With the transfer window now open, some of the rumors that have filled the news in June have become true. Now more than two weeks into the transfer window, clubs have wasted no time finalizing deals. Here are the most noteworthy transfers thus far this window. Continue reading
Benfica to Cordoba (loan)
After days of speculation, Benfica confirmed yesterday the loan of Bebe to Cordoba until the end of the season. Bebe moved from Manchester United to Benfica in the summer and has found playing time non-existent at the club since his arrival. At Cordoba, Bebe will help the team fight for survival in La Liga, but the battle is an up-hill one, with the team currently sitting in 18th place. Continue reading
It was an interesting week in Portuguese Football with the Big 3 in action. Porto kept pace with Benfica and Sporting had a rough game that ended their unbeaten run. Definitely many a headline made by the Tres Grandes in the English press, so let’s round-up the week’s news. Continue reading
It was an interesting week in Portuguese Football with the Big 3 battling in the Champions League early and then their Liga matches culminating on the weekend. Definitely many a headline made by the Tres Grandes in the English press, so let’s round-up the week’s news. Continue reading
Much-heralded winger, Bruma has not had an easy time of it in Turkey. After debuting impressively for Sporting during the second half of the 2012-2013 season, Bruma made the move to Turkish giants Galatasaray at the beginning of last season. Since then, the winger has battled with injuries and falls from grace in the team, which have made his time at the club very unstable thus far. There was much hope for Bruma when experienced ex-Italy National Team boss Cesare Prandelli took the helm at Galatasaray at the beginning of the season, but that hope has not been realized as of yet. Continue reading
Porto, Benfica, Sporting Win, Champions League Success, Carvalho Saga Nears an End, and Azzurri on the Cheap
It was a busy week for all the Big clubs in Portugal, which made for a lot of interesting reading so here is a review of what hit the headlines this week in the Liga.
FC Porto got an important win for the club qualifying for the Group Stage in the Champions League. They also helped the Liga as a whole beating out French side Lille 2-0 at the Dragao (3-0 on Aggregate), boosting the Primeira Liga’s Co-efficiency points in Europe. Brahimi was a star again.
The William Carvalho story has taken another twist as Manchester United bump ahead of Arsenal, in the race for the impressive Portuguese National Team’s World Cup star. Sporting CP has dropped their asking price (although many strings attached) causing a frenzy of headlines.
Benfica in interesting news was turned down by Palermo striker Abel Hernandez. He would rather stay in Italy or move to a lower level EPL team instead. Good riddance I would say because clearly playing in a 5th rate league or not in the Champions League is better for his career.
FC Porto’s wonder boy Ruben Neves was given global attention again as FIFA posted an article praising the 17 year old on their website. Two weeks in and the young midfielder a U-17 star for Portugal has really made a name for himself.
SLB international midfielder Ruben Amorim hit the headlines unfortunately in a bad way, as he ruptured ligaments in his knee that will see him out of action for 6 months. It was a bad break for Ruben as Defensive Midfielder Ljubomir Fejsa was out with injury and it looked like he was going to get a lot of first team action in that role. Fortunately for Benfica they have Andre Almeida in the wings that could be a big star at the position.
Portuguese International Nani reported and got in action for Sporting CP helping them to a win. The bonus was that Bruno de Carvalho got Manchester United to foot most of his wage bills in the Rojo deal.
Joao Cancelo the talented Benfica fullback got a loan deal with Valencia who looks to give him some first team playing time. Cancelo was very impressive in pre-season this year for SLB and fans look forward to him taking big steps this season.
With Liverpool FC exchanging one troubled striker for another which seems fitting, AC Milan looked to replace Balotelli by poaching FC Porto’s monster attacker Jackson Martinez. They not only sent in a low-ball bid to Porto for Martinez they also wanted to make installment payments for him over a few years, in true Italian style. Someone should explain to the Italian Chiefs living in their fishbowl that the Primeira Liga is above them now, and that they will have to pay more and sell for less in dealings with the Big 3. We have 2 Big clubs (Benfica #5 & Porto #11) both hovering around the top 10 in European Club Charts they have none. MESSAGE TO AZZURRI: Enough with the tampering and lowballing Liga players.
Once again another interesting week in the Headlines for Portuguese Football, keep it locked here to PortugalFutbol.net for your Portuguese Futebol fix, and follow us on twitter as we post links to late breaking news regularly.
