva - PortugalLuis Silva

Braga to Gil Vicente (loan)

Braga purchased Luis Silva in the summer after a highly impressive spell at Liga Orangina side Leixoes last season. The midfielder became a vital cog in Leixoes midfield, playing 38 games and finding the net seven times, while still only 20 years old. A big move beckoned for Silva, and Braga won the race to his signature, signing him for around 800,000 euros. Silva has found playing time hard to come by this season, however, and has only managed four appearances for the Arsenalistas so far this season. Silva will join Gil Vicente on loan until the end of the season.

Joao Mario - Portugal U-21Joao Mario

Sporting to Vitoria Setubal (loan)

After some impressive performances both last season and summer, Joao Mario will get his chance to play in the Liga Zon Sagres regularly, after Vitoria Setubal agreed to take the midfielder on loan until the end of the season. Joao Mario was one of the Portugal U20 team’s most important players at last summer, running the team’s midfield to perfection, leading the team to the second round of the competition. The midfielder has been playing for Sporting’s B team this season, despite his hopes of first team soccer this season. This move will give Joao a bigger stage to display his undoubted talent.

Quaresma - Porto 2014Ricardo Quaresma

Free Agent to Porto

Ricardo Quaresma has returned home. The winger’s time at the Estadio Dragao were the finest of his career, winning multiple league player of the season accolades. Quaresma was able to be signed for free after his contract was terminated at Al Ahli Dubai after less than one season. The winger has signed a 2.5 year deal, with many curious to see if he can reproduce the skill that made him so popular earlier in his career.

Bento’s Old Guard on the Way Out


Paulo Bento

Paulo Bento – changing his ways

One of the chief criticisms of Portugal National Team boss Paulo Bento has been on his over-reliance on established players over new, up-and-coming talent. Bento would consistently pick the same players game after game, sometimes regardless of their club performances, while overlooking in-form younger players. Though the team has been wildly successful as compared to his predecessor, Carlos Queiroz’s, campaign, supporters of the team still find his player selection frustrating. This may all be changing, however.

Jose and Lica - Players for the future?

Josue and Lica – Players for the future?

For the games against Northern Ireland and Brazil later this week and next week, respectively, there appears to be a shift in the norm. Bento has begun calling up a new generation of players, an easy decision given the circumstances. In the 23 selected, there are four who have never made an appearance for the Seleccao, and a further five who have less than 10 caps. Players such as Lica and Josue (who have been stellar for Porto so far this season), Adrien and Andre Martins (who have been equally impressive for a new-look Sporting team), and Anthony Lopes, Antunes, and Neto (who are all starters in the top flights of France, Spain, and Russia, respectively) are all new to the team, and could very easily be important players by the time the 2014 World Cup rolls around.

Luis Neto - Portugal vs RussiaA prime example of the shift from the old to the new is Luis Neto. After a stellar 2010-2011 season at second-division Varzim, Neto was snapped up by Nacional, in the Portuguese top flight. At Nacional, the central defender blossomed, instantly becoming the club’s most important player. His performances certainly did not go unnoticed, and Neto was transferred to Serie A club Siena for the 2012-2013 season. His performances for the struggling Siena were impressive enough that, after just over half-a-season later, he was transferred to Russian powerhouse Zenit St. Petersburg. At Zenit, he joined fellow compatriots Danny and Bruno Alves. Neto was almost immediately thrown into the starting lineup, and has since excelled. Only aged 25, Neto has established himself as a player on the rise in the world of football. The momentum has propelled him into national team action. As stated above, his performances had not gone unnoticed, and Paulo Bento surely noticed. Soon after his move to Zenit, Neto made his debut for the Seleccao, in a 2-3 defeat at the hands of Ecuador. It is widely understood that Neto will be the successor to Bruno Alves for the Seleccao. While the career of Alves, currently 31, is not over, he is most certainly in decline.

Adrien Silva - Sporting

Adrien

Though the perception of Paulo Bento is that his team selections are unfair and full of bias, that may all be changing. With the inclusions in this squad of four previously uncapped players in Lica, Josue, Anthony Lopes, and Adrien Silva, the momentum appears to be shifting. This is a natural process, and one that Portugal needs to accomplish if it has any hope of being competitive in the future.

Ones to Watch – Liga Zon Sagres 2013/2014


Portugal’s Liga Zon Sagres has formed a reputation for being one of the best formative leagues in Europe. With a seemingly endless conveyer-belt of talent flowing out of the league, it is no wonder that so many young players choose Portugal over other countries. Players such as David Luiz, Fabio Coentrao, Di Maria, Joao Moutinho, Hulk, and Falcao (among others) have all spent their formative years in the Iberian country, only to make multi-million euro moves abroad to some of the finest teams in the world.

