Sporting Fans

Sporting got their season off to a positive start by beating city-rivals Benfica in the Portuguese Super Cup at Algarve Stadium on Sunday.

It was an absolute storybook beginning to life at Sporting for manager Jorge Jesus. His precipitous departure from Benfica in the summer added a touch of drama rarely seen at the Portuguese Super Cup.

After the win, the Portuguese manager was uncharacteristically modest, deciding instead to credit his players for winning the match.

“The big winner is Sporting and its players. It is not easy for a club to come together like that in five weeks. It demonstrates the intelligence of these players,” he said.

The match itself lacked the intensity and rhythm of a typical Lisbon derby. There were few chances and ended with a solitary goal by André Carrillo. Sporting striker Teó Gutiérrez had a goal wrongfully ruled out for offside in the first half. Early in the second, Carrillo’s shot from distance was deflected off Gutiérrez into the goal.

Sporting controlled the balance of play for most of the match and were deserving winners in the end. João Mário was behind many of the club’s attacks. The 4-4-2 system seemed to work for the club, at least on Sunday. The Lions were able to keep the pressure on Benfica throughout.

The match sets the stage for both clubs this season. Jorge Jesus was brought to Sporting to win titles and did so in his first match, albeit a rather meaningless one. For Benfica and new manager Rui Vitoria, the pressure continues to mount. Right-back Nélson Semedo was a surprise addition to the Benfica line-up and was impressive. He could be a player to watch this season.

Big three load up

Portuguese clubs continue to bolster their line-ups. Last week, Benfica signed Greek striker Kostas Mitroglou on loan from English club Fulham. He will be counted on to replace Lima who left for Qatar in July.

Not to be outdone, Sporting signed Italian international midfielder Alberto Aquilani to a three-year contract. The 31-year-old arrives on a free transfer. The Lions also added 19-year-old Brazilian midfielder Bruno Paulista from Bahia. Sporting were in talks to sign Kevin-Prince Boateng last week but the Ghanaian failed his medical.

Sporting also loaned Miguel Lopes to La Liga club Granada. The club will play CSKA Moscow in their Champions League play-off on 18 August and 26 August.

At the Dragão, FC Porto added volatile Italian-Argentinian striker Dani Osvaldo. He was released by Southampton last season. Aly Cissokho has also joined the club on loan from Aston Villa. This will be his second spell with the club. They start their season at home against Vitória Guimarães on Saturday.

Young stars shine again

Bernardo Silva continues to amaze. The 21-year-old was inexplicably left out of Monaco’s starting XI on Saturday against Nice. After his club went down, he was subbed in and scored early in the second half. They would come back and win 2-1. On Monday, it was announced that the youngster has signed an extension with the club until 2020.

Fellow U21 star, Ivan Cavaleiro also appears to be settling in well at the principality since arriving in the summer. He scored a brilliant goal against BSC Young Boys in their third-round Champions league playoff, helping them advance.

And on Sunday, Portuguese right-back Cédric Soares had a dream debut for Southampton against Newcastle United. In the first half, he delivered a perfect cross to Graziano Pellè to put his club ahead. The match would end in a 2-2 draw.

Braga Team Photo

Overview: Sporting Braga will look very different this season. On the touchline, Paulo Fonseca replaces Sérgio Conceição who led the club to a 21 point improvement and a place in the Portuguese Cup final last campaign. Conceição’s brash style put him at odds with club president António Salvador.

Fonseca will get a second chance to prove he could handle a bigger stage after his previous tenure at FC Porto ended with him being dismissed in less than a year. Braga has been a good breeding ground for young managers in the past. Leonardo Jardim, Domingos Paciência and Conceição have all done well there.

The club lost several important players from last season including Pardo, Danilo, Sasso, Ruben Micael, Éder and Zé Luís. In response, Braga loaded up on unproven youngsters with good potential such as Matheus Pereira, Joan Román and Fábio Martins.

Os Arsenalistas are hoping to hold on to goalkeeper Matheus, as well as highly-rated midfielders Rafa Silva and Pedro Tiba. The departure of Éder and Zé Luís has left the club without a proven striker as well. Although neither were entirely convincing last season, they still managed to score 18 goals between them. Fonseca will need to replace that production.

