U-20 World Cup Preview: Portugal’s Team


Portugal head coach Hélio Sousa has a wealth of talent at his disposal. Photo: FPF

Portugal head coach Hélio Sousa has a wealth of talent at his disposal. Photo: FPF

In a little over a week, the Portuguese U-20 Team will kick off their much anticipated U-20 World Cup campaign with their first match against Senegal. The U-20’s participation in this summer’s tournament will be the third consecutive finals appearance, after a runners-up finish in 2011 and a second round exit in 2013. Expectations are high for the Portuguese, with many of the players included in the squad touted to be stars of the future. But, as has been the case with Portugal’s involvement in the U-20 World Cup, many players are not as well-known as some of their older counterparts. So let’s take a look at the team: Continue reading

U-19s Qualify for Elite Round


Renato Sanches - Portugal U19

Renato Sanches is one of the stars of the team. Pictured here after scoring against Albania. Photo from FPF.PT

Following three successive wins, the Portuguese Under-19 team has qualified for the Elite Qualification round for next summer’s UEFA U-19 European Championship. Led by rising stars such as Renato Sanches, Gil Dias, and Goncalo Guedes, the team qualified with relative ease, which shows just how strong Portugal’s youth system is at the moment. Should Portugal qualify for next summer’s tournament, it will be the fourth year in a row that the team has managed an appearance in the competition. That statistic is encouraging, and with players such as Marcos Lopes, Bernardo Silva, Andre Gomes, Joao Mario, and Bruma in recent years, there is every reason that this current group of U-19s is destined for success.  Continue reading

Goncalo Guedes Attracting Interest


Photo: Getty Images Europe

Photo: Getty Images Europe

17 year-old Benfica prospect Goncalo Guedes is attracting strong interest from abroad, with the likes of Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund, Arsenal, PSG, and AC Milan all said to be following the youngster. Guedes plays mainly as a striker, which is a position that the Portuguese National Team has not had filled adequately since Pauleta retired in 2006. Much is expected of young Guedes, so much so that he is seen as a possible replacement for Franck Ribery at Bayern. Those are some big shoes to fill, which begs the question: who is Goncalo Guedes? Continue reading

The Curious Case of Andre Moreira


Photo: Moreirense Futebol Clube

Photo: Moreirense Futebol Clube

Andre Moreira

Atletico Madrid to Moreirense (loan)

News came today that Portugal U-19 European siver-medalist Andre Moreira had joined Liga side Moreirense on loan from Atletico Madrid. A move for the goalkeeper came as little surprise, as he was playing his club football at lowly third division Ribeirao before impressing for the U-19s this summer. But what came as a surprise was not that he had joined a top-flight side, but instead that he was joining on loan from Spanish giants Atletico Madrid.

Moreira enjoyed a very positive Euro U-19 Championship tournament this summer. Despite only playing in the third division leading up to the tournament, Moreira secured the starting position in goal ahead of Tiago Sa, who is a regular for Braga B in the second tier. This alone raised some eyebrows, and it was all the more impressive when one considers that Andre Moreira was one of the younger participants in the team at 18 years old.

In the time around the tournament, clubs such as Manchester United, Benfica, Valencia, and Monaco were all interested in Moreira. This comes as no surprise from his solid performances at such a young age. It’s not everyday that an 18 year-old goalkeeper becomes a starter for his club.

Around the time that the interest in Moreira was beginning to ramp up, it was announced by his club, Ribeirao, that he his rights had been purchased by Jorge Mendes’ agency, Gestifute. Mendes is the notorious agent who represents players such as Ronaldo, Helder Postiga, David De Gea, and others. He is partially responsible for the transfers of many talented players in the league over the past seasons, and has gained a reputation for earning players big moves. Gestifute bought Andre Moreira for 220,000 euros and apparently negotiated a move to Atletico Madrid.

Though I have been unable to find any confirmation that Andre Moreira did indeed end up at Atletico Madrid, all major Portuguese sports news outlets are reporting that he did indeed sign for them. And it’s easy to believe. Mendes has strong ties to the big clubs in both Spain and England.

Now, Andre Moreira will join newly-promoted Liga Zon Sagres side Moreirense on loan from Atletico Madrid for the season, a move which will surely give him some playing time. Moreira will have to compete with first-choice Marafona, as well as Ricardo Ribeiro and new signing Gideao.

Portugal Are Going to the Final!


