Nuno Mendes tonight became the fourth-youngest player to play for Portugal in the 21st century. The defender, who started tonight’s match v Azerbaijan in Turin, earned his first Seleção cap aged at just 18 years, 9 months and 5 days old.
This also makes him the youngest defender ever to play for Portugal, overtaking previous record holder José Carlos, who made his bow on March 19th 1961, aged 19 years and 5 months.
Since January 1, 2000, only three players have made their Portugal debut at a younger age than Nuno Mendes.
- Cristiano Ronaldo – v Kazakhstan – August 20, 2003.
Cristiano was 18 years, 6 months and 15 days old when he came off the bench at half-time in a friendly v Kazakhstan. Rui Costa, Luís Figo and Costinha all came off at the break, with Ronaldo, Maniche and Simão coming on to replace them.
It was two of the substitutes who combined for the winner, with Cristiano providing the assist for Simão to guarantee the victory.
2. Renato Sanches – v Bulgaria – March 25, 2016.
Just four months separated Renato Sanches coming off the bench (aged 18 years, 7 months and 7 days old) with just over 15 minutes to go in a friendly v Bulgaria and him being an integral part of the squad that conquered Euro 2016 and won Portugal their first international honour.
3. Rúben Neves – v Russia – November 14th, 2015.
It’s no great surprise to see Rúben on this list, a player whose explosion onto the scene at such a young age saw him smash numerous records, including becoming the youngest ever Porto captain, youngest ever Porto Champions League scorer and the youngest ever Porto Liga scorer. He took to the field aged 18 years, 8 months and 1 day in a 1-0 defeat at the hands of Russia in an international friendly.