Posts Tagged ‘Vitória Guimarães’

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.

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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?

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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.

Related Post:

FEATURE: 10 Portuguese Players Who Could Break Out This Season

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

Scout Report | André Gomes : The driving force behind the new Valencia

Is João Mário set to revive Portugal’s No10 tradition?

Five emerging Portuguese stars playing abroad

Are Portugal on the verge of another Golden Generation?

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Portugal continues to produce talent at a rate not seen for some time. This year, there were a high number of Portuguese youngsters flourishing in Europe’s top leagues as well.

Olympique Lyonnais goalkeeper Anthony Lopes and Lorient left-back Raphaël Guerreiro established themselves as two of Ligue 1’s most exciting young players. While Udinese midfielder Bruno Fernandes is a budding star in Serie A, a league that has not been kind to Portuguese talent in recent seasons.

And as always, the Primeira Liga continued to be fertile ground for promising young home grown talent. The clubs outside the traditional ‘Big Three’ in particular have in recent seasons put their faith in developing players from their academy, perhaps adjusting to new economic realities.

Of those selected to be on the list, four have received a call-up to the National Team. While Braga midfielder Rafa Silva and Sporting Lisbon midfielder William Carvalho, will both be representing the Seleção at the World Cup this summer.

Here now is a list of the top Portuguese revelations from this past season.

STARTING XI:

Anthony Lopes, Olympique Lyonnais, Goalkeeper

23-year-old Anthony Lopes won the starting position at French club Olympique Lyonnais in training camp last summer and has been solid since. His season almost came to an abrupt end when he suffered a serious back injury in early November. He returned only five weeks later and has remained first-choice.

Lopes was on Paulo Bento’s provisional 30-man squad for the World Cup before being left out in favour of more established veterans. But his future remains very bright. He helped lead Olympique Lyonnais to a fifth place finish in a increasingly competitive Ligue 1, conceding only 34 goals in 32 League appearances for the French club. That includes 13 clean sheets.

Paulo Oliveira, Vitória Guimarães, Centre Back

An immensely promising talent from Vitória Guimarães’ academy. The young centre back demonstrated this season that he has the athleticism and football IQ needed to be a top level defender. Sporting Lisbon recently signed him to a five-year contract where he is expected to compete for a starting position next season.

He is already very accomplished despite only being 22-years-old. He won the Portuguese Cup last season with Vitória Guimarães. This season, Oliveira played in the Europa League before the club was eliminated in the group stage. With Bruno Alves and Pepe both over 30, Oliveira could be an option for the Seleção soon if he continues to progress as a player.

Miguel Rodrigues, Nacional, Centre Back

Another very promising defender. Rodrigues started 29 matches this season and was the focal point of a solid Nacional defense. Rodrigues was a major reason the Madeira club finished a better than expected fifth in the League table. The club conceded only 33 goals in 30 League matches this season overall.

Although he has only playd one full season in the Primeira Liga, many people are expecting a lot from him in the future. Together with Paulo Oliveira and Tiago Ilori, Rodrigues is part of a group of highly promising Portuguese central defenders that could conceivably reach the heights of the Seleção .

Raphaël Guerreiro, FC Lorient, Left-Back

An offensively gifted full-back who has enjoyed a very good breakthrough season with Ligue 1 club FC Lorient. Like Anthony Lopes, Guerreiro was born and began playing football in France. However, he has chosen to represent the country of his father internationally. The 20-year-old has already played for Portugal’s Under-21 squad.

This season, Guerreiro has shown excellent attacking instincts and has become known for delivering good crosses into the box. His style is very well-suited for the Portuguese game and according to some sources Paulo Bento is said to be monitoring his progress. However, he still needs to improve his defensive play.

Diogo Figueiras, Sevilla, Right-Back

Portuguese observers should already be well aware of this 22-year-old full-back from his time at Paços Ferreira. In his first season at La Liga club Sevilla, Figueiras started 19 League matches for the club and helped them win the Europa League. He has proved to be a strong offensive threat down the right-side and could even play further up the pitch.

Figueiras still needs to improve the defensive side of his game. He still commits far too many fouls. In La Liga this season, Figueiras picked up nine yellow cards and one red card in 22 total appearances. And he served a four-match ban for verbally abusing a referee. However, this is not an uncommon problem with many young attacking full-backs.

