Portuguese Abroad: Team of the Season

At the end of another season full of Portuguese involvement across the globe, we put together a Portuguese Abroad Team of the Season. As usual, it involved some tough decisions.









GK: José Sá (Wolverhampton Wanderers)

Wolves goalkeeper José Sá heads to the European Championships as one of Diogo Costa’s back-ups, and he does so after a commendable season in the Premier League. Sá is not the most spectacular of ‘keepers, but he has been dependable as Gary O'Neil’s side have surprised some with a return to form in England this year.

Although perhaps not as adept with his feet as some emerging modern goalkeepers, Sá’s 42 high claims in the Premier League put him joint-top in that area alongside Emi Martinez of Aston Villa, while his shot-stopping remains solid. Real Betis goalkeeper Rui Silva recently stated that Portugal has an excess in quality between the sticks, and while Costa remains comfortably clear as first choice, the depth of options for understudy looks strong for years to come.


RB: Nélson Semedo (Wolverhampton Wanderers)

Staying with Wolves, it feels Nélson Semedo is increasingly proving himself the high-quality full-back promised when he arrived from Barcelona four years ago. Semedo is dependable in his duties and although not as incisive going forward as some of Portugal’s other full-back options, he was an easy inclusion for Roberto Martinez’s squad.

Semedo was named Wolves’ Player of the Year, which given the competition from a well-coached collective is no mean feat. His ability to perform at both right-back and in a more advanced wing-back role, allied to almost ten years’ experience at Benfica, Barcelona and Wolves, make him a player Portugal can rely upon. A player at his peak.


CB: Diogo Leite (Union Berlin)

Diogo Leite keeps his place in our Team of the Season, having maintained a good level despite a significant drop-off by his side. Union Berlin took the Bundesliga by storm last season, finishing 4th and qualifying for the Champions League. Leite was a revelation following his move from FC Porto, but this season has been a much different story.

Union narrowly avoided the relegation play-off on the final day of the season. However, Leite remained a key figure and even enjoyed a standout performance at the Bernabeu as Union were beaten by a stoppage-time Real Madrid winner. The Portugal man will not remain at Union according to reports, with imperious German champions Bayer Leverkusen believed to be potential suitors.


Toti Gomes (Wolverhampton Wanderers)

Another Wolves man, Toti Gomes edges Rúben Dias for a place in the team as recognition of his progress. A player without a massive profile in Portugal due to leaving Estoril after just a few games for the Wolves project, Toti has made steady development across the last four years. A loan move to the Swiss second-tier to help Grasshoppers to promotion was a humble starting point, after which Toti spent six months in the top-flight before being recalled by Wolves.

Since then, it has been steady progress at Molineux and Toti established himself as a first choice this season, racking up 38 starts across domestic competitions. Roberto Martinez rewarded Toti’s growth with two Portugal caps last year, as did Wolves by issuing him a five-and-a-half-year contract extension in February. The best season of his career and one to watch for the Seleção.


LB: Diogo Dalot (Manchester United)

Full-back is always a strong area for Portugal, so Manchester United man Diogo Dalot’s versatility means he allows more room for choice in this line-up. Dalot has deputised in a left-back role on plenty of occasions this season - including the FA Cup final win over Manchester City - with United being without a recognised player in the position for most of the campaign.

He has adapted to the task in fine fashion, even performing well as an inverted full-back from his less favoured side. Dalot is a fine athlete who gives his all on the pitch, making him an increasing fan favourite at Old Trafford despite the team’s woes. Named Players’ Player of the Year at the end of the season, it is clear his United colleagues appreciate the Portuguese, who has now racked up over 150 appearances for the club.


RM: Daniel Podence (Olympiacos)

Daniel Podence admitted his decision to rejoin Olympiacos from Wolves last summer was high risk. “It’s not a normal step,” he conceded on the move which saw the 27-year-old depart the Premier League after three seasons in England. By the end of his first year back in Piraeus, the choice had been vindicated in the most spectacular fashion as Olympiacos clinched their first-ever European trophy.

