Often heralded as a cultivator of talent, the Portuguese Liga is again stocked with a host of youthful footballers. Here are five players who are finally beginning to realize their potential:
5. Bruno Gama — (FC Porto)
At the 2007 FIFA U-20 World Cup, Gama scored both goals in Portugal’s 2-0 win over New Zealand. The 21-year-old right winger is on loan at Vitória de Setúbal. He has seen action in all 9 league matches — 5 starts and 4 via substitution.
4. Miguel Lopes — (Rio Ave)
The Portuguese right back plays for a veteran-laden squad; yet, he still manages to routinely find his way onto the pitch. The 21-year-old played his best so far against the leagues’ elite (Benfica, FC Porto) prompting media speculation to proclaim that FC Porto would be targeting Lopes this January. He has started in all 9 league matches.
3. LuÃs Aguiar — (SC Braga)
The 23-year-old is nearing the age limit where one can be considered a prospect, but the Uruguayan attacking midfielder has finally found his footing. At Braga, he has been a regular in the starting eleven this season. In the league, he has netted one goal and one assist from 8 matches. In the club’s 2008-09 UEFA Cup run, he has scored 3 goals in 4 matches. His brilliant goal via free kick on October 23rd helped the club surprise FA Cup holders, Portsmouth. Braga hosts VfL Wolfsburg tomorrow in UEFA Cup Group E action. Is Aguiar going to add to his tally sheet?
2. Douglas — (Vitória de Guimarães)
The 22-year-old Samba striker joined Vitória this summer. Known for his excellent pace, this is his first foray in Europe. In his first 7 league matches, he has scored 4 goals. Like many of his Brazilian contemporaries, he too is a versatile footballer as he can easily fall back into an attacking midfield position.
1. Simon VukÄeviÄ‡ — (Sporting Lisbon)
The 22-year-old Montenegrin international has publicly feuded with Sporting coach Paulo Bento. Thus, he has only seen action as a substitute in 2 league matches. The attacking midfielder is looking to move to the Premiership this January with Blackburn as a potential suitor, but Sporting has set the price tag rather high. Will another club pay the hefty transfer fee?
Sean Grybos operates Soccer City FC where you can find commentary on leagues and clubs from around the globe.