Key Additions: Crislan (Penapolense), Rui Fonte (Benfica), Matheus Pereira (Corinthians), Ricardo Ferreira (Paços de Ferreira), Joan Román (Barcelona), Alef (Marseille), Rodrigo Battaglia (Moreirense), Fábio Martins (Sp. Braga B), Rodrigo Pinho (Madureira), Tiago Sá (Sp. Braga B)

Key Subtractions: Pardo (Olympiacos), Danilo (Valencia), Zé Luís (Spartak Moscow), Dolly Menga (Tondela), Sasso (Sheffield Wednesday), Éder (Swansea), Salvador Agra (Nacional), Vítor Golas, Ruben Micael (Shijiazhuang Yongchang)

Manager Profile: 42-year-old Paulo Fonseca is going into his first season with Braga. He had previous success in two stints with Paços de Ferreira, leading them to a best-ever third-place finish in 2012-13. He won the Supertaça Cândido de Oliveira in 2013 during his time with FC Porto.

Players To Watch: Portuguese U21 midfielder Rafa Silva has been linked with several big clubs. If he stays, he should play a central role in Paulo Fonseca’s system this season. With Ruben Micael leaving for China, Rafa could move back to his natural position as playmaker or ‘number 10’ in midfield after playing as a winger for most of the past two seasons.

Expectations: Winning the league title is probably beyond any fan’s realistic projections. However, a top-three finish is very possible especially if things do not go well for one of the ‘Big Three.’ The club will be taking part in the group stage of the Europa League this season and should advance to the knockout stages, at least.

Joao Mario Sporting

Overview: It was a summer of change at the Alvalade. Manager Marco Silva, who led the club to a third-place finish last season and a Portuguese Cup victory, is out. In his place is Jorge Jesus.

Jesus’ abrupt and unexpected departure from Benfica makes Sunday’s Portuguese Super Cup matchup between the two clubs the most anticipated in years. The signing of Jesus is a coup for club president Bruno de Carvalho who will have a manager with a proven track record at the helm this season.

Sporting have added several key players in the transfer window. The additions of Teo Gutiérrez and Bryan Ruiz should add scoring depth. They also appear to have addressed their problem at the centre of defense by signing Naldo and Michaël Ciani.

However, Sporting could still lose several players before the end of the summer transfer window including Islam Slimani, Jefferson and André Carrillo. And defensive midfielder William Carvalho is expected to miss at least the first two months of the season because of a leg injury and may very well be gone in January.

Sporting’s success this season, as with most, should depend on the progress of young stars like João Mário and Carlos Mané. Os Leões have not won the league since the 2001-02 season.

Key Additions: Michaël Ciani (Lazio), Naldo (Udinese), Teo Gutiérrez (River Plate), João Pereira (Hannover), Heldon (Córdoba), Simeon Slavchev (Bolton), Rúben Semedo (Reus), Bryan Ruiz (Fulham), Ricardo Esgaio (Académica), Azbe Jug (Bordeaux), Iuri Medeiros (Arouca), Zakaria Labyad (Vitesse), Alberto Aquilani (Fiorentina)

Key Subtractions: Naby Sarr (Charlton), André Geraldes (Belenenses), Nuno Reis (Metz), Cédric (Southampton), Nani (Fenerbahçe), Shikabala, Miguel Lopes (Granada)

Manager Profile: A man that needs no introduction. The veteran manager won three league titles at Benfica before making a shock move to Sporting this summer. Despite never being overly popular with Benfiquistas, Jesus restored the team to glory. Prior to taking over in 2009, As Águias had only won one league title in the previous 15 seasons. He hopes to do the same at Sporting.

Players To Watch: João Mário is just the type of player that Jorge Jesus likes. The attacking midfielder is versatile and very balanced. With Nani gone and William Carvalho out to begin the season, Jesus will rely on João Mário to play a more important role.

Expectations: For Sporting, it has always been a matter of are they good enough. The club won the Portuguese Cup last season but slipped to third in the league table. With the addition of Jesus and improvements at the back end, Sporting should expect to mount a serious challenge for the league title.

Julen Lopetegui FC Porto

Overview: The Dragões invested heavily this summer in order to boost their chances of reclaiming the title from Benfica.

