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A closer look at the 24 players in Portugal's upcoming squad

A closer look at the 24 players in Portugal's upcoming squad

Fernando Santos' chosen squad certainly threw up a few surprises as the desire for experimentation was clear for all to see - so who are the 24 players to make the cut? Here is a brief look at each of them.

1. Rui Patricio (Wolverhampton Wanderers)

The undisputed number one of the Portugal national team always looked a certainty to make the squad, even if giving some less experienced faces a chance was forefront of Santos' mind. A truly reliable figure possessing outstanding reflexes, a calm and composed demeanour and a good command of his area, Rui Patricio really does have it all, and is undoubtedly one of the greatest goalkeepers the country has ever had.

All of that, coupled with the experience he has garnered already at both international and club level, makes him an ideal call-up to help guide other players in the squad.

Having spent 18 years of his life on the books of Sporting - a period of time stretching back to when he was just 12 years of age - Patricio quickly became a Sporting legend, playing nearly 500 games for the club across all competitions, and has, as a result, represented Portugal 73 times.

While the end of his career at Sporting was rather unceremonious, the uproar surrounding his exit does not seem to have affected him, with Patricio already showing great ability in goal at his new club Wolverhampton, already even pulling off a save of the season contender against Manchester City.

2. Beto (Goztepe)

Beto, 36, also has several years worth of experience behind him and, as a backup goalkeeper, having such a player in the locker room can be of great benefit to the rest of the team. His calm demeanour and level-headed nature means that he serves as an authoritative figure while also keeping spirits high, and is used to playing a bit-part role on the international stage.

He now plays in the Turkish top flight for Goztepe, having previously been on the books of the likes of Porto, Sevilla and Sporting CP and, perhaps somewhat surprisingly, despite his advancing years, has actually only garnered 14 senior caps for Portugal in his entire career; he often gets called up, but rarely plays a significant role for the country on the pitch. However, he's still a very solid goalkeeper - particularly as a third choice - and can be of great use to Santos both on and off the pitch.

3. Claudio Ramos (Tondela)

Ramos is almost certainly a lesser known name on the international scene, but anyone who has seen his performances for Tondela in recent times will surely struggle to disagree with his inclusion in the side, and is most definitely deserving of this opportunity.

Now 26, Ramos has played for Tondela 184 times, and has been instrumental in helping his side defy the odds and survive relegation from the Primeira Liga in each of the past three seasons. He's no spring chicken, but having never represented Portugal - or even been called up to the senior squad - before, this is a perfect opportunity to prove that it's never too late to first represent your country.

4. Pepe (Besiktas)

Having appeared for the country at every single major tournament over the past decade, and having very possibly been the nation's best serving player - barring Ronaldo - this generation, Pepe is an indispensable part of the national team, and his place seems assured for as long as he feels he can contribute to the country he chose to play for.

Now 36, he is far from a long-term solution for Portugal's centreback situation, but international football is all about the here and now, and he most certainly has another major tournament in him should he elect to continue playing.

Having spent an entire decade at Real Madrid, Pepe is also most certainly one of Portugal's most decorated active players, with a combined five league titles, three Champions League trophies and three domestic cups to his name from both Porto and Real Madrid. Now at Besiktas, Pepe will hope to be able to add further silverware to his cabinet.

5. Ruben Dias (Benfica)

There may be no better illustration of Portugal's limitations at centreback than Ruben Dias; that's not to say he himself is a poor defender - far from it - but the fact that a 21 year old with just 24 senior league appearances to his name was - and is - considered one of Portugal's top four centrebacks across the globe is somewhat disconcerting.

Luckily, however, Ruben Dias is the real deal. Having recently signed a new long-term contract with Benfica that has increased his existing release clause to 60 million euros, his potential is no secret and he is very much one half of the future of Portugal's centreback partnership. His call-up last World Cup was, perhaps, a tournament too soon for Dias, but he will no doubt continue to be included in the side so that he is slowly integrated into the team, given the opportunity to train - and play - with the more experienced members of the team, and those that he will eventually be succeeding in the years to come.