Manchester United to Sporting (loan)
Portugal National Team and Manchester United winger Nani has returned to his boyhood club, albeit on loan until the end of the season. Nani began his career at Sporting before moving to English giants Manchester United in the summer of 2007 after two impressive seasons in Portugal. A mixture of injuries and indifferent form has held Nani back recently, and the winger has not had a truly successful season since 2012. This move will surely help Nani’s chances at playing time.
This move may come as a bit of a surprise to those who haven’t been following it from the beginning. Nani was greatly out of favor with David Moyes, who took charge at Manchester United last season after club legend Sir Alex Ferguson retired. After Moyes’ subsequent sacking, Netherlands manager Louis Van Gaal took the reins for this season. Almost immediately, Van Gaal made it clear that Nani did not feature in the team’s plans, and that the winger should begin looking for a new club. Juventus, Milan, and Inter were all interested in bringing in Nani, but a move never materialized, likely due to Nani’s huge wage demands.
With Manchester United looking for a defender, they turned their eyes to Marcos Rojo, who enjoyed a stellar World Cup with Argentina. Once the English team made a bid, Sporting demanded that Nani be part of the deal. Manchester United accepted the deal, which sees Nani join Sporting on a season-long loan, with Marcos Rojo joining Manchester United for a fee of around 10 million euros. As part of the deal (possibly the most crucial bit), Manchester United will pay all of Nani’s wages during the loan, which is something that Sporting is financially incapable of doing.
And the funny thing is…Nani left Manchester United and will now be playing in the Champions League.
Manchester United to Benfica
Benfica have announced today the signing of Manchester United’s Bebe on a four-season contract after drawn-out negotiations between the two clubs. This spells the end of the player’s time in England, a time that he surely does not look at fondly, having been labeled a “flop” at Manchester United. Bebe has already been pictured wearing Benfica’s jersey and will join up with the team shortly. This is Benfica’s second Portuguese signing of the summer, following the club’s announcement of Eliseu’s purchase yesterday.
Bebe has been labeled a “flop” almost ever since joining Manchester United from Vitoria Guimarares in 2010, and for somewhat good reason. The winger arrived at Old Trafford after Sir Alex Ferguson had been recommended him by scout Carlos Queiroz. In fact, as he later admitted, Ferguson had never actually seen Bebe play, but acted on the recommendation. Bebe was signed for an eye-watering 7.4 million pounds, an enormous sum for a player who had not yet played a game in the Portuguese top flight. The winger remained at Manchester United for the 2010-2011 season, despite rumors that he would leave on loan. Immediately demoted to the reserves, Bebe played the majority of the season in that category as he familiarized himself with the English style of play. As his play for the reserves improved, Bebe was given time with the first team, most notably scoring against Wolverhampton Wanderers in the League Cup and against Buraspor in the Champions League. All-in-all, it was a relatively successful first season for Bebe, though he couldn’t shake the label of “Ferguson’s flop.”
Since that time, Bebe has been loaned out to Besiktas, Rio Ave, and Pacos Ferreira. After an injury ridden time on loan at Besiktas, Bebe was loaned to Portuguese side Rio Ave for the 2012-2013 season, where he found playing time more easy to come by than at United. Following his promising loan to Rio Ave, another loan was arranged for him at Pacos Ferreira last season. At Pacos, Bebe saw time in both the Liga Zon Sagres and the Europa League, impressing especially in the Liga Zon Sagres. Despite Pacos narrowly escaping relegation, Bebe managed to score 12 goals in 27 times from the wing, finishing the season as the league’s top-scoring Portuguese player.
His label as a “flop” may be a bit premature. Still only 24, Bebe still has the best years of his career ahead of him. And with stars set to leave Benfica this season, space may open up for the winger, where he can truly show his skill-set. Jorge Jesus has a knack of getting the best out of players and developing raw talent, so this move may be exactly what Bebe needs.
Following Portugal’s abysmal World Cup campaign, many are calling for an entire squad overhaul. And whether or not that will happen is anybody’s guess. Paulo Bento has earned quite a reputation for favoritism, consistently choosing the same players time and time again. While these players have performed well for Portugal in the past, many of their performances recently have been far from their best. For instance, for this World Cup, Bento called up players such as Helder Postiga, Nani, and Eder, none of whom played regularly at all last season. Some would argue that players such as Postiga, Nani, and Eder don’t deserve to play for the national team due to a lack of playing time at their clubs, and that players who play club football more regularly should earn the call instead. Essentially, Paulo Bento is rewarding mediocrity. The competition for places on the team has dwindled to nothing. Good performances won’t earn a call-up.