Manager Julen Lopetegui did just enough last season to earn another chance, however, the pressure is only mounting. FC Porto lost Jackson Martinez, Casemiro, Danilo, Ricardo Quaresma and Óliver Torres this summer, which will all be missed.

To compensate, they added Maxi Pereira, Iker Casillas, Danilo Pereira, Giannelli Imbula, André André, Sérgio Oliveira, Alberto Bueno and Dani Osvaldo. In addition, Silvestre Varela has returned from a loan spell, and Rúben Neves is healthy again. Add in Yacine Brahimi, Vincent Aboubakar, Cristian Tello and Héctor Herrera, and it looks like FC Porto have a deeper squad than last season.

For Lopetegui, the question has always been whether he has the ability to win titles. The club has not won any trophies the last two season except for the Portuguese Super Cup in 2013 which is unacceptable for a club that has had so much domestic success over the last two decades.

Key Additions: Dani Osvaldo, Aly Cissokho (Aston Villa), Maxi Pereira (Benfica), Iker Casillas (Real Madrid), Giannelli Imbula (Marseille), Silvestre Varela (Parma), Danilo Pereira (Maritimo), André André (V. Guimarães), Sérgio Oliveira (Paços Ferreira), Alberto Bueno (Rayo Vallecano)

Key Subtractions: Tiago Rodrigues (Marítimo), Andrés Fernández (Granada), Ricardo Quaresma (Besiktas), Diego Reyes (Real Sociedad), Carlos Eduardo (Al Hilal), Fabiano (Fenerbahçe), Óliver Torres (Atlético Madrid) , Jackson Martínez (Atlético Madrid), José Campaña (Alcorcón), Casemiro (Real Madrid), Danilo (Real Madrid)

Manager Profile: Spaniard Julen Lopetegui is going into his second season with Porto. He led the club to a second-place finish in the league last season and will be expected to go one higher. He previously won U19 and U21 European titles with Spain.

Players To Watch: It is very difficult to choose just one player in a star-studded line-up. Alberto Bueno is expected to replace Jackson Martínez’s output. And Portugal U21 midfielder Rúben Neves has talent in abundance and should get an opportunity to play more this season.

Expectations: FC Porto is always expected to win the Portuguese league. A third year without winning the league could mean major changes for the club. A long run in Europe would be welcomed as well, so long as it does not hurt their domestic form.

Rui Vitoria Benfica

Overview: Benfica will begin their season on Sunday in the Algarve when they face Portuguese Cup winners Sporting for the Supertaça Cândido de Oliveira. As Águias are heading into a new season with a high amount of uncertainty following some unexpected changes this summer.

Jorge Jesus left the club and signed with cross-town rivals Sporting. While long-time right-back and fan favourite Maxi Pereira left for eternal rivals FC Porto. New manager Rui Vitoria will also have to find a way to replace Lima, who left for Dubai-based Al Ahli in July.

Nicolas Gaitan could leave before the end of the transfer window. While, fellow Argentinian attacker Eduardo Salvio faces a long absence because of a serious knee injury suffered at the end of last season.

However, the club has been in similar circumstances before. Last summer, Benfica lost several players from their treble-winning 2013-14 season and still managed to win the league for a second consecutive season. Still, the club goes into the new season with more questions than answers.

Key Additions: Raphael Guzzo (Chaves), Nelson Oliveira (Swansea), Filip Đuričić (Southampton), Bilal Ould-Chikh (Twente), Mehdi Carcela-González (Standard Liège), Adel Taarabt (QPR), Ederson (Rio Ave), Marçal (Nacional), Kostas Mitroglou (Fulham)

Key Subtractions: Romário Baldé (Tondela), Lima (Al Ahli), César (Flamengo), Murillo (Tondela), Ivan Cavaleiro (Monaco), Hélder Costa (Monaco), Maxi Pereira (FC Porto), Loris Benito (Young Boys), Funes Mori (Monterrey), Sulejmani (Young Boys), Artur (Osmanlispor)

Manager Profile: 45-year-old Rui Vitoria has deep connections with Benfica having coached at the junior level with the club between 2004 and 2006. He went on to manage Fátima, Paços Ferreira and Vitória Guimarães before taking over for Jorge Jesus this summer. He led Vitória Guimarães to a fifth-place finish last season.