This season, there are many young Portuguese talents who will be hoping to emulate the likes of Coentrao and Joao Moutinho; with hopes to earn a big move abroad; with hopes to be noticed by Paulo Bento and be selected for the national team. Regardless, there is much hope, both for the players and the spectators. At the root of all of this is a single hope: that Portuguese football may grow.

In this segment, Portugal Football is highlighting 25 under-22 Portuguese players from across the Liga Zon Sagres. These players are certainly players to watch for. Some are already proven players, while some are yet to showcase their talents on the big stage. So, without further ado, the ones to watch.

Academica

Anibal Capela - Academica

NAME 

AGE  POSITION  2012-2013 APPS 
 Anibal Capela  22  Center Defense  29

Belenenses

Tiago Silva - Belenenses

NAME  AGE  POSITION  2012-2013 APPS 
Tiago Silva  20  Attacking Midfield  46

Benfica

Andre Almeida - Benfica

NAME  AGE  POSITION  2012-2013 APPS 
Andre Almeida  22  Midfield/Wingback  40

Andre Gomes

NAME  AGE  POSITION  2012-2013 APPS 
Andre Gomes  20  Center Midfield  27

 

Braga

Luis Silva - Braga 2013-2014 preseason

NAME  AGE  POSITION  2012-2013 APPS 
Luis Silva  20  Center Midfield  44

Rafa - Braga 2013-2014 preseason

NAME  AGE  POSITION  2012-2013 APPS 
Rafa  20  Attacking Midfield  47

Salvador Agra - Braga

NAME  AGE  POSITION  2012-2013 APPS 
Salvador Agra  21  Winger  23

Estoril

Leandro - Estoril

NAME  AGE  POSITION  2012-2013 APPS 
Leandro  21  Forward  36

Gil Vicente

Luis Martins - Gil Vicente

NAME  AGE  POSITION  2012-2013 APPS 
Luis Martins  21  Left-Back  33

Maritimo

Danilo Pereira - Maritimo

NAME  AGE  POSITION  2012-2013 APPS 
Danilo Pereira  21  Defensive Midfield  31

Nacional

Miguel Rodrigues - Nacional

NAME  AGE  POSITION  2012-2013 APPS 
Miguel Rodrigues  20  Center Defense  19

Jota - Nacional

NAME  AGE  POSITION  2012-2013 APPS 
Jota  20  Midfield  20

Olhanense

Pele - Olhanense

NAME  AGE  POSITION  2012-2013 APPS 
Pele  21  Defensive Midfield  5

Pacos Ferreira

Sergio Oliveira - Pacos Ferreira

NAME  AGE  POSITION  2012-2013 APPS 
Sergio Oliveira  21  Midfield  36

Porto

Tiago Rodrigues - Porto

NAME  AGE  POSITION  2012-2013 APPS 
Tiago Rodrigues  21  Midfield  42

Ricardo - Porto

NAME  AGE  POSITION  2012-2013 APPS 
Ricardo  19  Winger  37

Rio Ave

Luis Gustavo - Rio Ave

NAME  AGE  POSITION  2012-2013 APPS 
Luis Gustavo  20  Midfield  24

Roderick - Rio Ave

NAME  AGE  POSITION  2012-2013 APPS 
Roderick Miranda  22  Center Defense  16

Sporting

Tiago Ilori - Sporting

NAME  AGE  POSITION  2012-2013 APPS 
Tiago Ilori  20  Center Defense  32

Cedric - Sporting

NAME  AGE  POSITION  2012-2013 APPS 
Cedric  21  Right-Back  25

Vitoria Guimaraes

Paulo Oliveira - Vitoria Guimaraes

NAME  AGE  POSITION  2012-2013 APPS 
Paulo Oliveira  21  Center Defense  43

Ricardo Gomes - Vitoria Guimaraes

NAME  AGE  POSITION  2012-2013 APPS 
Ricardo Gomes  21  Forward  31

Cafu - Vitoria Guimaraes

NAME  AGE  POSITION  2012-2013 APPS 
Cafu  20  Winger  23

Vitoria Setubal

Ricardo Horta - Vitoria Setubal

NAME  AGE  POSITION  2012-2013 APPS 
Ricardo Horta  18  Forward  16

Miguel Lourenco - Vitoria Setubal

NAME  AGE  POSITION  2012-2013 APPS 
Miguel Lourenco  21  Center Defense  22

Luis Neto Signs for Zenit


Luis Neto

Neto

Siena to Zenit

After months of speculation regarding his future, Luis Neto has finally made the move away from Siena. A number of teams were reportedly interested in signing the defender, including Juventus, Roma, Dinamo Moscow, and Fenerbahce. Neto, however, has chosen to move to the snow-covered fields of Russia to meet up with fellow countrymen Bruno Alves and Danny at Zenit St. Petersburg. The Russian season has not yet begun, as the country is gripped by a bitter winter. If Neto can replicate the form that earned him plaudits at Siena, he will have no problem holding down a starting spot at Zenit. The price? 6 million Euros.