Joao Nunes - Serbia V Portugal - 2014 U19 Euro

Portugal 0-0 Serbia (4-3 on penalties)

2014 UEFA U-19 European Championship

Semi-Final

The Portuguese Under-19 team has accomplished something that has not been done in some time by the team. The U-19s edged out Serbia in an exciting semi-final encounter of the U-19 European Championships on Monday, booking a meeting with Germany in the final. This will be the first time the Portuguese have been in the final of a U-19 Euro since 2003, when a Portuguese team containing both Joao Pereira and Hugo Almeida fell 2-0 to Italy. There is every reason to be excited for this crop of players, with many feeling that the team has all the tools at their disposal to displace Germany on Thursday and capture the title. Let’s take a quick look at the match against Serbia:

The Portuguese were likely seeing red before the match, as it was Serbia who knocked Portugal out in last year’s edition of this competition. Portugal had a point to prove, but they knew that this Serbian team was no push-over, having impressively drawn Germany 2-2 in the group stage. Serbia was a team that had apparent quality, which was something that Portugal had not truly faced. In their final match of the group, Portugal faced Austria, and while Portugal did struggle to win, it should also be noted that many of Portugal’s starters were being rested, such as Gelson Martins and Marcos Lopes. This time out against Serbia, however, Portugal was at full strength.

Andre Moreira resumed his starting position in goal, with the usual four suspects in front of him: Domingos Duarte and Joao Nunes in the middle and Rafa and Mauro Riquicho on the left and right, respectively. In the midfield, Marcos Lopes returned and was joined by Francisco Ramos and captain Tomas Podstawski. On the wings were Ivo Rodrigues on the left and Gelson Martins on the right, and were both joined by Andre Silva up front. It was the strongest lineup Portugal could field, and one that has brought the team success thus far in this tournament.

As would be expected, both teams were largely even during the match. Portugal continued to change their style of play between direct (long-passes and deep crosses) and short (tiki-taka style quick passing), much the same as during their previous match against Austria. The game ebbed and flowed, with Serbia dominating for a period, then Portugal for a period, and so on and so forth. This was how the rest of the match played out. Both teams came very close to scoring, but neither did. This evenness and lack of scoring brought the game into extra time, where Portugal raised their intensity. The Portuguese were the team that was playing for the win, while Serbia looked content to simply bide their time until penalties. Portugal were unable to break the deadlock and Serbia got their wish: penalties.

Andre Moreira had sustained an injury during extra time, so the team’s back-up keeper Tiago Sa was Portugal’s goalkeeper for the dreaded penalty shoot-out. Marcos Lopes was the first to step up, coolly slotting his penalty home. Just after, Serbia’s no. 10 sent his penalty very high and wide, giving Portugal an advantage. After that, both Serbia and Portugal converted their next two penalties, with Andre Silva and Raphael Guzzo scoring for the Portuguese. But then Portugal captain Tomas Podstawski took a nervous penalty that was easily saved by the Serbian goalkeeper. Just after, Serbia scored their penalty, and the two teams were level again at 3-3. Ivo Rodrigues scored the next penalty for Portugal, and it all came down to Serbia’s final penalty. The Serbian shot, and Tiago Sa guessed the correct way, expertly saving the penalty, thus giving Portugal the win and booking a place in the final. There were wonderful scenes, as the players stormed the field. Portugal were through to the final.

Portugal will now face a very impressive and dominant Germany side, who defeated Austria 4-0 in the semi-final to reach the final, the same team that Portugal scraped past 2-1. It will be a very difficult game for the Portuguese, who will need magic from their talisman Marcos Lopes, leadership from their captain Tomas Podstawski, and goals from their target man Andre Silva.

Andre Moreira(Tiago Sa), Joao Nunes, Domingos Duarte, Rafa, Mauro Riquicho, Tomas Podstawski, Francisco Ramos(Raphael Guzzo), Marcos Lopes, Gelson Martins(Romario Balde), Ivo Rodrigues, Andre Silva

HIGHLIGHTS HERE

U19s Edge Austria in Even Encounter


Tomas Podstawski - Portugal V Austria - 2014 U19 Euro

Portugal 2-1 Austria

2014 UEFA U-19 European Championship

The Portuguese gained a hard-fought 2-1 victory over Austria Friday to advance to the semi-finals of the 2014 UEFA U-19 European Championship. Though the Austrians were worthy opponents and may have deserved to get more out of the game, goals from Tomas Podstawski and Romario Balde were enough for Portugal to squeeze through. This victory means that Portugal finished first in Group A, and is set to face Serbia in the semi-final match tomorrow, the very team that knocked Portugal out in last year’s edition of the tournament. Things look different this time around, but it will certainly be an entertaining encounter. Let’s take a look at how Portugal fared Friday against Austria.

