Your Favourite Portuguese Players

As you may have seen on Twitter, Próxima Jornada recently asked you to submit your 5 favourite Portuguese players of all time with a reason for each player.

The beauty of football is that, for the most part, it is subjective. Each player can mean something entirely different to each individual supporter. We can feel a special connection to a player for a multitude of reasons, perhaps they play for your club, they may have scored at your first ever match or their style of play perhaps just naturally appeals to you. The question of favourite player doesn’t necessarily have to be who you think is the best’ player.

After over 200+ responses, I decided to include some of our followers’ testimonies to their favourite players and give a short explanation as to why they are so beloved.

Cristiano Ronaldo

This player perhaps, needs no explanation whatsoever. A truly generational figure, a beacon of strength and hope, a representation of hard work and endurance, a catalyst for success throughout his entire career, wherever he has went. To try and surmise Cristiano’s talent and impact on football into a short paragraph is utterly futile. A eulogy to Cristiano and his accomplishments the length of a Miguel de Cervantes novel would still be too short.

5 Ballon d’Ors, 5 Champions League’s, 3 Premier League’s, 2 La Liga’s, 1 Serie A and that is just some of his club achievements. With Portugal, he has a European Championship (2016) and a Nation’s League Championship (2017).

He was by far the most included player in the top 5 submissions and unsurprisingly, he is the player people gave the briefest of. The majority of Ronaldo submissions were complemented with a tagline of “for obvious reasons”, “self-explanatory” or simply “It’s Ronaldo”. These brief descriptions are due to the fact that his career is so unique that Cristiano’s inclusion in any sort of list doesn’t really require explanation, his achievements, both collective and individual, speak for themselves. Here is a few descriptions from journalists and supporters who tried to explain what Cristiano means to them:

“He’s the reason I fell in love with football, and in particular, Portuguese football. Most complete footballer, unbelievable mental and physical commitment to the game. Breadth of accomplishments is astounding” – Nathan Motz (@NathanMotz)

He lived through us coming close in 2004 & 2006 to lead us on & off the pitch in 2016” – Jonny Alves (@JonnyLFC93)

“He gave all Portuguese extra pride” – Mário (@MdotSLB)

As Manchester United fans we obviously feel a big part of his journey. And he gave us the best individual season most of us have seen in 07-08.” – Sean Gillen (@SeanGillen9)

“Ronaldo: GOAT- thank you God.” – Duey (@Dueyste)

Ricardo Quaresma

A player included in so many lists and for good reason. The definition of a ‘baller’ in the truest sense of the word. Enigmatic, skilful, exuberant, unpredictable, mercurial. Just some of the adjectives used in an attempt to define Ricardo Quaresma over the years. The 14th most capped Portugal player with 80 caps, Ricardo may have had issues throughout his club career for one reason or another, but when he pulled on the Seleção jersey, you knew exactly what you were getting. His impact at Euro 2016 was immeasurable, it was his goal in extra time against Croatia which sent Portugal to the quarter finals, 5 days later he scored the winning penalty against Poland to place his side in the semi-finals.

Fast forward to 2018 and 15 years after his first Portugal cap, Ricardo was called up for his first FIFA World Cup. He put his stamp on the competition in a way only he could. During Portugal’s group game with Iran he played a neat 1-2 with Adrién Silva before belting home a trademark ‘trivela’ into the top corner (see below.)

Seen by many as an underachiever, and considering his talent, this is a fair point. However, one thing is for sure, there aren’t many players in world football who can get you off your seat the way Ricardo Quaresma can.

“Magic” – M.Paiva (MPaiva7)

“So much talent” – Kevin Jesus (@GlobalJesus)

Flair, skill, swagger” – Ryan (@Ryan_Moniz)

That sweet outside of the foot” – Leandro Marques (@ItsLeoBruv)

“Quaresma – as enigmatic as he is talented” – Costa (@CostaRica79)

“Can I say Quaresma x 5?” (@C Etchingham77)

Nuno Gomes

Nuno Gomes, the Amarante born striker is a player that captured his nation’s heart from a young age. He was part of the Golden Generation that reached the semi-finals at Euro 2000, scoring 4 goals in the process and subsequently being named in UEFA’s team of the tournament. His exploits in the match vs England in particular made him a hero. Portugal found themselves 2-0 down after just 18 minutes to Kevin Keegan’s Three Lions. Luis Figo and João Pinto brought the tie to 2-2 with a goal each and with the game finely poised, Nuno Gomes latched onto a Rui Costa ball to score the winner.

