5 best Portuguese players in Premier League history
- Manchester United new-boy Bruno Fernandes has become the latest Portuguese phenom in the Premier League, but who are its five greatest ever?
The English Premier League has seen some exciting signings from all over the world. However, the number of high-profile Portuguese imports in recent years has seen a significant rise.
The Wolves’ quartet of Rui Patricio, Joao Moutinho, Diogo Jota and Ruben Neves are some of the most eye-catching players in the league right now. Leicester City full-back Ricardo Perreira is thriving under Brendan Rodgers and Manchester United new-boy Bruno Fernandes has made a stunning start to life in England following his big-money move from Sporting Lisbon.
Before the current generation, the richest league on the planet has also seen some of the best Portuguese players blossom into world-class talents. Having said that, we take a look at five of the greatest Portuguese players in Premier League history.
#5 Paulo Ferreira
Portuguese right-back Paulo Ferreira joined Chelsea from Porto in the summer of 2004 alongside teammate Ricardo Carvalho. Having greatly impressed in his debut season, Ferreira helped the London-based outfit lift their first-ever Premier League title of the modern era. He was also part of the defence which conceded an English top-flight record of just 15 goals in the entire season.
Ferreira went on to make 141 English top-flight appearances over an eight-season spell at Stamford Bridge, lifting two more Premier League trophies along the way. Although he was never an attacking high-flyer, manager Jose Mourinho always lauded him for his defensive prowess and stability at the back. The Portuguese manager once famously described him as a “player who will never be Man of the Match but will always score 7 out of 10 for his individual display”.
That remark perfectly represented Ferreira’s consistency and reliability on the right side of the Chelsea defence with captain John Terry and compatriot Ricardo Carvalho at the heart of the back four. The defender might have always gotten overshadowed by the above-mentioned duo’s Herculean feats for the club, but Chelsea fans will have a special place for him in their hearts purely because of his unmatched loyalty, dedication and professionalism on the pitch.
#4 Bernardo Silva
Arguably Manchester City’s greatest signing of the Pep Guardiola era, Bernardo Silva arrived in England in the summer of 2017 after playing a pivotal role in French outfit Monaco’s historic Ligue 1 triumph and fairytale Champions League run. The Portuguese midfielder cost the Citizens £43.5 million as he was touted to be David Silva’s long-term replacement at the Etihad Stadium.
Bernardo went onto make 35 Premier League appearances in only his first season as he racked up 6 goals and 5 assists, helping his team to a record-breaking 100-point season as Guardiola tasted his first English top-flight success.
In the following season, the left-footed midfielder was given a more definitive role in the starting XI owing to a long-term injury to star-man Kevin De Bruyne. He continued his form as he netted important goals against Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool helping City to spectacularly retain the title by accumulating 98 points.
For his consistent artistry in midfield, he was named in the PFA Team of the Year at the end of the 2018-19 season and was also honoured with the Manchester City Player of the Year award.
Bernardo is an extremely versatile and skilful player who can play as a central midfielder, a number ten, a right-winger and even at false-nine. His elite dribbling, close control and low centre of gravity makes it almost impossible for opponents to knock him off the ball.
The 25-year-old is blessed with impeccable vision, passing range and a knack for goals which makes him extremely exciting to watch. His work ethic and ball-winning abilities are lauded by City fans and teammates alike as he's been labelled as a complete midfielder.
His off-the-pitch personality and demeanour make him a loved character in the dressing room and an indispensable player in Guardiola’s squad. Not many would argue against the fact that the former Benfica youth player could become a Manchester City legend in the future.
A Manchester United fan-favourite, Nani is one of the Premier League’s most exciting wingers in recent history. The Portuguese wide-man followed compatriot Cristiano Ronaldo to Old Trafford from Sporting Lisbon and went on to make 230 appearances for the club over eight years.
Nani scored 25 goals and provided 56 assists in the league as he helped the Red Devils lift four English top-flight titles. He was named Manchester United Players’ Player of the Year and featured in the PFA Team of the Year at the end of a stunning 2010-11 season as he racked up 9 goals and a league-highest 14 assists in 33 appearances.