Players To Watch: Brazilian attacker Talisca arrived with high expectations last summer but despite a good start, he tailed off and was benched by Jorge Jesus. The 21-year-old will be counted on to play a bigger role with the absence of Salvio, and possibly Gaitan. His growth is essential to Benfica’s chances this season.

Expectations: Benfica fans have been spoiled in recent years with trophies and are not ready to temper their expectations just yet. The main challenge for Rui Vitoria will be to get his Jesus-era players to play the way he wants and fast in order to win a third consecutive Primeira Liga title.

FUTEBOL - Joao Mario jogador do Sporting, no jogo Sporting vs Benfica referente a 20ª jornada da I Liga 2014/15, realizado no Estadio Jose de Alvalade, em Lisboa. Domingo 8 de Fevereiro de 2015. (ASF/RUI RAIMUNDO)

João Mário Was One of the Best Young Players in the Portuguese League This Season

In the summer, the editors of Futebol Factory and PortugalFutbol.net put together a list of 10 players that could make a positive impact at club level for the first time. Now that the season has finished, we decided to assess each player’s progress and assign a final grade.

Rúben Vezo, Valencia, Central Defender

Valencia’s impressive season has in part been because of the team’s impressive defensive record. Los Che conceded only 32 goals in 2014-15. At the heart of this impressive defense were Nicolás Otamendi and Shkodran Mustafi, meaning Ruben Vezo only managed seven league appearances for Valencia this term. Still, Vezo impressed when given the chance to play, and with Otamendi touted to make a big-money move away from Valencia this summer, Vezo may get his chance next season. Grade: B-

Raphaël Guerreiro, FC Lorient, Left-Back

Guerreiro had a positive first season in the French top flight a year ago but he has taken a big leap this season. The 21-year-old was moved to the left side of midfield at Lorient by manager Sylvain Ripoll early in the season which seemed to unleash his potential. He made his debut for the senior Seleção in November against Armenia and scored a late winner at Old Trafford against Argentina just days later. He scored seven goals this season in Ligue 1. He seems destined to move to a bigger club this summer. Grade: A-

João Teixeira, Benfica, Midfielder

The young midfielder was very impressive during Benfica’s summer tour and it appeared likely that he was going to play a role this season. However, it just did not happen. One solitary appearance in the Champions League in December is all he could manage for the main squad. Still, he was an important figure for Benfica B and remains one of the club’s best young prospects. Grade: D+/Incomplete

André Gomes, Valencia, Midfielder

From Benfica benchwarmer to one of the hottest commodities around. Attacking midfielder André Gomes was a central figure in Valencia’s resurgence this season, helping them qualify for the Champions League. He scored his first goal of the season in September against Getafe and was also named to La Liga’s Team of the Month. He is now drawing interest from Premier League giants Chelsea and Manchester United Grade: A

João Mário, Sporting Lisbon, Attacking Midfielder

The next big thing to come out of Sporting’s academy. João Mário had a positive loan spell at Vitória Setúbal a year ago but still began this season as André Martins’ understudy. In late September, with Martins faltering, Sporting manager Marco Silva gave João Mário a start against Gil Vicente. He created two goals in the 4-0 victory and remained first-choice from then on. He has also become a permanent member of the senior Seleção. Grade: A-

Bruno Fernandes, Udinese Calcio, Attacking Midfielder

At only 20 years of age, Bruno Fernandes already has two seasons of top-flight football behind him. He followed up his impressive debut season with a more underwhelming one this time around. Fernandes recorded five goals and five assists in 24 matches last season. This term, he only managed two goals and one assist in 29 matches. Fernandes still managed to score an impressive goal against Inter Milan in a Serie A match in December but faltered in the second half of the season as his opportunities became more limited. He will certainly be looking to improve next season. Grade: B-

Tozé, GD Estoril-Praia (On Loan From FC Porto), Attacking Midfielder

Tozé joined Estoril on a two-season loan deal from FC Porto at the beginning of this season, and has since hit the ground running. After scoring 21 goals from midfield last season for Porto B, many were wondering if Tozé could manage such an impact in the Portuguese top flight. Although not as prolific as last season, he established himself as one of Estoril’s most vital attacking players. With another season likely at Estoril, we can expect more of the same from Tozé. Grade: B+