William Carvalho, Sporting Lisbon, Defensive Midfielder

William Carvalho leads a very strong group of midfielders on the list. The Sporting Lisbon defensive midfielder was one of the outstanding performers this season in the Portuguese league. And big things are expected of him next month at the World Cup where he is likely to anchor the Portuguese midfield.

Carvalho is most often compared to former French international Patrick Vieira. The 22-year-old has great positioning, makes goods decisions with the ball and could also contribute offensively. He received his first international cap in the decisive World Cup qualifying match against Sweden. And he put in an excellent performance in a recent friendly against Cameroon.

Rafa Silva, Sporting Braga, Attacking Midfielder/Winger

21-year-old Rafael Ferreira Silva has enjoyed an impressive rise over the last 12 months. He was signed from second division side Feirense last summer and was recently selected to Portugal’s World Cup squad. He will be looked upon to provide some creativity from the bench.

Silva has demonstrated this season that he has the skill level and vision to be an elite player. However, like many gifted young players he needs to learn how to play as part of a system. Braga had a difficult season, having fired veteran manager Jesualdo Ferreira. But under the right direction, Rafa could just become the playmaker Portugal has sought since the retirement of Deco four years ago.

Bruno Fernandes, Udinese, Attacking Midfielder

19-year-old Bruno Fernandes is former Boavista youth player who spend the 2012-13 season in Serie B with Novara. After helping the club to promotion, Fernandes was signed by Udinese last summer. He began this past season in the club’s reserve squad before earning a position in the starting line-up.

Fernandes would end the season as one of Udinese’s most important players, playing behind striker Antonio Di Natale. The young midfielder scored four goals and notched another six assists in 24 League matches for the Italian club, helping them remain in Serie A.

Carlos Mané, Sporting Lisbon, Winger

The young Sporting Lisbon winger could just emerge as one of Portugal’s great players. The 20-year-old was primarily used in Cup matches in the first half of the season. He scored a spectacular goal from just beyond the box in a League Cup match against Marítimo in January. In the second half, Sporting manager Leonardo Jardim began using him more often in League matches.

His talent is so evident that Manchester United is said to be very interested in signing him, despite the fact that he has yet to play an entire season in top flight. With Diego Capel and André Carrillo likely to leave this summer, Mané could be an automatic starter with Sporting Lisbon next season.

Ricardo Horta, Vitória Setúbal, Winger

A very promising attacker who was relatively unknown until this season. Horta was a Benfica youth player before signing with Vitória Setúbal in 2011. The club surprised everyone by finishing a better than expected seventh in the League total. Horta started hitting top gear in February after the arrival of João Mário on loan from Sporting Lisbon.

He would score six of his seven goals this season from February onwards. Horta has been selected for Portugal’s U19 and U20 squads as well. Sporting Lisbon are said to be interested in signing the youngster but Setúbal may not be willing to give him up so soon.

Bebé, Manchester United (On Loan at Paços de Ferreira), Striker

One of the great individual stories from this season in Portugal. Written off by so many in the media, the 23-year-old scored 12 goals in 27 appearances for Paços de Ferreira. That includes 11 goals in his final 16 matches. He also scored the opening goal in Paços de Ferreira’s 3-1 play-off win against Desportivo das Aves that assured that the club would remain in the Primeira Liga.

Bebé demonstrated that precocious talent that was not immediately evident while at Old Trafford and in previous loan spells. He scored an excellent volley against Braga in January which seemed to have given him a renewed sense of confidence. In a March League match against Arouca, he back-heeled a pass to himself before scoring. And now a move to one of Portugal’s biggest club’s seems likely.

SUBSTITUTES:

Miguel Vitor, PAOK, Central Defender

Luis Martins, Gil Vicente, Left-Back

Tiago Silva, Belenenses, Central Midfielder

Danilo Pereira, Marítimo, Central Defender/Defensive Midfielder

João Mário, Sporting Lisbon (On Loan at Vitória Setúbal), Central Midfielder

Fredy, Belenenses, Winger

Ivan Cavaleiro, Benfica, Winger

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SCOUTING REPORT: Olympique Lyonnais Goalkeeper Anthony Lopes Hopes To Realize World Cup ‘Dream’

SCOUTING REPORT: FC Lorient Left-Back Raphaël Guerreiro Is Enjoying A Breakout Season In Ligue 1

Scout Report – William Carvalho

SCOUTING REPORT: Udinese Midfielder Bruno Fernandes Could Be The Playmaker Portugal Needs

SCOUTING REPORT: Sporting Braga Midfielder Rafa Silva Is A Potential Future Star

SCOUTING REPORT: Sporting Lisbon’s Carlos Mané Scores Brilliant Goal Against Marítimo

PLAYER PROFILE: Is Manchester United ‘Flop’ Bebé The Real Deal Afterall?