Because they were already guaranteed a semi-final spot going into this match, the Portuguese fielded a noticeably weaker side than in their first two matches. Andre Moreira retained his spot inbetween the sticks, while the back four in front of him was much changed. Rafa and Domingos Duarte started in their usual spots, on the left and in the center, respectively, while Jordan Machado and Rebocho replaced regulars Joao Nunes and Mauro Riquicho, respectively. In midfield, captain and midfield anchor Tomas Podstawski retained his starting position and was joined by Joao Palhinha and Raphael Guzzo. Marcos Lopes was left on the bench to avoid suspension, due to a yellow card he picked up in the game against Hungary. On the wings were Ivo Rodrigues and Jorge Intima, while Andre Silva spearheaded the attack up front.

Portugal were a bit spoiled in their first two matches, defeating both Israel and Hungary by large margins. The difference in quality was evident between Portugal and their opposition, and they defeated them accordingly. Austria was in much the same boat, also defeating both Israel and Hungary in their first two matches. As a result, the Austrians and the Portuguese were largely evenly-matched teams, and the beginning of the match reflected that perfectly. Neither side looked truly any better than the other, and both teams pressed each other a great deal. As a result, the match began with a high intensity that lasted straight until the half.

Portugal have gained quite a reputation this tournament for their superior technical ability. They have used this ability to their advantage by playing a quick, short passing game, much like the Spanish have done in recent years. To be able to play this way is impressive, but also can be a liability. Teams can easily shot down this playing style, so a lack of tactical flexibility can sometimes hurt a team. In this game against Austria, the Portuguese played a much more direct game, constantly firing long passes up-field and into the box. This was a smart tactic by the Portuguese, who knew that Austria’s tenacity and defensive discipline would not bode well for their short-passing offensive game. And while the Portuguese’s direct play did not get them a goal, it certainly gave the Austrians problems.

Soon before the end of the half, Portugal reverted to their short passing game, and to good effect. The Portuguese began to dominate the match, and it paid off just minutes later. Portugal won a free-kick in the Austrian half, and the kick was swung in by Ivo Rodrigues. His cross was met by the head of captain Tomas Podstawski, whose header guided the ball into the back of the net. It was the perfect time to score, because Portugal went into the half the better side and with a goal to show for it.

As predicted, the Austrians came out in the second half with much more attacking intent, and were almost immediately rewarded. The Austrians scored not even two minutes after the restart and leveled the game at 1-1. And they didn’t stop there. Constantly pressing, Austria truly was the better side for the majority of the second half. Portugal looked keen on sitting back and playing to the draw, a result that would still see them top of Group A on goal difference. Despite this, Portugal did score late in the game through the team’s youngest player, Romario Balde. Rafa was sent free on the left and passed the ball to Balde, who expertly touched the ball into a shooting position and shot the ball into the bottom corner. It was impressive play from a 17 year old, and one that many players much older than Balde would be proud of. That goal was enough to give the Portuguese a 2-1 victory in a game that was largely even.

Portugal will now face Serbia, the very team which knocked the Seleccao out last year. But it is worth noting that this year’s Serbian side is not nearly as impressive as last year’s side, which went all the way and won the tournament. This year’s side is certainly not one to laugh at, but one may feel that the Serbians are not as strong as last year.

Andre Moreira, Rebocho, Jordan Machado, Rafa, Domingos Duarte, Joao Palhinha, Raphael Guzzo(Mauro Riquicho), Tomas Podstawski, Ivo Rodrigues, Jorge Intima(Gelson Martins), Andre Silva(Romario Balde)

HIGHLIGHTS HERE

U-19s Top Hosts in Thrilling Encounter


Andre Silva's 4 goals led the team to victory

Andre Silva’s 4 goals led the team to victory

Hungary 1-6 Portugal

2014 UEFA U-19 European Championship

Group A

Andre Silva put in a man-of-the-match as Portugal defeated Hungary 6-1 in both teams’ second match of the 2014 UEFA U-19 European Championship. Silva scored 4, while Gelson Martins and Ivo Rodrigues scored one apiece. The performance was an impressive one from Portugal, especially considering the horrid conditions the match was played in, with the teams having to battle through torrential rain throughout the match. It was an impressive performance from the Portuguese (who struck the post multiple times) against a very determined Hungarian side. Let’s look more in-depth:

