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Scouting Special: The Young Promises of the 2021 Portuguese Championship

11 Mins read

Despite being a European country of around ten million inhabitants, Portugal boasts a football tradition that has nothing to envy the other big names in football on the old continent. Only lastly can we cite the striking example of Cristiano Ronaldo, a Portuguese champion who for some is the best footballer of all time, who also managed to become European champion in the previous tournament before Italy managed to take the title this summer. But the heralds of the Portuguese tradition over time have been many, see champions of the caliber of Eusebio, Rui Costa, Figo, Deco, Quaresma, and so on.

Given these premises, we can suspect that the new star of world football of the next fifteen years may just reveal himself and explode in the Portuguese Liga NOS. Today we will therefore see together who are the greatest candidates to have the qualities to stand out among their comrades, clearly dwelling on the youngest promises that could precisely make an important leap to our capital invested in Sorare if they reveal a potential still unexpressed today.

Darwin Núñez

Darwin Núñez arrives at Benfica with high expectations on his shoulders, being the most expensive purchase in the history of Portuguese football. Twenty-two year old Uruguayan, from a young age he was the forward defined as one of the most promising in South America. Regular presence on his national team makes his debut for the Uruguayan giants of Peñarol at the age of 18. He managed to confirm his credentials during an exciting season played for UD Almería, in the second division of the Spanish league, scoring sixteen goals with an impressive record of 0.59 goals every 90 minutes (which actually exceeds his xG of 0.45).In addition to his efficiency and finishing ability, Núñez is a mobile and very agile offensive player who relies on his leg rhythm, dribbling and passing skills to disrupt any marking disposition that stands in front of him. Playing under coach Jorge Jesus who is known for a craving for mobile forwards eager to attack in the space between and behind defenders he may really be able to enhance the Lisbon champions’ intense 4-4-2.

Nilton Varela

Even before the pandemic stopped Liga NOS in 2019/2020, and being only 18, this young left-back with an attacking mindset had already established himself as a starter in the first team of Belenenses SAD. After the “crown-break” he became an immovable holder, playing almost all the remaining games. This season Nilton Varela will be looking to further improve his record of 18 appearances by certainly relying on his power, aggression and ability to cross which are undoubtedly above average. This will however be a season of improvement for the left-back as he hopes to hone his defensive tactical positioning and technical skills.

Tiago Almeida

Natxo González quite surprisingly opted to replace some of his veterans with the youngsters from Tondela’s Under19 squad. The “CD Tondela” has managed, in the past years, to put together highly talented youth teams, betting on a mix of players discarded by the bigger teams with others of high profile from lesser known teams in Portugal. An example of the latter case is Tiago Almeida, a dynamic and aggressive right-back who can also play as a winger, and who came from third division Anadia FC to join the U19 team of CD Tondela. From there he quickly rose to the senior team, managing to make his first team debut against the champions of Sporting Lisbon, and securing a starting spot in the final two days of the victorious relegation battle with Tondela. Given the long way still to go in his career, Tiago Almeida certainly has the qualities that will allow him to compete for the starting spot in this championship, so it is definitely worth keeping an eye on him.

Madi Queta

SC Farense have decided to put together a slightly more experienced team to try and enjoy a quieter season in Liga NOS. Their youngest player is Madi Queta, a 22-year-old graduate of the FC Porto Academy and Portugal’s U19 national team. Queta is a winger who can play on both outer sides of the field, presenting a rhythm and ball control as his main attributes is eager to penetrate the opposing defense through diagonals in the area and forays behind the defensive line. After three years of senior football experience, playing regularly in the Portuguese second division for FC Porto B (86 games, 10 goals and 10 assists), Madi Queta certainly looks ready to make her debut in football that matters and make it into the first division.

Angel Gomes

Boavista FC seem to have found a “not so hidden gem” in Angel Gomes. A Former member of Manchester United’s Football Academy and England’s youth national team, the attacking midfielder was from a young age on many youth to watch lists of leading European scouts. Such was his incredible potential that José Mourinho granted him a first team debut as early as Angel was only 16, making him the fourth youngest player in Manchester Red Devils history. Although he has not been able to climb the ranks and become a regular starter of the team at United, his qualities and potential are still all there: with above-average technique and tactical intelligence for the game he also presents an incessant rhythm of legs. He signed from LOSC Lille and was subsequently loaned to the historic Portuguese club, Boavista FC. Looking at his pre-season, it was remarkable to see how Angel Gomes really seems to have grown up, always trying to bring out his best performance even in his team’s most complicated matches. He will certainly be a young player to be reckoned with in the Portuguese first division, as his qualities are extremely adaptable to Boavista FC’s quick and easy playing style.

