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10 options, 6 places: which central midfielders would you call up to the upcoming Portugal squad?

10 options, 6 places: which central midfielders would you call up to the upcoming Portugal squad?

We have already looked at the six strikers one might choose to call up to the Portugal national team from a choice of twelve. And today, we turn our attention to the midfield. 

Assuming Fernando Santos were to only call up 23 players to the next squad, you could also assume that he'd only choose six central midfielders, with 3 goalkeepers, 4 centrebacks, 4 fullbacks and 6 forwards likely to make up the rest of the squad.

As such, which six would you choose from the following? 

1. William Carvalho

The Real Betis midfielder has shown terrific versatility over the last year. Having often been perceived as this traditional defensive midfielder whose only role is to break up opposition attacks, William Carvalho has continued to show that he is far, far more than that.

While his reading of the game and defensive ability, both in terms of tackling and intercepting, is outstanding, his passing, composure and ability to charge towards and join the attack has also been regularly on show for club and country.

Such an elegant player, combined with incredible strength and such calmness in possession, makes him one of the ultimate central midfielders. He's so important to the national team. 

2. Danilo Pereira

Danilo Pereira has naturally been compared to William Carvalho over the years in the sense that they both play in the same position for the same national team, and accommodating them both in the starting lineup has been largely untested. Often it's one or the other, rather than both simultaneously.

Nevertheless, his defensive game and ability to roam forwards has also been on show this season, and his performance against Roma in the Champions League second leg was an excellent example of his capabilities. He completely dictated the game from central midfield, dominating the middle of the park with his defensive positioning and passing range. Portugal are blessed to have both him and William Carvalho, both fantastic options in central midfield.

3. Ruben Neves

And if having two exceptional 'defensive' midfielders wasn't enough, young Ruben Neves has excelled at Wolverhampton, and the holding midfielder has given further competition to both Danilo and William. 

He too likes to operate in central midfield from a deeper position and, like William and Danilo, is also incredibly comfortable roaming forwards with the ball too.

His passing range, though, is on another level. His ability to pick out his man seamlessly has been a joy to watch, and has delighted Wolves fans over the last 18 months. His presence gives William Carvalho that ability to play further up the pitch, which has proven incredibly effective. 

4. Bruno Fernandes

Wow. What a season Bruno Fernandes is having. Undoubtedly the most in-form player of any Portuguese player in the world right now.

His goals and assists this season have been mounting up to a scarcely believable level. 24 goals and 13 assists already this campaign, the attacking midfielder is doing a terrific job for Sporting, who would be much worse off than they are currently if they didn't have him in their ranks.

It's impossible to justify leaving him out of the team. 

5. Pizzi

Pizzi has been almost as impressive this season, certainly in the past couple of months since Bruno Lage became manager. Having been utilised more on the right of midfield, Pizzi has been getting his fair share of goals and assists too.

In all competitions, he has 10 goals and 17 assists, a terrific return for the 29-year old, with 3 of those goals and 7 of those assists coming in the last 6 league outings.

His masterclass against Nacional, which Benfica ended up winning 10-0, lives in the memory, and he too deserves a callup. 

6. João Moutinho

Moutinho has been absent from the Portugal national team since the World Cup, something which has surprised a fair few Seleção fans. It wasn't costly, of course, with Portugal advancing to the Nations League semi-final with relative ease, although after the season he has had, it would be a huge surprise if he didn't return to the fold.

His technical ability is unquestionable, his passing and composure on the ball clear for all to see, while his delivery from deadball situations has also been very good. But what has also been exceptionally impressive about Moutinho is his ability to do the defensive work, how hard he works in midfield at both ends of the pitch.

An excellent asset to have for any side. 

7. Renato Sanches

Renato has had a mixed season, playing relatively sporadically for Bayern Munich, although when he has played he's generally performed.

His energy and strength is of great use to Fernando Santos, who knows what Renato Sanches can offer, and his individual quality was on show yesterday as he inspired Bayern to score their fourth goal of the game. 

He's certainly in the mix to get a call up. 

8. Andre Gomes

Andre Gomes had a tough time at Barcelona, but since making the move to England and Everton he's been impressive. He is a perfect example of the complete midfielder, able to offer all the attributes you want from someone playing that role. When he's confident and on his game, he's an elite footballer - and is why Barcelona bought him in the first place. 

He faces a lot of competition to get a call-up, but has done his chances to harm at all. 

9. João Mario

Mario looked set for a disastrous season at the start of the campaign, his relationship with the Inter fans lower than ever before and out of favour with the management.

However, after an outstanding display against Genoa back in November, where he got a goal and three assists, he wormed his way back into Inter's plans and has since been given regular game time with the Italian club.

His versatility also works in his favour, able to play in the middle, as well as on the right wing or in attacking midfield. We also all know how much Fernando Santos likes him and what he can offer.

10. Gedson Fernandes

Gedson was called up to two of the last three Portugal squads despite only being 19 at the time, and already has two senior international appearances to his name. His chances of getting a call-up this time, though, are relatively slim. 

While he is a terrific central midfielder with a very bright future, his chances for Benfica have been reduced since Lage took over at the start of last month, and the competition is great for the youngster. A return to the U21s is more likely.

Who I'd pick:  Danilo Pereira, William Carvalho, Ruben Neves, João Moutinho, Pizzi, Bruno Fernandes  

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