PLAYER PROFILE: Former Benfica Defender Miguel Vitor Loving Life In Greece

SCOUTING REPORT: Benfica’s Ivan Cavaleiro Is Hoping To Break Into The Senior Squad

Photo: Wikipedia Commons/Ilja Chochłow

Photo: Wikipedia Commons/Ilja Chochłow

Portugal is quietly developing the best young talent pool since the Golden Generation of the 1990s. Futebol Factory has compiled a list of some of the best breakthrough performers from the first half of the season.

The Portuguese league continues to produce some exciting young talent. Sporting Lisbon’s William Carvalho, in particular has stood out this season. The Angolan-born defensive midfielder has attracted interest from Manchester United, Arsenal and other top clubs with his impressive displays.

At the same time, several promising players are heading abroad and succeeding in other top leagues as well. Former Benfica defender Miguel Vitor has adjusted very well in the Greek league with PAOK. While, Nelson Oliveira has made good strides on loan this season at French club Stade Rennais.

Ligue 1, in particular is well represented on the list. Along with Oliveira, Olympique Lyonnais goalkeeper Anthony Lopes and Lorient defender Raphaël Guerreiro have also played well.

Right-back Diogo Figueiras has earned a starting position in La Liga with FC Sevilla, playing alongside a strong Portuguese contingent in the Andaluz club. Rúben Vezo’s strong start to the season with Vitória Setúbal has earned him a January transfer to Valencia.

Here now is a list of the top Portuguese revelations from the first half of the season laid out in a 4-3-3 formation.

STARTING XI:

Anthony Lopes, Olympique Lyonnais, Goalkeeper

The 23-year-old goalkeeper earned a starting position with Lyon this summer with his impressive displays in the pre-season. The French-born Lopes has good technique and is known for making exceptional saves. He received his first call-up to the Selecção in September.

His strong start to the season was put in serious jeopardy when he suffered a fractured vertebrae in November in a Ligue 1 match against Guingamp. Lopes was expected to be out long-term but returned less than two months after the injury. He is expected to battle with Braga’s Eduardo as Portugal’s third-choice goalkeeper behind Beto and Rui Patricio.

Paulo Oliveira, Vitória Guimarães, Centre Back

One of the several bright young stars that have come out of Vitória Guimarães in recent years. A local boy, who is a product of the club’s academy, the 21-year-old centre back has been solid for Rui Vitoria’s club.

Oliveira is steadily building up a good resume. He has played in the Europa League this season. And he has been a regular for Portugal at the U21 level as well. Most recently, Oliveira was named the best young player in the Portuguese first division for the month of December.

Miguel Vitor, PAOK, Central Defender

One of the best stories from the first half of the season. The 24-year-old Vitor endured loan spells at Desportivo das Aves and Leicester City, in between time sitting on the bench for Benfica. He spent 2012-13 in the club’s reserve squad in the second division.

Benfica finally gave him his unconditional release this past summer. He signed with Greek club PAOK and has thrived. Vitor has scored five goals for the club already this season. Portugal is not particularly deep at central defender. A strong second half could be enough to draw Paulo Bento’s attention.

Luis Martins, Gil Vicente, Left-Back

Like Miguel Vitor, left-back Luis Martins was never really given a fair chance at Benfica. He transferred to Gil Vicente in January 2013 where he has since flourished. This season, he has started all 14 matches for the club and scored two goals.

Martins played in the Portugal squad that reached the final of the 2011 U20 World Cup. This season, he has played himself into the U21 squad as well, which is undergoing qualifying for the European Championships in 2015. At only 21 years of age, Martins will surely be a player to watch in the future.

Diogo Figueiras, Sevilla, Right-Back

The 23-year-old right-back has been impressive with FC Sevilla this early season. He was bought from Paços Ferreira in the summer to back up Coke, but has since replaced the Spaniard as first-choice. Figueiras is a skilled right-back who has the ability to beat defenders one-on-one.