Marcos Lopes, Lille OSC (On Loan From Manchester City), Attacking Midfielder

It was not a very positive first half of the season for Marcos Lopes. He struggled with a nagging hamstring injury that saw him miss more than two months. However, he returned in January with a renewed sense of purpose. He had a memorable match against French giants Lyon in February, scoring a goal with a brilliant left-footed strike that gave Lille the 2-1 victory. He is currently on duty with Portugal at the Under-20 World Cup in New Zealand. Grade: B+

Bruma, Galatasaray, Winger

Bruma suffered a serious knee injury last season which saw him missed 6 months of action. He began this season healthy but soon fell out of favour with then manager Cesare Prandelli. A string of bad results led to Prandelli’s eventual sacking. When new coach Hamza Hamzaoğlu took charge, Bruma returned to his spot in Galatasaray’s starting XI. Since then, Bruma has performed admirably, but has yet to truly reach the heights many expect of him. Grade: B+

Ricardo Horta, Málaga, Winger

Málaga’s 20 year-old winger has enjoyed a largely successful first season at the Spanish club. After arriving from Vitória Setúbal in the summer, Horta had to adapt quickly to the more challenging La Liga. Despite some impressive performances in the Copa del Rey and La Liga, Horta’s season was that of adjustment, and not of consistency. He saw less action in the second half of the season when Málaga began challenging for a Europa League position. Grade: B-

Players We Missed

Sérgio Oliveira, Paços Ferreira, Central Midfielder

The 22-year-old has steadily rebuilt his career after moving to Paços from FC Porto last season. He was the driving force behind a much improved side this season. And he captained Portugal’s Under-21 squad to qualification for the European Championships. A move back to Porto is now in the cards. Grade: B+

Bernardo Silva, AS Monaco, Attacking Midfielder

The 20 year-old has enjoyed a remarkable rise over the last year. His loan to AS Monaco caught many by surprise last summer, but the left-footed maestro has thrived under former Sporting manager Leonardo Jardim. He made his senior Seleção debut against Cape Verde in March, and he should be one of the players to watch at this summer’s U-21 European Championships. Grade: A

Hernâni, Vitória Guimarães/FC Porto, Winger

After a stellar first half of the season for Vitória Guimarães, Hernâni earned a move to FC Porto in January. Though he found playing time at a premium at Porto, Hernâni did manage some impressive, if brief, cameos. Next season, Hernâni will certainly hope to win a starting position and rediscover his terrific form. Grade: B

Carlos Mané, Sporting Lisbon, Winger

After breaking into the Sporting Lisbon setup last season, Carlos Mané enjoyed a successful follow-up season this term. Competing with Nani and André Carrillo, Mané still managed to make a positive impact primarily as a substitute. With Nani’s expected departure from Sporting this summer, Mané could establish himself as a regular starter next season. Grade: B+

This article was a collaboration between Rui Miguel Martins of FutebolFactory.com and Sam Biggers of PortugalFutbol.net.

Related Posts:

MID-SEASON REPORT: 10 Portuguese Players Who Could Break Out This Season

Scout Report | André Gomes : The Driving Force Behind the New Valencia

Scout Report | Bernardo Silva: AS Monaco and Portugal’s Young Attacking Midfielder

PortuGoal.net: Are Portugal on the Verge of Another Golden Generation?

PortuGoal.net: Is João Mário Set to Revive Portugal’s No10 Tradition?

Benfica Champions 2014-15

Benfica’s goalless draw with Vitória Guimarães on Sunday was enough to clinch the Liga NOS title for a second consecutive season with one match to spare. It was their 34th Portuguese League title, the most of any club. No club in the top 6 European leagues has more.

It also marked the first time since 1984 that As Águias won the title in back-to-back years. It seems like manager Jorge Jesus has finally accomplished what he was brought in to do and that is break FC Porto’s dominance in Portugal. At least for now.

Here are the 5 reasons Benfica won the Portuguese title this season.

Jorge Jesus’ Adjustments

Benfica lost several key players from last season’s championship-winning side. It is certainly not easy for any manager to integrate so many new players into the squad. Andreas Samaris, Talisca and Jonas proved to be adequate replacements.

When Enzo Perez left during the January transfer window, Jorge Jesus managed to find a replacement within the squad by converting Pizzi into a central midfielder. Although Lima and Jardel struggled at times during the season, Jesus stuck with them and was richly rewarded in the end.