He was the man for the big occassion, scoring important goals at both club and country level on a regular basis. His Euro 2004 winner against Spain was a momentous moment. He is Portugal’s 5th highest scorer with an impressive 29 goals in 79 games. Here’s what our followers had to say about Nuno:

“Nuno Gomes, speedy & talented.” – Kevin Jesus (@GlobalJesus)

“Nuno Gomes, reminds me of my childhood. Great striker” -Luke Davis (@LukeDavisSEO)

“Nuno Gomes was so clutch” – Roberto (@ForcaElectric)

“Nuno Gomes for the winner in classic v England (Euro 2000)” – Phil Murphy (@PhilSports)

“My favourite player is my brother! For evident reasons” – Tiago Ribéiro (@TiagoRibeiro)

Manuel Rui Costa

Rui Costa was simply put, a magician on the ball. He plied his trade in Italy during Serie A’s golden era before returning to his boyhood Benfica, the club he started his career at. He racked up over 300 league appearances in Italy with both Fiorentina and AC Milan, winning Serie A, 3 Coppa Italia’s and a Champions League for good measure.

A dynamic number 10, he possessed magisterial dribbling, close control, a fantastic weight of pass and an eye for goal. He was selected in Fiorentina’s All Time XI and was also inducted into AC Milan’s Hall of Fame. A true Portuguese legend.

Here’s what our followers had to say about Rui Costa:

“A magician and my favourite ever player” –  Pedro Almeida (@ThePedronator)

“He left the place he loved young (SL Benfica) & was still able to come back at the end, my dream.” – Mario (@MDotSLB)

“I remember watching Football Italia just to glimpse his magic at Fiorentina” – Andre Viega (@VeigaLondon)

“A player I loved at La Viola, Fiorentina. Wonderful balance, technique, intelligence, used to glide past players” – Lee Pazzini (@LeePazzini)

The 1st Portuguese player I watched play for my favourite team (AC Milan)” – Cristiano Rodrigues (@7CrisRodrigues)

Eusebio

The fact this man was referred to as O Rei (The King) tells you all you need to know about Eusebio. Born in Mozambique, he moved to Lisbon to play for SL Benfica as an 18-year-old and the rest is as they say, history.

The first Portuguese player to win the Ballon d’Or and the first Seleção icon, long before the likes of Cristiano and Figo. He won the European Cup with Benfica in 1962, scoring twice in the final against Real Madrid and led the Lisbon side to a great period in their history. After the victory in 1962, Benfica went on to be runners-up in 1963, 1965 and 1968. For the Seleção he scored 41 in 64 games and will perhaps be remembered best for his exploits at the 1966 World Cup finals. 3 goals in the group stages for Eusebio helped Portugal qualify for the quarter-final. North Korea, who had beaten and knocked out Italy in the groups, were the opposition. The game quickly turned into a living nightmare for Eusebio and his men and after 25 minutes, Portugal found themselves 3-0 down and seemingly crashing out of the competition. Eusebio however, had other ideas, scoring 4 goals as Portugal went on to win 5-3.

“The first Portuguese icon” – Andrew (@iTz_APaulo9)

“Eusébio – elegance, power… and it was ok for a man to cry (1966 World Cup)” – (@FootballPort)

“My father was at the game he scored the hat trick at Goodison in the 66 World Cup.” – Lee Pazzini (@LeePazzini)

“Eusebio for the impact on my father & the countless hours he spent with me talking about him” – Mario (@MDotSLB)

Luis Figo

A member of the famed ‘Geração de ouro’ (Golden Generation), Figo spearheaded Portugal through the 90’s and into the 2000s, coming close to earning Portugal their first piece of silverware on numerous occasions. He won the 1991 FIFA Youth World Championships before leading the senior Seleção side to the Euro semi-finals in 2000 and to the Euro final in 2004. After retiring from international duty following final defeat to Greece, Figo reversed his decision and captained Portugal at the 2006 World Cup, going all the way to the semi-finals before being eliminated by France. Figo ended the 35 year wait for a Portuguese Ballon d’Or winner, becoming the second Portuguese recipient after Eusebio’s 1965 win.

Figo operated as a right winger, armed with world-class dribbling technique, skill and a wonderful cross he spent his career providing chances on a silver platter for his team mates. 89 assists and 66 goals for both FC Barcelona and Real Madrid meant he provided a combined 155 goal contributions in 336 appearances in Spain.

