Portuguese footballers have been phenomenally successful in the world’s most high-profile league in recent years. Last season three Luso players made it into the English Premier League team of the season: João Cancelo, Bernardo Silva and Cristiano Ronaldo.
It is no surprise, therefore, that English clubs are increasingly splashing out on Portuguese talent. At the time of writing the number of players of Portuguese nationality who will ply their trade in England’s top flight in 2022/23 had reached the remarkable total of 26!
Which of these will be making the biggest headlines in the upcoming campaign?
The most expensive Portuguese import so far this close season is new Arsenal midfielder Fábio Vieira. The Gunners paid 35 million euros for the highly talented Portugal U21 international and while Vieira faces stiff competition for a place in the team as the London club continues to invest in strengthening its squad, his brilliant second half of 2021/22 suggests he has plenty to offer in terms of creativity, assists and goals. It would certainly not surprise football analysts in Portugal if Arsenal fans are once again singing about a folk hero named Vieira in the coming season.
New Fulham midfielder João Palhinha has also arrived in the Premier League this summer. Although signing with much less fanfare than Vieira, Palhinha is actually more advanced in his football development, as a full Portugal international. Indeed, the former Sporting holding midfielder was one of the few Seleção players to impress at last year’s European Championship. A solid, tough-tackling and tactically intelligent player, Palhinha could be exactly what Fulham need to consolidate themselves back in the upper echelon of English football.
CR7 ambition undimmed
As usual, the noise around Cristiano Ronaldo has been deafening in the off-season, with the Portugal captain reportedly keen to leave Old Trafford and switch to a club that provides him with Champions League football and a more realistic chance of winning silverware. If you too enjoy that winning feeling, check out the legal online casino for a chance to choose a trusted and legal casino and be sure that you will receive your winnings and come away smiling.
Chelsea are said to be interested in signing the greatest Portuguese player of all time, and such a coup would be a perfect way for new owner Todd Boehly to announce himself as a big player among football’s elite clubs. And despite the fact Ronaldo will turn 38 during the course of the season, his showing last term and his determination to stay at the top of the game suggest he still has plenty to offer.
The usual suspects
Manchester City and Liverpool have pushed each other to seemingly ever greater levels of football excellence in their fight for supremacy in England and in Europe, and again Portuguese players have been front and centre of their efforts. Rúben Dias stole most of the headlines in his first season in England in 2020/21, but in City’s most recent triumph it was Bernardo Silva and João Cancelo who wooed football lovers all over the world with a series of wondrous displays for the Citizens. Indeed, on the evidence of Portugal’s most recent Nations League matches, the duo has struck up an almost telepathic understanding, which in combination with their outstanding technique and energy levels makes them a joy to watch. Dias, Silva and Cancelo will certainly be central to both Manchester City’s drive for more glory, and Portugal’s efforts to win a first World Cup in Qatar.
Not that the Manchester club will have an easy ride. Liverpool have proven a formidable rival, and Diogo Jota’s infectious energy and consistent goal supply will likely see the Reds matching City every step of the way again. At 25 years of age, Jota is entering the peak years of his football career and an improvement on his 21 goals in 55 appearances last season would be a huge boost to Liverpool’s chances of winning the league.
Standout team stars
While the players listed in the previous section are the most likely to be wearing winners’ medals around their necks come May, several other Portuguese players will be looked upon to perform key roles in ensuring their clubs have a successful season.
Bruno Fernandes at Manchester United, Ricardo Pereira at Leicester and Rúben Neves at Wolves have all been championed in the recent past as their club’s player of the season. All three clubs had relatively disappointing campaigns in 2021/22 and will be looking to bounce back, with the Portuguese threesome certainly at the heart of what fans will be hoping is a big improvement.
One of the eternal fascinations of the beautiful game is its unpredictability. Football has an unparalleled ability to rocket names from relative obscurity to superstar status in double quick time. Two Portuguese players come to mind as potentially belonging to this category: Fábio Carvalho and Pedro Neto.
Carvalho’s magnificent displays helped fire Fulham to promotion last year. Liverpool tried to sign him in the January transfer window, and have now completed the transfer and while most onlookers will be expecting Mohamed Salah, Diogo Jota, Luis Díaz and expensive new signing Darwin Nunez to hog the headlines, if Carvalho hits the ground running he has the potential to shine just a brightly. As for Neto, the Wolves winger was making a big name for himself a couple of years ago before suffering a serious knee injury. Back to full fitness, Neto will be looking to recapture the form that catapulted him into Portugal’s team and should he do so he could well further enhance his reputation in Qatar.
Other Portuguese players to monitor
Wolves trio Daniel Podence, Nélson Semedo and José Sá have all shown flashes of brilliance to English football audiences, while experienced campaigners André Gomes, Cédric Soares and João Moutinho will not have given up hope of making the plane to Qatar.
By Tom Kundert