As is the style in modern football, national youth teams typically employ the same tactics as their senior counterparts. This meant that Portugal set up today in a 4-3-3 (as they also did against Israel). This 4-3-3 is a bit different from the full national team because of the mobility of the team’s star man, Marcos Lopes. Lopes is given the freedom to surge forward, and at times almost plays as a second striker to Andre Silva. Despite this, Lopes was seen many times tracking back to help the team defend, showing that he is tactically aware. The starting lineup was not much different to the way the team came out against Israel just three days ago. Andre Moreira was given the start in goal, while the back-four was unchanged in front of him. Mauro Riquicho, Joao Nunes, Domingos Duarte, and Rafa all started in defense. In midfield, Francisco Ramos replaced Raphael Guzzo, with Tomas Podstawski and Marcos Lopes alongside him. The forwards were unchanged as well, with Ivo Rodrigues and Gelson Martins on the wing and Andre Silva in the middle.

The game started brightly for the team, although the poor weather meant that the pitch quickly deteriorated. Despite being the better side, Hungary’s determination and tenacity meant that it took 32 minutes for Portugal to score. Ivo Rodrigues picked up the ball and ran into the box. A challenge from a Hungarian defender brought down Rodrigues, and the referee awarded a penalty. Rodrigues stepped up confidently, and gracefully struck the ball into the back of the net, giving Portugal a 1-0 lead. Portugal continued pressing, and were rightfully rewarded just before the stroke of halftime. Andre Silva released Ivo Rodrigues on the right, and the winger looked to not be able to get to the ball before the Hungarian defender marking him. His marker slid into the ball, presumably to clear the ball out of play, but instead overshot the ball due to the huge amount of water on the field, and Ivo Rodrigues was gifted with the ball. Rodrigues cut the ball back to the on-rushing Andre Silva, who calmly side-footed the ball into the net. And that goal meant that Portugal went into the locker room at halftime deservedly up 2-0.

Hungary came out in the second half with a much more attacking-minded game-plan, likely as an attempt to get back into the match, which had been largely dominated by Portugal in the first half. And their attacking intent worked well for them early in the second half, as the Hungarians looked the better team for the opening 15 minutes. But Portugal began to gain control over the game again, with Marcos Lopes, who had not had a great game until this point, beginning to find his stride. Just past the hour mark, Andre Silva missed a sitter. Good work from Gelson Martins put Silva through on goal. The striker rounded the keeper, and struck the ball into the post when it seemed easier to score. It was a howler, but Silva made quick amends. Just minutes later, Francisco Ramos aimed a peach of a cross into the far post where Silva was lurking. Silva deftly headed the ball into the bottom corner, and Portugal was up 3-0. With Portugal up 3-0 and dominating, few predicted Hungary could stage a comeback. But after they scored minutes later, there was the feeling that a comeback from Hungary could be made reality. That feeling was promptly quashed by Gelson Martins, who has been hugely impressive over these two games. Martins dribbled through one, then another, then another, then another, and then dinked the ball with his left foot past the Hungarian goalkeeper. It was a truly spectacular goal from a player who before this tournament was a virtual unknown. That goal visibly deflated Hungary, whose defense looked ill-equipped to handle Portugal’s attacking prowess. That very point was shown just before the end of the game. Substitute Raphael Guzzo attempted to dribble through the heart of the Hungarian defense, and was predictably stopped, but the rebound fell to an un-marked Andre Silva, who composed himself and slotted the ball home. It was the goal that completed his hattrick, and one that perfectly represents Silva’s playing style. He’s calm on the ball, has great awareness and positioning, and is capable of holding the ball up or even taking on defenders himself. In short, he’s the striker that Portugal has needed ever since the retirement of Pauleta in 2006. But Silva wasn’t done. Three goals was not enough for him. Minutes later in stoppage time, Rafa found himself free on the left wing and aimed a cross into the box, which was met by Andre Silva. It was his fourth goal of the night and Portugal’s six. That proved to be the last event of note in the match, with the game ending 6-1 in favor of the Portuguese.

Now, Portugal faces Austria, who have also won their first two matches. Whoever wins that match will top the group, though both teams are guaranteed advancement to the next round. By winning their first two matches, Portugal has also managed to qualify for next summer’s FIFA U-20 World Cup, which is to be held in New Zealand. The U-20 World Cup is a tournament that Portugal has found success in over recent years, finishing runners-up in 2011 and reaching the second round last summer.

