In spite of Cristiano Ronaldo having announced his intention to return for the national team in 2019, Portugal will no doubt be preparing for life after their talisman. FOX Sports ASIA takes a look at 5 players who can take over the mantle once their captain finally steps down.
5. Andre Gomes
Another one of many recent Portugese ‘sensations’, Andre Gomes is recovering at Everton from an ill-fated spell at Barcelona, finally looking like the player who stepped up for his country at the Euros.
Like Renato Sanchez, he did not make the cut for the World Cup squad, but having rediscovered some of his best form, the attacking midfielder can certainly look to step into Ronaldo’s shoes, if given the opportunity.
4. Ruben Neves
Despite not being the archetypal attacker that Ronaldo is, in terms of quality – Neves is certainly second to none. More of a central midfielder who likes to spray the ball around and dictate play – Neves has been a key cog in every team he has been a part of, first starring at Porto and then at Wolves.
His only similarity with Ronaldo is perhaps the fact that he has been the best player at every club he has been a part of and despite being left out of Portugal’s World Cup squad, the 21 year-old has an entire career ahead of him to make a mark.
3. Diogo Jota
Having starred for Wolverhampton Wanderers in the Championship, Jota has carried over his form into the English Premier League, although his stats aren’t nearly as impressive as last season. Only 22 years of age, the Portugese has yet to feature for the senior team, but has represented his country at youth level.
Amazingly, in scoring his first Premier League hat-trick this season, Jota matched the very player he looks up to – becoming only the second Portugese to achieve this feat in the Premier League after Ronaldo. With time on his side, the Wolves attacker can certainly look to emulate his countryman.
2. Andre Silva
Despite having blanked at the World Cup in Russia, Andre Silva has certainly lessened the goal-scoring burden on his captain since breaking into the national team. At club level, he is up and firing for Sevilla after a disastrous spell at Milan, scoring a hat-trick on debut as well as a brace in Real Madrid’s 3-0 humiliation at home.
He has also stepped up in Ronaldo’s absence, scoring in 3 out of 6 games since his captain’s self-imposed exile – meaning he certainly has the character to fill the Juventus man’s big boots once he calls it quits.
1. Bernardo Silva
Although not as prolific as his captain, Bernardo Silva is arguably Portugal’s most gifted player after Ronaldo and also the one best-equipped to make effect a change of guard. Making waves in the Premier League under Pep Guardiola’s able tutelage, the former Monaco star is playing at the highest level under one of the best coaches – fairly similar to Ronaldo’s stint at United under Sir Alex Ferguson.
He has title-winning pedigree and the experience under a top notch coach should certainly hold him in good stead to step up once Ronaldo decides to move on, making him perhaps the best choice to take over the legendary striker’s golden throne for the national team.