Uncapped Portugal XI
Here, we take a look at a team of active players who are yet to earn a cap for the Portugal national team.
GK: Jose Sá
He may have a Nations League medal to his name, but Jose Sá is yet to play a game for the senior national team, having also finished as runner-up in the 2015 U21 European Championship. Big things have been expected of the Olympiakos goalkeeper, but aged 26, he hasn’t yet appeared for his country.
LB: Diogo Dalot
Dalot is a right back at heart, but has been known to play left-back on certain occasions, but his versatility has not led him to play a game for Portugal’s main team yet. Aged 20 though, the Manchester United fullback has a great career ahead of him - and the time will come.
CB: Ruben Vezo
At the age of 25, you’d expect a high-profile centreback like Vezo to have played for Portugal at least once. That’s the case with both Daniel Carrico and Paulo Oliveira, but Vezo has only ever played for the Portugal U21s. That’s despite having had a very strong career in Spain with Valencia and, more recently, Levante.
CB: Ruben Semedo
Another centreback that has shown incredible promise, but hasn’t yet made that progression to the main team at international level. Less surprising, though, as for all his talent, his controversies off-field have certainly got in the way. There is still time for Semedo to turn it around though, the dominant centreback expected to join Olympiakos on loan.
RB: Ricardo Esgaio
At the age of 26, Esgaio is one of the joint oldest players on this list, and despite his impressive form at Braga, he’s yet to play for Portugal’s senior side even once. That comes as a surprise when you consider his youth team efforts; having represented Portugal at U16, U17, U18, U19, U20, U21 and even U23 level, the only one that’s really missing from the collection is the main team. Will it ever happen? Looking at the depth at right back, it certainly looks unlikely.
Perhaps one of the more unknown names on this list for fans outside of Portuguese - and French - football, Xeka was tremendous for Lille last season, one of their consistent performers as they bagged 2nd in the French top flight, and with it Champions League football. 24 years of age and with plenty of time ahead of him, it’s conceivable to think that he will one day get the chance to pull on the Portugal jersey, having only ever represented Portugal on a single occasion at youth level (for the U20s).
Utilised mainly as a winger this season, Toze has been exceptional for Guimaraes, the diminutive 26-year old showing why so much was expected from him during his time at Porto. Could he still go on to play for Portugal? Looking at his form, you wouldn’t bet against it, even if he’s already midway through his career.
CM: Andre Horta
Horta’s brother Ricardo has actually played for Portugal already, but Andre has not. After moving to the MLS, it looked like that opportunity was going to be permanently lost - particularly when you look at his form overseas - but now he has returned to Braga, the prospect may have opened itself up again. That’s made particularly more likely considering he’s just 22 years old.
LW: Diogo Jota
Highly unfortunate to still be without a senior international cap, Jota was, like Jose Sa, called up to the Nations League, but was overlooked in both games as he failed to get onto the pitch at all. Nevertheless, considering his form of late for Wolverhampton Wanderers and the fact that he is still only 22, it is a certainty that he will, one day, represent Portugal. And probably in the not-too-distant future.
RW: Daniel Podence
Podence is another player coming off an excellent season, his exploits in Greece with Olympiakos not going unnoticed. A lot has been made of his talent and potential, and having represented Portugal at U16, U18, U19, U20 and U21 level, it seems only natural that he will eventually make the progression to the senior team. The issue for the 23-year old, though, is the sheer amount of competition for a spot on that right wing.
Paulinho’s Braga teammate Wilson Eduardo also never got the chance to represent Portugal - and so has switched allegiances, representing Angola at the African Cup of Nations this month. Paulinho, though, doesn’t have that choice, and only has one appearance for Portugal to his name at any youth level - that showing coming for the Portugal U21s in November 2012 vs Scotland in a friendly. It seems odd that, with all of Portugal’s lack of quality out-and-out strikers he has never once featured for the senior time, even in a noncompetitive fixture, but it seems time is running out for him to do so.