Jonas

The Brazilian has to go down as one of the best signings of the season. It sounded like an odd signing at first. Jonas, a 30-year-old striker, out of contract at Valencia, who would never command a large payout for the Portuguese club.

Still, he proved to be exactly what the club needed. Jonas scored a goal in his first match with the club in October and has hardly stopped since then. With a match to spare, Jonas was second in the league with 18 markers in 26 matches.

Júlio César

He was once touted as one of the best goalkeepers in the world but Júlio César has had a rough go since leaving Inter Milan in 2012. He passed through Queens Park Rangers before ending up on-loan at Toronto FC in MLS. And there was the matter of the seven goals against Germany in the service of Brazil last summer.

Benfica, still reeling from the abrupt departure of Jan Oblak, decided to take a chance on the Brazilian. It proved to be another masterstroke. The now 34-year-old has made the most of his Portuguese adventure. He has earned an impressive 15 clean sheets.

Early European Exit

European competitions have always been a mixed blessing for Portuguese clubs. And like we saw this season, an early exit from competition could have a positive impact on a club’s domestic form. Benfica, once again failed to advance passed the group stage of the Champions League.

From the time the club played their last match in the Champions League in December, Benfica lost only two matches in the league the rest of the way. FC Porto and Sporting’s domestic form seemed to suffer as the season progressed, while Benfica only got stronger.

Head-to-Head Record Against Sporting and Porto

Benfica managed one victory and three draws against the other two members of Portugal’s ‘Big Three’ clubs. The club’s 2-0 victory at the Dragão in December was the difference in the end. It was the first time Benfica beat FC Porto away in the league in Jorge Jesus’ tenure as manager.

Jesus’ critics would argue that Benfica did not show up out to win the April 26th O Clássico against Porto, it really matters little in the end. Benfica put themselves in the position to dictate terms with their stellar league form. They proved themselves worthy champions.

If you would like to receive updates and interesting articles on your timeline, please like our Facebook page. Over the next few weeks, there will be more articles published on a regular basis. I apologize for neglecting my readers for the last several months but I have been occupied with writing for Portugoal.net and other websites. It has really helped me build my brand and improve my craft. There will be a lot of exciting changes this summer. The world of Portuguese football rarely has a dull moment.

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Photo: FPF

Photo: FPF

Marcos Lopes, Gonçalo Guedes, and FC Porto pair Tomás Podstawski and André Silva, are just some of the biggest names that will represent Portugal at this summer’s Under-20 World Cup in New Zealand. Under-20 boss Hélio Sousa made the announcement at an official press conference on Friday.

Portugal are paired with Senegal, Qatar and Colombia in Group C. The Seleção das Quinas is a two-time winner (1989, 1991) of this tournament and should be among the favourites this time around.

The players are expected to start arriving at Rio Maior on May 11th for a short training camp. Five days later they will travel to Sydney, Australia for some pre-tournament friendlies against Brazil and Ghana. The tournament begins in earnest on May 30th. Portugal plays Senegal in Hamilton a day later.

When asked about whether Portugal can win their third title, Manager Sousa stressed that the squad needs to remain focused and take it a game at a time. “Our objective is to win every game we play. Every game will be a final. We will play three games in six days to start and we cannot become complacent. We need to work hard. Where will that take us? The furthest possible, I hope,” Sousa said.

“History matters. Each country has some history at this tournament. Argentina, Brazil, both have a lot of experience and have won many tournaments at this level.”

Notable Matches:

May 31st: Portugal vs. Senegal

June 3rd: Portugal vs. Qatar

June 6th: Portugal vs. Colombia

June 10th/11th: Round of 16

June 14th: Quarter-Finals

June 17th: Semi-Finals

June 20th: Third-Place Match and Final

Full Squad

Goalkeeper: André Moreira (Moreirense FC), Guilherme Oliveira (Sporting) and Tiago Sá (SC Braga)

Defenders: Dinis Almeida (CF Réus), Domingos Duarte (Sporting Lisbon), João Nunes (Benfica), Mauro Riquicho (Sporting), Rafa (FC Porto) and Rebocho (Benfica)