Victory over Fiorentina in the Europa Conference League gave Greece their first continental success and was perhaps Olympiacos’ finest moment. Podence was outstanding this season, contributing a career-record 15 goals in all competitions, as well as 13 assists. The pick of the bunch was arguably his stunning individual goal in the derby against Panathinaikos in May. The best season of his career so far.


CM: João Palhinha (Fulham)

João Palhinha’s response to being denied a dream move to Bayern Munich at the end of last summer is testament to his character. Palhinha was in Munich ready for the club to release images of him in his new colours, but Fulham cancelled the sale at the last moment due to their own failings in organising a replacement.

Palhinha was given a new contract by the Cottagers, but the 28-year-old was no doubt devastated by the experience. Yet he remained the committed talisman Fulham fans had become accustomed to, once again leading the Premier League tackling charts with 152. Palhinha also continues to pop up with crucial goals, with all four of his strikes earning draws away from home. An inspirational figure.


Vitinha (Paris Saint-Germain)

Probably the best Portuguese player in the world this season, Vitinha is growing into one of the finest midfielders in the game. With tireless running and acute defensive instincts, combined with high technical quality and a growing eye for goal, it is little wonder Paris Saint-Germain boss Luis Enrique described Vitinha as the club’s best player this term.

Vitinha was duly named in the Ligue 1 Team of the Season and is now seen as one of the star men of the new PSG, emerging from the era of Neymar and Kylian Mbappe. Rarely a starter for Portugal in competitive games, Vitinha’s role at the European Championships is a fascinating prospect for Roberto Martinez to ponder.


LM: Bernardo Silva (Manchester City)

Manchester City’s reign over English football saw them make it a record four Premier League titles in a row this season. City have now won a remarkable six league titles in seven years. Within the consistency, it is worth noting that only six players have remained throughout the domination. Bernardo Silva is one of them, racking up 16 medals and counting in England.

Perhaps there was a cruel symmetry about the way Bernardo’s curious penalty miss in the Champions League semi-final shootout loss to Real Madrid came 12 months after arguably the best performance of his career against the same opposition. But Bernardo scored more goals this season, netting 12 in all competitions – an underrated contribution for a player who is so much more than stats.


CAM: Bruno Fernandes (Manchester United)

It was a close call between Bruno Fernandes and Rafael Leão for this spot. Perhaps had the decision been in March, Fernandes could have missed out. However, not only is the brilliant Portuguese playing in one of the worst Manchester United sides in modern history, but he was also one of the few who showed fight at crucial moments.

Perhaps the best evidence was United’s run of matches after their fantastic FA Cup quarter-final win over Liverpool. Fernandes used the momentum to produce his best form of the season, scoring seven goals in five games, but United collapsed in several games, costing them hopes of Champions League qualification.

Ultimately, the stats continue to astound when it comes to Fernandes. In a team almost devoid of creativity and clocking uninspiring numbers for goals scored, the former Sporting man ended the Premier League season with the highest chance creation – for the second year running. Fernandes was widely praised for his role in United’s FA Cup final triumph over Man City in May. As he approached his 30th birthday this summer, the question must now be asked: does he deserve better?


CF: Cristiano Ronaldo (Al Nassr)

Some will continue to sneer at the achievements of footballers outside European football, but there is a refreshing admiration about the seriousness with which Ronaldo has undertaken his Saudi challenge. A number of high-profile footballers arrived in the Middle East’s flagship league and several have failed to adjust, be it on the pitch or maintaining their fitness.

Ronaldo has approached the venture with typical desire and ambition. A record-breaking haul of 35 league goals this season is evidence of his hunger to remain sharp, as was the inconsolable outburst of emotion after Al Nassr suffered a penalty shootout defeat to Al Hilal in the King’s Cup final. For Portugal, the hope is that he is even more resolute in proving the doubters wrong this summer.


Some honourable mentions:


CB: Rúben Dias (Manchester City)

Former Benfica man Rúben Dias is still clearly the best Portuguese central defender; his exclusion here does not contest that. Dias appears less of a mainstay for Pep Guardiola since his outstanding debut season and the decision to omit Dias from some big games does sometimes provoke questions for the usually incontestable City boss.