Linen

Arriving at Gil Vicente from Brazilian São Bernardo team in the 2019/2020 season, Lino was often used as the first man to take over from the bench by his Portuguese mid-table side (20 of his 26 games played took over as a substitute). Normally a right midfielder, he can play on both sides of the pitch with the same level of intensity, energy and speed, almost always providing a mid-game spark to his team. As the season progressed, he continued to play increasingly significant minutes, proving to adapt to the general defensive and tactical rigor of Portuguese and European football. He should be able to continue his upward trajectory this season, both as a replacement from the bench and later also as a starter. Either way, his explosiveness is sure to be a delight for his fans.

Gustavo Assunção

The son of former FC Porto and Atlético de Madrid defensive midfielder Paulo Assunção, Gustavo had the chance to play in the ‘colchoneros’ youth academy, where he completed his junior career. Defensive midfielder just like his father, Gustavo Assunção chose to play his first season in the first team in 2019/2020 for FC Famalicão, at the time a newly promoted side that had one of the most exciting projects in all of Portuguese football, in how much she was really recruiting young people from all over the world to allow her to be a competitive squad of the Liga NOS. The youngsters of FC Famalicão surpassed all expectations, even finishing in sixth place and almost qualifying for the Europa League.One of the key pieces of this unexpected success was Gustavo Assunção, who played 37 games demonstrating impressive tactical intelligence, passing quality and composure important especially for a nineteen year old. He has proven to be very efficient in both anticipation and tackling actions having accumulated 49 direct ball steals through this type of action last season. He will undoubtedly be one of the cornerstones of his team this season. Destiny could have great peaks for Gustavo Assunção to climb, just as happened with his father.

Fábio Vieira

FC Porto has managed to develop a generation of great talent through its football academy, something that can be seen in the high turnout of its players from the youth teams and the consistently good performance in the UEFA Youth League, which culminated in the winning of the trophy a couple of years ago. Many of these players clearly moved on to the senior national team, while also helping their club win the Liga NOS championship. One of the members of the golden generation of this FC Porto is Fábio Vieira, a very intelligent winger who can also play as a central attacking midfielder. Fabio is not a traditional winger as he offers different offensive solutions from those of the other players on his team. While he may also manage to propel his team forward with impressive sprints down the side of the pitch, he is much more inclined to use his left foot to bring the ball diagonally to center or to find his teammates between the defensive lines with creative passes. but often very precise. He also proved to be a capable shooter from outside the box, particularly in free kicks from the right, thanks to which he has already scored some career goals.

Nuno Mendes

Sporting CP has decided to enhance the players of their academy and to create a first team composed mainly of players that they have developed themselves. A new generation therefore seems to have taken over the baton of the team from the Portuguese capital, and the front line of this group of young people is undoubtedly the nineteen-year-old left-back Nuno Mendes. After playing 10 years for Sporting CP, has always been named among the best talents in each of the teams in which he played. At just seventeen he started playing in the Under23 and after the break due to the coronavirus he also became a starter in the first team, to the detriment of teammate Marcos Acuña (very experienced left-back). Incredible speed and stamina, keen defensive sense of positioning, incredible ball control (it’s almost impossible for him to lose the ball when in his possession), the Portuguese left-back is perfect for Sporting’s tactical system, which needs to constantly flow back and forth on the left side. Some are already talking about a debut in Portugal’s senior national team or a transfer to a European big one. Extremely humble and willing, Nuno seems determined only to work hard and improve as a footballer. This may be what will set him apart from other young Portuguese talents.

Matchoi Djaló

Coming from the youth academy of Mabodja, Guinéa Bissau’s football academy, the young winger joined FC Paços de Ferreira at the age of fourteen and has always played in youth teams above his age group. At sixteen he made his professional debut while at seventeen he scored his first goal in Liga NOS – on both occasions he was one of the youngest players ever to record such performances. He has played most of his time in the Under19 team but Matchoi Djaló certainly deserves to be on this list as he is one of the most promising players in Portuguese football and who will certainly be able to improve his experience this season. When asked about him, the coach said: “I’m not Santa Claus, he played because he worked a lot and showed the qualities to be able to play at these levels”.

João Victor

The other team on the island of Madeira competing in the Liga NOS, CD Nacional has long been famous for having discovered real hidden gems in the Brazilian lower leagues, thanks to competent scouting operations sometimes conducted by the president himself. João Victor appears to be next in line for such revelations. A winger capable of playing on both sides and with a particular preference for the last few meters of the pitch, he certainly impressed during the preseason and seems to be ready to translate his technical skills into an intense and demanding championship like the Liga NOS.

