TugaScout is an English-language site reporting on matters associated with Portuguese football by freelance writer Alex Goncalves, offering the latest news, reviews and opinions surrounding the Portuguese League and the Seleção players based abroad.

From jailed outcast to making the Portugal squad: Ruben Semedo's unlikely return to the Portugal national team is the ultimate comeback story

From jailed outcast to making the Portugal squad: Ruben Semedo's unlikely return to the Portugal national team is the ultimate comeback story

Ruben Semedo has received his debut call-up to the Portugal national team - but his journey to this point has been far from straightforward.

Cast your mind back to March 2016; while Portugal were heading into a European Championship tournament that they were ultimately going to go on and win, a 21-year old Ruben Semedo kicked off his own international career, making his debut for the Portugal U21s versus Liechtenstein.

He marked his first ever appearance for the U21 national team with a goal and a 4-0 victory, going on to make another 9 appearances for the U21s over the next 15 months, and his future as a regular international centreback for the Portugal national team in the years to come seemed almost an absolute certainty.

However, everything suddenly began to unravel for Ruben Semedo as personal issues away from the football pitch began to spiral out of control and put not only his international career in jeopardy, nor only his whole footballing career in serious doubt, but his entire life in utter turmoil too.

The chances of ever seeing him represent Portugal were looking slim - very slim - and if you said only at the start of 2019 that he would go on to represent Portugal before the end of the year, few people would have believed you, as is shown by the short story below:


The following is an amended extract from a TugaScout article from January 2019, when Ruben Semedo was linked with a loan move to Reading:

Once seen as the leading future centreback of the Portugal national team, English Championship strugglers Reading are one of the sides keen on bringing in former Sporting star Ruben Semedo.

Signing the 25-year old centreback will be far from straightforward though, with the defender having had his passport seized, preventing him from being able to currently leave his country of residence, Spain.

Having played for Sporting CP 48 times across all competitions by the time he was just 22 years old, Semedo earned an impressive - and expensive - move to Villarreal, the La Liga outfit paying a substantial 14 million euros for the physical defender, illustrating just how highly rated Semedo was in the Iberian Peninsula as recently as two years ago.

With clear quality as a central defender, being confident on the ball, a good tackler and reader of the game, and a physical presence in the box, his footballing credentials speak for themselves, and many expected him to be the heir to Portugal’s standout defender, Pepe.

However, everything went downhill quickly for the former Sporting man; it began after he was arrested for an altercation in Valencia, where he was accused of displaying a pistol in public and threatening behaviour.

Just a month later, he was arrested again, this time for even more serious allegations, thought to have assaulted and tied up a man, keeping him captive in his house before then committing burglary on the victim’s home, and was even charged with attempted murder.

Semedo was imprisoned as a result, only released four months later after paying bail of 30,000 euros.

As a result of these controversies, added to injury troubles, Semedo was limited to just 4 appearances for Villarreal, suggesting that he was a huge financial gamble that didn’t come close to paying off for the Spanish side.

And having already been given a second chance at fellow La Liga side Huesca, who signed him on loan just a week after his release from prison, they eventually decided that he could end his association with the club early, letting his loan come to an abrupt end.


With his life in tatters, his footballing career was put on hold too, and expectations that he would be in and around the Portugal squad in time for the 2020 European Championships were exceedingly slim. But hard work, determination and letting his football do the talking has seen him complete a rapid and drastic transformation as he completes his rehabilitation.

Fernando Santos perhaps said it best: “A setback in life doesn’t mean that people don’t have the right to follow their path and move forward.”

Ruben Semedo. Photo author: Дмитрий Пукалик.  License link .

Ruben Semedo. Photo author: Дмитрий Пукалик. License link.

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