Player to Watch: João Mário


Joao Mario - SportingWhen João Mario Naval da Costa Eduardo graced the pitch of the Stade de France on October the 13th 2014 as a substitute for Cristiano Ronaldo, every Portuguese adepto, young and old, took attention. Another stalwart graduate of the famed Sporting Lisbon academy, the young starlet had taken another leap in his career as one of Santos’ newest recruits

When João Mario graced the pitch of the Stade de France on October the 13th 2014 as a substitute for Cristiano Ronaldo, every Portuguese adepto, young and old, took attention. Another stalwart graduate of the famed Sporting Lisbon academy, the young starlet had taken another leap in his career as one of Santos’ newest recruits Continue reading

Player to Watch: Ruben Neves


Portuguese Football could be on the cusp of another “Golden Generation.” With the Under-19’s success at the U-19 Euros this summer and the Under-21’s on the brink of qualification for next summer’s Euro tournament, there is much reason to be excited. On top of that, Portugal has qualified for three out of the past four U-20 World Cups, and have impressed in the most recent two. 

To bring some of this success to light, PortugalFutbol.net has revamped our “Players to Watch” section. On a regular basis, a member of our writing team will highlight one player who has the potential for a spectacular career. We want to bring young talent out of obscurity, so as to show the true status of Portuguese youth football. 

In our first installment, Mitchell Rua takes a look at Porto’s Ruben Neves, who famously debuted for Porto 10 days ago against Maritimo at the age of 17. In that same game, he managed to score, making him the youngest player in Porto’s history to score on his debut. Mitchell has the full story below.


Ruben Neves - Porto preseason 2014-2015

On the 15th of August  2014 a boy by the name of Ruben Neves graced the hallowed turf of the Estadio Dragão in front of a raucous home crowd of 50,000 Tripeiros.

Born in Mozelos to the north of Portugal on the 15th of March 1997, the diminutive midfield lynchpin had little to no notoriety outside the youth ranks, heeding Lopetegui’s call and taking the bull by the horns with an impressive pre-season. The youngster, at only 17 years and 155 days, had become the youngest player to appear and score in a league match for FC Porto; eclipsing the likes of Fernando Gomes and Paulo Futre, legends of the blue and white.

Gomes was only 17 years and nine months old when he bagged a brace on debut. Almost forty years later, midfield dynamo Ruben Neves had beaten the striker’s record by four months, opening the scoring after 11 minutes en route to securing a 2-0 victory against CS Maritimo.

Undoubted Potential

Joining Porto’s youth team at the age of eight in 2005, Neves rose the ranks before joining Padroense FC on loan during the 2012/13 campaign, as well as for Porto’s Under-17 side and as an unused substitute in B team fixtures last season. He had similarly led an impressive youth career in the red of Portugal, with 43 appearances and 3 goals at the time of writing, earmarked by an impressive tournament at the 2014 UEFA European Under-17 Championship. The Portugal skipper led his side to a semi-final berth as they were pipped by England to the showpiece final, featuring in all four of their matches. Neves, “Portugal’s captain and the man who made things tick in midfield,” was named among the top 10 talents of the tournament by UEFA journalists, “constantly prompting attack and keeping the ball circulating for A Seleção das Quinas.”

But it was the 2014/15 season that would set Neves’ name in effervescence. With the defensive midfield position now vacant after Fernando’s departure for Manchester City, ending his long service for the Dragões; Nigerian up-and-comer Mikel ruled out through injury and Tomas Podstawki’s participation in the European Under-19 Championship; Neves seized his chance to impress the new man in the dugout, Julen Lopetegui.  A string of fine performances in pre-season brought with it much acclaim; the presentation match against AS Saint-Etienne, the highlight as Lopetegui commented on “a strong mindset” post-match.

A Dream Debut

On that faithful night in Porto, the young Neves graced the pitch where his heroes had laid their claim for footballing immortality. At 11 minutes, a short Quaresma corner was played to Alex Sandro, whose cross was deflected into the path of the unmarked Ruben Neves. Steadying himself, his head over the ball; he took the shot in his stride, rifling a powerful long angled effort into the bottom corner and past Salin. The crowd was brought to their feet. Pure and utter joy was plastered on the face of a new hero as he slid onto his knees, letting out a cry of sheer elation.

“It was a dream debut, not only for my performance and goal but also for the win, which was the most important thing,” the now cult figure ascertained, his play and attitude light years ahead of his tender age; “I’m going to keep this award forever and I hope it will be the beginning of a very successful career.”