Midfielders: Estrela (Orlando City), Francisco Ramos (FC Porto), Janio Bikel (SC Heerenveen), Raphael Guzzo (GD Chaves), Rony Lopes (Lille OSC) and Tomás Podstawski (FC Porto)

Forwards: André Silva (FC Porto), Gelson Martins (Sporting Lisbon), Gonçalo Guedes (Benfica), Ivo Rodrigues (Vitória SC), João Vigário (Vitória SC) and Nuno Santos (Benfica)

Related Posts:

PortuGoal.net: Marcos ‘Rony’ Lopes Scaling New Heights

PortuGoal.net: Are Portugal on the Verge of Another Golden Generation?

Important Links:

FPF Website: Hélio Sousa Announces Under-20 Squad

FIFA Website: FIFA U-20 World Cup New Zealand 2015

Valencia midfielder Andre Gomes has been terrific this season

Valencia midfielder Andre Gomes has been terrific this season

There is no question that the Portuguese national team is in a transitional phase. The Selecção’s group stage exit in Brazil just reinforced the claim that the squad will look very different in the next few years. There has perhaps never been a time in recent memory when the country has had so many promising young players.

In the summer, we chose ten that we thought would be able to make a positive impact at club level this season. Since then, four of these players have made their debuts for the senior Selecção, to go along with André Gomes and Bruma who had been selected before. This article will look at the progress of each player and will assign them a grade based on their development so far.

Rúben Vezo, Valencia, Central Defender

The 20-year-old started this season in positive form, starting Valencia’s first five league matches. But since then, he lost his place to the more experienced Shkodran Mustafi. The positive play of former Porto defender Nicolas Otamendi has also made it difficult for him to find playing time. He still looked confident and demonstrated some good awareness in limited action. The youngster has a very bright future but needs to continue to develop his game. For now, he sits and waits. Grade: B-

Raphaël Guerreiro, FC Lorient, Left-Back

The 21-year-old has continued to add to his impressive reputation. Fernando Santos gave him his first start in a Euro 2016 qualifier against Armenia, where he was excellent. But that was just the beginning. In the next game against Argentina, he scored deep into injury time with a brilliant header that brought Old Trafford to its feet and gave Portugal the win. At club level, he has been used primarily as a left midfielder, a role that he has performed well. He has notched five goals so far for Lorient. Grade: A

João Teixeira, Benfica, Midfielder

Despite some impressive performances in the pre-season, Texieira has not been given many first-team opportunities, even with the injuries Benfica have had this season. Teixeira has been limited to Benfica’s B team, where he remains one of the top performers. That said, Teixeira has continued to push closer to the main squad throughout this season. And with Jorge Jesus’s renewed youth policy, it should only be a matter of time before Teixeira gets his chance. He might have to go out on loan before that happens. Grade: C-

André Gomes, Valencia, Midfielder

Gomes’ surprise move to Valencia this summer left many people wondering if it was the best thing for his development. At that point, he had barely been able to hold a steady position at Benfica. But the midfielder has established himself as the driving force behind Los Che. The 21-year-old appears to be thriving under Portuguese manager Nuno Espírito Santo, and his club is challenging for a Champions League position for next season. He was named to the Team of the Month for September as well. Grade: A+

João Mário, Sporting Lisbon, Attacking Midfielder

The youngster has been one of the best revelations this season in the Primeira Liga. After beginning the season primarily as a bench player, Sporting manager Marco Silva handed him his first start in a 4-0 victory against Gil Vicente on September 21st, pitching in two assists. Soon after, Fernando Santos came calling. He made his Selecção debut against France as a second half substitute in October. He has demonstrated in recent matches that he needs to work on his consistency. But there is no question that João Mário has the talent to be an elite player and he is well on his way. Grade: A-

Bruno Fernandes, Udinese Calcio, Attacking Midfielder

20-year-old Bruno Fernandes has continued to thrive in Serie A this season. Under new manager Andrea Stramaccioni, he has continued to improve his game despite than necessarily being a regular starter. He scored a memorable goal in December against Inter Milan, delivering a snap-shot that fooled Samir Handanovič. Udinese would go on to win the match 2-1. Like João Mário, Fernandes is a playmaker with excellent vision and an innate ability to read the game. But like many young players, consistency and discipline has been a problem. Grade: B