Dias was left out of the line-up for what is often seen as a title-decider when City visited Anfield to play Liverpool in March. He was also not selected for the FA Cup final, even being overlooked as substitute when Manuel Akanji replaced the struggling Nathan Ake at half time. He remains an immense presence at the Etihad; for Portugal, he will be undisputed.

CB: Danilo (Paris Saint-Germain)

Danilo is now officially a centre-back, having made the transition from defensive midfielder to member of the Paris Saint-Germain backline across recent years. While perhaps seen as a little immobile for the very biggest games, Danilo has made himself somewhat of a cult favourite at the Parc des Princes. His 27 starts for Luis Enrique’s team throughout the season at centre-back should not be underestimated and his versatility could serve Portugal well this summer.

RB: Tiago Santos (Lille)

Portugal’s quality in full-back areas continues to grow. At just 21, Tiago Santos has blossomed as an attacking outlet under Paulo Fonseca at Lille this season. Santos was plucked from Estoril for €6.5m last summer and it is certain that Lille will turn a profit on a very shrewd signing.

Fonseca was blunt when discussing Santos in the autumn, telling reporters his young charge still had plenty to learn about the defensive side of the game, having demonstrated great attacking endeavour. Santos continued to improve as Lille’s impressive campaign developed, and he is being touted to follow Fonseca to AC Milan this summer.

CM: Rúben Neves (Al Hilal)

The decision by Rúben Neves to switch to Saudi Arabia last summer provoked much discussion. At the age of 26, a player many Portuguese anticipated being a cornerstone of the national team and destined for a major European club had opted for the Pro League. Some may still find it difficult to appreciate the choice made by Neves, but he has been outstanding for Al Hilal in their historic League and Cup double, during which they broke the Guiness World Record for consecutive victories.

CM: Nené (Jagiellonia Białystok)

One of the lesser-known exports under consideration, former Santa Clara midfielder Nené has been a crucial figure for Polish champions Jagiellonia Białystok. Having failed to score a single league goal in three seasons with the Azoreans in the Portuguese top flight, the 28-year-old has certainly found his shooting boots in the Ekstraklasa, scoring 9 goals as Jagiellonia became champions for the first time.

CM: Otavio (Al Nassr)

Like Ronaldo and Neves, Otávio has approached his move to Saudi Arabia and Al Nassr with total focus. The midfielder likely knew his international prospects could be hampered by the switch, but Otávio has been a clear success in the Pro League, where his side had to settle for runners-up in both major competitions to double winners Al Hilal.

RW: Pedro Neto (Wolverhampton Wanderers)

Had the Team of the Season been based on performance related to minutes on the pitch, Pedro Neto would be the star man. When he has been on the field this term – he has been outstanding. Sadly, the winger has again missed half the campaign through injury, starting less than 50% of Premier League matches, although he was still able to contribute 9 assists. His place in Portugal’s Euro 2024 squad, having barely played since February, is testament to the unique talent he possesses.

LW: Rafael Leão (AC Milan)

There were times during this season that Rafael Leão seemed an obvious inclusion for this team. When he is at his best, the forward is one of the most exhilarating sights in world football. Yet there remains the sense that Leão plays in patches, still unable to quite sustain the kind of form which makes him one of the most coveted talents in the game.

Leão went five months without a Serie A goal between late September and late February, inviting critics which he quelled with an upturn in form towards the end of the campaign. A tally of 9 Serie A goals is underwhelming, especially compared to last season’s 15, but Leão topped the assists chart. As he turns 25, there will be expectation that Leão explodes into a genuine elite performer next season.

CF: Gonçalo Ramos (Paris Saint-Germain)

It was a slow start to life in French capital for Gonçalo Ramos following his high-profile move from Benfica. Ramos found the net in just one outing during the first three months of the season, albeit that occasion was in the Le Classique against hated rivals Marseille, during which he scored a brace. However, the 22-year-old found his feet in the New Year and ended the campaign with a respectable 14 goals in all competitions. Next season is a big one for the young striker.

By @SeanGillen9

What are your thoughts? Any inclusions or exclusions you disagree with? Comment below!