UPDATED: Portugal's current eight best lineups, from A to H
Another instalment of the ranking of Portugal’s top players from around the continent, characterised into 8 teams from strongest down.
Having undergone over 4 months since the last edition of this article, we’ve learnt a lot about this current group of players and Fernando Santos’ preferences when it comes to choosing players.
And with that in mind, here’s an illustration of what could be seen as how Portugal boss Fernando Santos currently ranks his players and who is most likely to get called up to the national team.
You can see the last edition of this article via this link here, which dates back to February 2019. But now, let’s stick to the present day, and here’s how we view the Portugal squad, attempting to see things through the eyes of the boss himself.
Team A should be seen as a version of what Santos likely considers his starting eleven when everyone is fit and firing. Team B should then comprise of players who are likely to be included in any future Portugal squads, while Team C is mainly made up of the players who are generally considered to be just on the fringes of making the cut but are at risk of not getting a call-up - and so on, all the way down to Team H, which could be considered something of the ‘weakest’.
So, let’s get into it.
Portugal ‘A’ Team
Having seen the team that Fernando Santos selected for the Nations League semi-final clash with Switzerland, we got a good indication of what he believes is his strongest starting eleven.
It was unclear as to how he would fit the likes of Ronaldo, Bernardo, Bruno Fernandes and Joao Felix all into one team, but he managed it, finally playing Bernardo through the middle as so many had requested.
Ultimately though, it was a team of few surprises, with Portugal’s strongest lineup having been known for some time. The only alteration we see in this lineup is that Bruno Fernandes moves up by one place, being promoted from Team B to Team A after an immaculate season with Sporting. He takes the place of Renato Sanches, who has struggled for game time at Bayern Munich.
Some may be surprised to see Andre Silva keep his spot in the Team A, particularly since he didn’t even get a call-up to the latest Nations League squad. The reason he didn’t get that call-up, though, is due to injury and nothing more; had he not suffered that setback while playing for Sevilla, no doubt he’d have been in the squad, and very possibly starting alongside Ronaldo. Expect that, when he returns, he’ll be back in the fold and, potentially, back in the XI too.
Cancelo also keeps his place ahead of Semedo; despite Semedo playing the semi-final of the Nations League and impressing, Cancelo is still very much Portugal’s first choice right back.
Portugal ‘B’ Team
Several changes in Team ‘B’ - and everyone who has entered this side moving up rather than down. It shows what a strong end of season many of these players have had to sneak into the Portugal squad and right into Fernando Santos’ plans.
Ferro is the big mover; having not been included in any of our hypothetical teams last time (just 4 months ago back in February), Ferro has jumped right up to Team ‘B’, very likely to be considered Portugal’s 4th strongest centreback right now after excellent displays for Benfica. Huge praise for the 22-year old centreback, who is yet to make his senior Portugal debut.
But Jose Sa is also worthy of great credit for the progress he’s made in the last 4 months too; having been placed only in our Team ‘F’ last time, Sa has jumped all the way to Team ‘B’, in part due to the temporary ‘retirement’ of typical Portugal number 2 Anthony Lopes, but also due to good form for Greek outfit Olympiakos.
Nelson Semedo has also done well, moving up two places from Team ‘D’ to Team ‘B’ in that highly competitive right back spot; he leapfrogs both Cedric Soares and Ricardo Pereira.
There are also steps in the right direction for young striking duo Diogo Jota and Joao Felix respectively; after outstanding ends to the season for Wolves and Benfica respectively both are very much in the forefront of Fernando Santos’ mind and they are both in the mix for a starting berth for their country too. Testament to their ability and work rate to continue to climb upwards in the rankings.
Portugal ‘C’ Team
Another team and another big batch of players moving in the correct direction.
There are, however, a couple of players that have ultimately moved downwards, which is to be expected considering how many players had stepped up to the ‘B’ Team. One of those is Rafael Leao. A little harsh on the 19-year old Lille striker; after a strong season with his French club, helping them secure an impressive 2nd place finish in Ligue 1, he has ultimately suffered from the immense form of those that play in his position, and instead of being called up to the Nations League, was allowed to go to the U20 World Cup, showing that he’s not quite in Fernando Santos’ main plans.
The other player to move down was Montpellier centreback Pedro Mendes. Again, harsh on the defender, but ultimately was only moved down to make way for the highly impressive Ferro. Still a great centreback who has a chance of representing his country in the future.
In the opposite direction though, the likes of Sergio Oliveira and Andre Gomes move up after excellent campaigns with PAOK of Greece and Everton of the English Premier League. The former even helped secure the Greek title for his club, showing some of his best football to date to help achieve that feat for PAOK, while Gomes impressed the Everton fans significantly, who are desperately hoping that he sticks around at the club on a permanent basis.
Pizzi is also moved up after a sensational season with Benfica; the 29-year old offers terrific versatility, while he is also very capable of chipping in with assists. An excellent option for Fernando Santos to have.
Bruno Alves is also quite rightly moved upwards. He may now be 37 years old, but after a terrific season with Parma, who he captained on several occasions, he deserves to still be considered by Fernando Santos, his experience invaluable and his performances still more than sufficient to be considered for the first team squad.
The biggest mover, though, was undoubtedly Dyego Sousa. We didn’t include him in any of our teams, not even Team ‘H’, last time around as we were convinced Santos wouldn’t naturalise anyone. It came as a shock, therefore, to see him call up Brazilian-born forward for the Euro 2020 qualifiers back in March. Justified, however, based on his form for Braga, and now we know Santos is open to the idea of bringing in naturalised players, Dyego Sousa has to be considered one of the best options Portugal have up front.