6. Pedro Mendes (Montpellier)

Something of a surprise inclusion - and perhaps not a familiar name to people that are not fans of French football or the Seleção - Pedro Mendes has never played for the senior national team before, such is the dominance that the likes of Pepe and Bruno Alves have had in the national team over the last decade. Now 26, that could be set to change, with a debut appearance against either Italy or Croatia a great possibility.

Having started his career at Sporting, where he even captained the B team, he failed to break into the main side, only making three appearances in the Primeira Liga, and went on several loan spells - most notably to Real Madrid B, where he even played 23 times. However, with his inability to crack the Sporting main side and after a brief spell in Serie A with Parma, Pedro Mendes looked to France to continue his development, first moving to Rennes, where he very much impressed with his athleticism and awareness on the pitch. and then Montpellier in 2017, who he is still representing - and representing well.

With one of the best tackling success rates in the entirety of Ligue 1, Mendes has undoubtedly impressed - whether he's Seleção standard remains to be seen, but the concerns Portugal have in central defence are clear for all to see.

7. Luis Neto (Zenit St Petersburg)

No Jose Fonte and no Bruno Alves - whether they are just being rested or being removed from the squad to make way for a new group of players remains to be seen, but Neto is certainly far from a long-term option for Portugal.

Now 30, Neto has only represented Portugal 18 times in his career, and has had his game time at Zenit this season very limited indeed. Granted, the league season in Russia is yet to really get underway, but across four fixtures in the Europa League, Luis Neto was only handed four minutes of football, with Ivanovic and Mevlja the preferred centreback duo. With that in mind, his inclusion could be seen as slightly odd, with a younger, equally underused centreback surely a better option in this experimental squad.

8. Joao Cancelo (Juventus)

Cancelo, after an impressive showing at both Valencia and Inter Milan prior, moved to Juventus this summer in a big-money deal worth over 40 million euros. He has since started both of Juventus' opening Serie A matches, completing the entirety of both outings - both of which Juventus won.

He played for Valencia for three seasons after joining from Benfica, initially on loan in 2014, before the deal was made permanent for 15 million euros a year later. He put in a very strong showing during his time in Spain, playing in 73 league games across just three seasons, with his attacking ability from his deep starting position regularly on show, while his pace and tenacity on the right-hand side made him one of the best full-backs in the league.

He spent last season on loan at Inter Milan, playing in all but 12 of their league games, and played his part in helping the historic club get back into the Champions League for the first time in seven years by finishing fourth in Serie A, their joint highest league finish since 2012.

Now at Juventus, playing alongside superstar compatriot Cristiano Ronaldo, he will be hoping to start winning some more substantial silverware to add to his rather unimpressive trophy cabinet.

9. Cedric Soares (Southampton)

The right-back position is most definitely one of the strong points for Portugal, who have a wealth of depth to call upon in that department, with at least four top quality options for Santos to choose from in Cedric Soares, Ricardo Pereira, Nelson Semedo and Joao Cancelo, and Nelson and Ricardo can count themselves unfortunate to have missed out this time around.

However, Cedric, now 26 and playing for Southampton, has become one of Fernando Santos' most trusted players, featuring ahead of the other three in the starting lineup on a regular basis due to his disciplined style and his defensive ability, while also being very adept at joining the attack at any given opportunity too. In many ways, he's the perfect full back for a Fernando Santos team, and is why he is a regular in the starting lineup for his country, ahead of players that are now plying their trade for European heavyweights like Barcelona and Juventus.

Having now spent three full seasons in the English top flight, racking up 86 league appearances in the process, his pedigree is clear for all to see and is worthy of his selection every time he's called up, having also been a crucial part of Portugal's team when they became European champions in 2016.

10. Raphael Guerreiro (Borussia Dortmund)

Having burst onto the international scene in the 2015-16 season after an excellent campaign with French outfit Lorient, Guerreriro was called up to Portugal's squad for Euro 2016, where he played a crucial part in helping Portugal win their first ever major tournament, and also earned a move to German giants Borussia Dortmund that summer.