However, he still commits too many fouls and needs to learn how to balance his offensive skills with his defensive responsibilities. This season has not gone without a blemish, he is currently serving a four-match suspension for verbally abusing a referee.

William Carvalho, Sporting Lisbon, Defensive Midfielder

The 21-year-old has enjoyed an unbelievable ascent over the last six months. Carvalho’s performances in the pre-season with Sporting earned him a place in the starting XI. Since then he has impressed everyone with his simple, but highly effective displays.

Carvalho was voted the best player in the Portuguese league in October, November and December. He is drawing interests from several big European clubs. Depending on how the rest of the season goes, Carvalho is at this moment, a prime candidate to be in Portugal’s squad for the World Cup.

Tiago Silva, Belenenses, Central Midfielder

The 20-year-old midfielder has been behind many of Belenenses’ attacks this season. Silva is an offensively minded midfielder who has good vision and is a good passer of the ball. He is another former Benfica youth player who left for Lisbon rivals Belenenses in 2009.

Last season, while playing in the second division, he impressed club manager Mitchell van der Gaag in pre-season and earned himself a regular starting position. He helped the team to promotion last season and has continued to grow as a player.

Rafa Silva, Sporting Braga, Attacking Midfielder/Winger

The 20-year-old attacking midfielder was bought from second division Feirense last summer and has impressed with his skill and vision. Expected to be used as a substitute this season, Silva has played himself in to Jesualdo Ferreira’s squad. He has also been used as a winger at times.

Silva’s has enjoyed a remarkable rise in Portuguese football over the last few years. He played with little known Atlético Povoense before signing with Alverca as a youth player. Silva would make the most of his playing time in the lower divisions and earned a transfer to Feirense in 2011. This year he has been selected for Portugal’s U20 and U21 squads.

Diogo Viana, Gil Vicente, Winger

A former Sporting Lisbon and FC Porto youth player, Diogo Viana is finally getting his chance to play full-time in the Portuguese top flight this season. And he has not failed to disappoint. Viana has been the main offensive threat for a surprising Gil Vicente club this season.

According to a report in the Daily Mirror in November, Premier League clubs Everton and Swansea City are interesting in signing the Portuguese winger. He recently signed an extension with the club that expires in 2016. The deal includes a release clause of €5 million.

Fredy, Belenenses, Winger

The 23-year-old was a major part of Belenenses gaining promotion back to the top division. The Angolan-born winger, who has played for Portugal’s junior squads, has been in excellent form once again this season.

He was recently rewarded with a contract extension that will see him tied to the club until 2016. The deal includes a €4 million release clause. According to O Jogo, several clubs are interested in signing the talented winger.

Nelson Oliveira, Benfica (On Loan at Rennes), Striker

The Portuguese international has followed up a disappointing loan spell in La Liga last year with a much better season with Rennes. The 22-year-old has already scored seven goals so far with the French club after getting only four all of last season with Deportivo.

The young striker still has to improve his decision-making and ability to link up with his teammates. However, he is still making a strong case to be in Portugal’s World Cup squad. Rennes has expressed interest in signing him to a permanent deal.

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SUBSTITUTES:

Miguel Rodrigues, Nacional, Centre Back
Rúben Vezo, Vitória Setúbal (Transferred To Valencia), Central Defender
Raphaël Guerreiro, FC Lorient, Left-Back
Filipe Ferreira, Belenenses, Left-Back
Danilo Pereira, Marítimo, Central Defender/Defensive Midfielder
Sérgio Oliveira, FC Porto (On Loan at Paços de Ferreira), Central Midfielder
Ivan Cavaleiro, Benfica, Winger
Paulinho, Gil Vicente, Winger
Marco Matias, Vitória Guimarães, Striker

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SCOUTING REPORT: Benfica’s Ivan Cavaleiro Is Hoping To Break Into The Senior Squad

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Scout Report – William Carvalho

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Everton, Tottenham and Newcastle United are all said to be interested in signing Vitória de Guimarães’ 21-year-old striker Amido Baldé this summer, according to several reports in the English media.

Baldé scored his eighth goal of the campaign in Sunday’s 2-1 win against Beira-Mar. He has played a central part in Vitória Guimarães’ successful season so far. The club remains only two points away from a Europa League spot for next season with 5 matches to go.

