Posts Tagged ‘Sporting CP’

William and Brahimi

Eight matchdays have now been played in the domestic Portuguese calendar and the time is right for fans and media alike to start making conclusions about what has transpired so far. The first Classico of the season which took place at Alvalade between Sporting CP and FC Porto was no doubt the highlight of this past weekend. The goalless draw re-affirmed what most have been thinking which is that the title will likely rest with one of those clubs at the end of the season.

Meanwhile, Benfica’s struggles continued as they drew 1-1 in Madeira against Maritimo. Braga put six past Estoril. And this season’s promoted clubs Aves and Portimonense played one another in a 2-2 draw. Aves let Ricardo Soares go on Monday, replacing him with Lito Vidigal. Now, the clubs will get a chance to rest and re-assess during the international break.

Futebol Factory takes a closer look at what is happening in the Portuguese game with a new segment called Who’s Hot and Who’s Not.

Trending Up

Braga

The ‘Best of the Rest’ have been one of the top stories so far this season. New signings Dyego Sousa, Fransergio and Raul Silva have proven to be more than worth their investment. And Abel seems to be getting more out of players like Hassan and Ricardo Horta. Better still, Bruno Xadas, a player Abel knows well from the B squad, could just be the next big thing to come out of Minho. With a deep and balanced squad, Braga could knock one of the top three off their high horse.

Sporting’s New Signings

The most common criticism of the Lisbon club over the last decade and a half has been their recruiting policy. Last season, their summer signings (Bas Dost aside) were nothing short of disappointing and the club looked out of the title race by November. This season, they appear to be co-favourites and much credit should go to new signings like Bruno Fernandes, Mathieu and Rodrigo Battaglia, who have been among their best players. It might just be enough to finally bring the league title back to Alvalade.

Sérgio Conceição

In a short time, he has done wonders at the Dragão. A loss against Besiktas aside, FC Porto are the most in-form team in Portugal at the moment. Conceição has quickly set out to integrate several players returning from loan spells like Ricardo Pereira, Moussa Marega and Vincent Aboubakar which have all been excellent for him so far. And he seems to be getting more out of centre-back duo Felipe and Marcano, as well as Yacine Brahimi.

Trending Down

Benfica

The international break could not come soon enough at Luz. Benfica followed up an embarrassing 5-0 defeat to Basel mid-week with a 1-1 draw against Maritimo on Sunday. The match was an opportunity to gain some ground on Sporting and Porto but they could not get the job done despite going ahead very early. While it is true that Benfica have experienced some early season struggles on a few occasion in recent years and still went on to win four league titles. The truth is that in the past they had the players to do it. It is difficult to see that happening with the current crop.

Aves and Portimonense

Life has been difficult for promoted clubs in recent years mainly because the financial gap between Portugal’s top two divisions has become more of a chasm, with Chaves being a notable exception last season. So far, both Aves and Portimonense have not looked up to task and history has shown that it will likely get tougher for them as the season continues when the top clubs reach full stride.

Vitória de Guimarães

Braga’s resurgence is a direct contrast to their great rivals Vitória who have struggled out of the gate. Fourth-place finishers last season, they currently sit in ninth after eight rounds of action. And they have only one point through two matches in the Europa League so far. Their 1-0 loss to Belenenses on Sunday also left much to be desired. It is still early and panic has not set in for Pedro Martins just yet but it might be time to make some changes.

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Bruno Fernandes

Sporting midfielder Bruno Fernandes has earned his first call-up to the senior Seleção after a series of scintillating performances over the span of just eight days.

On 19 August, he scored twice in a 5-0 dismantling of Vitoria de Guimarães, both from 30 yards out, at least. The first went straight into the top corner. Mid-week, he set up two goals in Sporting’s 5-1 defeat of Steaua Bucharest, booking their place in the group stages of the Champions League, where he will play for the first time in his career.

The next day, Portugal manager Fernando Santos announced the squad for upcoming World Cup qualifiers against the Faroe Islands and Hungary. And Fernandes was noticeably absent. When asked about him, Santos said that the door was opened to him.

