Posts Tagged ‘Silvestre Varela’

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Cristiano Ronaldo, Real Madrid

Portugal’s great hope. Cristiano Ronaldo will go into the tournament as the reigning World Footballer of the Year, as well as the consensus best player in the World. The Portuguese captain is at the height of his individual ability, although there are concerns about his fitness.

Once widely criticized for his perceived lack of productivity with the national team, Ronaldo is now Portugal’s all-time leading goalscorer. He proved that he could lead his country deep in a major tournament at Euro 2012. However, the 29-year-old needs to win the World Cup to establish himself as one of the greatest players in history.

This Season: It was another excellent season for the global superstar. Cristiano Ronaldo scored 31 goals in La Liga, winning the Pichichi award as the league’s top scorer. He also set a new single season record for Champions League goals with 17, helping Real Madrid win La Décima.

Fun Fact: Cristiano Ronaldo was recently named one of Time Magazine’s Most Influential People. His profile was written by none other than Pelé who compares the Real Madrid forward to former Portuguese international Eusébio. He writes that the two have ‘the same elegance and creativity.’

Nani, Manchester United

The Manchester United winger is almost as vital to Portugal’s success as Cristiano Ronaldo. Nani is coming off an injury-plagued season. A healthy and productive Nani would be a major boost to Portugal’s chances. He has formed a good partnership with Ronaldo in the past.

This will be Nani’s third major tournament with Portugal. He was forced to withdraw from the 2010 World Cup because of a shoulder injury. Nani had a good Euro 2012, which included being named the Man of the Match in Portugal’s 3-2 group stage win against Denmark.

This Season: Nani struggled through groin and hamstring injuries this season. He played in only 11 League matches for Manchester United.

Fun Fact: Nani is trained in Capoeira, a kind of Brazilian martial arts dance. He has been known to celebrate a goal by doing the ‘Leap of death’ move.

Vieirinha, Wolfsburg

The 28-year-old was an excellent player for Portugal’s youth squads but only received his first senior selection in March 2013. Vieirinha has put together some excellent performances for the Seleção in limited action.

Vieirinha suffered a serious knee injury last September and was thought to be ruled out for the World Cup. He returned in time to play in Wolfsburg’s final Bundesliga matches. A product of FC Porto’s academy, Vieirinha moved to Greek club PAOK in 2008. He was signed by Wolfsburg in 2012 after several stellar seasons.

This Season: Vieirinha appeared in 11 Bundesliga matches for Wolfsburg. The German club finished a solid fifth in the league table.

Fun Fact: Vieirinha was named the Player of the Tournament at the 2003 UEFA European Under-17 Championship, which Portugal won by beating rivals Spain in the final. He was also named PAOK’s Player of the Season twice, as well as the Greek Super League’s Best Foreign Player in 2011.

Silvestre Varela, FC Porto

The 29-year-old has been primarily used as an impact substitute during his time with the Seleção. He scored a memorable goal against Denmark to give Portugal a 3-2 win in the group stage of Euro 2012. He currently has 22 caps for Portugal.

Silvestre Varela is a graduate of Sporting Lisbon’s youth academy. But after spending several seasons on loan, he moved to Estrela Amadora. FC Porto signed him in 2009 and he has been a productive player for the club ever since. He has won the Primeira Liga on three occasions, the Portuguese Cup twice, and the Europa League in 2010-11.

This Season: Silvestre Varela played in 25 League matches for FC Porto, scoring five goals and adding another five assists. But the Dragões had a very disappointing season by their standards, finishing third in the league table.

Fun Fact: Silvestre Varela appeared to be a lock for South Africa 2010 after an impressive first season with Porto. However, he broke his left fibula in training ruling him out for the entire tournament.

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Portugal’s Inspirational Captain. Cristiano Ronaldo Hopes To Lead His Country To Glory. Photo: Wikipedia Commons/Ludovic Péron

Photo: Wikipedia Commons/Ludovic Péron

The Selecção will head into the World Cup with a wealth of talent on the wings. If both stay healthy, Cristiano Ronaldo will surely partner with Nani up front in a 4-3-3 formation.

In Ronaldo, they have perhaps the greatest winger of all-time. But his success, and with it, the success of the Portuguese national team depends on the supporting cast.

Paulo Bento has stayed with Nani, despite the Manchester United winger’s struggles with inconsistency and injuries. The 27-year-old is still trying to reach the potential many people expected of him.

FC Porto’s Silvestre Varela has been a consistent performer for the Selecção and will most likely be in the squad as an impact substitute.

That should leave one more position available for Brazil. Wolfsburg’s Vieirinha appeared to be the front-runner for that position but he suffered a major knee injury that has ruled him out for the tournament.

Zenit’s Danny has been consistently selected for the squad for several years now but has never made a compelling case for more playing time. FC Porto’s Licá, Galatasaray’s Bruma and Espanyol’s Pizzi could still play themselves onto the squad in time.

Futebol Factory looks at Paulo Bento’s options on the wings.

