With the January transfer window just more than half over, the deals are beginning to come faster and stronger. There is a lot of movement, mainly from Portuguese players abroad. Let’s take a look at the latest: Continue reading
Porto to West Bromwich Albion (loan)
After first-team chances looked slim this pre-season, Porto winger Silvestre Varela has left the club on loan. The winger, who had been an undisputed starter over the past few seasons now will join English Premier League side West Brom on loan until the end of the season. There is no mention of whether or not West Brom will have the option to sign him at the end of the loan, but with his Porto future up in the air, there’s every possibility an option does exist.
After a disappointing 2013/2014 campaign, Porto renovated their squad heavily. Head coach Paulo Fonseca was sacked and was replaced by former Spanish U-21 team head coach Julien Lopetegui. With Lopetegui came a host of Spanish players, including Adrian (Atletico Madrid), Oliver Torres (Atletico Madrid), and Cristian Tello (Barcelona). Other players were brought in from clubs such as Real Madrid, Granada, and Feyenoord. These signings spelled the end of Varela’s time at Porto, at least temporarily.
Though Varela is taking a step backwards in term of quality of club (from Porto to West Brom), he is certainly stepping up in terms of league quality. The English Premier League has formed a reputation for being one of the most competitive leagues in existence at the moment. Varela will now have the opportunity to play against some of the finest opposition in world football, which will do nothing but help his chances of appearing for the Portuguese National Team.
With the transfer window to close shut in a little under a month and with managers looking to complete their squads as quickly as possible, there is no lack of transfer news. Here’s the latest:
Josue to leave Porto, but where to?
After spending only one season at Porto, Josue looks set to leave after it was revealed that he does not fit into Julien Lopetegui’s plans. A departure looks likely, with the midfielder not even present at the squad presentation. Porto are looking to sell the player, with a fee of 6 million euros reported to be their asking price. Lazio and Napoli are both said to be interested in the midfielder, but more recently, newly-promoted french side Metz are touted to be his destination.
Sunderland interested in Frederico Venancio
Following Vitoria Setubal’s 0-0 pre-season draw with Premier League team Sunderland, Frederico Venancio gained the praise of the English team’s coach. Gus Poyet said after the game that he was impressed with Venancio, who is entering his third full season in Setubal.
Newly-promoted La Liga side Deportivo are reportedly very interested in taking both Tiago Ilori and Ivan Cavaleiro on loan from Liverpool and Benfica, respectively. Ilori appears to be surplus to requirements at Liverpool this season, especially since the arrival of Croatian defender Dejan Lovren. Cavaleiro is also set to be loaned, with Pacos Ferreira, Academica, and Maritimo all interested in the winger’s services.
Following his release from Besiktas, Hugo Almeida is still without a club. The experienced Portuguese striker, who has found success in both Germany and Turkey, will surely find a club, but the question remains as to which one. Eintracht Frankfurt and Galatasaray have both been touted as possible destinations, and West Ham is the latest club to show interest in the striker.
Rayo Vallecano has taken Porto winger Lica on loan for the entire season after he was deemed to be surplus to requirements under new coach Julien Lopetegui. Much like Josue, Lica’s future at Porto looks increasingly dim, and it comes as little surprise that this loan was arranged.
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.
Manuel Da Costa – Lokomotiv to Nacional (loan)
Portuguese central defender Manuel Da Costa has joined Liga Zon Sagres side Nacional on loan from Lokomotiv Moscow. Costa did not play in to Slaven Bilic’s first-team plans at the Russian club, and is now searching for regular playing time in Portugal, which he will undoubtedly get. Da Costa moved from West Ham in June 2011, and enjoyed a relatively successful first season at the club, most notably scoring two against Zenit.
The transfer window was unusually quiet this winter in Portugal, as it was all around Europe. Despite the lack of activity, some potentially major moves did occur. These players all have the capability to be important players for their new clubs in the near future.
Yannick had been without a club since his failed transfer to French club OGC Nice from Sporting Lisbon. The winger/striker’s skill is undeniable, but his consistency certainly is lacking, as he showed at Sporting. Yannick was reportedly close to a move to Porto and a trial at Aston Villa, but neither moves materialized. Benfica promptly snapped up the forward on deadline day, and he has already made his debut, in the League Cup.
Daniel Fernandes has performed well when given the chance to succeed. When he played in Greece, he was extremely successful. His time more recently in Germany did not go as planned, and a move to Romania looked to increase playing time. Things did not go as planned once again, and after making just two league appearances for Cluj, Twente promptly snapped up the experienced goalkeeper on a free transfer. It may take a lot to dislodge the current Twente goalkeeper, but Daniel Fernandes will work through it, just as he has before.
After his release from Bolton in 2010, Vaz Te looked set for a career in the lower leagues of Greece, Cyprus, or Romania. After two unsuccessful stints in Greece and Scotland, Vaz Te was signed on a free by Barnsley. Not much was expected of the striker, but after ten goals in twenty-two appearances, that all changed. West Ham, who look certain for promotion, promptly snapped up the striker from Barnsley, after Vaz Te had only spent half a season with them. The striker has already made his debut for the club, and looks set for a successful last half of the season with what is a very talented squad.
