The group stages of the Champions League are over and the disappointment of there being no Portuguese team in the knockout phase of this season’s edition of the competition has still not sunk in.
However, with a wealth of Portuguese talent plying its trade abroad, there are still plenty of players and managers you can follow on the road to Istanbul. One week ahead of the start of the knockout stages, PortuGOAL maps out the substantial Portuguese presence competing to lift the biggest prize in club football in 2019/20.
Cristiano Ronaldo (Juventus) & Anthony Lopes (Lyon)
Few players in history have had the sort of impact CR7 has had on the top tier of European football. He holds the record for the number of goals scored in one Champions League campaign (17 goals in 2013-14) and also holds the competition’s all-time scoring record. Having just turned 35 years old he would be forgiven for slowing down, but if anything has found a new lease of life in Turin, where he’s now breaking records for The Old Lady of Italian football. However, this season the striker extraordinaire has had, by his standards, a relatively quiet group stage campaign, netting just twice. That shouldn’t stop him licking his lips at the prospect of playing Lyon over two legs in the last 16, although Portugal goalkeeper Anthony Lopes will be doing his utmost to stop Ronaldo from adding to his incredible goal tally in the competition.
José Mourinho & Gedson Fernandes (Tottenham Hotspur)
Few managers can boast a Champions League record as good as Jose Mourinho’s, with only four others having repeated his feat of winning the competition with two different clubs. The Portuguese’s new charges, Tottenham Hotspur, reached the final last season only to lose out to Liverpool, but primed with the experience of going so close last year, combined with The Special One’s Champions League know-how, should make their long Champions League winner odds very attractive. That said, The Special One’s cloak of invincibility has begun to fray of late, and with Harry Kane injured as well as Christian Erickson leaving for Inter Milan, perhaps Mourinho’s best Champions League days are behind him. The recently acquired Gedson Fernandes, however, will be another ace up Mourinho’s sleeve as Spurs do battle against Bundesliga outfit RB Leipzig.
João Félix (Atletico Madrid)
Expectations were high when wonder kid João Félix swapped Benfica for Atletico Madrid, but he is yet to catch fire in either the Champions League or La Liga. Things may be set to get even tougher for him, with Atletico playing the reigning European champions and runaway Premier League leaders Liverpool in the first round of the Champions league knock-out phase. Add to this the fact that he has been injury ravaged over the last few months and perhaps the last thing he needs are bone crunching tackles from the world’s best defender, Virgil van Dijk.
Bernardo Silva & João Cancelo (Manchester City)
Recently valued during the January transfer window at a shade under €100 million is one of Manchester City’s oft unsung heroes, Bernardo Silva, who at the age of just 25 has already made himself a mainstay of Pep Guardiola’s midfield. The man affectionately nicknamed “Bubbleman” by his Man City teammates, due to his innate ability to keep the ball stuck to his feet, has chipped in with goals, assists and lung busting defensive backtracking this season, and will be raring to go against Real Madrid, who despite being in a lofty position in La Liga have yet to set pulses racing with their displays.
Silva’s compatriot João Cancelo is gradually making his mark at City after his summer move from Juventus and will be gunning to impress in the Champions League in order to nail down a place in Portugal’s Euro 2020 squad. It remains to be seen if Real will have what it takes to contain the likes of Silva, De Bruyne, Sterling and Co.
Raphaël Guerreiro (Borussia Dortmund)
Like Bernardo Silva, Raphaël Guerreiro is another Portuguese international who keeps his head down and does his talking with his boots, meaning that his incredible ball dribbling and goalscoring skills regularly get overlooked. That could all change if he performs well against PSG in the Champions League last 16, incidentally the same team who tried to sign him in 2019. Other European giants have also been hunting for the 26-year-old’s signature, including Barcelona. If he can overshadow the likes of Neymar and Mbappé then a dream summer move could be on the cards.
Nélson Semedo (Barcelona) & Mário Rui (Napoli)
Another last-16 tie that will see two Portugal internationals lock horns is Barcelona versus Napoli. Former Benfica defender Nélson Semedo has beaten off fierce competition in Catalonia to make the right-back berth his own at the Camp Nou, and in his typical marauding runs up the pitch he will be striving to get the better of his international team-mate, left-back Mário Rui. A low-profile player but consistent performer, Rui will be eyeing the opportunity to take advantage of the instability currently afflicting Barcelona to cause a huge Champions League shock.
Gonçalo Guedes (Valencia)
Just back from a long-term injury, Gonçalo Guedes will be desperate to play himself back into form in order to make Fernando Santos’ squad for Euro 2020. What better way to do that than in the world’s greatest club competition, and with Valencia pitted against Italian Champions League debutants, Atalanta, the Spaniards will feel they have a chance at going deeper and making it to the quarter-finals.