Tickets Booked: Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid), Nani (Manchester United), Silvestre Varela (FC Porto)

On The Bubble: Bruma (Galatasaray), Danny (Zenit Saint Petersburg), Licá (FC Porto), Pizzi (Espanyol)

In Cristiano Ronaldo, Portugal has at their disposal one of the greatest footballers the world has ever seen. It is hard to recall just four years ago when the Portuguese captain was receiving heavy criticism for not replicating his club form for his country.

Enter Paulo Bento, and the Madeirense is set to surpass former PSG striker Pauleta as Portugal’s all-time leading scorer. An excellent achievement considering he is only 28 and is a winger.

Many great players like Michel Platini and Franz Beckenbauer have won major tournaments in their late 20s. If he stays healthy, Ronaldo should be at the height of his individual talents next summer.

This will be the best chance Ronaldo will have to win the World Cup, doing so he would solidify his place alongside the very best of the global game.

But he cannot do it alone.

In Nani, Paulo Bento has one of the most explosive talents in the game today. However, the Cape Verdan-born winger is very volatile. He had a very good Euro 2012 and it is essential that he recaptures that level.

Currently, Nani is splitting time with several wingers at Manchester United. But since none are making a strong case for automatic first-choice, Nani could yet convince David Moyes he deserves more playing time. He missed the World Cup last time out due to a shoulder injury which could serve as more motivation.

Silvestre Varela has been in good form this year for FC Porto and has performed well as a substitute for his country in the past. He scored an excellent goal in Portugal’s 3-2 win against Denmark at Euro 2012.

Zenit’s Danny has been one of the best players in the Russian League for several years now but has never replicated that form for Portugal. At 30-years-old, this could very well be his final chance to prove himself. He faces some fierce competition for his place.

Licá and the supremely talented Bruma are making strong cases for a spot in Brazil. 25-year-old Licá received his first cap in a friendly against Brazil in September. And Galatasaray’s Bruma has played very well this year and some believe he has Ronaldo-esque potential.

Pizzi has endured a rough start to life at Espanyol and faces an uphill battle to be selected for Brazil. The 24-year-old had a breakout season with Deportivo La Coruña last year but has been benched in recent matches.

Related Posts:

THE MIDFIELDERS: Who Will Represent Portugal At The World Cup In Brazil?

THE FULL BACKS: Who Will Represent Portugal At The World Cup In Brazil?

THE CENTRE BACKS: Who Will Represent Portugal At The World Cup In Brazil?

THE GOALKEEPERS: Who Will Represent Portugal At The World Cup In Brazil?

FEATURE: 10 Portuguese Players Who Need To Improve Before The World Cup

FEATURE: 7 Young Players That Could Help The Seleção Reach World Cup 2014

SCOUTING REPORT: Sporting Lisbon’s Dynamic Winger Bruma

TRANSFER WINDOW: Pizzi And Sidnei Loaned To Espanyol

TRANSFER WINDOW: Josué And Licá Join FC Porto

João Moutinho scored and was a constant threat all match as FC Porto earned a well-deserved 1-0 victory against Malaga in the Champions League on Tuesday.

Moutinho took a pass from just outside the box from Alex Sandro in the 56th minute and deflected it past Malaga keeper Wilfredo Caballero. The victory gives the Portuguese champions the advantage going into the second leg in Malaga on March 13th.

Portuguese defender Vitorino Antunes who is on loan with Malaga from Paços de Ferreira started the match for the Spanish club and played well throughout. Porto’s James Rodriguez made his first appearance coming back from injury by replacing Silvestre Varela in the 58th minute.

“We were able to play well and get a good result. We controlled the game from the start and could have added to the lead, but it was still a good victory. It is always important not to concede goals and now we have to concentrate on the next match in Málaga in order to move on,” Moutinho said after the match.

Photo: Wikipedia Commons/Alface

Photo: Wikipedia Commons/Alface

Benfica has the dubious distinction of having played the fewest Portuguese nationals of any team so far this campaign, this according to the union representing players in the Portuguese league.

Benfica manager Jorge Jesus responded to this report on Saturday to journalists in his typical combative style: “We are a country of immigrants, stop it with your tricks.” The findings came as no surprise.

In the online Portuguese expatriate community, in which I like to say I am a part of, it has been slightly mistranslated by some people wanting, at least in part to make Jorge Jesus look worse than he probably should be.

But there are many things worth discussing here. First, what exactly Jorge Jesus said and what he meant. And second, what it means for Portuguese futebol in general.

“My primary concern is not having players of quality. Therefore, their nationality matters little to me. The world has changed with globalization and the labour market has changed because of it. Futebol is the same,” Jesus said.

“In Portugal we cannot just develop Portuguese players. We have to develop Portuguese and foreigners in order to be competitive in Portugal and in European competitions.”

This is the usual argument that Jorge Jesus and others often use when asked about the lack of Portuguese players on their rosters. Jesus is stating that Portugal alone, as many good players as it produces cannot supply Benfica and other clubs to compete in Europe.

This would be a fair argument except, it ignores the fact that many young Portuguese players have not been given a fair opportunity to flourish for Benfica and other Portuguese clubs.