The Sky’s the Limit

There are astronomically high hopes for a boy barely out of diapers, but the plaudits are not undeserved. The opening goal of the 2014-15 Liga Zon Sagres Season and man-of-the-match performance was no fluke, with impressive performances, the following week against LOSC Lille and Paços de Ferreira as Neves became the youngest Portuguese player to appear in a European competition since none other than Cristiano Ronaldo. ;

A versatile midfielder, Neves has the tools to become a world beater; possessing an impressive arsenal of outstanding precision passing, perceptive positioning and vision complimented by maturity beyond his years. Commonly employed as the midfield defensive anchor; his tendency to play forward leaves defences reeling, with his fierce shots from distance and keen eye for the dead ball troubling keepers aplenty.

At such a young age; and with Lopetegui’s years of experience at youth level; Neves is in good hands. There’s no reason for Portuguese football fans, and the footballing world alike, to not expect the youngster to hit new heights. With record after record being toppled, and making the Porto midfield his own at the time of writing; Ruben Diogo da Silva Neves is a name that will be on the lips of football pundits worldwide atop of a list of young Portuguese talents being dubbed the second ‘Golden Generation.’

 

Mitchell Rua

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

Liga Orangina Youngster to Watch: Goncalo Silva


Goncalo Silva

Atletico CP

Player to Watch

Many young players who ply their trade in the Liga Orangina do so on loan from a Liga Zon Sagres club. This method is a proven way to develop young talent, by giving them playing time. One such player who has benefited from this is Goncalo Silva. Silva was picked up by Liga Zon Sagres side Vitoria Guimaraes from lower division side Barreirense. He immediately joined Lousada, playing in the third division, on loan from Guimaraes. He went on to make 28 appearances for the club, and catch the eye of the Guimaraes staff. This season, Vitoria opted to loan him again, this time to the Liga Orangina. Silva joined newlu-promoted Atletico CP on a season-long loan deal.

Despite having never played in the Liga Orangina and only being 20 years old, Goncalo Silva has established himself as an important peice of the Atletico CP puzzle. The center-defender has helped a young Atletico CP side to seventh in the Liga Orangina standings. He has appeared in all but one of the team’s matches, bringing his tally to 18 games thus far.

Given the fact that he was discovered relatively late in his youth career from a lower division club, it does not come as a surprise that Silva has yet to make a single appearance for any of the Portugal national youth teams. Still aged just 20, there is still time for Silva to make it into the Portuguese Under-21 team, and gauging on his performances this season, a call-up may not be far away.

Despite the limited time that Goncalo Silva has been on the footballing scene, he has already firmly established himself as a star for the future, whether its for Vitoria Guimaraes or the Portuguese National Team.

 

Liga Orangina Youngster to Watch: Miguel Rosa


Miguel Rosa

Belenenses

Player to Watch

Those who have followed the Liga Orangina over the past two seasons at all will know the name Miguel Rosa well. Rosa is currently on loan from Benfica at Belenenses, where he played last season, also on loan. Miguel Rosa is primarily a center-midfielder, who is just as adept at the attacking-midfield spot. Despite his sometimes deeper-lying position, Rosa has earned a goalscoring reputation. Last season, he contributed eleven goals for Belenenses, and this season he already has five.

Last season, Miguel Rosa was in red-hot form for Belenenses. As stated earlier, the midfielder contributed an impressive eleven goals for the team. His goalscoring exploits and overall stellar play earned him the Liga Orangina Player of the Year award. This feat did not go unnoticed by the club that, and does, own him, Benfica. The Portuguese giants announced that Miguel Rosa would join the first team for preseason training this season. Despite some promising performances, Benfica loaned out Miguel Rosa once again to Belenenses for the entirety of this season. The midfielder has continued his good form on a lesser scale, but there is still evidence that he is growing as a footballer.

Despite his good form for various clubs in the Portuguese second-tier, Rosa has appeared very infrequently for the youth national teams of Portugal. The midfielder only made four appearances for the Portugal Under-19 team, and despite scoring three goals for the team, he was never called to any higher youth setup. If Miguel Rosa can earn a spot in Benfica’s midfield next season, which looks unlikely, he could earn a spot in the Portugal National Team’s midfield. In an attempt to gain enough playing time, Rosa may have to cut his ties with Benfica, however.

Miguel Rosa has shown time and time again that he is too skilled to be playing in the Liga Orangina. Some would argue that he is the most talented player in the league at the moment, after it was confirmed that he was last season. Regardless, Miguel Rosa looks to be a solid player for seasons to come, whether it is in the Liga Orangina, the Liga Zon Sagres, or another league in Europe.