Known for his size at 1.93m and strength, Baldé would be well-suited for the Premiership, although he is unlikely to play a major part in any club’s immediate plans. Baldé was born in Guinea-Bissau, but left in 2008 when he was signed by Portuguese giants Sporting Lisbon. He has played for Portugal at the junior level.

In 2010, he graduated to the senior club and was loaned out to second tier Santa Clara. This was followed by loan spells at Spanish club Badajoz and Cercle Brugge in Belgium. Despite showing promise, Sporting decided to release him this past summer. Baldé eventually signed with his current club Vitória Guimarães.

Baldé’s agent Catio Baldé told Portuguese radio station Antena 1 that there is a 80 percent chance that his client will leave for a foreign club at the end of this season. He also confirmed that there was interest from clubs in France, Germany, as well as England.

Photo: Wikipedia Commons/Steve Gardner

Photo: Wikipedia Commons/Steve Gardner

Benfica now have a four point lead over rivals FC Porto in the domestic title race after an impressive 4-0 defeat of Vitória Guimarães on Sunday.

Oscar Cardozo scored on a penalty just before half-time to put the capital club ahead. Ezequiel Garay, Edoardo Salvio and Rodrigo would score in the second half to earn Jorge Jesus’ side a decisive victory.

After the match, Jesus spoke about how Benfica’s slump in March last year would eventually cost them the Championship and stressed that his club need to remain focussed.

“A four point advantage does not change things, we need to remain responsible and humble. We have not won anything, we are just in first place. We still have seven matches left to play, if we want to end the season in first, we need to win more matches,” Jesus told journalists.

Benfica were able to take advantage after FC Porto slumped to a 1-1 draw against Marítimo. James Rodriguez scored the only goal for the two-time defending Champions in the 33rd minute of play but Maritimo struck back a few minutes later with a goal by Hyun-Jun Suk.

In the second half, David Simão brought down defender Danilo in the box and Porto were given a chance to go ahead. Jackson Martinez took the penalty but had his attempt stopped by Martimo’s Romain Salin.

Manager Vitor Pereira spoke about the result after the match and admitted that the Portuguese league championship now depends on Benfica’s results.

“We created chances, missed a penalty and conceded a goal on a play that was under our control but Mangala slipped. I give the team credit, because they gave it their all but in the end we did not get the victory. I regret the result, it is not what we wanted,” Pereira said.

The draw was the second in three matches in the Portuguese league, allowing Benfica to take advantage. João Moutinho missed his third straight league match after re-injuring himself in his return in Porto’s 2-0 loss against Malaga on Wednesday.

Moutinho’s absence has been felt, as FC Porto have lost their place at the top of the Portuguese league to Benfica, as well as being eliminated from the Champions League with the loss to Malaga. Moutinho is currently in Óbidos with the Seleção but did not train with the team on Monday. He continues to recover from a bruised thigh. Portugal face Israel in a crucial World Cup qualifier on Friday.

Sporting Lisbon continued their revival under veteran manager Jesualdo Ferreira with an important 2-1 win against Vitória Setúbal. Vitória’s Amoreirinha scored an own goal in the 16th minute, which was followed by a penalty by Zakaria Labyad a few minutes later to give Sporting a 2-0 advantage. Makukula would score for Vitória before half-time but the Leões held on the rest of the way.

Sporting manager Jesualdo Ferreira was pleased with his club’s effort but added that they need to continue to improve. “In some phases of the match, this was Sporting’s best game, in others not so much. It could have been an easy victory if we had played well the entire match,” Ferreira said.

Sporting are currently in 10th place after 23 matches, but only four points away from the final Europa League spot for next season which currently belongs to Estoril. Ferreira said that European qualification is still a very real possibility.

“We have seven matches left, next we will face Braga and I believe we will play a good match because we are better motivated. When the team is calm, attentive and concerted, we could make things interesting and could control the match against any opponents. We have to continue to work hard in order to qualify for Europe. We have to believe in what is possible.”

Elsewhere, Sporting Braga retained third place with an impressive 3-1 defeat of Gil Vicente in Barcelos. Hugo Viana scored two and Zé Luís scored the third. Hugo Vieira scored the lone goal for Gil Vicente. It was his 5th goal in 8 matches since returning from his unsuccessful loan spell at Sporting Gijón.