Over the course of the Portuguese football season you are guaranteed an abundance of sublime quality, along with the odd forgettable match and a considerable dose of controversy.
Here we dwell on the first of the three aspects from a 2014/15 season that provided no shortage of memorable moments. Portuguese football expert Tom Kundert picks his Primeira Liga team of the season.
Team of the Season Formation and Line-up (4-3-3)
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GK: Matheus (Braga)
A newcomer to Portugal, the 22-year-old Brazilian wasted no time in making a positive impact. Big, strong, brave and with excellent reactions, Braga have a big talent on their hands.
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RB: Maxi Pereira (Benfica)
The tireless Uruguayan right-back again proved a key component in Benfica’s defensive and attacking game. He was directly involved in 13 goals in 32 league matches (5 goals, 8 assists) for the champions – incredible stats for a right-back – even more so considering he also fulfilled his defensive duties with distinction.
LB: Tiago Pinto (Rio Ave)
Tiago Pinto began his career as a left-sided midfielder but it was upon being moved to left-back that he is finally making a name for himself as a high-quality player in his own right rather than being known as the son of ex Benfica, Sporting and Portugal striker João Pinto. Although 27 years old, his tenacious defending while providing solid support when venturing forward may yet earn him international caps.
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CB: Luisão (Benfica)
The Benfica captain is like a fine bottle of red wine – he just gets better and better with age. The beanpole centre-back led his defence masterfully and upon winning his fourth Primeira Liga championship, Luisão became the non-Portuguese player with the most Liga titles ever won at Benfica. Richly deserved.
CB: João Afonso (Vitória Guimarães)
Cash-strapped Vitória Guimarães have done an incredible job putting together competitive teams in recent years despite having to rely on their youth ranks and scouring the lower leagues. João Afonso is an example of the latter.
Having been plucked from Portuguese third tier club Sport Benfica e Castelo Branco, the northerners seem to have hit gold again, Afonso seamlessly adapting to top-flight football with a series of classy and powerful displays at the heart of the defence.
MD: Danilo Pereira (Marítimo)
Rock solid defensive midfielder Danilo Pereira has been tipped for a big future ever since being part of the Portugal side that finished runners-up at the U20 World Cup held in Colombia in 2011.
Spells abroad in Italy, Greece and Holland followed, but it was this season that he truly “exploded” onto the scene, exuding strength, mobility and intelligence in the holding midfielder role, and earning his debut for the senior Portugal side. No wonder big clubs at home and abroad are said to be queuing up to sign him.
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MD: Nicolas Gaitán (Benfica)
Quite simply the best creative midfielder in Portugal over the past three seasons at least. Nico Gaitán again spread his particular brand of Argentine magic and was often the key to finding a way past the many teams who inevitably chose to park the bus when facing Benfica.
MD: Óliver Torres (Porto)
The Spaniard interpreted Porto’s newly implemented possession game to perfection, showing remarkable ability to retain the ball even in the most congested of midfields and with time at a premium, always choosing the right moment to play a simple accurate pass or an incisive throughball, as well as being a potent goal threat.
Porto are desperate to try and extend his loan period from Atletico Madrid.
FW: Marco Matias (Nacional da Madeira)
The top Portuguese goalscorer in the Primeira Liga with 17 goals in 33 games, the 26-year-old enjoyed a wonderful season. Direct and single-minded, Matias was a terror on the loose for any defence to deal with – most couldn’t stop him.
FW: Jackson Martínez (Porto)
The Colombian striker finished top scorer in Portugal for the third straight season, and this year also thrived in Europe, netting 8 times in 10 Champions League games. The perfect combination of power, guile and efficient movement, Jackson is at the very top of his game and a move to a giant from one of Europe’s major leagues surely awaits him this summer.
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FW: Jonas (Benfica)
Picked up on a free transfer after he was released by Valencia, the silky-skilled Brazilian striker exceeded all expectations. Scored goals galore (30 in 34 appearances), but his superb link-up play was just as important in propelling Benfica to their championship triumph.
Coach of the season: Jorge Jesus (Benfica)
Guided Benfica to their first back-to-back championships in 31 years despite having lost most of his starting line-up from the previous season in last summer’s transfer window.
Jorge Jesus has now led Benfica to three Primeira Liga triumphs, but this one is undoubtedly his greatest achievement.
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