Porto’s Galeno in international tug of war as Brazil call up the winger wanted by Portugal

Wenderson Galeno is having a season to remember. He has especially shone in the Champions League (5 goals, 3 assists) and his form has not gone unnoticed.

Brazil coach Dorival Júnior yesterday gave the 26-year-old his debut call-up as a replacement for Arsenal’s Gabriel Martinelli, who had to drop out of the squad through injury.

However, Galeno is also eligible to play for Portugal. Seleção coach Roberto Martínez has intimated he is in his plans and was expected to include the Porto player when announcing the squad on Friday for the upcoming friendly matches against Sweden and Slovenia. 

Circuitous route to the top

Galeno first arrived in Portugal in his late teens, Porto turning an initial loan deal into a permanent move in 2017. Unable to break into the first team, Galeno was loaned out first to Portimonense then Rio Ave, where he first began making an impression in the Primeira Liga.

Nevertheless, Porto sold him to neighbours Braga, where he enjoyed two and half excellent seasons, which persuaded Porto to activate a repurchase clause and buy him back in the 2022 January transfer window.

New signings under Sérgio Conceição have to work hard to earn the trust of the coach and Galeno’s first half season back at the Estádio do Dragão was no great shakes.

But over the past two campaigns Galeno has made himself indispensable to the Dragons and is today arguably the team’s most potent attacking weapon. He has scored 13 goals and provided 11 assists in 36 games for FC Porto in 2023/24.

Martínez praise for Galeno

Now playing in Portugal for almost a decade, Brazilian-born Galeno obtained Portuguese nationality in 2022, and has said he would be open to the idea of playing for the country where he has played practically his entire career.

Although Seleção coach Roberto Martínez is spoiled for choice in terms of the offensive options he has selected who can occupy a wide position – Rafael Leão, Diogo Jota, João Félix, Ricardo Horta, Bruma – he has been asked about the possibility of bringing Galeno into the picture and has responded positively to the idea.

“Galeno is a player who can be very useful for the Seleção,” Martínez said in October. “I really like his verticality, his style of play. He’s a right-footer who can play on the left wing, but he’s very multifaceted. I like a lot what Galeno can bring, and the information I’ve been given by his club coach (Conceição) about his day-to-day attitude is positive, which is essential for me.”

Despite the words of praise, Martínez did not select Galeno during European Championship qualifying.

But the Spaniard said recently that he would be using the March friendlies to give a chance to players on the fringes of the squad, so if Galeno is to become a Portugal player ahead of Euro 2024, a call-up on Friday is a distinct possibility, and will force the player to make a decision. 

Nine precedents

Curiously, midfielder Matheus Nunes faced in the exact same quandary a few years ago. Playing for Sporting at the time, the now Manchester City player opted for the European Seleção rather than the South American one.

Should Galeno make the same decision and end up representing Portugal, he will be the latest player born in Brazil who opts to play for Portugal. Centre-back Pepe and midfielder Deco are two bonafide legends of the Portuguese national team, but it is not a recent phenomenon.

A total of nine players who were born in Brazil have won caps for the full Portugal team, going back over 50 years: Pepe (134 caps), Deco (75), Otávio (19), Liedson (15), Matheus Nunes (11), Lúcio Soares (5), Celso de Matos (3), Rony Lopes (2), Dyego Sousa (2).

By Tom Kundert