His debut season for the club was exceptional, playing in 24 league games across the field, utilised in both central midfield and on the left-hand side with equal success, scoring six goals in the process. Last campaign, however, was one plagued with injury, and saw Guerreiro fail to become a regular in the side, only featuring in eight league fixtures all year. 

And he has a lot of improving to do to get back to top form. Clearly lacking match fitness after a highly frustrating season with Dortmund last year, Guerreiro had a poor World Cup for Portugal, constantly tormented defensively, no better example than when he was up against Amrabat in Portugal's group stage meeting with Morocco, and was lucky to get away with a weak defensive display. He did, however, show his immense ability both going forwards and tracking back in Portugal's triumphant Euro 2016 campaign, and he is still the best of all the options Portugal have in that area of the pitch.

He was even linked with a move to French giants PSG towards the end of the transfer window, and the talented left-back - who can also be utilised further forward - will surely be Portugal's starting left back against Italy on 10th September.

11. Mario Rui (Napoli)

After Fabio Coentrão asked not to be called up to Portugal's World Cup squad, Portugal became a little bit lightweight in the left-back department, and while the natural replacement to Sporting's loan signing was clearly Mario Rui, the concern was - and is - that he seemed like the only suitable option available. One other experimental option would be Ruben Vinagre, who currently plays for Wolves, but he is not someone you would be comfortable with calling up to a major competition due to his lack of top-level experience for both club and country.

Mario Rui, however, has himself not garnered a huge amount of experience on the biggest stage considering he is now 27, but in the past couple of seasons has really started to kick on to a new level. Having been loaned out to second tier sides in Portugal and Italy for the first three seasons of his career, he then moved to Serie B side Empoli, with whom he got promoted to Italy's top slight in 2014. Aged 23, Rui was finally about to make his first appearance in top-flight football, and went on to play 70 Serie A matches with Empoli, before earning a loan move to Roma. It was a relatively unsuccessful campaign for the full-back though, who played only five league games for the Italian outfit.

His next move was by far his most successful, joining Napoli at the start of last season, going on to play in 25 of their league matches as they finished second in the league, only behind 34-time champions Juventus in the table, and looks set to play many more games for Napoli this season too.

The fact that he only hit the heights expected of a Portuguese international last season means that he has only represented Portugal at the highest level four times in his entire career, with all of those caps coming in 2018.

12. William Carvalho (Real Betis)

Like Pepe and Rui Patricio, his inclusion is something that comes as no surprise. So important is he to the national team - particularly as a result of the injury to fellow defensive midfielder Danilo Pereira - that he featured for not only every single minute of Portugal's World Cup campaign, but also for all but 25 minutes of Portugal's three World Cup preparatory matches.

Having joined Sporting when he was just 13, Carvalho went on to play 142 league games for the Lisbon club from 2013 to 2018, and became an integral part of the side throughout his time there. His calm and composed demeanour, his passing ability, his awareness to choose when to roam forwards with and without the ball and his obvious tackling and intercepting ability made him one of the more graceful defensive midfielders you'll ever see, but equally effective, and it is no wonder that he became an undisputed starter for Sporting aged just 22.

Now 26, Carvalho still has many years ahead of him to add to his 47 senior caps and, having this summer moved to Real Betis, will be looking forward to testing himself against some of the giants of European football in Barcelona and Real Madrid on a more regular basis.

13. Ruben Neves (Wolverhampton Wanderers)

His omission from the World Cup squad surprised many Seleção fans across the globe, but having continued to impress for Wolves, and now playing in England's top flight, his inclusion for the upcoming matches is fully deserved.

The youngest captain in Champions League history - having led Porto out for their clash with Macabbi Tel Aviv aged just 18, a match they went on to win - Neves was one of the most highly-rated players to emerge from Porto's acclaimed academy in the past few decades, and played over 50 league games for the Portuguese outfit before he even reached his 20th birthday.