At the age of just 18, Joao Carlos was called up to Sporting’s first team at the beginning of this season. He trained with the squad throughout the pre-season, but rejoined the Under-19 team, as did many players, once the season was underway. The center midfielder, who has been compared to Deco, was an integral part of the Sporting U-19 team that decimated all opposition in the group stage of the Next-Gen Series. One of his finest performances came when the squad travelled to Liverpool. The midfielder bagged a wonderful goal, and his performance must have caught the eye of Liverpool first-team manager, Kenny Dalglish, who promptly signed him at the next possible opportunity: the January transfer window. Joao Carlos will now join Liverpool’s reserve team, and hope to win a starting spot in Liverpool’s first team in the future.
After multiple seasons of solid performances, Abel Camara finally made the step up from the Liga Orangina to the Liga Zon Sagres. Already a regular for the Belenenses team and the Portuguese Under-21 Team, Abel was a well-established striker in Portugal. Now, he has the opportunity to prove his skills on a bigger stage for Beira-Mar.
Ricardo Vaz Te
Barnsley to West Ham
Barnsley striker Ricardo Vaz Te has signed for West Ham, following an impressive debut season in the English second-tier. The striker has scored 10 goals in 22 games for Barnsley this season, and will hope to continue that good form into the second half of the season with his new team, West Ham. West Ham were relegated last season from the EPL, and their future looked grim. Their future is all but grim currently, as they sit at the summit of the Championship table, and look likely to win promotion back into the topflight. Much of this success is due to their current coach, Sam Allardyce. Big Sam, as he is called, coached Vaz Te when they were at Bolton together, and this partnership surely had much to do with Vaz Te’s move. West Ham have tied the striker down to a two and a half year deal, with an optional extension to three years.
Genoa are the most recent club to be following Sporting’s center-back, Nuno Andre Coelho, according to reports coming out of Portugal. Clubs such as Napoli, West Brom, and Palermo are all said to be interested, but Genoa has now declared interest. Coelho started the season well, constantly in the starting lineup. His performances were impressive enough to catch the eye of the Portuguese National Team coach, who proceeded to call him up. Nuno then fell slightly out of favor at Sporting Lisbon, and has since seen a greatly reduced amount of playing time. Now, foreign clubs have become to interested in hiring him. If his situation does not improve at Sporting, we may very well see him at another club in the near future.
Nuno Andre Coelho and Pedro Mendes have been at the heart of some transfer speculation regarding a possible move to Italy. Coelho made the switch from Porto to Sporting in the summer as part of the deal that saw Moutinho go the other way. The defender has done well since the move, well enough to earn a call-up to the Portuguese National Team. Napoli, Samdoria, and Palermo are all courting him, with West Brom, in England, also said to be interested. Formal contact has been made, according to the player’s agent.
Pedro Mendes, who made the move from Rangers to Sporting last season, has also been in the middle of speculation regarding his future at the club. Bologna and Naples are the teams said to be interested in the defensive midfielder, who starred at the World Cup for Portugal last summer. According to reports, Mendes could leave for around 2 million euros.
1-Manchester United 1-2 Chelsea – Paulo Ferreira and Deco started for the blues, with the latter substituted out in the 82nd minute. Both Bosingwa and Ricardo Carvalho are out injured for Chelsea, so it goes without saying that they did not make an appearance. Nani substituted in for United on 72 minutes, and assisted Macheda’s goal.
2-Bolton 0-1 Aston Villa – Vaz te not included in the Bolton squad as he is still playing for the reserves.
3-Portsmouth 0-0 Blackburn – Ricardo Rocha played a full match for Portsmouth.
5-Borussia Dortmund 2-1 Werder Bremen – Hugo Almeida played a full match for the Bremen.
6-Koln 0-3 Hertha BSC – Maniche and Petit played a full match for Koln.
7-Hamburger SV 0-0 Hannover – Sergio Pinto played a full match for Hannover.
1-Inter 3-0 Bologna – Quaresma nowhere to be seen
2-Atalanta 2-0 Siena – Brandao nowhere to be seen
1-Zaragoza 2-0 Malaga – Duda played a full match for Malaga, with Helder Rosario nowhere to be seen. Eliseu also played a full match for Zaragoza.
2-Valladolid 0-2 Villareal – Pele suspended for Valladolid, so he didn’t play, but Sereno played a full game for them.
3-Almeria 1-1 Mallorca – Nunes played a full match for Mallorca, with Bruno China nowhere to be seen.
4-Valencia 3-0 Osasuna – Manuel Fernandes played a full match for Valencia.
5-Racing Santander 0-2 Real Madrid – Pepe still out for Madrid, with Ronaldo playing a full match and scoring a penalty.
6-Atletico Madrid 3-0 Deportivo – Both Tiago and Simao started for Atletico, with the latter being substituted out in the 86th minute. Tiago also scored his first league goal since 2006! Ze Castro was nowhere to be seen for Deportivo.
7-Saint Etienne 2-0 Le Mans – Joao Paulo played full match for Le Mans.
8-Valenciennes 1-0 Lille – Ricardo Costa substituted in for Lille in the 86th minute.
9-Marseille 1-0 Lens – Marco Ramos played a full match for Lens
10-Boulogne 1-1 Toulouse – Paulo Machado played the first 74 minutes for Toulouse.