Pepe, Jose Fonte and the irrepressible Cristiano Ronaldo may still be going strong but there’s far more to Portugal than that evergreen trio these days.
Joao Felix, Ruben Dias, Joao Cancelo, Renato Sanches, Ruben Neves, Bernardo Silva, Andre Silva and Porto’s Champions League hero Sergio Oliveira are all 26 or younger after all.
And, in 18-year-old Nuno Mendes, Portugal have one of the most exciting teenagers on the continent at their disposal.
The future is not just bright, it’s positively gleaming.
Mendes, a buccaneering left-back with remarkable technical ability, has blossomed into a key player for a Sporting Lisbon side cruising towards its first Primeira Liga title in two decades, catching the eye of Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool and Pep Guardiola’s Man City among others (Calciomercato).
Mendes has a £63 million release clause in his contract already, with Sporting determined to protect the value of their prized asset.
And the Lisbon-born wonderkid did his burgeoning reputation no harm at all with a stand-out display as Portugal kick-started their World Cup qualification campaign with 1-0 victory over Azerbaijan last night.
“Nuno did very well for a debut at the age of 18. Of course, he didn’t have the normal fluidity he usually has in league games, mainly in offensive terms, because he is very creative, but I am satisfied with what he did,” said manager Fernando Santos, his trademark ‘chewing-a-wasp’ expression hiding his excitement (A Bola).
“He has a very promising future, not only in the national team but also at club level.”
According to Calciomercato, Mendes is also on the radar of Real Madrid, although his lofty price tag puts him beyond the reach of Juventus, AC Milan and Napoli.
However, as things stand Man City are in pole position. Could Mendes be the top-class left-back Guardiola is looking for?
On last night’s evidence, these Manchester City supporters certainly think so: