Chris Henson

Wed, 31 May 2017

Liga NOS Team of the Season 2016/17

Goalkeeper – Ederson (Benfica)

Benfica’s Brazilian goalkeeper took his game to another level this season, repeatedly showing off his shot-stopping skills and athletic prowess, particularly appearing to raise his game when it really mattered. The 23-year-old overcame a knee problem last summer to re-establish himself as the number one goalkeeper at the club ahead of Júlio César, and is now deservedly on the radar of the national team. Compatriot Dani Alves said this season that it is only a matter of time before he is Brazil’s first choice and based on his rapid development over the past three seasons – initially with Rio Ave – this could soon become a reality. Both Manchester clubs are supposedly keeping a keen eye on his progress. An honourable mention should go to Cláudio Ramos too; without his heroic displays in goal Tondela would have been relegated many months ago but his incredible performances contributed heavily to their second successive survival in Liga NOS.

Right-back – Nélson Semedo (Benfica)

Nélson Semedo, or ‘Nelsinho’ as he is also known, broke through to Benfica’s senior team in 2015/16 but injury somewhat curtailed his campaign. However he has recovered superbly to develop into arguably the league’s best right-back with some incredible attacking displays over the course of the campaign, whilst not neglecting his defensive duties. Semedo boasts blistering pace and is a good crosser of the ball, stemming from his younger days as a winger. The 23-year-old is likely the latest of the Benfica production line that will earn the club a significant amount of money, with the likes of Bayern Munich and Manchester United reported to be circling him this summer. He also now finds himself firmly in the fight for a Seleção starting place with Cédric Soares.

Left-back – Nélson Lenho (Chaves)

Left-back is one of the most competitive areas to choose from, as there have been many impressive candidates in Liga NOS this season. Alex Grimaldo has displayed his talent and class for Benfica either side of a bad abdominal injury, while Rafa Soares has shone for Rio Ave (on loan from Porto). It is also worth mentioning Feirense’s tough-tackling bruiser Vítor Bruno for his heavy-handed but effective displays this season, and Alex Telles of Porto has been very consistent. However I have selected Chaves skipper Nélson Lenho for the role in my best XI. Chaves were promoted to the top division this season but took to the level instantly with some outstanding team displays, and few in their side displayed more consistency than the captain. Able to maraud forward but maintain a rock solid defence, fans will be delighted he has agreed a contract extension with the club amid strong rumours of a departure to Turkey.

Centre-back – Sebastián Coates (Sporting)

While his side have underachieved this season, Uruguay international Coates has shown again that he is one of the best players in the position in Liga NOS. While he struggled in England, the former Liverpool and Sunderland player has exuded calm authority from the back for Jorge Jesus’ side. His partners in the position Rúben Semedo and Paulo Oliveira have had their struggles but Coates’ consistency has been a plus point for the Lions, certainly a player they must keep hold of this summer. This is a tough selection and perhaps slightly controversial: Benfica duo Luisão and Lindelöf have had solid if not spectacular personal seasons, while Felipe and Marcano of Porto were mostly impenetrable throughout the campaign.

Centre-back – Maurício (Marítimo)

One of the key factors in Marítimo finishing in 6th place this year and thus reaching the Europa League has been their defensive stability. At the heart of it have been Maurício and Raúl, but I just favour selecting the former here. Marítimo boasted the best defensive record in the league this year, aside from Porto and Benfica, while Maurício also has been able to cause considerable problems in an attacking sense from set pieces. It is notable that when his season ended prematurely in April, the team went on to concede 7 times in 5 games, winning only once in that sequence. An honourable mention goes to Chaves’ Carlos Ponck, who had an outstanding year on loan from Benfica, after being adapted from a defensive midfielder into an integral part of the team’s backline.

Defensive midfield – Danilo (Porto)

Porto may not have been able to achieve their goals for the season but the consistently high performance level of defensive midfielder Danilo has been a real highlight. An imposing figure at 6″2″, Danilo is incredibly efficient at both screening the defence – with Porto having the best defensive record in the country – but also at helping to start attacks and glide past opponents where possible. While most of his team-mates’ levels have dipped through the campaign, Danilo’s intensity has rarely faltered, and pertinently he exudes leadership in what is still a relatively young side. Arsenal reportedly tried to obtain his services last summer and in January, and they’d be fools not to try again when the season ends.

