Which Portuguese players have the best chance of winning the 2022/2023 Champions League?

Now there’s the million-dollar question. As the 2022/23 edition of the Champions League draws to its closing stages, several Portuguese footballers playing for some of the biggest European clubs still hold out hope of taking the trophy home.

Moreover, at the time of writing Portugal still have two Primeira Liga representatives alive in the greatest club competition in world football.

Given the teams they play for, Bernardo Silva, Rúben Dias, Mário Rui and João Cancelo must be among the favourites, but the list of potential Portuguese players becoming champions of Europe is far longer. Who are in the running? 

The early round-of-16 victors

Benfica, Chelsea, Bayern Munich and AC Milan are the four clubs who have booked their passage in the quarter-finals, and all have Luso players on their books.

Benfica played a fantastic group stage, coming top of a section containing PSG and Juventus, and were rewarded with a favourable draw against Club Brugge. The Eagles duly saw off the Belgians, winning home and away. The heartbeat of the team is Portugal international João Mário, who is enjoying the season of his life, but fellow midfielder Florentino Luís, young centre-back António Silva, livewire forward Rafa Silva and prolific striker Gonçalo Ramos have been equally impressive.

Under Roger Schmidt, Benfica have been a different beast this year, but it would still be a major shock for the Portuguese team to go all the way. A favourable draw is surely essential.

Chelsea are also into the last eight and a matchup against Benfica would be strong on narratives. Enzo Fernández left the Portuguese capital after a fantastic 6 months at the Estádio da Luz, but the circumstances of his departure left a bad taste in the mouth. Another former Benfica player, however, would be given a friendly welcome back to Lisbon if the two teams meet. João Félix has shown signs he is getting back to his brilliant best since switching to the London club from Atlético Madrid.

Bayern Munich are always in the running to be crowned kings of Europe, so João Cancelo has to be one of the Portuguese players with the best chance of lifting the trophy.

Milan striker Rafael Leão was voted MVP in Italy last season and seems set for a brilliant future. However, much like Benfica and Porto, it would be a major surprise if the Italian club went all the way.

Other round-of-16 contenders

FC Porto have built a formidable reputation in Europe over recent decades, winning four trophies in that time and being crowned continental champions twice (1987 and 2004). And despite losing in the San Siro in the first leg, a single-goal deficit is far from impossible to turn around.

Goalkeeper Diogo Costa and attacking right-back João Mário are two of Porto’s biggest Portuguese stars, with Brazilian-born Otávio and captain Pepe also important players for the Portugal national team. Should the Dragons overcome Inter Milan, a favourable draw will get the fans dreaming of more international silverware.

One of the big favourites to win the Champions League every year is Manchester City. Bernardo Silva and Rúben Dias continue to play a major role in Pep Guardiola’s side and are expected to complete the job against RB Leipzig after drawing the first leg 1-1 in Germany. Portugal striker André Silva, however, will be eyeing an upset.

One player who will fancy his chances of getting his hands on the trophy is Napoli left-back Mário Rui. The Italians are enjoying a sensational season and have one foot in the quarter-finals having beaten Eintracht Frankfurt 2-0 in the away leg.

Liverpool, in contrast, have had a forgettable season and the 5-2 thrashing they took at home to Real Madrid surely ends the hopes of Portuguese forward Jota in the competition. It would need something truly remarkable for the Merseyside club to turn the tie around.

Champions League favourites

As seems to be the case every year, Man City are going in as favourites, although they have yet to live up to the bookies hype (maybe this year?). The majority of Champions League odds have put them just above Bayern Munich, and it looks as though pretty much everyone thinks these are the two teams to beat.

It comes as no surprise that the defending champions, Real Madrid saw their odds slashed after they put the boot in at Anfield, who consequently saw their odds of winning plummet. Maybe a bet on a Liverpool comeback is worth a shot? They’ve overcome big deficits before, famously in 2019 when they overturned a 3-0 first-leg defeat against Barcelona at the Camp Nou, winning the second leg 4-0, not to mention the famous 2005 final when they also pulled back a 3-0 deficit to eventually win, against Milan.

Our hunch

Well, although many people have Man City at the top, we still can’t bring ourselves to favour them. They always seem to choke in the run-up and year after year they fall at the final hurdle. And, arguably, their form isn’t quite as good as in previous seasons.

As such, we think that Bayern Munich might well be the ones to watch. They absolutely flew through the ‘Group of Death’, beating both Barcelona and Inter Milan to come top of the table. It was impressive stuff.

Bayern managed to put away 18 goals over those 6 matches, conceding only two. Given the quality of the opposition, it was pretty impressive to say the least. Strangely enough, the two goals they did concede were against the smallest club in their group - Viktoria Plzen. They managed to keep clean sheets against both Inter and Barca.

The Bavarians then dispatched PSG, winning home and away to send the French powerhouse packing.

We realise that Bayern are conceding a fair few in the Bundesliga, but maybe there is less motivation to perform. This season they have performed best on the big European stage for sure.

Good for a long shot

If you fancy betting on a long shot, and you aren’t quite brave enough to bet on a Liverpool resurgence, then there’s always Napoli, which have very generous odds all across the board. 

Right now, Napoli are playing very well. They are leading Serie A by quite a way and they absolutely bossed their Champions League group. The only game they lost was at Anfield against Liverpool… when they had already booked their place in the final 16.

Khvicha Kvaratskhelia is becoming a well-known name in Europe and if you combine his skills with Piotr Zielenski, you have a deadly creative duo that can happily feed their target man, Osimhen. These players helped Napoli score the most goals in groups stages of any team.

They also have a solid defence, led by Giovanni Di Lorenzi and Mário Rui, conceding only 6 goals in the group stages. Can they maintain the momentum after the World Cup break? Who knows, but they are definitely worth a pop!

For a real dark horse, either of the Portuguese teams will reward you handsomely if you back them and they go all the way. But realistically, it is far more likely that one of Portugal’s exports will taste the ultimate success in club football rather than Portuguese footballers currently playing in their home country.