Many Portuguese fans have felt this way recently, and many feel the World Cup highlighted the holes in Paulo Bento’s plan. With Paulo Bento to stay in charge until at least Euro 2016, a change in coach does not look likely. The only think fans can hope for is a change in mentality from Bento. At the heart of this change should be a re-evaluation of the squad: determining which players deserve a place in the team, and discarding those who don’t.
So, here are 12 players who deserve a place in Paulo Bento’s squad, in no particular order.
Lima has played in Portugal ever since the 2009-2010 season, when he joined Belenenses from the lower divisions in Brazil. After a successful first season at Belenenses, Braga purchased the striker, who became a cult figure at the club. In his second season at Braga, Lima truly came of age. In 30 appearances, Lima scored 20 times, helping Braga to an impressive 3rd place finish, and also finishing as the joint top goalscorer in Portugal. As a result of his scoring exploits, Benfica came knocking. And in the two seasons he has been at Benfica, Lima has managed 34 goals in 56 appearances. Portugal has a long-standing striker problem ever since the retirement of Pauleta. Hugo Almeida, Helder Postiga, Nelson Oliveira, and more recently Eder have all been given chances, but none have truly won over the position. Though Lima was born in Brazil and has only been in Portugal for five years, naturalization is certainly an option. Lima isn’t getting any younger, however. At 31, Bento may have to act sooner rather than later if he wants Lima in the national team.
In the past two seasons, fans of Sporting Lisbon and the Portuguese national team have witnessed Cedric Soares realize his potential. Always regarded as one of Portuguese football’s brightest prospects, Cedric has made the starting right-back spot at Sporting his own. The defender helped Sporting to an impressive 2nd place finish this season, playing in 28 matches for the club. And still only 22, Cedric has the time to develop further and to become an important member of the Seleccao for years to come.
Arguably Sporting’s finest player last season, his exclusion from the Portuguese team for the World Cup left many with a bad taste in their mouths. In the mold of a stylish no. 10, Adrien Silva is a creative spark behind Sporting, and a huge reason that the team finished as high on the table as they did. His call to the national team last season shows that Paulo Bento is not averse to his inclusion in the team, but a place in the starting eleven may be a bit harder to achieve. Bento is known to favor a three-man midfield of Veloso, Moutinho, and Meireles, which worked wonders at Euro 2012. Since then, that combination has fallen flat many a time. And with Bento not even willing to change his midfield trio with the inclusion of proven talent William Carvalho, a place for Adrien may be a long time off.
Sporting Lisbon employed much the same tactic last season as Portugal does currently. Both teams play a 4-3-3, with virtually the same midfield set-up. William Carvalho provides the defensive anchor, Andre Martins provides some tenacity and creative spark, and Adrien does the dirty work, while also popping in with some creativity. Andre Martins enjoyed a solid season at Sporting, which was his first in the top flight that saw him perform regularly. With two senior team caps under his belt, Martins has already been in and around the team, and at the very least can provide cover for the ageing Raul Meireles and Miguel Veloso.
Bento made a bold decision with his team selection this summer. Instead of choosing a natural left-back as back-up for Fabio Coentrao, Bento chose utility man Andre Almeida, who is capable of playing almost anywhere in midfield and defense. Almeida is a right-footed player, who Bento employed at left-back. A series of mediocre performances followed from Almeida, who while solid, lacked any attacking acumen going forward. Antunes, on the other hand, is equally adept at attacking and defending, a quality that he has showed at Malaga, where he has won a starting spot at left-back. And he is no stranger to the national team. Having appeared for the team after an impressive U-20 World Cup showing in 2007, Antunes fell off the radar after an ill-fated move abroad to Roma. But after finding his way back to Portugal, Antunes earned a move to Malaga, where he has flourished, appearing 36 times last season alone. His performances have not gone unnoticed, with West Ham reportedly naming Antunes as one of their top targets.