On Sunday, Fernandes followed up those performances by scoring another long-distance goal against Estoril, this time from a free-kick.

And that performance typified the kind of complete player he is. Fernandes registered two key passes, two crosses, eight ball recoveries and was fouled five times according to Portuguese statistics website GoalPoint. He also won 10 of his 16 duels. In addition to scoring the eventual winning goal, of course.

When Benfica midfielder Pizzi was forced to withdraw from the Portuguese squad because of an injury, Santos could not turn him down again. Not bad for a player who left Boavista’s academy at the age of 17 for Novara, a modest club in Italy, then in the second division no less. He helped them to promotion to Serie A in 2013.
That summer, he joined Udinese, before moving on to Sampdoria last summer.

In that time, he became a key figure for Portugal’s youth squads, most notably for Rui Jorge and the U21 squad, where he served as captain at this past summer’s European Championships. It was enough to convince Sporting CP to pay €8.5million to bring him back to Portugal. Now, it looks like a real bargain.

Fabio Paim

Paim with his previous club Sintra Football

Former football prodigy Fábio Paim gave a very revealing interview to Brazilian website Globoesporte and it reads like a cautionary tale for young footballers. Paim, now 29, recently signed with Paraíba do Sul, a team from the lowest depths of Rio de Janeiro’s state league.

Just to put in perspective how far Paim has fallen, a match that would have been his debut with his new club was cancelled after both clubs failed to meet the minimum number of players. This is his 19th club of his journeyman career, which has taken him across the globe from Portugal to England, Greece, Angola, Qatar, Malta, Lithuania, Luxembourg and now Brazil.

I translated some of the highlights.

Cristiano Ronaldo said in 2003, after arriving at Manchester United: “If you think I am good, just wait until you see Fábio Paim.” But since then, the two have gone on different paths.

If I was better than him [Cristiano Ronaldo], I would be where he is now. It is a matter of hard work, character, humility and great determination. There was a time where I did not have that. I did not have the strength and humility to get where I wanted to go. But, life is like that, I can’t look back now.

Paim insists he could have reached the level of the Portugal captain, even surpassed it, if he had taken a different route.

He is out of this world. There is no comparison today. In the past, yes. At one point, I could do more than him but I did not have what he had, which is the strength and desire to be what I wanted to be. He had a great work ethic and I didn’t have that. I had the quality, at least as much as him, but I did not have the rest. I would have preferred to have less quality if I had more of the other part. I would have been one of the best in the world. But, no one is born perfect. I thought having talent was enough but it’s not.

In 2008, he went on loan to Premier League club Chelsea, then managed by ex-Portugal manager Luiz Felipe Scolari. At that point, he had endured three different loan spells in Portugal with little success. However, he believes it really started to go wrong in West London.

It was there [Chelsea] where I stopped training and doing my work. I started drinking. I had money and I started doing a lot of things I didn’t do before. The doors were open for me to do what I felt like.

Paim would never play for the main squad and eventually returned to Sporting CP. He admits the lifestyle of a professional athlete got the better of him.

When a player turns professional, it is very different. You need to be more regimented. You can’t do what you did before.

Having a father is very important. You need rules and discipline. But, that is not why I failed. It was my fault. I did not have the strength, attitude and respect for the important things in the world of football.

Paim signed his first professional contract at Sporting CP at age 13 and three years later was earning a handsome salary of €150,000 a season while still in the youth academy.

I was not used to having money. When I started playing, I didn’t even have proper boots. I wasn’t ready for it. I didn’t have what young players have now which is an example to follow. You need role models. I feel proud and a little ashamed to pass along this message to them.

Automobiles were his vice of choice.

I spent a lot of money on cars. I love cars. I spent lavishly on the ones I wanted. All of them. Ferrari, Lamborghini, Porsche, Maserati and even a Punto [laughs]. Every car you could imagine.

When you have a lot of money, you need a support system around you. I would have done it differently, if I could.

And in the end, he did not have people that looked after his interests.

I knew what I was doing. I believed I had more talent than everyone else. Like everyone, I wanted to feel good, wear nice clothing, drive a nice car and behave with no humility. But, it’s normal, that’s what people work for, to be satisfied. On the field, I did what I had to, in order to retreat to my place. I spent time with people I wanted to and did what I wanted.

