10 Liga Zon Sagres players ready to make the leap

Posted: March 21, 2012 in World of Football

I like to think this is an underrated competition. There is a huge difference of quality between stronger and weaker teams, the budgets are limited yet there are enormous financial troubles, there are more foreign than national athletes, the average technical level is relatively low and the stadiums are empty. Despite all these problems, the top portuguese clubs usually perform well in continental competitions. The proof is the current 5th place in the UEFA country coefficient rankings. If we analyse the ‘avaliable resources / success achieved’ relationship, the Portuguese sure are in the TOP in the European context.

In adition to the sportive acomplishments, some major businesses took place there over the past years. In 2003 an 18-year-old teenager named Cristiano Ronaldo was sold for about € 15m to United. The following year Porto won the Champions League and Mourinho decided to take Ricardo Carvalho and Paulo Ferreira to Chelsea with him in exchange for € 50m, while Deco was transferred to Barcelona for € 21m. Here began the inflation. From this year onwards the best teams from the country are seen by experts as means of transition, growth and consolidation for young prospects, a bridge to get to the top leagues. In spite of all adversity, that is the right place to become men, to acquire discipline, tactical enrichment, routines and culture of victory. The result of all this is within sight. In almost every transfer window there are expensive deals with origin in Portugal and the success rate of these players in a higher level of requirements is satisfactory.

TOP transfers in Portugal

I will now evaluate the next to join this list, the best players in this league. In my perspective, the modern footballer cannot be labeled just by his physical attributes or technical skills. There is a whole set of other characteristics as important as these referred before, to thrive in football elite. I am talking about certain personality traits, work ethics, psychological stability, a strong mental structure, among others. That said, to simplify, I split the characteristics of the athlete in four main areas with the respective parameters:

Emotional Quotient (EQ): character, consistency, determination, handle pressure.

Football IQ (FIQ): tactical intelligence, efficiency, decision-making.

Technique (T): passing ability, shooting, dribbling, tackling, marking, aerial ability. (In this area the characteristics considered not relevant to the position of the player are not considered).

Physical attributes (Phy): Anthropometrics, strength, stamina, pace.

(I acknowledge there are a bunch of additional parameters that should be considered, however, I believe these will be sufficient to make a simple, concise and objective evaluation.)

The characteristics of the players will be valued with a 0 to 10 scale:

Axel Witsel

Probably the most complete player in Portugal. Essential in the offensive process and responsible in the defensive. A box-to-box by excellence. Vision, technique and smartness. All this combined with an impressive physique. Strength, stamina and an interesting ability to protect the ball possession with the body. Goal scoring ability and raise the tempo of his game are aspects to develop. Keystone in Benfica, he fulfills all the requirements to play in any top team around the world.

EQ: 8,1

FIQ: 8

T: 7,6

Phy : 8,1

Average: 7,95

Hulk

Mr. € 100m. Can dismantle any defense with a mixture of power and technique. His left foot is a real cannon. Last year did a fantastic season and was the most crucial player of Villas Boas’ FC Porto. This year has returned to be an intermittent player, similarly to his team. At times accused of being individualistic. This is the time to make the leap, or is at risk of stalling his potential. In Portugal has achieved everything he could reach.

EQ: 7,4

FIQ: 7,3

T: 8,5

Phy : 8,8

Average: 8

Fernando

The best defensive midfielder of the competition. He’s known as The Octopus. Just look at his long legs, wide paces and how he disarms opponents to understand the nickname. The kind of player who fills the field. A tireless worker with a physical capacity far above the average. The type of player that all coaches love, however Mano Menezes  seems to ignore him. Something similar happened with Deco and Pepe who ultimately decided to represent the Portuguese National team. The true quality of this player is only seen in games demanding maximum competitive intensity. As in Portugal there are few, he needs to make the leap to consolidate his game.

EQ: 7,7

FIQ: 8

T: 7,6

Phy : 8,5

Average: 7,95

João Moutinho

Needs no introduction, an excellent player on and off the ball. He presses, shortens spaces, recover, passes, dribbles, shoots. He’s an exemplary professional and everything he does has quality, but lacks some irreverence and a touch of pure and innate talent. He is at the peak of his career and in Portugal has nothing more to learn.

