Portugal’s midfield lions ready to roar

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At first sight William Carvalho and Joao Moutinho appear to have little in common. While the former stands 6’1 tall and has won only four caps for Portugal, the latter measures only 5’7 and has the small matter of 68 international appearances under his belt. On closer inspection, however, William and Moutinho have both a shared past and future together, one they hope will involve success for their national team at Brazil 2014.

The existing link between them is Sporting CP. The Lisbon side has the honour of being the only club in the world to have reared two FIFA World Players in Luis Figo and Cristiano Ronaldo and has made a habit of bringing through high-quality wide midfielders and wingers, with the likes of Paulo Futre, Simao Sabrosa and Nani having also come through the Leões youth ranks. The national side has been a direct beneficiary of their excellent work at youth level.

Moutinho made his Sporting debut at the age of only 17 in 2004/05, going on to become the club’s youngest-ever captain and spend six successful seasons with Os Verde-e-Brancos. Nearly ten years on, Sporting fans can take pride in his development into a player of genuine international class.

William arrived as a virtual unknown at the Estadio Jose Alvalade at the start of the 2013/14 season. However, much like Moutinho, he needed little time to convince the fans and the pundits. A classic defensive midfielder who goes about his work effectively and with a minimum of fuss, he first came into the Portugal squad for the Brazil 2014 play-off against Sweden and did enough thereafter to earn his place on the 23-man list for the FIFA World Cup finals. 

The secret is to have great professionals who give all the support they can to the younger players, people who have a great vision of the future

William Carvalho, Portugal midfielder

So what then is the secret of Sporting’s ability to unearth young talent and nurture it?

Answering that question for FIFA, William said: “There are five or six players in the national side who learned their football at Sporting, which I think says a lot about all the good work that’s done at the training schools.”

The other Leões youth products in Paolo Bento’s squad are Beto, Rui Patricio, Miguel Veloso, Nani, Varela and Moutinho, who said: “The secret is to have great professionals who give all the support they can to the younger players, people who have a great vision of the future.” Heaping praise on the head of Sporting’s scouting department, he said: “In my case and lots of others, the great professional in question is Aurelio Pereira.”

The first time
Despite the fact that they belong to two different generations of Portugal players, with Moutinho five years William’s senior at the age of 27, both players are preparing to make their World Cup debuts. “Obviously it’s a great honour for me to be in Brazil,” said the older of the two. “God intended for this to be my first world finals.”

Though Moutinho was surprisingly overlooked for South Africa 2010, he has still managed to win 68 caps for his country ahead of Monday’s meeting with Germany. Midfield partner William, who was born in Angola, is a good deal less experienced, and is the first to admit it: “At the start of the season I just didn’t expect to be here, though I put in some good performances for Sporting and I’m about to do what every player dreams of: play in a World Cup.”

United by their past at one of Portugal’s biggest clubs, William and Moutinho are about to embark together on what they hope will be a thrilling and unforgettable adventure in Brazil.

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