At the time, no one criticized me when things were going well. But, when I stopped playing, they started pointing the finger. I just wanted to be with my cars.

His regrets are numerous but insists that he now has a positive outlook on life.

Now, I want to look after my own and give my children a stable life. That part of my life has passed. Now, I need to work hard because I am now 29-years-old. Time has passed very quickly. But, I always like to have a smile on my face. What has happened, happened.

And he insists that he is taking this opportunity at Paraíba do Sul, which plays its football in the fourth division of Campeonato Carioca, very seriously.

I have passed through many clubs and I am very grateful for this opportunity. [Paraíba do Sul] is not the best club in Brazil or the worst, but they are giving me an opportunity to play.

I could help the young players on the squad given my experience. I don’t want it to be me and the other 10 players. I am the same as them and I do not want to be treated differently. I am here to help and be helped. If that works, it will be good for everyone. I want to earn promotion and make everyone happy. These kids have a lot to give.

All quotes were translated from Portuguese by Rui Miguel Martins.

Andre Silva

The editors of PortugalFutbol.net and FutebolFactory.com are proud to announce our annual list of 10 players to watch this season. After much deliberation, we whittled down the pool of talented players to ten, but couldn’t help but add some honorable mentions. These are players who we believe have a realistic shot at making it to the senior Portuguese National Team by the end of the season.

Miguel Silva, Vitória Guimarães, Goalkeeper

The 21-year-old goalkeeper was outstanding at times last season. The highlight was a probably scoreless draw against Sporting CP in February. He has good size for a goalkeeper but is also blessed with good aerial ability. Pedro Martins replaced Sérgio Conceição this summer at Vitória Guimarães, which could mean Silva is relegated to the bench. But, there is little doubt the young keeper will one day be first choice.

Nélson Semedo, Benfica, Right-Back

Last season, he earned a spot in Rui Vitória’s squad for the Super Cup against Sporting CP after an excellent pre-season. He scored his first senior goal a week later against Estoril. In October, Fernando Santos handed him a start in a Euro 2016 qualifier against Serbia. But his meteoric rise came to an end after he suffered a major knee injury with the national team. He would miss several months and played sparingly after returning when Benfica was in a title race. If he stays healthy, Semedo should be a key part of Benfica’s squad this season.

Rúben Semedo, Sporting, Centre-Back

After a successful half-season on loan at Vitória Setúbal last season, Semedo was recalled to Sporting in January, where he played a huge role in the team’s excellent defensive record. In the 14 matches Semedo featured in, Sporting only conceded eight goals. This season, it remains unclear how prominent of a role Rúben Semedo will play in Sporting’s backline. But if last season was anything to go on, this Sporting team will find success through rotation, meaning that Semedo will get a chance to show his worth.

Rúben Neves, FC Porto, Central Midfielder

Already Porto’s youngest scorer in the league, the youngest Portuguese player to play in the Champions League, and the youngest player ever to captain a team in the Champions League, Neves has a bright future ahead of him. His quality is evident, and if he is used similarly to the past two seasons, Neves will mainly play a rotation role, ready to fill in should Danilo get injured. But as Neves continues to develop, Porto coach Nuno Espírito Santo may be forced to give him a more prominent role on the team.

João Carlos Teixeira, FC Porto, Attacking Midfielder

He could prove to be an excellent steal for Porto. Teixeira left Sporting CP for Liverpool at the tender age of 20 but never settled at the club, despite a positive loan spell at Brighton and Hove Albion in 2014-15. After Jurgen Klopp replaced Brendan Rodgers, Teixeira was used in cup matches. Still, he did not factor in the German’s plans for this season. He will have to compete for playing time this year at Cidade Invicta, but Teixeira has talent in abundance and is at the age where many players take a major step forward.