Liga Orangina Youngsters to Watch – Anibal Capela


Anibal Capela

Sporting Covilha

Player to Watch

Anibal Capela is one of the better known names in the world of young Portuguese players. Anibal’s primary position is in the center of defense, although he is adept at playing on either side of the defense. Like Dani Coelho, he has been loaned this season by Braga to Sporting Covilha.

Anibal shot to prominence in late 2010 when, at the age of 19, when he started a match for Braga against Beira-Mar. By that point, the defender had already appeared for the Portugal Under-20 team, and looked to be an asset for Braga for years to come. A little over a month after his debut for Braga, Anibal started, and played 90 minutes, in the team’s Champion’s League group stage match against Shakhtar Donetsk. Although the team lost, Anibal put in an admirable personal performance.

This season, at Sporting Covilha, Anibal has continued his form, and thus grown his reputation. Already having appeared in 11 league matches this season, it came as no surprise when Anibal was earned a cal-up from Portuguese Under-21 coach Rui Jorge. Anibal is already firmly established in the youth national teams in Portugal. He was a part of the U-20 squad at last summer’s Toulon Tournament, and would have been an integral part of the team at the following U-20 World Cup, if he had not been injured.

Anibal Capela is a certainty for the Braga first team in seasons to come. Already established as a star for the future, along with the likes of Nuno Reis and Roderick Miranda, Anibal’s future looks bright.

Liga Orangina Youngsters to Watch: Dani


Dani Coelho

Sporting Covilha

Player to Watch

Talented Portuguese right-backs are becoming more common than in recent years. Dani Coelho can easily be named as one of the most talented young right-backs playing in Portugal. Currently owned by Braga, he has spent two spells in the Portuguese Second Division B, which is the third tier in Portugal. He is playing his trade this season at Liga Orangina side Sporting Covlila, and has had a decent debut season in the league.

Dani first rose to prominence, more or less, when, at the age of 19, he was named on the bench for two of Braga’s games. He did not appear in either of those games, and has not yet made an appearance for Braga in the league. He has, however, been making appearances for lower division clubs. Only aged 22, Dani has already made 38 appearances in the Portuguese Second Division B, and ten in the Liga Orangina. Those are some impressive tallies for a player of his age.

Courtesy of his impressive performances for Estrela Amadora and Vizela, both in the Portuguese Second Division B, Dani earned a call-up to the Portuguese Under-21 team in early 2011 for a match against Sweden. He made his debut in that match, starting and playing until halftime. That was not to be his last appearance for the team, however. He has gone on to play for the team a further three times, and has been generally impressive.

Judging on his performances for Sporting Covilha and the Portugal Under-21 team, Dani is certainly a possibility for Braga’s first team next season. The defender is certainly a star for the future.

Liga Orangina Youngsters to Watch: Alex


Alex

Santa Clara

Player to Watch

Alexandre Henrique Gonçalves de Freitas, known simply as Alex, is possibly one of the league’s better known stars. Due to his exploits at last summer’s U-20 World Cup for Portugal, the winger has made his name known, most notably by scoring in the heart-clenching 3-2 final loss to Brazil. Alex was instrumental in the team’s success, playing in all six of the team’s matches, starting five.

Alex joined Santa Clara from Porto’s youth setup at the beginning of the 2010-2011 season, and immediately cemented his spot in the starting eleven. The midfielder played in a total of 26 matches during the season, and became a very important asset to the club as the season progressed. This season has started well for Alex. He currently has a goal to his name this season, and will look to build on what was a very productive season.

Alex combines skill and accuracy to make him appear classier than one would expect for a player of his age and experience level. Actually, he doesn’t just appear classier, he is classier. Though he is a winger, he does not only possess the lightning quick speed and quick feet, like many Portuguese wingers do. What is special about Alex is his accuracy. As evidenced in the U-20 World Cup, Alex possesses a very accurate left foot and the ability to make timely, accurate runs, one of which resulted in a goal in the final.

With Alex firmly one of the Liga Orangina’s finest prospects, the big clubs may soon swoop. Porto made the mistake of releasing him, which led to his eventual move to Santa Clara. While that certainly has helped his development, it may come back to bite Porto if they choose to resign him. After his impressive performances for the Portugal U-20 team, a U-21 call-up must not be far away. It is not hard to imagine Alex playing for the Portugal National team at some point in the future, and if he continues progressing at the current rate, we may not have to wait long.