EQ: 8

FIQ: 8,2

T: 7,6

Phy : 7,8

Average: 7,9

Nico Gaitán

He has talent in abundance and an exquisite technique. A ball touch which deceives no one. Delicious left foot. However he doesn’t seem so ready to make the leap as the previous. Must stiffen and grow physically and has to improve the definition of the plays. Sometimes comes to seem ungracious. Reminds me both  Quaresma and Di Maria and this is the moment to decide whether wants to pass alongside a great career or be a tireless worker, improve mental and tactical aspects of his game, and achieve greatness.

EQ: 7,4

FIQ: 7,5

T: 8,5

Phy : 7,8

Average: 7,8

James Rodríguez

This kid exhales football and is a joy to watch him play. He’s a born disruptor of defenses, posesses a good vision, assists his teammates and scores a bunch of goals. He’s in plain development process but I already realized that he will quickly reach the top of the world. Why? Because all his talent and ability are together with the humility and discipline. The complete package. Another year in this top player factory named FC Porto and will be prepared to take the leading role in any team able to sign him. Solid!

EQ: 7,8

FIQ: 7,5

T: 8

Phy : 7,8

Average: 7,78

Ezequiel Garay

Transmits remarkable tranquility and safety. Not very fast, but he’s irreproachable in marking and positioning. This allied to a good aerial ability and the capacity to break opposing lines with tidy passing from the center of defense, turns him in the best central defender in the league. Couldn’t impose himself in Real Madrid, but in the few opportunities he had, has never compromised the team.

EQ: 8,1

FIQ: 8,2

T: 8

Phy : 7,5

Average: 7,95

Álvaro Pereira

The best left back in Portugal and probably in the world’s top 10 for this position where quality does not abound. Pace, strength, smart moves and good crosses. No need to say more. Sometimes his offensive penchant could endanger the defensive balance of the team, but this is associated with the team’s game plan and should not necessarily be considered a flaw.

EQ: 7,8

FIQ: 7,7

T: 7,3

Phy : 8

Average: 7,7

Rodrigo Moreno

Here is another great prospect of the Spanish school, this one with Brazilian blood. A very determined kid with an overwhelming will to succeed in this world, and has all the conditions to accomplish his objectives. Again, a complete package. He’s strong technically, physically and mentally. If at 21 he’s already a goal scoring machine, shall have a bright future. Fast-growing.

EQ: 7,9

FIQ: 7,7

T: 7,6

Phy : 7,9

Average: 7,78

Javi García

Bravery, impetus, aggressiveness. The equilibrium point of a team where he is the greater responsible for the defensive midfield. Does all the dirty work for the team and plays the ball simple to his talented companions. A game-reading ability above average makes him tactically flawless. A wall in front of the central defenders. Ideal for teams which usually play with a pure defensive midfielder.

EQ: 8,1

FIQ: 8,2

T: 7,5

Phy : 7,8

Average: 7,93

And now others who just missed out:

Danilo, 20. Under-20 World Champion and the most expensive purchase ever in Portuguese football. Versatile player who was seriously injured shortly after arriving to Porto. However, mouthwatering at first sight.

Rui Patricio, 24. Goalkeeper of the Portuguese National team and the main reason for the good defensive record of Sporting CP which is capable of the best and the worst.

Maxi Pereira, 27. A gladiator. Always leaves his skin on the field. One of the right-backs in best shape in the European panorama nowadays.

Rolando, 26. A low-profile central defender with a high level of effectiveness. This season his performance dropped significantly compared with the previous one.

Luisão, 31. Boss of Benfica’s defense and a leader in the locker room. Exemplary professional and a regular in the calls for Brazil National team.

Ricky Van Wolfswinkel, 23. A Dutch killer with goal printed in his DNA.

Nelson Oliveira, 20. This raw talent with limitless potential was nicknamed The Portuguese Cantona in the last U-20 World Cup, where he was the major figure of the team defeated in the final. Here is another project of great footballer. Powerful.

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