André Horta, Benfica, Attacking Midfielder

After a handful of appearances for Vitória Setúbal in the 2014/2015 season, Horta was given a starting spot last season, and did not disappoint. Renato Sanches’s departure to Bayern Munich opened up a spot in Benfica’s midfield. Rui Vitória, always looking to youth, has turned to Horta as the next heir to the throne. If his pre-season performances are any reflection, Horta looks to have secured a spot in the team’s midfield. And should he continue his form throughout the season, Fernando Santos just may have another quality midfielder to add to his growing list.

Iuri Medeiros, Sporting CP, Winger

The Azorean attacker was terrific last season at Moreirense, on loan from Sporting CP. And before that, with Arouca. João Mário’s move to Serie A looking increasingly imminent, which will leave a major gap in the team’s attack. Medeiros feels comfortable in midfield and on the wings, but was primarily used on the right side at Moreirense, and looks a good candidate for Mário’s spot. His best attributes are his close-control, dribbling, vision and goal-scoring ability. The 22-year-old has already scored goals against FC Porto and Benfica.

Ricardo Horta, SC Braga, Winger

The 21-year-old spent two lacklustre seasons at Málaga, in which he was in and out of the squad. But he has remained a key part of Portugal’s youth squads. He has been loaned to Braga for this season, as a suitable replacement for Rafa Silva who is likely to leave this month. He should get a chance to play at A Pedreira this season. José Peseiro’s focus on attacking football should favour a player like Horta. And it should be a real pleasure to watch him play against his brother André, who joined Benfica in the summer.

Gonçalo Guedes, Benfica, Winger

Benfica coach Rui Vitória was busy signing players this summer and Guedes’s place could be under threat. New arrivals such as Franco Cervi, Andrija Živković, and André Carrillo, coupled with Salvio’s return to fitness, mean Guedes will have to convince Rui Vitória he belongs in the starting XI. But with recent news of Jonas’s injury and subsequent surgery, perhaps Guedes could find a spot in Benfica’s team outside of his usual position. Already capped twice at senior level, a solid season could see Guedes factor into Fernando Santos’s plans.

André Silva, FC Porto, Striker

Portugal’s woes in the striking department have been evident since the retirement of Seleção legend Pauleta in 2006, but the road ahead looks bright with André Silva. In last season’s Taça de Portugal final, Silva’s scored twice, the second of which an excellent last-minute overhead kick. With former first-choice striker Vincent Aboubakar faltering and many of Porto’s striking reinforcements from last season primed to leave, all signs point toward this season being Silva’s for the taking.

Honorable Mentions

Daniel Podence, Sporting, Winger
Ivo Rodrigues, Paços Ferreira, Winger
Paulo Henrique, Paços Ferreira, Left-Back
Andrezinho, Paços Ferreira, Attacking Midfielder
Gil Dias, Rio Ave, Winger
Xande Silva, Vitória Guimarães, Forward
Fabinho, Feirense, Attacking Midfielder
Ricardo Ferreira, Braga, Center Back

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

soccer-field1

2015-16 Team of the Season

Goalkeepers

It was an excellent year for goalkeepers. The nod in goal should go to Sporting and Portugal number one Rui Patricio who had his best season as a professional. Ederson (Benfica) and Gottardi (Arouca) certainly deserve some recognition in this category as well. A special acknowledgement should also go to youngsters Miguel Silva (Vitória Guimarães) and André Moreira (União da Madeira).

Defenders

At the centre-back position, Jardel and Victor Lindelöf helped propel Benfica to the title. It is an unlikely story. Jardel has never been the quickest or most technically-gifted, but has still managed to put together a solid career. Lindelöf began the season with the B squad. Injuries to Luisão and Lisandro Lopez allowed the Swede to establish himself. Together, they were the backbone of the championship-winning side. It is an obvious choice in the end.

At the full-back positions, Porto pair Miguel Layún and Maxi Pereira are the most deserving. Layún finished joint-leader in assists with 15. An amazing total especially for a full-back. He also pitched in five goals. While, Maxi did not miss a beat after making the sensational move to the Dragões. Ruben Semedo was also excellent for Vitoria de Setubal and parent-club Sporting. Marvin Zeegelaar was terrific for Rio Ave in the first-half of the season. And Benfica’s Nelson Semedo was excellent prior to his injury.