Jose Fonte, despite being somewhat of an unknown in English football, has become one of the driving forces behind Southampton’s baffling rise to the English Premier League. Fonte became a regular for Championship side Crystal Palace after leaving Sporting before the 2007-2008 season. Establishing himself as a started, Fonte spent three seasons at the club before agreeing to a move to Southampton, who were at that time playing in the third tier of English football: League 1. Many were taken aback by this decision, but few will fault the defender now. Two seasons in League 1 saw them promoted to the Championship, and after only one season, the team earned passage into the English Premier League. During the entirety of this revival, Fonte maintained a starting position, and has kept it during his two seasons in the Premier League. And he hasn’t only kept it. He’s become one of the club’s finest performers. Last season, whoscored.com rated Fonte at 7.21, making him the second best performer for Southampton. Though he is 30 years old and not getting any younger, stats like that are hard to ignore. Once again, he at least deserves to earn a call to the team.
Portugal has been gifted with talented goalkeepers in recent years. Players such as Vitor Baia, Ricardo, and Eduardo have graced the spot in between the sticks in recent years, and more recently, Rui Patricio has rightfully made the starting spot his own. And even after Patricio’s injury at this World Cup, backup goalkeeper Beto slid in an performed with confidence and skill. Of the three goalkeepers that Bento called on this summer, only two are still playing regularly in a top league. Beto was instrumental in Sevilla’s Europa League win last season, and Rui Patricio is one of Sporting Lisbon’s shining jewels. Eduardo, on the other hand, played well for Braga last season on loan from Genoa, but has transferred to Dinamo Zagreb in Croatia. The point of this is not to say that Dinamo is not a good team, but rather to point out that the Croatian league is not anywhere close to being a top league. It’s not even comparable to, let’s say, the French league. And now we come to Anthony Lopes, who was Lyon’s starting goalkeeper last season, appearing 32 times in the league. And this season, it looks as if not much will change. With Lopes playing regularly against players like Ibrahimovic and Falcao, why not call him up to the team, even if it is to serve as a back-up.
Guerreiro deserves to be considered for the National Team. I highlighted the left-back in an article last week, and the reason is clear. Guerreiro is playing regularly for a team in the top division in France, and is only 20 years old. There is a chance that he could switch alliances and choose to play for France, a move that would be devastating for Portugal. He won’t take the starting spot from Coentrao, and no one is expecting him to. But he certainly deserves a chance in the team, even if it is initially just to tie him down to Portugal.
You may be wondering why Quaresma was included on this list; a player who has dozens of caps for Portugal. The reason is simple. Paulo Bento chose to leave Quaresma at home this World Cup, instead choosing Vieirinha, who had just come off a season ravaged by injuries. While Quaresma’s seasons recently have been lackluster, once the winger arrived at Porto in January, he looked a different player. And 10 goals in 24 appearances later, many were left scratching their heads when Bento left Quaresma off the team. Quaresma could have surely brought something to the team, at the very least as backup. While he is 30 and will soon be 31, Quaresma still possesses a skillset that can be of use to the team.
Few were expecting for Diogo Figueiras to have the impact last season that he did. After an impressive 2012-2013 debut season for Pacos Ferreira, Figueiras earned a move to Spanish club Sevilla. Still a virtual unknown, the right-back managed an impressive 22 first team appearances for the Spanish club, helping the team as they won the Europa League. With first-choice right back Coke a possibility to leave, Figueiras will look to build on what was a very solid first season at Sevilla. And one way he can build on his season is to be rewarded with a call to the National Team, something that he undoubtedly deserves. He is certainly capable of providing competition for Joao Pereira.
Another member of Sevilla’s impressive Europa League winning squad last season, Daniel Carrico is enjoying something of a revival after a horrendous season in England. Once viewed as Sporting Lisbon’s golden boy, Carrico was given captaincy at the Portuguese club at just 22. But the center defender’s form dropped as Sporting muddled through some of their worst seasons in history. As a result, Carrico was sold for close to nothing to newly promoted Premier League side Reading. At Reading, Carrico only managed a handful of appearances, and a loan deal to Sevilla for the 2013-2014 season was arranged. In his season at Sevilla, Carrico became one of the club’s most dependable performers, with his performances earning him a permanent move this summer. Long thought of as one of Portugal’s most up and coming defenders, few will argue that Carrico reached the potential that many saw in him during his Sporting years. But few will argue that Carrico’s season last time out was one of his finest. And not only that, but he is versatile. Capable of playing both at center back and defensive midfield, versatility is something that Paulo Bento looks for. So Paulo…nudge nudge.