Central midfield – Pizzi (Benfica)

An excellent campaign from Pizzi, who has been instrumental in Benfica winning their 4th straight Liga NOS title. The inconsistencies to his game, largely from right-wing, have faded away as Rui Vitoria has implemented him in a more central role this season, combining so well with Ljubomir Fejsa in the middle of a 4-4-2. The 27-year-old has contributed 9 goals and 8 assists from his position this season, making him the top-scoring midfielder in the division, and arguably he has been Benfica’s player of the year. Pizzi is a very intelligent player with the ability to find space and pick passes few other in the division could. He is starting to break into the Portugal squad now and is reportedly on French league Champions Monaco’s radar.

Right-wing – Gelson Martins (Sporting)

An outstanding breakthrough campaign for the 22-year-old as he has filled the void of Joao Mario’s departure last summer as arguably the league’s most dangerous winger. Exceptionally quick and able to trouble defenders with incredibly direct running, this season has shown a wide player who has everything to reach the very top of the game. Notably he has tormented the likes of Real Madrid’s Marcelo and Benfica’s Alex Grimaldo this season, chipping in with 6 goals and 14 assists across the Liga NOS campaign. A departure from Sporting seems inevitable at some stage, but rightly so he won’t go at a cheap price. Europe’s big guns, including Real Madrid, Barcelona and PSG, are all reported to duke it out for his signature this summer.

Left-wing – Iuri Medeiros (Boavista, on loan from Sporting)

Lots of talented wingers have populated the division this year. Arguably the best in the division, Yacine Brahimi had an excellent second half of the campaign after a difficult beginning. Fábio Martins has been superb at Chaves, while Rio Ave’s Gil Dias and Vitória Guimarães’ Hernâni have both given superb personal performances throughout the season. However, despite mainly starting on the right wing, I am selecting Sporting’s left-footed wizard Iuri Medeiros, who has been outstanding on loan at Boavista this year. Iuri is certainly one of the most technically gifted players in the league, but like many he previously struggled for the consistency in various loan spells to seriously threaten a place in his parent club’s squad. This could well change this summer, though, after countless game-changing displays with As Panteras, in which he scored 7 goals and assisted 9 more. His performances against Benfica and Marítimo in particular were breathtaking.

Striker – Bas Dost (Sporting)

A no-brainer for this position as the Dutchman comfortably finished as top scorer in the division after signing from Wolfsburg last summer. After taking a little bit of time to settle the big man has been relentless since January. He has smashed in 25 league goals (34 in total for the season), giving Lionel Messi serious competition in the race for the European Golden Shoe award. Sporting’s season has been a disappointing one overall but Dost has filled the void left by last summer’s departure of Islam Slimani to become the top marksman in the country, a shrewd investment at a reported £8.5m.

Striker – Tiquinho Soares (Vitória Guimarães/Porto)

The second striker to partner Dost is another very difficult field to choose from. Although injury-hit, Benfica’s talisman Jonas has still displayed many moments of his class and arguably is technically the most gifted striker in the country, while his strike partner Kostas Mitroglou has had another successful campaign too. Porto’s young striker André Silva had a superb start to the season before fading, as did Moussa Marega of Vitória Guimarães (on loan from Porto). However I think this position just about goes to Brazilian powerhouse Tiquinho Soares. Soares signed for Vitória Guimarães last summer and quickly formed an effective partnership with the aforementioned Marega. His goal record was slightly more modest but he had still convinced Porto enough for them to sign him in January. Upon joining the Dragões, the goals flowed. He instantly settled with a brace on his debut in the Clássico against Sporting, and had a remarkable 9 goals in his first 6 league matches for the club, quickly earning comparisons to the likes of Mário Jardel. Although the team’s season ultimately ended in disappointment, Porto may well have their next South American superstar to follow in the footsteps of Falcao, Jackson Martinez et al.

Honourable mentions – Cláudio Ramos, Rafa Soares, Raúl, Iván Marcano, Ponck, Roderick, Alex Grimaldo, Vítor Bruno, Alex Telles, Idris, Rodrigo Battaglia, Hernâni, Gil Dias, Fábio Martins, André Silva, Jonas, Kostas Mitroglou, Moussa Marega

Jamie Farr (Portugal Primeira Liga Analyst)
Follow Jamie on Twitter @FRFutebolJamie for all his latest thoughts and opinions on the Portuguese top flight.


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