Written by Dan Anjos
To many people, they will read the title and laugh. Or Even call me deluded for even suggesting such a thing. However it is not as far fetched as initially thought of. This article will explain the reasoning behind the possibility of Portugal becoming Europe’s super power.
Lets start with the team that won the Euro’s. Some people will call the achievement a complete fluke, I think it takes someone incredibly ignorant to believe that you can fluke 9 games in a row. Yes they were lucky at times of course, but every champion needs luck. Fernando Santos had at his disposal a fairly old team during the Euro’s.The average age was 28.4, with the oldest player being Ricardo Carvalho (38) and youngest Renato Sanches (18). So Portugal cannot rely on the same crop of players to win the major trophies in the nearby future.
credit Hab Four
I will start at the back in explaining why the next Portuguese team has so much potential. In Goal it is likely that Rui Patricio, recently acknowledged by France Football as the 12th best player in the World will remain in the sticks. Aged 28 he is at his peak and will be playing his best footballing years for the next 4 years. If he moves to a bigger club he will have the credit that he deserves.Whilst for back up there is Lyon’s Anthony Lopes, highly regarded in France. With two youngsters being part of Man United and Atletico Madrid’s books, respectively Joel Pereira and Andre Moreira adding competition in case Rui Patricio slips up. The right back area is full of talent. The current starter Cedric is only 25, playing for Southampton and doing a good job in the hardest league in the world. But he will have the competition of promising Joao Cancelo, who currently plays for Valencia but has constantly been linked with Barcelona. You cannot forget Nelson Semedo, Benfica’s player is so strong physically, quick and very technical; that he has been linked with Arsenal of late.Portugal are lucky enough to have such strong competition for the right back position.
Centre back area is the problem, with only Ruben Semedo seemingly the only one good enough to be challenging the current Fonte/Pepe partnership. Pepe will be around for the World Cup for sure but after that Portugal will need someone else to step in. There are some good youngsters currently playing in Portuguese league but if they can reach the World-class status of Pepe is yet to be seen. The left back area is covered well. With Raphael Guereiro only being 23 and already playing for Dortmund after rejecting Barcelona he will surely develop into one of the World’s best left back. His competition will be Rafa Soares, the Porto academy boy is currently one of the best left backs in the Portuguese league only aged 21. Whilst Pedro Empis from Sporting, the UEFA U19 Euro’s semi-finalist is touted by many as one of Sporting’s next best products.
Moving onto the midfield where arguably is the most talent in the team. The actual midfield of the Euro’s is still on the right side of 30. In the defensive midfielder role, the competition is already strong between Danilo and William Carvalho, aged 25 and 24 respectively they have years ahead of them to carry on developing their football. A player that many have high hopes regarding is also Ruben Neves. Only 19 but with already 56 first team apps to his name. He was Porto’s youngest ever player to surpass the 50 games mark for the club, and also their youngest ever captain and goalscorer. His progress has stalled of late but the talent and drive is definitely there. Another player likely to be pushing for the Selecao soon is Joao Palhinha. The 21 year old is one the Liga NOS best defensive midfielders and now back at Sporting from his loan spell is starting to challenge William for his position.
Further up in the centre of midfield you have the likes of Adrien, Joao Moutinho, Andre Gomes whom in the summer signed for Barcelona. But for me the two driving forces of Portugal’s next midfield will be Joao Mario and Renato Sanches. Starting with Joao Mario, snapped up by Inter Milan in the summer for an astronomical fee of €40 million plus add ons. Super intelligent with and without the ball, he has become a key part of Inter’s team and the national team too. 24 years old with his best football yet to be played. Renato “goldenboy” Sanches currently playing for Bayern Munich after they paid €35m plus a possible €45m more in add-ons. Sanches has it all to become one of Portugal’s best ever players. He has not been playing as often but only 19 he has plenty of time and I predict next year he will be starting for Bayern a lot more than he currently is. If all these talented players are not enough, the Liga NOS is full of young Portuguese midfielders on loan from the 3 big clubs (Porto, Benfica,Sporting) which are being some of the best performers in Liga NOS and next year will return to the big three and challenge the current players there.
credit Ajith Kumar
In the forward roles, Ronaldo’s dedication to his profession is likely he will definitely be there for the World Cup. He has the ambition to win the World Cup and believes he can do it or he would have retired after the Euro’s. Partnering him is likely to be Andre Silva, 21 years old, Porto’s main striker. He has already broke a national team record when he scored a first half hat-trick. Been linked with Real Madrid too so he is definitely destined for stardom. Guedes recently signed for PSG, 19 years old, bags of potential. His direct running, mixed with his strength and pace make him a nightmare for defenders and PSG will be a perfect environment for him to test himself. Gelson Martins, arguably Liga NOS best winger with 9 assists already this season in the league. Martins is full of pace and bags of skill, he needs to improve his composure in front of goal especially. Being tracked by Real Madrid, Manchester United and Barcelona. Sporting are unlikely to be able to keep him for much longer. Bernardo Silva, currently playing for Monaco. Only missed out on the Euro’s through injury but he has returned stronger than ever with statistics now backing his immense talent. 7 goals and 7 assists is not a bad return by January. With Mourinho apparently wanting him to come to United it will definitely be the step up he next needs in his career. 22 years old he is young too. Personally I believe Bernardo Silva will be a key player in the National team for years to come and will hit a World-Class status soon.
credit Ludovic Peron
It’s not just the Senior team of Portugal that has been doing very well. The youth has been excellent too. The under 21’s got to the last Euro’s final to lose out to Sweden but did their entire Qualification unbeaten. And now for the 2017 U21 Euros they repeated the feat in qualifying again unbeaten. In the Summer of 2016 the u19’s reached the Semi-finals to be knocked out to eventual winners France. However the u17 went further and actually won the Euro’s in that category. I am aware that there is cases of many generations that win youth tournaments but never turn out to be as good as touted. In Portugal there is a difference though, with clubs relying on player sales as their main way of income, creating players that are good enough for the big teams (where the money is) has become the ideology. As well as Portuguese teams are now being priced out of the South American market and relying on their academies for their first team too. The B team introduction has worked wonders in Portugal. It has made the Second league a lot more competitive whilst also increasing attendance and TV viewings. But for players the competitive environment has helped them achieve their potential. So many players get lost between 19-21 when they are going on loans without a clear path. The b team eliminates the pointless loans. The BIG three are using the lower teams in the Liga NOS to send their players whom are not quite ready for their starting 11 to get used to the division and come back and challenge for a place in the starting 11 the following year.
Portugal will always need a bit of luck to win a Major trophy again but the foundations are now set. The future does look promising indeed.
Can you see Portugal going far in future tournaments? Let us know in the comments below!