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Dominic Vieiras Insight on the Portuguese Game

When we think of the biggest leagues in Europe, the Premier League, La Liga, Serie A and Bundesliga certainly stand out of the crowd. But, what about the Dutch, French and Portuguese leagues, why are they constantly overshadowed by the ‘Big Four’? Portugal is a small nation in Europe with a population of 10 million, however unlike many other countries; football is the number one sport by a huge margin.

Portugal is a football driven country. If you were to step into a cafe in any corner of the country, a football conversation would most definitely be heard. Portugal may have a less competitive league with smaller stadiums and less money involved, however it shares a strong passion for the beautiful game.

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The Portuguese league has always been dominated by Sporting CP, SL Benfica, and FC Porto. Historically, Benfica has always been regarded as one of the greatest teams on the planet, but in recent times FC Porto has been extremely successful in Europe, winning 2 Champions Leagues, 1 UEFA Cup and 1 Cup Winners’ Cup. Sporting may be the least successful club in terms on trophies, but it has one of the most successful football academies in the world.  In a short period of time many great footballers have sprouted from their academy and made large money transfers to bigger European clubs, some examples are Luis Figo (retired, left Sporting for Barcelona in 1995), Cristiano Ronaldo (sold to Manchester United in 2003), Ricardo Quaresma (transferred to Barcelona in 2003), Hugo Viana (moved to Newcastle in 2002), João Moutinho (current club captain), Miguel Veloso (currently playing for Sporting), Nani (followed Ronaldo’s footsteps and joined United in 2007) and Simão Sabrosa (sold to Barcelona in 1999).

Portugal is not only a successful football nation for producing talented players; they are regarded as a bridge for talented Southern Americans to enter Europe. Players such as Pepe (Maritimo & Porto), Deco (Benfica & Porto), Diego (Porto) , Luis Fabiano (Porto), Anderson (Porto), Lisandro Lopez (Porto), Bolatti (Porto) have all played in Portugal before making the big jump to a more competitive and challenging league.

Every year many of the stars of the league depart for a new adventure, in recent years Porto has been a colossal exporter with the huge transfers of Deco, Ricardo Carvalho, Cissokho, Bosingwa, Lisandro Lopez, Pepe. Nonetheless, there are many big players present that are on the radar of big clubs who in the future will complete big money transfers. Benfica recently have invested millions of euros in some of South America’s promising talents which all have multi-million transfer clauses signed on their contracts: Di Maria, David Luiz, Luisão, Ramires, Cardozo and Fabio Coentrão (Portuguese). Porto have managed to buy unknown talented players and cheap prices and sell them for record fees. Their currently promising stars are: Bruno Alves (home grown product), Hulk, Raul Meireles (Portugues), Falcao and Ruben Micael (Portugues). Sporting as always invest intensely in their youth system and currently play with 5 talented home grown boys: João Moutinho, Miguel Veloso, Rui Patricio, Adrien Silva and Daniel Carriço.

The big Portuguese teams have been making more foreign signings each season, especially from Southern America, but each club has been focussing into their successful youth teams. It won’t be long until a Portuguese team wins another European trophy. Benfica who have been having a terrific season are contenders to win the Europa League and Porto are not an easy opposition in the Champions League.

On a final note, there is more to Portuguese football than Cristiano Ronaldo and José Mourinho.

Thank you and I hope you liked my first article. Please feel free to ask any questions or post your queries below.

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