“Figo had one of the best dribbling abilities of all time. Almost an awkward style. He was an assist master.” – (@CoachDiary)

“He made us believe our talent was just as good.” – David Correia Martins  (@DCMartins81)

Equal parts class, gritty leadership and silky-smooth skill” – Rudolfo (@TheRealRudolfo)

Ederzito ‘Eder’ Lopes

A name that is almost mythical, a name that is synonymous with one moment, a name that will be forever remembered in Portuguese history.

A hard-working and industrious striker, Eder didn’t score for Portugal until his 18th cap, a friendly against Italy. He proceeded to score in 2 more friendlies, with goals against Norway and Estonia respectively. Still without a competitive goal for Portugal to his name, he was selected by Fernando Santos for the Euro 2016 finals in France, following an impressive season with Lille OSC. He appeared in 3 matches during the Championships in France, each time as a substitute as Portugal made their way to the final. His 3rd appearance came in the final against the tournament hosts France, replacing Renato Sanches in the 79th minute and giving Portugal a focal point for the remainder of the match. What was to happen next is quite simply history.

In the 117th minute and with the game seemingly dwindling toward penalties, Joãoa Moutinho passed it into Eders feet. Ricardo Quaresma burst through on the left, hoping to make space to receive the ball, Eder however moved forward, holding off the challenge of Laurent Koscielny and with nothing else on, decided to unleash a low, fierce effort at goal. It rippled into the bottom left corner of the net past Lloris. The noise from the Portugal supporters, situated behind Lloris’ goal was incredible, the sound of sheer jubilation, relief and ecstacy filled the stadium. Portugal had won their first ever international honour, the match-winner an unlikely source. Whatever happens in Eder’s career from now until his retirement, nothing will ever top that moment. For this moment alone, Eder is immortalised. An icon. A legend. A hero.

“Purely for THAT one goal” (@FRXNWHU)

“THAT goal, and a thoroughly nice bloke” (@footballportugal)

“You have to include Éder” – Jason Rego (@JasonRego3)

Deco

At 26 years of age, and still without an international cap for his native Brazil, Deco, the majestic FC Porto playmaker decided to pursue other international avenues. After becoming a naturalized Portuguese citizen, Deco chose to represent the country he had called home since 1997, a decision which divided opinion at the time. Deco however turned doubters to believers by showcasing his magic for Portugal from day 1. He scored a winning free-kick on his Portugal debut against… you guessed it, Brazil. Giving Portugal their first win over their South American rivals since 1966

He lost out to the Ballon d’Or in 2004, coming 2nd to Andriy Shevchenko and beating Ronaldinho in 3rd place by six votes, after what was a remarkable season. He spearheaded FC Porto to Champions League glory, claimed the most Champions League assists and won UEFA Club Footballer of the Year.

His career saw him win two Champions League’s with two different teams, 3 Primeira Ligas, 2 La Ligas and a Premier League amongst many other honours.

“His vision, his touch, best #10 Portugal has ever seen.” –  (@bigchuk17)

“Magical player that lead my club to UCL victory” – Pedro Mota (@PedroMota33)

“That guy epitomized everything a playmaking midfielder should be” – Tyler Daly (@Tdaly11)

“He was class on the pitch” – Ricardo Medina (@RKDMedina)

João Moutinho

João Moutinho, the understated, underrated and cool midfielder was in a lot of lists and for good reason. In a career spanning 16 years, João is still playing at the highest level, competing in Europe and the Premier League for Nuno’s Wolves. Not only is he simply competing, he was voted Wolves’ Player of the Season for the 18/19 campaign, showing that even at 32 years of age, he has still got it.

The third most capped Portugal player ever, João has played at Euro 2008, Euro 2012, World Cup 2014, Euro 2016 and World Cup 2018 and barring injury, he will be going to Euro 2021 also. He maintains calm and collected in the centre of the pitch, controlling the game and is adept at both the defensive side as well as starting attacks. He oozes class with his fine range of short and long passing and has proved at every club he has been at, just how excellent of a player he is.

“Moutinho is extremely underrated. Possibly the most underrated player in the world over the last ten years.” – Kevin Romão (@KevinRomao)

A childhood hero of mine and I used to try imitate him on the pitch” – Nuno Tavares (@Sentry023)

João Moutinho, no thrills, low-profile, just quietly brilliant every single game.” – Tom Kundert (@PortuGoal1)

“João Moutinho (makes my list) for always being consistent” – Nuno Guilherme (@NunoGuilherme_)

There are so many other players that received honourable mentions, far too many to recall. Portugal has had such an illustrious history of players, both past and present and whilst there is no football on at the moment, we hope our readers enjoyed this piece on just some of our favourite players.

By Aaron Barton

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