With such high expectations placed on him, it therefore came as something of a surprise to see him sold to championship outfit Wolverhampton Wanderers for just £15million, although when taking into consideration the fact that Danilo Pereira was keeping Neves out of the side - and Porto were having difficulties complying with Financial Fair Play regulations - the sale begins to make much more sense. And he has only continued to impress for Wolves since his arrival at Molineux.

With his composure, passing range and long-range striking ability, added to his defensive capabilities and discipline in the middle of the park, he is the perfect understudy to undisputed number one defensive midfielder William Carvalho, while also being more than capable to play alongside the former Sporting midfielder should Fernando Santos be keen on playing a more defensive, controlling game against the big-hitters in international football. With Croatia and Italy on the horizon, it's easy to envisage such a central midfield pairing being tested in the not-too-distant future.

14. Sergio Oliveira (FC Porto)

After the departure of Ruben Neves, Sergio Oliveira was promoted to Danilo Pereira's direct understudy, having also come through Porto's academy. He undoubtedly hasn't got the passing quality that Ruben Neves has, and is not as accomplished as the recent Wolves signing, but is a suitable backup option nevertheless.

Having had loan spells at the likes of Beira-Mar, Pacos de Ferreira and Nantes, Oliveira has racked up a fraction of the number of league outings Ruben Neves managed to garner in a far shorter space of time, playing just 16 league games for the club since 2009. Also five years older than Neves, it is clear for all to see that Oliveira is clearly nowhere near as highly rated as his predecessor, but his solid performances this season, as he fills in for the injured Danilo Pereira, means he's deserving of this chance.

15. Bruno Fernandes (Sporting CP)

One of the players that chose to terminate their contracts after the violent scenes in Alcochete at the end of last season, Bruno Fernandes has since resigned for the club, and was always expected to be included in the Portugal squad. The highly technical midfielder, since arriving from Serie A, has been magnificent for Sporting - arguably the best player at the club - and if he can translate that form onto the international scene, he will be a huge asset to Portugal for the years to come.

16. Pizzi (Benfica)

After the start to the season Pizzi has made for Benfica, it would be something of a crime for him to miss out on the upcoming squad. Granted, the season has only just begun, but already Pizzi has been nothing short of sensational for Benfica and is looking to have come on in leaps and bounds this season, with his passing, movement and - most notably - goal scoring all looking incredibly refined.

Indeed, in the first game of the season, Pizzi immediately put himself at the forefront of people's minds, getting an outstanding first half hattrick against summer spenders Guimaraes, and has followed that up with further goals, both in the Champions League and domestically. And if he's not scoring he's almost certainly assisting, with his delicate passes and threaded through balls a joy to behold this season. Fernando Santos overlooking him could have caused something of an uproar, and he's surely the most deserving player of them all to get a call-up.

17. Renato Sanches (Bayern Munich)

The return of Renato - who saw that coming? After an outstanding debut season with Benfica - where he helped deliver a third straight Primeira Liga title in a row for the club despite having only gotten promoted to the senior side halfway through the campaign - he earned a big-money move to Bayern Munich, before then helping Portugal to the ultimate success in Euro 2016.

However, after two frustrating seasons in a row, things looked to be heading in the wrong direction for Sanches, who was low on confidence and in desperate need of game time.

Now under a manager that has a bit more faith in him though, Renato could be set for a more enjoyable season with Bayern, and will be hoping to feature more in the Bundesliga to keep his place in the Portugal squad. His inclusion does still seem strange though, with the young midfielder yet to feature in a competitive game for the German giants this season - or even be named on the bench.

18. Gedson Fernandes (Benfica)

An incredible rise in stock for someone who has yet to play even a dozen competitive senior matches for Benfica. With his 8 first-team outings, Fernandes is certainly something of a wildcard, but, despite still being a teenager and despite his clear inexperience at the top level, he has already undisputed earned the chance for a call-up. Indeed, his performances for Benfica this season in both the league and the Champions League qualifiers have been simply stunning - so much so that he has earned himself a new long-term contract with a huge 120 million euro release clause - and despite his youthful years, he looks so accomplished and comfortable on the ball.