Andre Moreira, Rafa, Domingos Duarte, Joao Nunes, Mauro Riquicho, Francisco Ramos(Joao Palhinha), Marcos Lopes(Raphael Guzzo), Tomas Podstawski, Gelson Martins(Jorge Intima), Ivo Rodrigues, Andre Silva

HIGHLIGHTS HERE

Marcos Lopes Steals the Show


Marcos Lopes - Portugal U19

Portugal 3-0 Israel

2014 UEFA U-19 European Championship

Group A

Marcos Lopes was predictably the man-of-the-match today as Portugal defeated Israel 3-0 in their opening match of the 2014 U-19 European Championship. A goal from Andre Silva was sandwiched in between two Marcos Lopes goals, as Portugal’s attacking prowess greatly outweighed Israel’s much heralded defensive solidarity. But Portugal wasn’t a one-man team, as may be assumed with this title. The Portuguese looked a cohesive unit, with a clear focal point in attack and an effective gameplan.

The Portuguese entered this game and this tournament as clear favorites, with the other teams in Group A (Austria and Hungary) not expected to pose very much of a threat. Israel only conceded three goals in all of qualifying (6 games), which led many to believe that the Israeli’s defense would be very difficult to break down. And that assertion proved to be true, but possibly not to the extent that many predicted. When looking at each team’s tendencies going into this game (Portugal strong in attack, Israel in defense), one may have assumed that this would be a stop-start game, or at the very least would lack fluidity. That also did not prove to be true. The match was fluid, full of attacking intent, and though Portugal pressed more expertly at times, the teams looked largely even. Israel just lacked a cutting edge, something that Portugal exploited.

The match started in fluid fashion, with Portugal making use (as always) of their pacy, technically-gifted wingers. Gelson Martins started on the left with Ivo Rodrigues on the right. Both are well-known talents, but it was Gelson Martins who had the more impressive game, constantly running at the Israeli defense and giving Israel’s left-back a torrid time. The first chance of note came midway through the half. Marcos Lopes did well to draw a foul on the edge of the box. He then struck the ensuing free kick into the crossbar. It was beautifully hit, and he will feel a bit unlucky that his shot didn’t hit the back of the net. Portugal continued to press, and despite controlling the match, Israel did not look out of the contest. But it was Portugal who struck next through their talisman. A simple passing move from the team led to Marcos Lopes being open just outside the box. After receiving a pass from the captain, Tomas Podstawski, Lopes turned and shot. His effort deflected fortunately off of an Israeli player and crept past the Israeli goalkeeper. With the score 1-0, Portugal went into the half surely feeling better about the proceedings.

Israel, surely feeling that they were unlucky to be down 1-0, came out in the second half with much more attacking intent. As a result, the Portuguese played a more conservative style in the minutes following the half. But despite their best efforts, Israel’s attacking play was well thwarted by Portugal’s defensive efforts. And it was Portugal who struck again just after the hour mark. Marcos Lopes sprayed the ball out wide to Mauro Riquicho (Portugal’s right-back). Riquicho aimed a cross to the far post, which was headed back into the path of Gelson Martins. Martins’ shot was parried by the Israeli goalkeeper directly into the path of Andre Silva, who tapped the ball into the net. With the score 2-0 in favor of Portugal, the team continued to press, and although Israel came close a few times, it was largely one-way traffic in favor of Portugal. And about a quarter of an hour after their second goal, Portugal extended their lead even further through their star man, Marcos Lopes. Portugal won a corner kick, which was cleared by Israel only as far as Joao Nunes, who sent in a cross. The cross was also dealt with by the Israelis, but their clearance was acrobatically saved by Nuno Santos. His pass was found by Marcos Lopes, who took a touch around an opposition player and then proceeded to strike a wonderful left-footed volley, which left the Israeli goalkeeper rooted to the spot. With Portugal up 3-0, the Portuguese did not look very keen on trying to extend their lead any further, and the match flow was largely lost. That goal was the last event of note in the match, and the game ended with a score of 3-0 in favor of Portugal.

Portugal will now face hosts Hungary in three days time. Hungary lost their match today against Austria by a score of 3-1. Should Portugal defeat Hungary, which at this point looks very likely, the team will advance to the semi-finals and will guarantee a spot in next summer’s U-20 World Cup.

Andre Moreira, Joao Nunes, Domingos Duarte, Rafa(Rebocho), Mauro Riquicho, Raphael Guzzo(Francisco Ramos), Tomas Podstawski, Marcos Lopes, Gelson Martins(Nuno Santos), Ivo Rodrigues, Andre Silva

GOAL HIGHLIGHTS HERE

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: