FUTEBOL - antunes no treino da Seleccao AA de Futebol Na Praia D¿el

Left-back Vitorino Antunes joined the Selecção at their training facility in Óbidos on Tuesday. Paulo Bento had originally left him out of the Portugal squad for two upcoming World Cup 2014 qualifying matches announced last week.

Antunes’ call-up was considered by some to be long overdue. Antunes has been in terrific form this season with Portuguese club Paços de Ferreira and on-loan with La Liga club Málaga. He was a late selection to the squad, and his place will not impact any other player’s position in the squad.

The 25-year-old already has 3 caps to his credit, having first been called up in 2007. But after being signed to Italian giants AS Roma, he did not received much playing time and his career began to stagnate.

Upon arriving with his teammates in Óbidos, Antunes talked about what representing Portugal means to him. “I have worked very hard to be called up. The news was very welcome at home by my family and especially by me. I am always very proud to represent Portugal,” he said.

He was also asked whether he thought he deserved to be selected earlier. “Should I been called sooner? I cannot make that sort of evaluation. I just need to do my work, give my all with my club and in the opportunities that arise. The manager thought it was the right time to call me,” Antunes added.

It has certainly been a long journey for him. Antunes began playing for his local club Freamunde in the third level of Portuguese football. In 2006, he was signed by near-by Paços de Ferreira where he began to make a name for himself at the professional level.

While at Paços, Antunes helped the club finish 6th in 2006-07 and qualify for European competition for the first time in the provincial club’s history. He played in the 2007 FIFA Under-20 World Cup and received his first call-up to the Portuguese national team that year.

It looked like Antunes would be Portugal’s left-back of the future. Many clubs took notice, but Antunes was signed by Serie A giants AS Roma on loan for the 2007-08 campaign. Despite playing sparingly that year under then manager Luciano Spalletti, the club exercised an option to sign him to a permanent deal.

The following season, he was sent on loan to newly promoted Lecce. This was followed by another loan to Portuguese-side Leixões, followed by Livorno and Panionios in Greece.

In June 2012, Antunes was finally released by Roma. His old club Paços de Ferreira eventually re-signed him to a new three-year deal. Antunes quickly took advantage of his new opportunity, earning a starting position at left-back with Paulo Fonseca’s club.

Antunes was one of the best performers in the first half of the Portuguese Championship, starting 14 matches and scoring 3 goals for the surprising Paços de Ferreira side who currently stand in fourth position.

His performances earned him a loan deal to La Liga’s Málaga who were looking to replace Nacho Monreal, now at Arsenal. Antunes has been manager Manuel Pellegrini’s first-choice left-back from the start. Most recently, Antunes helped the Spanish side eliminate Porto in the Champions League.

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