Tomás Costa and José Duarte deliver a scouting report on the most exciting young players now breaking through in Portugal and why Premier League clubs need to consider luring them to England.
Portugal is a small country, but has come to produce big football stars in the last decade. We are talking about Real Madrid players Cristiano Ronaldo, Pepe, Ricardo Carvalho and Fabio Coentrao, Manchester United winger Nani and Chelsea defender Paulo Ferreira; a few examples of the players that have been produced by the three major clubs in Portugal – Benfica, Porto and Sporting.
So let’s take a look at our “nominees”:
Ricardo Barbosa Pereira (Vitória de Guimarães)
Ricardito, who joined his current club last season, has come up this term as one of the biggest surprises in the Portuguese Liga Zon-Sagres. The 19 year old right-winger has already been tipped to have the potential of the ex-Fulham player, Luis Boa Morte, or even the well known Manchester United player, Nani. Not only because of his speed and dribbling skills, he was also formed in the Sporting’s youth academy, from where the two players mentioned, along with Cristiano Ronaldo, Luis Figo, and many others came from.
He has featured already in 26 of the 27 games his club has played this season, most of them as first choice. He’s now proving he’s worth the risk, having made of assists and three goals. His goal against Granada talks for itself.
Bruma (Sporting CP)
Another astonishing surprise this season has been Armindo Tué, also known as Bruma, another unpolished pearl from Sporting Clube de Portugal. Despite the rocky season from Sporting, this Portuguese player, from Guiné Bissau, has been fulfilling the task as the star of his club’s youth academy.
At the beginning of this season, he was playing in the Under 19 squad, since he is only 18 years old. He was quickly moved to Sporting B after some great exhibitions in the NextGen championship. In February, after the new manager Jesualdo Ferreira signed, he was called to the first team, and he has been handed a place in the squad, despite his age. Aurélio Pereira, chief scout, says he’s probably the player with most potential since Fábio Paim, who used to play for Chelsea, and Cristiano Ronaldo. His ferocious speed, flair and great technique earned him a €30M releasing clause.
Carlos Mané (Sporting CP)
Carlos Mané, another player coming from Sporting. The striker from the under-19 squad has been exciting the fans as one of the best raw diamonds in the last years. Last season he created an immediate impression in the NextLions Cup (Singapore) against Liverpool and this year he hasn’t let anyone down.
As Bruma was called to the first team, Carlos Mané was called to fill his place in Sporting B squad. The 18 year old player can play on the right and left wing, and while 165cm and 55kg, his game style is based on unbalancing the defence and creating havoc for opposition defenders.
André Gomes (SL Benfica)
It’s been a while since Benfica was able to produce such a young quality player. Nelson Oliveira and Roderick Miranda were two of the hottest prospects from the youth academy (Roderick was even linked to Barcelona). At 19 years old, he seems to be, by far, the youngster with the most potential.
Coming initially from the Porto youth academy, and having joined Benfica this season, he presents himself as a centre midfielder, with huge ability to hold the ball and distribute passes to the wingers and strikers.
He already has played ten games as first-choice, with two goals, and he hasn’t failed to show his abilities. His release clause was set at €30M. And guess who is his representative? The super-agent Jorge Mendes, also Cristiano Ronaldo’s.
João Mário (Sporting CP)
Captain and leader of Sporting B, the playmaker is dubbed the “maestro”. Fast, clever, effective; but, above all, great in simplicity.
The centre midfielder was also captain of Portugal under-19 (he is now 20 years old), winner of the Stromp prize, and he’s surely one of the best talents of the latest batch. His debut for the first team was made in 2011.
Compared to Paul Scholes’ game style, he also shows great defensive skills – since he started his football career as central defender – but lately he has been developing great “field presence”, making him the “cornerstone” of his team.