12 options, 6 places: Who would you choose as Portugal's six forwards for the upcoming squad?
If you didn't already know, 12 doesn't really go into 6.
With twelve top quality attacking options available to Fernando Santos for the upcoming Euro 2020 qualifying matches with Ukraine and Serbia, there's a big decision to be made by the experienced Portugal manager.
Those twelve names aren't even including Valencia's Gonçalo Guedes, who has been out injured for several weeks, or Nani, the veteran winger certain to be overlooked for younger options for the upcoming matches, especially after he completed a move to the MLS.
And yet, of the names that will now be looked at, 6 are going to have to miss out. Which is a terrific problem to have, I'm sure you'll agree.
That said, of course, you cannot envy Fernando Santos right now; regardless of the attacking players he opts for, there'll be plenty of disappointment amongst Seleção fans for the omission of one player or another.
So, let's take a look at the twelve names under consideration:
1. Cristiano Ronaldo
The Juventus man may have missed the last three squads for the UEFA Nations League, but with the stakes that bit higher when the next fixtures roll around, the 34-year old is expected to make a return to the national scene.
He is still such an asset to even the very best of sides, as he has been showing for Juventus so far this season. There would be concern and disappointment if he didn't make the cut for one reason or another.
2. Bernardo Silva
The Manchester City midfielder has dazzled the fans of Premier League football to an entirely new level this season. Despite impressing last campaign in his debut season at Manchester City, it is this year that he has really cemented himself as one of the very best players in the English top fight - and in world football.
The praise of Guardiola will live in the memory for a very long time, such a high opinion reserved for only the very best footballers. He, perhaps even ahead of Ronaldo, seems to be the player most assured of a place in Fernando Santos' squad, and starting lineup.
3. João Felix
His reputation was always anticipated to be amplified this season, but even those of us who have followed João Felix over the past few years may be surprised by just how much attention he is already getting from clubs across Europe. The buzz around Felix was always a guarantee, but after just a few months in the senior team? It’s testament to Felix’s ability and development.
Indeed, you will be hard pushed to find a day where he isn't linked with one of the biggest clubs in world football, it seeming to be a daily - or even hourly - occurrence that Felix is associated with a move overseas. And after the season he's had, it's to be expected.
Goals and assists aplenty, added to his composure, skill and confidence, Felix is pretty much a finished article already - and he's still only a teenager. Fernando Santos cannot overlook the youngster.
4. Rafa Silva
The Rafa of Braga is well and truly back. Since moving to Benfica in a multi-million pound deal, he hasn't really looked the same explosive player, but over the last year he's really started to show why Benfica were willing to pay so much for him - and he's continued to progress this season.
He may not have the most minutes on the pitch this campaign, but he has certainly had more than enough game time for Fernando Santos to justify picking him, and when he has come on, he's looked very dangerous.
The type of squad player and impact substitute Fernando Santos surely wants.
5. Gelson Martins
Two months ago, the very thought of Gelson even being under consideration for a place in future Portugal squads was borderline impossible. Not playing for Atletico Madrid after joining the Spanish giants from Sporting, and failing to deliver when given a rare chance, Gelson looked as if he had virtually destroyed his footballing career with that move across the border.
Now though, he's not just under consideration by Fernando Santos, but has a very good chance of getting a call-up to the squad. How quickly football can change.
In just a handful of matches for Monaco under the stewardship of compatriot Leonardo Jardim, Gelson is back to his former self and, while he has yet to impress for the national team, deserves another chance with the Seleção.
6. Rony Lopes
If you'd asked me three weeks ago, I'd have had Lopes in the squad ahead of Gelson. Despite having some injury troubles this season, Lopes always looks classy on the pitch, and his versatility is another great positive in his game.
But the competition is strong, particularly with Monaco teammate Gelson back in form. Difficult to justify selecting him over the other candidates at this time.
7. Diogo Jota
If I told you that a 22-year old winger/second striker with 6 goals and 4 assists in his last 12 outings in the English Premier League was not a guaranteed starter for this country, you probably wouldn't believe it. Even more unbelievably, there's absolutely no guarantee that the former Portugal U21 captain will even make the next squad, let alone start...