The examples are numerous. Paços de Ferreira’s midfielder Josue was a promising youth player with Porto but never received his chance with the senior club. In 2011, he was allowed to leave on a free transfer and has become a big part of a surprising Paços de Ferreira team this year.

Benfica recently signed Portuguese midfielder Diogo Rosado on loan from English side Blackburn Rovers. Rosado used to belong to the Sporting academy. After showing great potential on loan at Feirense last year he realized his chances with the Leões would be limited and signed with the English club.

And numerous other examples exists. So, how can we assure that our young players get a chance? Fact is, foreign players or not, 16 Portuguese-based clubs compete in a Portuguese league in order to earn the right to call themselves Portuguese champions.

“That question belongs in the past, it is no longer the time of D. Afonso Henriques but of our ex-colonies, when it was possible to get players born in Angola and Moçambique. In the 80s, Benfica had a majority of Portuguese players from there. Today, it is not like that,” Jesus continued.

Jesus is arguing here that Portugal used to have a supply of good players from its former colonies who would play for Portugal internationally. He says this is no longer the case.

But this is difficult to believe considering the makeup of the current Seleção. Nani, Nelson, and Rolando were born in Cape Verde. Pepe was born in Brazil. Bruno Alves’ father was Brazilian. Manuel Fernandes and Silvestre Varela were born in Lisbon but have African heritage. Young striker Éder was born in Guinea-Bissau.

It is difficult to see this argument holding up, especially since many of Portugal’s youth squads are made up of players of African heritage.

“Now we look at the best clubs in the world, there are only one or two players from that country playing. I look to find players with the intention of developing them, regardless of their nationality.”

This is only partly true, but Jesus is not wrong on this account. Many teams like Manchester City, Chelsea, Real Madrid and others do not field many players from the country they are based. However, FC Barcelona, Juventus, Bayern Munich do field more nationals.

“It is not possible for Benfica, Sporting and FC Porto to have a majority of Portuguese players. When you start to pay attention to those who begin to emerge, they usually have already gone abroad. With players leaving Portugal at 16, 17 and 18 years of age there are less players to recruit.”

Again, this is a bit of a red herring, an argument designed to lure someone away from a logical conclusion. The fact is that many quality Portuguese players do not leave at that age. Cristiano Ronaldo left at age 19 but he is the exception. Manchester City’s Marcos Lopes left Benfica’s academy at age 16.

Most quality players usually play in their domestic leagues to earn playing time and experience before they move on to a bigger stage. Raul Meireles, Miguel Veloso, Bruno Alves, Fabio Coentrao, Pepe and others are just some of the examples. Porto’s Joao Moutinho seems destined to be the next to move on.

“Those born in Portugal usually leave at a young age, because others recognize their quality. We understand that is the reality and we have to work around that. We are a country of immigrants, and we export workers all over the world. Are the Portuguese the only people allowed to work in Portugal? Stop it with your tricks,” Jesus added.

In terms of what this all means, it is first important to consider the benefits of signing young promising foreign players, both financially and on the pitch.

FC Porto and Benfica have been successful at finding promising players mainly from South America, developing them and selling them for a big price. This makes these clubs competitive and raises the profile of the domestic league as well. Players like Ramires, Angel di Maria, and others have raised the profile of Portuguese futebol no doubt.

But the principal point of contention is whether these players hinder the development of Portuguese nationals. And what if any impact does this have on the Seleção. Somewhere a balance has to be found.

Clubs like Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund, FC Barcelona and Juventus have been successful through a combination on three factors: develop good players through your academy, sign good domestic players from lower teams and fill the remaining deficiencies in your line-up with at least a few good foreign players.

This is the fine balance I have always advocated for the Portuguese league. Right now, there just is not enough evidence to suggest that the three big clubs of Portuguese futebol are heading in that direction.

This recent criticism from Portuguese media and fans about Jorge Jesus’ perceived lack of interest in developing Portuguese players is nothing new. But, so far this season, Jesus has shown an interest in some promising young players. Defender Andre Almeida, midfielder Andre Gomes and Roderick Miranda have all been signed to long term deals. Plus, forward Rui Fonte was signed from Espanyol.

Portuguese champions FC Porto have used Joao Moutinho and Silvestre Varela regularly this season, but manager Vitor Pereira has shown little interest in using players from its junior side. Though 20-year-old Portuguese midfielder Tozé has been on the bench for the last few games.

At Sporting Lisbon, manager Jesualdo Ferreira has been using more Portuguese players than his predecessors. Rui Patricio, Adrien Silva, and Joãozinho have seen regular team action. Ferreira has even given young players from its prestigious academy some game time in recent matches, including Andre Martins, Pedro Mendes, and Ricardo Esgaio.

There are some examples, but it is just too early to come to any logical conclusions. The economic crisis that is still ravaging the country have made it harder for some Portuguese clubs to do business. Sporting Lisbon in particular is struggling under a pile of debt, partly due to bad foreign signings in current president Godinho Lopes’ time.

So perhaps, it will be these market forces that will determine the future of Portuguese futebol going forward.