Often labeled as Manchester United’s biggest flop, many English football fans assumed that Bebe’s career was a joke and that he had very little to offer the world of football. Oh how they are wrong. Rightly derided in England, Bebe’s time at Manchester United, though not abysmal, was certainly not worthy of the price that the club paid for his services. But a good decision on their part was to loan him back to Portugal. A semi-successful loan to Rio Ave during the 2012-2013 season was followed by a hugely successful loan to Pacos Ferreira last season. At Pacos, Bebe finished the season as the top scoring Portuguese player in the league, which is even more impressive when one considers that the winger was playing for a team who had to avoid relegation via a playoff. Following arguably his most impressive season yet, Benfica are extremely close to signing him, and you can expect that he won’t be loaned out.
Some players come into the spotlight because of playing for a big club. Their performances may not be any more noteworthy than other players’, but they continue to get press recognition because of the club that they play for. As a result, there are sometimes players whose solid performances fly under the radar; players who do not get as much hype. In Portugal, there has become a domination from teams known as “The Big Three.” Made up of Sporting, Benfica, and Porto, the “Big Three” has not been as clearly defined in recent seasons (Pacos Ferreira finished third in 2012/2013, Braga has risen to prominence, as has Estoril). This past season, however, “The Big Three” were back again with Benfica finishing 1st, Sporting 2nd, and Porto 3rd. As stated above, players from clubs outside of the “Big Three” in Portugal sometimes don’t really rise to prominence until they earn a move to one of the “Big Three” or abroad. That’s not to say their performances aren’t worthy of recognition. So, Portugal Football has decided to list the…
Top 5 Under-24 Liga Zon Sagres Players from the 2013/2014 Season…Outside the “Big Three”
The very fact that Joao Mario tops our list despite only spending half of a season at Vitoria Setubal says a lot. A center midfielder by trade, Mario is widely regarded as one of Portugal’s top prospects. In his 15 league appearances for Setubal, Mario helped his team to notable draws against Benfica and Sporting, and played a large role in the team’s impressive season. His performances were impressive enough to earn him a starting spot with the Portuguese Under-21 team and a role in Sporting’s first team for this season.
The oldest on our list, Andre Andre has become an irreplaceable part of Rui Vitoria’s side. Andre has garnered attention abroad from his performances this season, and it comes as no surprise. The center midfielder made 37 appearances in all competitions, leading the team through a campaign both in the Liga Zon Sagres and the Europa League. Dinamo Zagreb are said to be interested in Andre, but if he gets another solid season under his belt, there will likely be larger clubs interested.
Bebe was the laughing stock of English football after his ill-fated move from Vitoria Guimaraes to Manchester United in 2010. And to a certain extent, he still is. But not in Portugal. Bebe was on loan this season at Pacos Ferreira from Manchester United. Though the side struggled, barely managing to avoid relegation, Bebe shone. The Manchester United man struck 12 times for the team in only 27 appearances. These statistics are even more impressive when you consider that he scored these from his primary position out wide. His scoring exploits made him the highest scoring Portuguese player in the league last season, and Manchester United have opted to take him on their pre-season tour most likely as a result of his performances. But Manchester United will have to fend off interest from Benfica, who are reportedly very interested in acquiring his services.
Last season was possibly the best debut season Ricardo Horta could have hoped for. A product of both Benfica’s and Vitoria Setubal’s youth setups, Horta was promoted to Setubal’s first team this season. After impressive performances early in the season, Horta was awarded a starting spot and never looked back. Finishing the season with seven goals in 34 appearances on the wing, Horta was named to the Portuguese Under-20 team’s Toulon Tournament squad, scoring the deciding goal in the third place match against England. Malaga are said to be very interested and extremely close to signing the player, and it comes as no surprise. And he’s only 19!
A product of Benfica’s famed youth academy, Danilo Pereira first rose to prominence at the 2011 FIFA U-20 World Cup, where he performed admirably in Portugal’s midfield, helping them to a second place finish. A move abroad ensued, and after some more spells abroad, Pereira ended up at Maritimo last season. Pereira appeared 28 times for the Madeira-based club, helping them to a mid-table finish. His performances drew the interest of Sporting, who many speculate see him as the natural successor to William Carvalho.