Predicted Portugal squad for the Nations League
Fernando Santos will announce his squad for the UEFA Nations League on May 23rd.
In preparation, we look at the team that Fernando Santos could select for the tournament that will be held in Porto and Guimarães in June of this year.
1. Rui Patricio (Wolverhampton Wanderers)
The undisputed number one of the Portugal national team is guaranteed to be in the squad - barring injury, of course. A reliable figure in between the sticks with a calm and composed demeanour, Rui Patricio is undoubtedly one of the greatest goalkeepers the country has had.
2. Beto (Goztepe)
With Anthony Lopes temporarily 'retiring' from the national team and with a lack of obvious successors that are ready to take over from the tried and tested between the sticks, Beto, at the age of 36, is almost certainly Portugal's second choice shot-stopper.
Currently playing in the Turkish top flight for Goztepe, having previously been on the books of the likes of Porto, Sevilla and Sporting CP, Beto has, perhaps surprisingly, 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 - and is a more than suitable backup option.
3. Jose Sá (Olympiakos)
Out on loan at Olympiakos from Porto, Sá has started to show the sort of form that Portugal fans came to expect from him after his performances for the Portugal youth teams.
Having played 21 games this season for the Greek outfit, Sá has earned 12 clean sheets, an impressive return even if he is playing for one of the best clubs in the country.
While Tondela's Claudio Ramos was experimented with as Portugal's third choice for a few matches during the Nations League group stage, Sá was called up to the last Portugal squad, and is expected to be called up again this time too.
4. Pepe (FC Porto)
It seems a given nowadays that Pepe will be in the Portugal national team, one of the great certainties. 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.
5. Jose Fonte (Lille)
Despite a less than impressive 18 months leading up to the 2018 World Cup, struggling for game time in the English Premier League before moving to the Chinese Super League and Dalian Yifang in the winter of 2018, Jose Fonte was still called up to the tournament and played every single minute of Portugal's campaign, helping them get through the group stage and into the round of 16, where they were knocked out by Uruguay.
And, to his credit, he played very well, probably even better than his partner at the back in Pepe, which is testament to his strength in character and his ability to perform for his country. While moving to China is often seen as the end of one's international career, Santos showed faith in Fonte - whether that was because of a lack of viable alternatives or because he saw the experience and ability he could bring to the side is difficult to say with any certainty, but he did his chances of appearing for his country again in the future no harm at all.
Now 35, Fonte has continued to impress at French outfit Lille, and having captained the club to what looks set to be an impressive 2nd place finish, he is likely to be playing Champions League football next season for the very first time in his career. He may have missed out on a call-up in most of the squads since the World Cup, but he fully merits inclusion in this competition.
6. Ruben Dias (Benfica)
Ruben Dias is also a certainly to be called up to the next squad; having very much cemented his place as Pepe's right-hand man in the heart of Portugal's defence, the Benfica 21-year old will no doubt be included in the squad - and will almost certainly appear in both matches. His performances for Benfica have also been solid, and he merits inclusion.
7. Ferro (Benfica)
Now, this is the first very tricky decision. Who Portugal's fourth choice centreback will be is difficult to call - and that's if Fernando Santos opts to bring four centrebacks at all.
Indeed, for the Euro 2020 qualifiers against both Ukraine and Serbia, Santos elected to call up just 3 centrebacks - Pepe, Ruben Dias and Jose Fonte - safe in the knowledge that Danilo Pereira can also play centreback if need be.
Nevertheless, Ruben Dias' teammate at club level Ferro has been fantastic since being promoted to the senior national team - and deserves a chance to be in the first-team squad, even if he doesn't get to play. A good experience coming at the right time for the 21-year old.
8. João Cancelo (Juventus)
Cancelo has been terrific for Juventus this season, impressing with his attacking endeavour from right back. While he didn't impress for Portugal during the qualifiers a couple of months ago, Cancelo is still very much expected to be Portugal's starting right back at the Nations League in June.
9. Nelson Semedo (Barcelona)
If choosing the fourth centreback for Fernando Santos to call up was the first tough decision in this list, then choosing Portugal's second right back option is most definitely the second.
With quality at right back the like of which we’ve never really seen before, it seems a toss-up between Barcelona's Nelson Semedo, or Leicester City's player of the season Ricardo Pereira. And that's not including Manchester United's Diogo Dalot or Benfica's Andre Almeida, who have both impressed this campaign. And who could forget one of Fernando Santos' most reliable servants Cedric Soares? So much depth in this department.
We've gone with Nelson Semedo - just - although Ricardo Pereira is just as deserving of a spot.
10. Raphael Guerreiro (Borussia Dortmund)
The talented left-back - who can also be utilised further forward or in central midfield - will surely be Portugal's starting left back against the Netherlands in June. Not quite as blessed with quality depth in the left back department, Guerreiro is certainly the standout player in this position, and will likely start for Portugal should he stay fit.
11. Mario Rui (Napoli)
Mario Rui - who was part of Portugal's World Cup team - is certainly the most likely option to serve as Guerreiro's understudy. Having been included in the past few squads, Rui has shown himself to be a solid left back who is more than sufficient to occupy that backup option.
If the U20 World Cup was not occurring at the same time though, we may have suggested Ruben Vinagre as the choice for Fernando Santos to elect for. Having impressed for Portugal U19s as they won the European Championship last year, he certainly merits inclusion and deserves a chance to strut his stuff on the biggest international stage, and his time will come.