As absurd as it is, it's testament to the strength in depth Portugal have in the wide and attacking areas, now perhaps more than ever. While Diogo Jota continues to impress for a side sitting 7th in perhaps the most prestigious league in all of world football, Santos may, with perhaps some justification, opt for other options instead. His versatility certainly works in his favour, though.
8. Daniel Podence
It's to the credit of Daniel Podence that he's up for consideration for the next Seleção squad. While he impressed for Sporting when giving the opportunity - playing 40 matches across all competitions for the Lisbon club, bagging 12 assists in the process - he rarely completed an entire match, and was never a guaranteed starter for the side. His injury half way through last season didn't help, of course.
In any case, Podence has joined a side in Olympiakos that see him as one of their key players. With 35 appearances to his name already this season, Podence has scored 6, assisted 7, and completed the full 90 minutes on 24 occasions. In fact, in all 35 appearances, he has played at least 70 minutes in all but two of the outings.
While he's an outsider for a place in Santos' next team, he's certainly in the discussion now, which shows how quickly he has progressed in just a matter of months.
9. Ricardo Quaresma
Of all Portugal's options, Quaresma remains their biggest wildcard. His unpredictably, his impact off the bench, his raw talent. It puts him above the rest despite his advanced age.
And while his discipline is always an issue, and his attitude is sometimes questionable, Santos no doubt still keeps an eye on how Quaresma is getting on in Turkey for Besiktas, and he remains a legitimate option to call upon.
While he almost certainly won’t be involved for the upcoming qualifiers, it would take a very brave person to bet on him never playing for Portugal again.
There’s no two ways about it. This has been a disappointing campaign for Portugal’s pacey winger. While he has played in 24 matches across all competitions, he has mainly been used as a backup player, often coming off the bench to make cameo appearances for Leipzig, particularly in the league.
His most productive spells have come in the Europa League, where he played the full 90 minutes on 5 occasions in the group stage and chipped in with a goal and two assists, but with Leipzig now out of the competition, his game time is far from certain.
In any case, Bruma is a player Santos clearly likes - and it is easy to see why. While he may not start for Portugal, his impact off the bench is unquestionable, with frightening pace and an ever-improving end product to go with it. It is therefore quite feasible for the 24-year old to make the squad to serve the very role he has been playing with his German club this campaign - a rotation option, a plan B for when Portugal are chasing the game.
11. Rafael Leão
It was a season that began with disappointment for the 19-year old, but has developed into something very promising indeed. With 7 goals in 17 league outings, Leão has played a significant role in helping Lille to 2nd in Ligue 1, and his well-rounded game makes him an ideal striker for any side. He is, beyond doubt, the striker Portugal have always wanted.
His inclusion should, really, be beyond doubt. Fast-tracking him to the senior team is a necessity.
12. Andre Silva
So, what of Andre Silva? After a truly remarkable start to the season, where he scored 7 goals in 7 matches, including two against Real Madrid, Andre Silva has since only managed 2 league goals in the next 17 outings, and he has returned to the concerning form that saw him leave AC Milan in the summer.
His decline in form has coincided in Sevilla’s deterioration in results, which has seen them slip to 6th in the league standings.
That said, Andre Silva is by this point an established Portugal international, having already represented his country 31 times. And the 23-year old has a remarkable goal record for his country, netting 15 times in his senior international career. Santos knows what he can get from Andre Silva, and his partnership with Cristiano Ronaldo is flourishing nicely. Portugal have been calling out for a striker like Silva for a while now, and they would be foolish to overlook him.
The six players I would take are as follows: Cristiano Ronaldo. Bernardo Silva. João Felix. Gelson Martins. Rafael Leão. Andre Silva.
The six players I expect Fernando Santos to choose: Cristiano Ronaldo, Bernardo Silva, Joao Felix, Rafa Silva, Rafael Leão, Andre Silva.