Pedro Pelágio

Pedro Pelágio was born and raised in Funchal, on the island of Madeira, the residence of the CS Marítimo. The Portuguese defensive midfielder managed to establish himself and become a player of his own local team and to date he has never played for any other club. Pelágio is the prototype of the very tall, aggressive but technically complete defensive midfielder, who is not afraid to carry the ball, pass it or do any other action that serves the percussion of their teammates. Reveals a shrewd sense of positioning and never shies away from tackling the ball, many times showing his worth in interrupting opposing actions or covering his attacking teammates in defensive actions, whether in advance or in any other type of tackle directly. His rise has been constant, having made his debut at eighteen with the Marítimo first team and each season playing more and more games for the starting eleven.

Filipe Soares

Filipe Soares forms, together with his brother Alex Soares, the dynamic duo of midfielders of Moreirense FC. The younger brother, Filipe, demonstrates as already publicly stated by his coach Ricardo Soares that he is ready to play at a high level. Having played in all of Benfica’s youth teams with a truly impressive track record, Filipe Soares aroused the interest of Moreirense FC until a signing two seasons ago after scoring three goals and eight assists in 37 games. At just nineteen, Filipe Soares is already one of the best players in the first division. Moreirense FC managers did well to bet on the young midfielder: together with his brother he played 31 games, scored four goals and contributed seven assists to the peaceful season that avoided a relegation to Moreirense.

Luquinhas

Portimonense SC has built a U-23 team over the past two seasons using it, among other things, to provide a springboard for those players from Brazil with great talent but in need of adaptation to Portuguese football. Some of them have already made it to the first team, and one example is the small but energetic attacking midfielder named Luquinhas. He impressed last season with his strong skills in passing to his teammates and dribbling so much that, instead of juggling the ranks of the Under 23s, he sat on the bench almost every day played by the first team. At the end of the season he made his debut as a professional and from there he continued to work with the first team. An important growth awaits him that can be said to be announced.

Abel Ruiz

As a young Spanish international, Ruiz played a pivotal role in Spain’s U17 and U19 European Cup victories and Barcelona’s UEFA Youth League victory. The young Spanish champion succeeded in her debut with the senior team of Barça in the 2018/2019 season. With so many accolades, he has decided to continue his growth path as a player in one of Portugal’s greatest teams, where he will certainly earn more playing time than he would have gotten from Barcelona. Now everyone expects wonders from this striker who has already proved himself complete, mobile and industrious, as well as able to offer much more than goals to his team.

Marcus Edwards

21-year-old and England’s youth national team, he graduated from Tottenham Hotspur’s academy. He looked a bit lost in the Spurs U23 squad, as they were struggling with several injuries, but after being loaned to Excelsior’s Dutch side in the 2018/2019 season, he signed a permanent contract with a historic Portuguese club, Vitória SC. Since then Edwards has been one of the best players of the last edition of the Liga NOS, playing the best season of his short but promising career. Scoring goals and assists with a truly explosive left. Al Vitória can benefit from playing alongside new Portuguese international Ricardo Quaresma.

Costinha

After splitting his youth development years between FC Porto, SC Braga and Rio Ave, Costinha had an incredible first season as a senior playing for Rio Ave’s U23 at the age of just eighteen. He has played practically every game in the last season, showing defensive consistency, long passing ability, and a decent speed associated with good tactical rigor. This was enough for him to establish himself as the immovable holder of the Portuguese Under nineteen national team. Costinha has shown remarkable consistency since joining Rio Ave, being the almost always reliable type of player that every manager dreams of having in their club line-up. Even if he could continue playing a few more minutes in the Under 23,we must seriously expect that he will continually fight for more and more minutes in the Rio Ave first team, as he managed to become the number two option for the right-back spot already last season.

Lincoln

Lincoln made his debut for Brazilian giants Grêmio when he was only 16, thanks to the watchful eye of legendary coach Luiz Filipe Scolari. In the following season he played twenty-six matches scoring four goals. He often made appearances in the Brazilian youth national teams, also playing in the Under-17 World Cup. After the change of coach at Grêmio, Lincoln ended up losing some of the space he had managed to carve out and his progression seemed to have taken a downward turn, with some loans to the Turkish league Caykur Rizespor, and to the team. Brazilian team from América Mineiro. Determined to give a new direction to his career, he left Grêmio as a free agent and joined Santa Clara.He could not have made a better choice as he was immediately one of the fixed points to maintain the Portuguese mid-table position (certainly the youngest anyway), playing almost every match and impressing with his superior technique and passing characteristics. long. He has also shown he can fill any role in midfield thanks to an impressive tactical adaptability. Already observed by a number of bigger clubs, Lincoln certainly looks poised to continue his renaissance and establish himself as one of this year’s most promising Brazilian talents.

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