The golden generation of Portuguese football, a generation that including the likes of Figo, Rui Costa and Couto, where unable to bring hope any silverware, success that their undoubted talent demanded. A new generation of Portuguese footballers are emerging, some with the potential to be better than their much admired predecessors, a generation lead by the supremely talented and confident Christiano Ronaldo, with experienced players like Simao Sabrosa and Ricardo Quaresma, and emerging players like Nani, the future of Portuguese football looks bright.
There is a new crop of talented players beginning to push for claims in the national team and who should be catching the eye of the top teams in the very near future, if they haven’t already done so. Not to surprisingly the bulk of the new kids on the block are from Sporting Lisbon, the same youth system that has recently supplied Manchester United with both Christiano Ronaldo and Nani, and if reports are to be believed, could very well supply them with a new face or two in the coming years.
The first of this new crop of players is the current Sporting captain Joao Moutinho. The young attacking midfielder, who at 21, is the youngest captain in the history of the club, and has already played 81 times for Sporting, scoring 8 goals. He also has 8 caps for the national team. He made his debut at only 17, and in the 2005/2006 season was the only player in Portugal to play every minute of every game. His rise has been quick and has not gone unnoticed with the likes of Real Madrid said to be interested in bringing the midfielder, who is most comfortable playing in the hole behind the front men, but has been used across the midfield, over to Spain in January or next season. Sporting though are adamant that their captain will be going no where, but as we’ve seen with Ronaldo and Nani, the players ambitions and money offered generally speaks louder than mere objections. It wont be to long before the diminutive attacking player is plying his trade in Spain, England or Italy.
Like Moutinho, Miguel Veloso has also come through the ranks at Sporting, firmly establishing himself in the starting 11 over the last couple of seasons. Less flashy then his team mate Moutinho, and former team mates Nani and Ronaldo, Veloso has non the less gone about establishing and growing reputation in Portuguese football, one that has been noticed by the likes of Arsenal, Manchester United and Real Madrid. Veloso, who has played most of his games in the centre of midfield, as an anchor to Moutinho’s attacking free role, can also play at centre back or left back, and is particularly effective at set pieces. Strong performances in the Champions League both last season and this, particularly last season when he stopped both Figo and Vieria from having an impact in Sportings win against Inter, and this season where he impressed in Sportings loss to Manchester United, have moved Veloso to the top of many teams wanted lists. Arsenal are said to be contemplating a move in January, as are Madrid, for both Veloso and Moutinho, while Manchester United are said to be ready to move in January if the others make an offer, but would rather wait till next season to bring Veloso to Old Trafford. Veloso is thought to favour a move to United, where he would be reunited with former team mates and friends Ronaldo and Nani.
While both Veloso and Moutinho are said to be wanted by the who’s who of club football, Manchester United, Arsenal, Inter, AC Milan, Barcelona and Madrid, it is in England, with either United or Arsenal, where the futures may lie. Both Fergie and Wenger are youth orientated managers who have scoured Europe for the best young talent and will perhaps by the best place for their potential to be nurtured. The coming coming close season could be a very active one for these young stars, if January doesn’t bring about a big move.
While the future both the French and Portuguese national teams looks bright, with a strong potential laden crop of players coming through, and already making a considerable mark in their home leagues, it will only be a matter of time before money talks and the young starts are on their way to England, Spain or Italy. The breeding grounds of France and Portugal are looking particularly plentiful for the likes of Manchester United, Arsenal and Real Madrid.