Football Features

Who’s the Premier League’s best Portuguese player this season?

By Muhammad Butt

Best Portuguese players Premier League

Published: 13:51, 4 March 2022

There is a massive amount of Portuguese talent in world football right now.

Despite the national team’s struggles, Portugal boasts some phenomenal players and the Premier League is host to the vast majority of them. And to that end, we’ve had a look at those players and ranked them according to their performances so far this season.

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The minimum requirement for entry is that the player be Portuguese (obviously) and have played at least 1,000 minutes in the Premier League this season. Obviously this rules out the likes of Ricardo Pereira and Pedro Neto, who, while excellent, have not played enough this season because of injury. The rest of the list is as follows:

10. Nelson Semedo

  • Club: Wolves
  • Position: Right-back
  • Minutes played: 1,994

When Nelson Semedo joined Wolves, it seemed to be mostly because of his agent, Jorge Mendes. The wing-back had flopped at Barcelona and his initial struggles with Premier League football only seemed to back that point up.

Under Bruno Lage, however, Semedo has been going from strength to strength. His natural attacking instincts are now encouraged and he seems much more at home, with many Wolves fans suggesting he should even be their player of the month.

9. Joao Moutinho

  • Club: Wolves
  • Position: Central midfield
  • Minutes played: 1,900

Staying in Wolverhampton, we have the midfield maestro himself. The veteran Moutinho has been an incredibly stable and surprisingly dominant player since joining Wolves and even at 35 years old has shown little sign of slowing down (his 48 tackles is fourth among all Portuguese, and his 25 interceptions ranks third).

8. Ruben Neves

  • Club: Wolves
  • Position: Central midfield
  • Minutes played: 1,975

Next to Moutinho in the Wolves midfield is Ruben Neves. No longer is he the relatively unknown youngster (he had already played in the Champions League for Porto, but few knew of him) who took the Championship by storm. Neves is entering the prime of his career and is such a consistent force in midfield that it would be a genuine surprise to see him stay at Wolves beyond the summer.

This kid needs to be back in the Champions League (his 55 tackles is the most among Portuguese players this season, his 31 interceptions is second) because he is quite simply that good.

7. José Sa

  • Club: Wolves
  • Position: Goalkeeper
  • Minutes played: 2,340

Wolves’ Portuguese contingent is phenomenal, obviously, but this season the best of them has been the goalkeeper. When Rui Patricio left for Roma in the summer, many would have worried that Wolves would suffer without their No.1 but instead they just drafted in José Sa, who has, to be pretty blunt, been the best goalkeeper in the division.

José Sa has faced 335 shots so far this save and made a massive 89 saves. His save percentage is 80.91%, the highest in the division. More impressively, Sa’s Expected Goals on Target Conceded (i.e. the number of goals he’s expected to concede given the shots he has faced and where those shots are directed, excluding penalties) is 23.9 this season. He’s conceded just 16 goals not counting penalties or own goals.

That figure suggests Sa has prevented around 7.9 goals this season, the most in the league by a distance (David de Gea is second with 5.5 goals prevented, Aaron Ramsale third with 4.0) and an utterly preposterous figure.

6. Cristiano Ronaldo

  • Club: Manchester United
  • Position: Forward
  • Minutes played: 1,835

One of the greatest goalscorers to ever play the game of football arrived in the Premier League hoping to pick up where he left off in terms of dominance but at 36 years old (now 37), he was too physically dilapidated and United too structurally useless to be anything more than an inconsistent goal-poacher. And while he rode that wave under previous management to reasonable success (especially in Europe), with Ralf Rangnick in charge he’s asked to do more than just score, and it’s clear that he simply cannot.

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5. Joao Cancelo

  • Club: Manchester City
  • Position: Full-back
  • Minutes played: 2,238

In one of football’s most stunning transformations, Joao Cancelo has gone from a marauding right-back to a perceptive all-pitch midfield maestro (who nominally plays left-back) under Pep Guardiola’s tutelage.

Watching Cancelo and Rodri just keep City’s passing carousel spinning almost by themselves, running circles around opponents with their passing and positioning, is truly poetry in motion. Mr. Wonderful, Mr. Everything. Mr. Classic Material.

4. Ruben Dias

  • Club: Manchester City
  • Position: Centre-back
  • Minutes played: 2,133

The reigning FWA Player of the Year, Ruben Dias is only in his second season at Manchester City but is already the exact kind of stoic lynchpin they have needed at the back since Vincent Kompany left.

Ruben Dias has it all: speed, strength, positional intelligence, great concentration and wonderful communication. When he plays, City are stronger defensively and when City are strong defensively, they become so much harder to handle.

3. Diogo Jota

  • Club: Liverpool
  • Position: Forward
  • Minutes played: 1,665

Diogo Jota was no blinding prodigy at Wolves. He was just kind of alright. But Liverpool’s scouting of him identified something special and, in classic Jurgen Klopp fashion, they have managed to get that something special out of him.

Jota has claimed himself a spot in Liverpool’s front three, something many felt impossible. He has more goals than any other Portuguese player (12 in the league, 17 across all competitions) and has scored that total in fewer than 1,800 minutes. He’s a lethal finisher off either foot and with his head, so don’t be surprised if he soon starts cracking 20 goals a season every single season.

2. Bruno Fernandes

  • Club: Manchester United
  • Position: Attacking midfielder
  • Minutes played: 2,224

The man who resurrected Manchester United into the semi-relevant entity it is today, Bruno Fernandes was for a time the best player in the Premier League. But his struggles this year and the improving form of others (namely Mohamed Salah) have seen him lose that crown, but he remains an absolutely ridiculous force of footballing greatness.

While some on social media bemoan how often he loses the ball, no one who watches football can imagine Manchester United to be a better team for Fernandes’ absence. He is that good. A singularly driven character whose rising tide lifts all boats in the Port of Manchester.

Even now, in a supposedly down year, Bruno Fernandes has created more chances (75) and the joint-most big chances (14) than any player in the Premier League. He only has six assists, but that is a function of his teammates simply not being on his level. If they were, United would be competing for the title instead of desperately holding onto fourth.

1. Bernardo Silva

  • Club: Manchester City
  • Position: Attacking midfielder
  • Minutes played: 2,229

While Bruno and Jota are the stat gods for Portuguese players in the Premier League this season, one of their compatriots has been thriving in less measurable ways (although he is the division’s only player so far to produce 40+ totals for tackles, chances created and completed dribbles).

Bernardo Silva has been consistently and continually excellent from the start of the season up to now. Whether playing central midfield, false nine or on the wing, Bernardo has offered City dribbling, passing, pressing and above all else: control.

Watching City run through almost every opponent, including Chelsea twice and dominating Liverpool at Anfield, the one man at the heart of things was Bernardo Silva. Up next is a Premier League Manchester Derby at the Etihad, a match City have won just once in the Pep Guardiola era, back in 2018/19.

Bernardo bagged two assists in a 3-1 victory that day, and you sense that if City intend to stretch their lead atop the Premier League again, they will need the best Portuguese player in the division so far this season to step up once again and guide City to victory, both on Sunday but also over the next couple months as they look to retain their Premier League title.