Tozé, GD Estoril-Praia (On Loan From FC Porto), Attacking Midfielder

Another supremely-talented attacking midfielder, the 22-year-old Tozé has had a positive start to life in the Portuguese top-flight. Under José Couceiro, he has been an integral part of the Estoril attack. Couceiro has primarily used Tozé at his natural position in the middle behind the striker. He has demonstrated the vision, technical skill and awareness that made him a force in Porto’s B squad last season. He still remains far from a finished product. He still commits far too many fouls and is occasionally wasteful in possession. Grade: B

Marcos Lopes, Lille OSC (On Loan From Manchester City), Attacking Midfielder

It has not been the most positive first-half of the season for ‘Rony’ Lopes. The 18-year-old was starting to solidify a place in the Lille squad when he suffered a hamstring injury against Bastia back on 27 September.He made his return against Saint Etienne on November 1st, even providing a clever assist on a goal by Michael Frey in the first-half. However, Lopes aggravated his injury and came off just before the half. He returned to action recently after missing more than two months and has appeared in only 10 Ligue 1 matches so far. If he remains healthy, Lopes has the biggest potential for improvement of any player on the list. Grade: C+

Bruma, Galatasaray, Winger

The beginning of this season was filled with nothing but uncertainty for Bruma. He was coming off a serious knee injury but was healthy again. Galatasaray had a new manager in Cesare Prandelli. Things have not gone as Bruma hoped, with Prandelli favoring other players. His lack of playing time coincided with poor results at Galatasaray, and Prandelli was sacked in late November, after only managing six wins in sixteen games. Under Prandelli’s replacement Hamza Hamzaoglu, Bruma has been playing much more often, and his season appears to be back on track. Grade: B-

Ricardo Horta, Málaga, Winger

Horta joined Malaga from Vitoria Setubal in the summer after an impressive 2013/2014 season. After a positive start to the season, his performances began to trail off somewhat. Since then, manager Javi Gracia has primarily used him as an impact sub. He scored a wonderful goal in the first leg of his team’s Spanish Cup tie against Levante in early January, and followed it up with another goal in the return leg. It is clear that Ricardo Horta needs more time to adjust to life in La Liga, but the signs are mostly positive, with plenty of room for growth. Grade: B-

Players We Missed

Josué Sá, Vitória Guimarães, Central Defender

After starting this season with his club’s B team, Josué Sá made the step up to the first team in October. Playing alongside the impressive João Afonso, he has figured more and more as the season has progressed. He has made big strides and has plenty of room for growth. Grade: B

Rúben Neves, FC Porto, Defensive Midfielder

Rúben Neves’s performances in the pre-season were impressive enough to earn him a start in Porto’s first match of the season against Maritimo. He made the most of it, scoring a goal to become the youngest player to do so for his club. However, a dip in form in in November, combined with a knee injury means that he is no longer first-choice. Grade: B+

Sérgio Oliveira, Paços Ferreira, Central Midfielder

He had a positive first season on a bad Paços de Ferreira club a year ago. This season under Paulo Fonseca, he has thrived in a more withdrawn, defensive-minded role in midfield. He is currently one of the club’s most important players and has demonstrated that he is on the right path in his development. Grade: B

Bernardo Silva, AS Monaco (On Loan from Benfica), Attacking Midfielder

Originally not expected to play a major role at the French club, the 20-year-old has won over the confidence of Leonardo Jardim. He played in the Champions League. And helped the U-21 squad overcome Holland in a playoff to qualify for the European Championships, scoring an impressive goal in the second-leg. Grade: B+

Carlos Mané, Sporting Lisbon, Winger

Play time has not come easy for the 20-year-old this season especially with the arrival of Nani. However, he has made the most of it, scoring several crucial goals including an injury time winner against Arouca early in the season. He also scored a memorable goal in the U-21 playoffs for Portugal dribbling past a defender. Grade: B-

Hernâni, Vitória de Guimarães, Winger

He has come out of complete obscurity to become one of Vitória de Guimarães’ most important players this season. He was named the best young player in October and November and seems destined to play for one of the ‘Big Three’ in the future. Grade: B+

This article was a collaboration between Rui Miguel Martins of FutebolFactory.com and Sam Biggers of PortugalFutbol.net.

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