The Premier League has played host to some of the greatest footballers to ever come out of Portugal. Although there are several stars to grace the EPL with their talent, only a select few have really left their mark in England.
While Raul Meireles, Deco, and Ricardo Quaresma (to name a few) enjoyed brief stints in England’s top tier, these five talents really managed to leave their mark on English football.
Here are our five greatest Portuguese players to grace the Premier League.
5. Pedro Mendes – Tottenham Hotspur, Portsmouth
Pedro Mendes arrived at Tottenham Hotspur right off the back of Porto’s euphoric 2003/04 Champions League win, where he starred in his midfield holding role under Jose Mourinho.
Known for his determined attitude, excellent tackling and intercepting ability, Mendes had a cannon in his right boot and will forever be remembered for his speculative 55-yard strike against Manchester United, which Roy Carroll fumbled into the goal. Cameras showed that the ball was at least a foot over the line before Carroll awkwardly scooped it out. What would have been Mendes’ second goal for Spurs was miraculously never given – just a tad too early for goal-line technology.
He failed to cement a spot in the Spurs midfield, but it was at Portsmouth under Harry Redknapp where Mendes really impressed. Two consecutive 25-yard strikes against Manchester City earned Portsmouth a crucial 2-1 victory in his debut season, warranting him a place in Pompey folklore.
It was at Portsmouth where he won his only piece of silverware in English football, during Pompey’s surprise run to the FA Cup title in 2007/08 – the club’s second ever FA Cup (the first coming at the start of WWI in 1939).
4. Luis Boa Morte – Arsenal, Southampton, Fulham, West Ham United
This hot-headed Portuguese winger was known for his lightning pace, excellent dribbling ability and technique, which made him unplayable on his day.
Luis Boa Morte played 15 Premier League seasons with four different English clubs. He earned himself a Premier League winners’ medal with Arsenal in 1997/98, but didn’t quite make the grade as a youngster under Wenger. A late bloomer, Boa Morte didn’t reach his peak until he landed at Fulham, where his athleticism, aggression and sheer likeability quickly established him as a fan favourite at Craven Cottage, where he later became the club captain.
Never a prolific goalscorer, Boa Morte later adopted to a more central role. Adorned by Potters and Hammers fans alike for his never-say-die attitude, he cemented his name as one of the most memorable Portuguese players of the Premier League era.
3. Nani – Manchester United
This technically-gifted Poruguese winger had the ability to dazzle Manchester United supporters with his quick feet, or on occasion, leave them absolutely bewildered.
With risk-taking attacking wingers like this Portuguese native, the rewards need to outweigh the risks, and ultimately with Nani, they did. He arrived at United from Sporting CP in 2007, and struggled to make a significant impact with a stacked squad of stars, which included his fellow countryman Cristiano Ronaldo.
While Ronaldo later converted to play centrally where he was a higher danger in attack, Nani was used as a traditional winger where he provided vastly more assists with crosses and cut-backs from the byline. It wasn’t until Ronaldo left for Real Madrid in 2009 when Nani really came into his own, cementing a starting place in United’s fiercely competitive team. He proved his worth to Sir Alex and the Stretford End faithful in Ronaldo’s absence, and was even shortlisted for the Ballon d’Or after his impressive 2011/12 season.
After eight seasons at Old Trafford, Nani helped United to four Premier League titles, two League Cups and a UEFA Champions League. Not a bad medal haul.
2. Ricardo Carvalho – Chelsea
Defenders have to be pretty outstanding to draw plaudits in football, and it’s difficult to overlook this exceptional Portuguese centre-back who clinches the second spot.
Although Carvalho did not stand out as a physically strong defender, he had a football intelligence way beyond his years, superb aerial ability, and possessed fantastic vision and technique – rare in centre-backs, especially in the Premier League at his time of arrival.
Carvalho was the rock at the back of Porto’s magnificent Champions League winning season of 2003/04, and followed his coach Jose Mourinho out the door to Chelsea immediately afterwards. He was a mainstay in The Blues’ defence, forming a powerful partnership with John Terry, and won three Premier League titles and two League Cups during his six-year spell at Stamford Bridge.
After a succesful career in London, Carvalho joined Real Madrid where he won a La Liga title, and enjoyed a stint at AS Monaco, before the 40-year-old recently cashed in for a move to China where he is plying his trade at Shanghai SIPG.
1. Ronaldo – Manchester United
Well, no secrets here. Without a doubt Cristiano Ronaldo has to secure top spot, with perhaps only Eusebio arguing a case for the best Portuguese player to ever grace the beautiful game.
Arriving at Old Trafford in 2003 for a price tag of just over £12 million, Ronaldo became the most expensive teenager in English football history, but Sir Alex Ferguson will undoubtedly tell you what a bargain it was after he enjoyed six glittering seasons at United.
Under Ferguson, Ronaldo blossomed as a player and clinched three back-to-back Premier League titles, one FA Cup, two League Cups and a UEFA Champions League, as well as a litany of individual honours which includes football’s top prize, the Ballon d’Or, in 2008.
The 5-time Ballon d’Or winner netted 84 goals in 194 Premier League games for The Red Devils, before sailing away to the Santiago Bernabeau for a world record fee of £80 million.
Ronaldo found the net a whopping 438 times in 450 appearances for Los Blancos, and established himself as one of the best players in the history of the game. Putting the seemingly age-old debate about Messi versus Ronaldo aside, if these two stars hadn’t played in such close quarters for such rival clubs, they may never have pushed each other to the unbelievable heights to which they’ve reached.
At 33-years-old Ronaldo has just embarked on his new career at Juventus, having signed a four-year deal in Turin, where he recently bagged his 400th career league goal against Sassuolo. There’s still plenty of life left in him yet. An imminent return to Old Trafford is on the cards for Ronaldo as Juventus take on Mourinho’s side on October 23 in the group stages of the Champions League. Watch this space.