12. William Carvalho (Real Betis)
Like Pepe and Rui Patricio, his inclusion is something of a certainty. So important is he to the national team 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; so much for resting your best players to avoid injury! And he has only continued to play nearly every minute of national team football since.
While he has missed 3 games recently for Real Betis due to injury, it shouldn't keep him out of international duty and you can expect him to not only be in the squad, but on the team sheet too.
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 certain.
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 player to fill in that defensive midfield role and give William Carvalho the freedom to roam forwards.
14. Danilo Pereira (FC Porto)
Portugal's saviour in that last outing against Serbia where he delivered a terrific long-range effort to rescue a 1-1 draw, Danilo is, like the two midfielders that came before him in this list, a certainty to be in the squad, barring injury of course.
It's been said a lot, but Portugal are blessed in the 'defensive' midfield options, with Neves, Carvalho and Danilo all incredibly capable of operating in that role.
15. Joao Moutinho (Wolverhampton Wanderers)
Another Wolves man, and another to be included in the squad. Portugal's third most capped player in history, Moutinho, while missing out on earlier Nations League squads, seems a certainty to get a call-up. He is one of the greatest national servants in history, and with more than 100 caps to his name, has more than proven just how exceptional a midfielder he is, both for club and country.
16. Bruno Fernandes (Sporting CP)
It would be an indisputable crime should Portugal's top performer this season not be included in the squad. Since arriving from Serie A, he has been truly magnificent for Sporting, chipping in with a scarcely believable 31 goals and 17 assists in 50 appearances this campaign. 31 goals. 17 assists. And if he can translate that form onto the international scene, he will be a huge asset to Portugal for years to come.
17. Pizzi (Benfica)
After the season Pizzi has had at Benfica yet again, he too is a must in the squad. Having been one of Benfica's standout performers this season in a league campaign that has been nothing short of phenomenal since Bruno Lage took over, Pizzi has 12 goals and 19 assists this season. And the 29-year old has played every single one of Benfica's Primeira Liga matches this campaign. A crucial part of the Benfica team, who should also male up part of Portgual’s team too.
18. Andre Gomes (Everton)
The final midfield spot is wide open. Renato Sanches or João Mario are two other options, for example, but we've gone with Andre Gomes, who has more than rejuvenated his career since joining Everton. He deserves a chance to return back to the fold with Portugal.
19. Bernardo Silva (Manchester City)
Need we say more? "Bubblegum Boy" Bernardo will be included in the squad, although that wasn't much of a secret. The Manchester City midfielder has perhaps been Manchester City's best player this season - which says it all. The Premier League champions have been stunning this campaign, and for Bernardo to still stand out from the rest says it all.
20. Cristiano Ronaldo (Juventus)
Like Bernardo, Ronaldo will be in the squad. That is a certainty, as confirmed by Fernando Santos. And rightly so.
21. João Felix (Benfica)
Felix has been the revelation of Portuguese football this season - perhaps the revelation of football across the globe. The 19-year old came into the team this season and impressed practically from day one - and has only continued to do so since.
His passing and link-up play with Seferovic and co has been a delight to watch for Benfica, his vision and weighted pass allowing him to play exquisite through-balls, while the power and accuracy he generates when putting his laces through the ball is a sight to behold. Guaranteed to be included after he was left out of the U20 World Cup squad.
22. Diogo Jota (Wolves)
How far he's come in just a few months of football. Since moving into that second striker role alongside Raul Jimenez at the start of the year, he has not only been scoring for fun for Wolverhampton Wanderers, but he has been the source of constant torment for opposition defences with his pace and dribbling prowess. Portugal could use that, and will.
23. Gonçalo Guedes (Valencia)
Guedes didn't set the world alight at the World Cup this summer, but his performances for Valencia in recent weeks have been terrific. He was included in Portugal's last squad, which was a huge surprise considering he had only just returned from injury. If he was included then, he's a guarantee to be included now.
24. Rafa Silva (Benfica)
Rafa has finally been showing exactly why he is Benfica's second most expensive player in history, showcasing that form he demonstrated for Braga - and some more on top of that.
His pace, his dribbling ability, his tenacity, and with it his end product, he is a world-class winger on his day - which he seems to be every time he steps out onto the pitch right now. And Fernando Santos simply cannot overlook him.
5 goals in his last 3 games, 10 goals in his last 10, Rafa isn't only dazzling, but he's contributing vital goals to Benfica's title challenge - goals that Portugal will also need this summer.
25. Dyego Sousa (Braga)
Dyego Sousa didn't do enough in Portugal's Euro 2020 qualifiers to merit inclusion in the Nations League squad - and yet here we are.
Sousa makes the predicted cut solely because Andre Silva seems very likely to miss out as a result of injury. After Sevilla's manager came out and said it would be an insult to football should Silva be called up and that UEFA should block Portugal from calling him up, it seems more unlikely that Fernando Santos will bring Andre Silva to the tournament.
Rafael Leão would typically seem the most likely replacement, the 19 year old impressing for Lille this season, but he's in the U20 World Cup squad instead. So that really leaves us with Dyego Sousa.
Not a bad option to have; if the game is tied going into extra time, for example, it's always good to have a target man on the bench to bring on to try and change the game.