As Premier League clubs scramble to put together squads that will improve their position this season, patterns are emerging everywhere.
There are the teams that are holding onto superstars like Manchester City with the conquest of Erling Haaland. Tottenham Hotspur are among the teams moving fast, with three deals already in place and more on the way. Manchester United perfected the art of surveillance, held internal discussions and then signed nobody. Meanwhile, Arsenal and Liverpool are among teams looking beyond traditional strongholds of La Liga, Serie A, Ligue 1 and Bundesliga to sign their players. For these clubs, Portugal is the answer.
Primeira Liga stars Darwin Nunez and Fabio Vieira will appear at Anfield and Emirates Stadium respectively next season. Nunez in particular was hotly pursued and it was believed United were working towards an agreement before they came under attack from their North West rivals. The moves suggest a market trend this summer with Premier League clubs looking to Portugal to improve their squads.
The Premier League has a history of poaching promising talent from the Primeira Liga. Jose Mourinho built his first Chelsea side on a foundation of players he worked with in Porto. United plunged into these waters in 2003 to sign Cristiano Ronaldo from Sporting CP and recently brought in Bruno Fernandes from the same club.
The fees associated with this year’s moves outline a shift in perceptions of the Portuguese league. While Portugal was often seen as a destination for a budget shopping spree, with quality players available at a fraction of what their La Liga or Serie A equivalents were charging, that is no longer the case. Nunez has netted Liverpool a club-record £85million. Arsenal’s win of Vieira looks comparatively cheap at £34m but it’s still a significant expense. Portugal is no longer the land of bargains.
Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea first team drew on talent from the Portuguese league
But the higher bonuses are doing little to deter a laundry list of potential suitors from raiding the Primeira Liga. Fulham and Wolverhampton Wanderers are currently in contention for the signing of Sporting CP midfielder Joao Palhinha. Wolves, early adopters of the Portuguese market, are also working to land Palhinha’s teammate Matheus Nunes.
Porto’s international midfielder Otavio, 27, is another name on many Premier League radar screens. Leeds United have reportedly turned down an offer for the player, with Aston Villa believed to be front runners to get his signature. Porto striker Evanilson has been linked with moves to United and Chelsea. The transfer news cycle continues and is largely fueled by the big names in the Portuguese scene.
It will be interesting to see if this trend continues or if it overcomes previous fixations on other sectors. Arsenal and Newcastle United have led the way in recent days with a huge influx of French talent. Senegal’s brilliance at the 2002 World Cup led to an influx of national team players to English clubs. Holland were the target of the day for signings for a while, until top Eredivisie players like Mateja Kezman and Afonso Alves tarnished the league’s reputation on those shores.
The long-term profitability of sucking up Primeira Liga talent will ultimately be measured by how this season’s recruits fare. If Nunez troubles Haaland and Salah in the Golden Boot race and Vieira provides Arsenal with the excellence in midfield his surname suggests, it could just be the start of a Portuguese invasion.
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