Midfielders

There are many good choices in midfield. Danilo Pereira seems like an obvious choice in the role of anchor. The Portuguese international was Porto’s most consistent performer this season. Portugal will have two excellent options in the ‘number 6’ position in France. William Carvalho missed the first several weeks due to a leg injury but eventually found his rhythm.

It would be a crime to overlook Renato Sanches. He only made his debut in late October but there is no denying that Benfica really began to hit their stride with the 18-year-old in his line-up. Despite suffering through injuries, Nicolas Gaitan still managed to lead the league in assists (alongside Layún). João Mário gets the slightest edge over Braga’s Rafa Silva. The Sporting midfielder took a major step forward in his career this season. His Sporting teammate Adrien was consistently good this season. Iuri Medeiros (Moreirense) and Diogo Jota (Paços de Ferreira) established themselves as players to watch.

Forwards

The obvious choices are Jonas and Islam Slimani. Jonas was dominant again this season leading the league in goals again with 32. He also added 14 assists. While Slimani managed to come second in goal with 27. Despite a relatively slow start, Kostas Mitroglou notched 20 goals for Benfica. Outside the “Big Three” Estoril’s Brazilian striker Leo Bonatini is one to watch scoring 17 goals this season. He should move on to a bigger club in the summer.

Bench

Ederson, Ruben Semedo, William, Adrien, Diogo Jota, Iuri Medeiros and Mitroglou.

Renato Sanches - Benfica

The first half of the Primeira Liga (Liga NOS) season officially came to an end this past weekend, making it an ideal time to reflect on some of the best home-grown Revelações. Portugal is in the middle of an exciting emerging generation. And the talent is no longer primarily concentrated among the country’s “Big Three.” Here are just some of the top revelations this season from Portugal.

Rui Silva, Nacional, Goalkeeper

The 21-year-old back-stopper has been one of the most consistent performers this season in the Primeira Liga. Silva replaced the injured Gottardi at half-time in a September match against Academica and has not looked back. Since then, he has conceded only 18 goals in 13 matches, and kept his club in matches against Sporting CP and FC Porto.

Rúben Neves, FC Porto, Defensive Midfielder

No list of promising Portuguese players is complete without the FC Porto midfield prodigy. Neves burst on to the scene last season with some impressive performances at the tender age of 17. He has continued to grow this season. In October, he became the youngest captain in the history of the Champions League. And he recently became the youngest player in club history to amass 50 senior matches for the Dragons.

João Palhinha, Moreirense FC, Defensive Midfielder

Portugal has never had a better crop of young defensive midfielders. Palhinha, who is on loan from Sporting, has been terrific this season for Miguel Leal’s club. The 20-year-old possesses a good combination of size, positioning and defensive instincts, making him ideal for the position. Palhinha and fellow Sporting loanee Iuri Medeiros have been fundamental to Moreirense’s turnaround from a poor start.

Renato Sanches, SL Benfica, Central Midfielder

The 18-year-old began the season with Benfica’s B squad but has since solidified his position in Rui Vitoria’s midfield. His individual highlight was a brilliant 40-yard strike against Academica in December. He has also not looked out of place against tougher competition in the Champions League. And the most telling statistic, Benfica has won nine of the ten league matches Sanches has played this season. The only blemish was a scoreless draw against União da Madeira.

Diogo Jota, Paços de Ferreira, Winger

The talented teenager has made a major impact for Paços since his debut in the second-half of last season. Jota has scored five goals and created another six, in 16 matches this season. He has formed a good partnership with Bruno Moreira. And together, they have propelled the club to fifth-place. It seems like Jota is destined to move on to a bigger club this summer. Benfica are said to be very interested.

Honorable Mention

Miguel Silva, Vitória de Guimarães, Goalkeeper
Nélson Semedo, SL Benfica, Right-Back
Rúben Semedo, Vitória Setúbal, Centre Back/Midfielder
André Horta, Vitória Setúbal, Attacking Midfielder
Iuri Medeiros, Moreirense FC, Midfielder/Winger
Gonçalo Guedes, SL Benfica, Winger
Gelson Martins, Sporting CP, Winger