The current Orlando City skipper was surprisingly omitted from the PFA Player of the Year nominations that year and he finished runners-up in the Young Player of the Year category behind Arsenal's Jack Wilshere. However, he had established himself as one of Sir Alex Ferguson’s most dependable attacking players.
His relationship with Wayne Rooney up-front was often hailed by many as one of the most exciting strike partnerships in Premier League history, with the duo combining for many goals during their time together at Manchester United.
Nani drew many comparisons to Ronaldo during his time in England because of his similar directness, trickery and explosive style of play. A traditional winger, he would utilise his pace to take on defenders, create space in wide areas and put crosses in for his teammates. Extremely fluid in attack, Nani can play on either wing and as a sole striker, a position he has often been deployed at in the Portugal national team.
#3 Ricardo Carvalho
One of Portugal’s greatest centre-backs in history, Ricardo Carvalho joined Chelsea in 2004 following a brilliant Euro 2004 campaign. The Blues acquired his services for £20 million, a significant amount for a defender at the time. However, Carvalho established himself alongside John Terry at the back of the Chelsea defence and went on to make 135 appearances in the Premier League.
The Portuguese defender played a key role in his first season as Chelsea went on to lift their first league title in half a century under Jose Mourinho. Carvalho was a stalwart in defence as the Londoners conceded just 15 goals in the entire campaign, a record which still stands today in the history books.
The former Porto man scored a memorable goal against Manchester United towards the end of the following season to hand his team back-to-back league triumphs. The 2006-07 season was when he attracted significant attention from the media as he not only received praise as one of the best defenders in the division but also proved to be a significant attacking threat with crucial goals against United and Spurs.
As a result, he was nominated for Chelsea’s Player of the Year award which was ultimately won by Michael Essien. For his consistency and dependability at the back, Carvalho was once again voted for the award the following season and although he missed out on top-spot again, he was rewarded with the Chelsea Players’ Player of the Year accolade.
His subsequent years at Stamford Bridge were filled with injuries which meant that he fell out of contention under the managers which followed Mourinho. Following a failed transfer move to Italian heavyweights Inter Milan, he reignited his form under Carlo Ancelotti as he went on to lift his third and final domestic league title in England before a move to Real Madrid.
Carvalho is always remembered as an extremely intelligent centre-back whose reading of the game was unmatched. Quick, agile and excellent in the air, he was a strong defender despite not being the tallest. His tenacity and hard-working persona made him an inspiring character in the Chelsea dressing room.
#1 Cristiano Ronaldo
Footballing icon Cristiano Ronaldo is, without a shadow of a doubt, the Premier League’s greatest ever Portuguese import. The Juventus superstar arrived in England from Sporting Lisbon after being described as one of the most talented teenagers in world football.
Manchester United legend George Best described Ronaldo’s first appearance for the club as "the most exciting debut” he had ever seen. In his six years at Old Trafford, the left-sided winger went onto score 84 league goals and provided another 45 assists, lifting the Premier League title thrice.
On an individual level, he was named the PFA Players’ Player of the Year, the Football Writers’ Association Footballer of the Year and the Premier League Player of the Year twice, the PFA Young Player of the Year once and featured in the PFA Premier League Team of the Year on four separate occasions.
Ronaldo won his first Ballon d’Or at the end of the 2007-08 season when the Red Devils did the double by lifting the Premier League and the Champions League. He was the division’s top-scorer in that campaign as he netted a staggering 31 league goals, thereby earning the Golden Boot award.
Ronaldo was a phenomenon on the left-flank for Sir Alex Ferguson’s side as he had everything in his repertoire: dribbles, tricks, runs, feints, step-overs and crosses. His acceleration, agility and flair helped him make a mockery of defenders going forward. Although he is often known for his on-the-ball exploits, the Portugal skipper’s stamina and work-rate made him an asset for the team on both ends of the pitch.
In his later seasons at United, Ronaldo was deployed more centrally as he scored an array of goals, including headers, free-kicks, tap-ins, long-rangers, curlers and solo efforts.
Ronaldo’s heroics in the Premier League earned him a then-world record £80 million transfer to Spanish giants Real Madrid, where he established himself as an undisputed legend of the sport. However, many would say that it was his stint in the Premier League which made him the player he is today.Published 13 Mar 2020, 19:52 IST