Portugal ‘D’ Team
Another team, and another player who has come from nowhere to fly up the rankings and into one of the top teams in the list.
Florentino Luis, after excellent performances for Benfica in the closing stages of the season, fully merits his inclusion in Team ‘D’, the 19-year old progressing brilliantly under the guidance of Bruno Lage. He is certainly one of Portugal’s top 5 defensive midfielders at this point in time.
His equally young teammate Gedson Fernandes is also brought into Team ‘D’. Again Gedson has impressed with Benfica, his work rate and awareness in that box-to-box role has been impressive, and he’s the sort of direct and explosive central midfielder Fernando Santos would be very willing on bringing into his team.
However, while the young Benfica duo move up the rankings, several ultimately have moved down into Team ‘D’. One such player who has dropped considerably in stock is Renato Sanches. The Euro 2016 Golden Boy was considered to be a very probable starter for Portugal as recently as February. However, after failing to sustain regular game time with German giants Bayern Munich, he has fallen down the pecking order, with equally young and talented players beginning to outshine him. He has work to do to get back up to the level he once was.
Five other players have also moved down, albeit not so considerably. Eder up front has dropped down a place, unable to tie down a starting spot for Russian club Lokomotiv Moscow, frequently having to settle for a place off the bench, he ultimately only grabbed 1 goal and 1 assist in 22 league outings - both of which came in the same match. Forever a legend of Portugal, but unlikely to make his way back into the Portugal team.
The centreback partnership of Luis Neto and Daniel Carrico have also dropped down, with Bruno Alves and Ferro moving in the opposite direction, while Monaco star Rony Lopes has also dropped a place after Monaco’s disastrous season.
Meanwhile, Cedric Soares has slipped 2 places from the ‘B’ Team to the ‘D’ Team; having been one of Fernando Santos’ most loyal servants, his unsuccessful loan move to Inter Milan has seen him fall down the pecking order, behind the talented trio of Cancelo, Semedo and Ricardo Pereira.
Portugal ‘E’ Team
Not a great deal of movement here with one going up and three going down.
Moving up by just a single place is Ruben Vezo. After a successful loan spell at Levante where he played 15 of a possible 17 league games, the 25-year old showed that he could still have a career as a Portugal centreback, and takes the place of the permanently injured Ricardo Ferreira, who has now been dropped from the list entirely. A quality centreback, but ultimately his desperately unfortunate injury troubles may have potentially spelled the end of his international career.
Meanwhile, the three moving in the opposite direction are Paulinho, Bruma and Andre Silva.
Bruma drops down after a disappointing campaign with RB Leipzig, where he really struggled to secure regular game time. He ultimately only ended up playing in 14 league matches in total, of which he started just 6, and he only managed a single goal and assist in the process. A highly talented player, with incredible pace and dribbling ability, but now at the age of 24, he really should be securing far more regular game time to advance his career.
Adrien Silva drops down simply to make room for Florentino Luis above him; a decent end to the season with Monaco means he’s on the right track, though it’s hard to see him becoming one of Portugal’s top central midfielders again.
Paulinho, meanwhile, also drops down just to make way for another player, being replaced by Braga teammate Dyego Sousa.
Portugal ‘F’ Team
Team ‘F’ includes another couple of players that have come from nowhere to be included in this list. One of those men is Tiago Sa.
Fans outside of Portugal may not know much about the shot-stopper, but Sa came ito play virtually the whole season for Braga (after number one choice Matheus suffered a knee injury very early on in the season) and showed that he is a more than adequate goalkeeper, and could easily serve as backup to the current leading shot-stoppers. The 24-year old could be the future to Portugal’s slightly concerning goalkeeping situation in terms of who will soon replace Beto as backup to Rui Patricio and Jose Sa.
The other player to move back into this list having been overlooked completely in the last edition back in February is Ruben Semedo. The highly controversial centreback, who has had a couple of high-profile run-ins with the police, has rebuilt his career after a disastrous spell in Spain, all due to his off-field adventures.
Returning to Portugal proved a great move for him; he became instrumental to Rio Ave, playing every single minute of their league campaign once he arrived on loan from Villarreal in January. He was undoubtedly too good for the mid-table Portuguese side, but he impressed in his time back in his homeland, and could be set for an illustrious move to Porto. A real chance to fully turn his career around, against the odds, and get back on track. The chance to represent his country at senior level lives on.
Andre Pinto is another to move up, though he only goes up by a single place after Ricardo Ferreira was dropped from the rankings altogether. He only played 11 league games for Sporting this season, but showed himself to be a very adequate defender at the age of 29.
Nelson Oliveira of Reading and Nani, now playing in North America, were the two to move down a place each.
Portugal ‘G’ Team
Not a great deal of movement in Team ‘G’ - just the three players exchanging position in this side with two down and one up.
Starting with the positive, Wilson Manafa is looking a very shrewd acquisition by Porto and is a terrific and versatile player. Capable of playing both left back and right back, we’ve tucked him in at the left of defence to squeeze him into this side, as is fully deserving after a solid end to the season with Porto, albeit almost exclusively from the right.
In terms of the negatives though, Rolando had a terrible end to the season, failing to play any of Marseille’s final 14 league matches. And for that he’s dropped down a place in the rankings. A move is certainly needed now, and Braga could be on the cards.
Ivan Cavaleiro, having struggled to make a significant impact at Wolves this season, also drops down a place.
Portugal ‘H’ Team
Not a lot of change with the Portugal H team either. Fabio Coentrao, having slipped down 3 places back in February, moves down a further place after a disappointing spell with Guimaraes. It’s almost impossible to see him coming anywhere close to making the Portugal team again one day.
Helder Costa also drops down a place after a disappointing season with Wolves.