Scout Report: The hottest prospects in Portugal’s Primeira Liga

The Primeira Liga is always packed full of talented young players.

Many who began in that division have made their way to the Premier League in recent years: Bruno Fernandes, Matheus Nunes, Bernardo Silva and Darwin Núñez to name just a few.

So we’ve used Twenty3’s Toolbox to take a closer look at the next generation of exciting youngsters in Portugal’s top flight.

António Silva (Benfica)

António Silva looks destined for a big-money move to one of Europe’s top clubs in the not-too-distant future.

The 20-year-old centre-back has been exceptional this season, performing consistently for Benfica and establishing himself as a regular in Roberto Martínez’s Portugal team.

Silva is excellent with the ball at his feet, ranking third in the division for forward passes completed (464) at an accuracy rate of 93.64%.

That ability to play out from the back will have earned the youngster plenty of admirers.

He is a sturdy defender, too, ranking 12th in the league for ball recoveries completed (269) and winning an impressive 53 aerial duels.

It is no surprise, then, that Silva has been linked to Manchester United and Chelsea ahead of the summer transfer window.

Roger Fernandes (Braga)

Winger Roger Fernandes began the season playing for Braga’s B team, but he has since forced his way into Rui Duarte’s first team.

The 18-year-old has been superb in recent weeks, racking up seven goal contributions in his last eight appearances across all competitions.

With five assists in just 14 Primeira Liga games, he looks set for a big future.

Fernandes is quick and direct, equally capable of cutting inside from the right flank and shooting or picking out a team-mate.

He ranks second in the division for crosses completed per 90 minutes (2.58) and expected assists per 90 (0.34).

If he continues on his current trajectory, Fernandes could be the latest exciting tricky winger to emerge from Portugal.

Ousmane Diomande (Sporting)

Sporting have been particularly productive when it comes to bringing through talented youth products in recent years.

Rúben Amorim has not been afraid of giving youngsters opportunities, and that approach has largely paid dividends.

Centre-back Ousmane Diomande has been an integral part of Sporting’s back three this season, even if Gonçalo Inácio has earned most of the plaudits.

Diomande, 20, is two years younger than Inacio but arguably just as gifted. The Ivorian has all the technical and physical attributes to thrive at the highest level.

He ranks fourth in the Portuguese top flight for passes completed (1,339), with an accuracy rate of 93.57%.

Diomande has enough pace to repeatedly make recovery runs, ranking seventh for loose ball duels won (37).

Given his youth, his precocity and domineering presence is hugely impressive.

Hélio Varela (Portimonense)

Most of the Primeira Liga’s top young talents inevitably find their way to one of the big four clubs, but Hélio Varela has caught the eye at struggling Portimonense.

Though his side are at risk of relegation, the 21-year-old winger has been a shining light.

Only Porto loanee Francisco Conceição (138) has completed more dribbles than Varela (122).

He also ranks second for progressive runs (112) and third for attacking duels won (177).

With five goals and two assists to his name, the Cape Verde international is likely to be attracting some admiring glances from Portugal’s biggest clubs.

Mateus Fernandes (Sporting, on loan at Estoril)

Sporting will undoubtedly be keeping a close eye on Mateus Fernandes, who has spent this season on loan at Estoril.

The 19-year-old midfielder has impressed, looking assured in possession and dogged and combative off the ball.

He ranks ninth in the division for defensive duels attempted (209) and is certainly not afraid to get stuck in.

Fernandes is the definition of a box-to-box midfielder, often looking to drive forward with the ball.

In addition to his defensive qualities, he has also won 113 attacking duels this season, evidence of his contributions at both ends of the pitch.

Given his strong performances for lowly Estoril, it would be no surprise if Fernandes begins to thrive on his return to Sporting.

Otávio (Porto)

Brazilian centre-back Otávio is a relatively new addition for Porto. He arrived in January, having impressed at Famalicão.

Though not quite as accomplished in possession as Diomande or Silva, the 21-year-old is among the division’s most dominant defenders.

He ranks seventh in the league for defensive duels won (128), often proving too quick and too strong for opposition attackers.

Otávio is strong in the air and positionally intelligent, and he is benefitting from an enviable education while playing alongside 41-year-old veteran centre-back Pepe.

His first few weeks at Porto have been promising and the future looks bright for the São Paulo native.

João Neves (Benfica)

João Neves is already becoming a familiar name to those who follow the transfer rumour mill.

The Benfica midfielder has been repeatedly linked with Manchester United amid talk of an astronomical fee.

But it is hardly surprising that the Portuguese champions are reluctant to lose their star midfielder, who is now an established international and an ever-present in the centre of the park for Benfica.

No player in the Primeira Liga has made more ball recoveries in the opposition half (117) or completed more passes in the final third (197) than Neves.

The 19-year-old seemingly has no weaknesses: he is technically excellent, presses intelligently and with aggression, and possesses a powerful shot.

With his shirt tucked in and his ability to dribble or pass his way out of improbable situations, comparisons to Manchester City’s Rodri are understandable.

Neves, in the next few years, could establish himself as one of the best midfielders in Europe.

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