Reminiscent to when Renato Sanches burst onto the scene for the Lisbon club just a couple of years ago, there's a great deal of excitement surrounding one of the latest in a long line of talents to emerge from Benfica's acclaimed academy, and if he can have - and sustain - the sort of impact his compatriot had when first representing his nation at senior level, he's in for a stellar international career. His inclusion is still somewhat surprising, with Fernando Santos opting to fast-track Gedson into the senior side, although after the impact Renato had at the Euros in 2016, it could certainly pay off.

19. Bernardo Silva (Manchester City)

Bernardo Silva left Benfica at a very early age, playing just once for the Lisbon club before moving on to Monaco, initially on loan and then in a €15million permanent deal. Something of a steal, Bernardo's flair, creativity and dribbling ability were a constant every time he stepped out onto the pitch for Monaco, one of their standout players in a team boasting a wealth of talent just a couple of seasons ago.

With Monaco, he helped deliver the league title in the 16-17 season, beating big-spenders PSG to be crowned domestic champions, while also helping his side to an unlikely run to the semi-final of the Champions League. 

Now at Manchester City, Bernardo Silva has only continued to show his outstanding ability on yet another

20. Rony Lopes (Monaco)

Rony Lopes is most definitely deserving of this call-up. Indeed, only a couple of week ago we suggested that he was perhaps the unluckiest Portuguese player of them all not to make the World Cup squad when looking at his performances and statistics last term, and he looks like he may just continue from where he left off, having scored in the first league match of the season against Nantes.

To summarise just how good we was for Monaco last campaign, he managed to get a highly impressive 15 goals, in addition to 7 assists, in the league alone, and played in every single Ligue 1 match his side played, summarising just how important he is to Leonardo Jardim's side.

21. Gelson Martins (Atletico Madrid)

Gelson Martins - Gelson is a bit of an enigma for Portugal; having been simply sensational for Sporting over the last couple of seasons, the Gelson we've watched and praised at club level is yet to really leave his mark on the international stage, and his inconsistency for his country could have put him under threat of missing out on the latest squad.  However, he has made the cut, and has undoubted talent, which is why he's earned a move to La Liga giants Atletico Madrid, so seeing his name in the final 23-man shortlist comes as little surprise.

22. Goncalo Guedes (Valencia)

Guedes didn't set the world alight at the World Cup this summer, but his performances for Valencia last season were quite extraordinary, as he managed to find the back of the net 5 times in 33 La Liga appearances, while also bagging 11 assists in the process. And now he has completed a permanent move back to the Spanish club from french giants PSG, he could be in store for another impressive season.

23. Bruma (RB Leipzig)

Bruma is another player that has suffered as a result of the immense competition Portugal have on the wings. Having to compete with the likes of Ronaldo, Quaresma, Nani, Guedes, Gelson, Bernardo and Rafa has meant that the pacey winger has only played for Portugal on two occasions despite his obvious talent. He showed as much last season, featuring in 28 matches - often from the bench - and having some sort of impact on the side, pitching in with 4 goals and two assists at the same time. He also comes with Champions League and Europa League experience, having played in 11 games across both competitions last season, also finding the net in 3 of the 6 games he featured in in the Europa League. He deserves this opportunity to represent Portugal, having also impressed at the nation's youth levels in the past as well.

23. Andre Silva (Sevilla)

Silva, as is well documented, had a thoroughly frustrating season at AC Milan last year, but having this summer moved to Sevilla, things look like they could be taking a turn for the better.

Indeed, in his debut game for Sevilla, things could not have gone any better, as he bagged a hattrick for the club in his first ever Spanish appearance. If he continues like that going forwards, this could be the foundations to propel his career in the right direction, excellent news for both him and the country.

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