The Portuguese Premier League: A Hotbed Of Talents?

Updated on May 6, 2021

The Portuguese league began in 1934 as an experimental tournament and was called the Campeonato da Liga da Primeira Divisão. In 1938, the tournament was promoted to an official one and became the Campeonato da Liga da Primeira Divisão. The league later earned its current name in 1999. Since its inception, scores of football teams have competed in the league, but only five have ever managed to win the title.

The Primeira Liga is the highest level of Portuguese league football. While it’s often overlooked in favour of its English, Spanish and German contemporaries, the Liga NOS is just as rich in footballing talents and club sides. Some of the top sides include Benfica, Sporting and Porto, which have 84 Primeira league titles between them. Porto has also performed well on the international front, winning the Champions League and Europa League titles twice between 1987 and 2011.

Perhaps one of the reasons for the low popularity of the Liga NOS is its feeder nature. Tons of soccer talents have begun their career at Portuguese clubs before sealing moves abroad. While this has cemented the league’s status as a talent breeder, it has also undermined the performance of Portuguese clubs on the continental level. Nonetheless, the Portuguese national team and Portugal betting sites benefit in loads from the Liga NOS.

The Primeira Liga Exports

Over the years, several footballers have switched from the Portuguese football league across Europe in search of greener pastures. Some of these footballers have gone on to become the finest players on the planet. In this section, we look at the best footballing exports from the Liga Nos.

  1. Cristiano Ronaldo

How about we start with the obvious? Cristiano Ronaldo began his footballing career at Sporting Lisbon before getting snapped up by Sir Alex Ferguson as a teenager. The Portuguese national team captain has five Ballon D’or trophies and is the highest goalscorer of all time, according to official records. At Manchester United, CR7 helped win the UEFA Champions League and English Premier League trophies. CR7 is also the highest goalscorer in Champions League football and has won the competition five times, making him the second most decorated player in the competition.

  1. Bruno Fernandes

The English Premier League seems to keep benefitting from Sporting and the Portuguese league in general. Following his countryman’s footsteps, Bruno Fernandes made the switch to Old Trafford in 2020 for £47 million. The previous season, Fernandes scored 33 times in all competitions, becoming the highest-scoring midfielder in Europe and the Liga NOS player of the year. Since moving to Manchester, the numbers have only improved, and he’s highly regarded as the best EPL signing of recent years. Bruno has recorded 30 goals and assists in 47 games for United and is the first Red Devils’ player to win the Month Award player consecutively since CR7. It’s worth noting that the 26-year-old attacking midfielder began his football career in Italy before joining Sporting in 2017.

  1. Ruben Neves

When Ruben Neves switched to then Championship side Wolverhampton Wanderers in 2017, the soccer world was shocked about how bigger clubs let him slip by. While the move is credited to Nuno Espirito Santo’s relationship with the player, it underscores the efficiency of Wolves’ scouting team. Still only 24, Ruben Neves is the youngest player of Portuguese origin to play in the Champions League. He is also the youngest player to score for Porto in the Primeira Liga, joining their academy when he was eight years old.

  1. Ruben Dias

Manchester City’s star defender Ruben Dias is the latest on a long list of Portuguese players to move to the premier league. Dias began his footballing career at Benfica back in 2015, breaking into the first team in 2017, winning the best young player award. He has also represented the Portuguese team across youth and senior levels since age 16. Dias’ superb performances in the defense helped Benfica to two notable titles before moving to the blue side of Manchester. 

The £62 million transfer fee raised more than a few brows at the time, but Dias has repaid the faith of the City coaching staff. Together with John Stones, Dias has improved City’s backline and is on course to win the Premier League and Champions League on the first try. Being only 23, he’s definitely one to bank on long-term in the Portuguese national team. 

  1. Joao Felix 

One good thing about Liga NOS’ constant export is it gives room for youth to grow. Joao Felix made his foray into footballing at the tender age of sixteen for Benfica B. The following season saw him break into the first team, scoring twenty goals in all competitions. This included a hat-trick against Eintracht Frankfurt in the Champions League. 

His form in the 2018-19 seasons earned him a place among the likes of Jado Sancho and Kai Havertz. It also provided a pedestal for him to move to Atletico Madrid for £113 million, the fourth-highest fee for a football player. Now 21 years of age, Joao Felix is the most expensive Primeira Liga export and the second most expensive teenager in football history. Felix was shortlisted for the Ballon d’Or award in 2019.


Some other high profile players to have blossomed from the rose beds of the Primeira Liga include Deco, Nani, Pepe, Renato Sanches, Ricardo Quaresma, among others. Two noticeable things about the players on the list are their nationality and young age at the time of export. The Primeira Liga is one of the most entertaining domestic leagues and gives opportunities for young stars to shine. 

In recent times, football betting on the Primeira Liga is rising thanks to the country’s relaxed stance on gambling laws. Portugal betting sites now get lots of traffic and offer football lovers an opportunity to leverage their passion. You can read more sports news and betting updates by subscribing through this link.


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