5 greatest Portuguese soccer players of all time

Updated by Facundo, 17/12/2019

In today’s article, I want to introduce you to the 5 greatest Portuguese soccer players of all time! When spending some time in Portugal with Portuguese people, you will soon realize that soccer really is a big deal. People love soccer and their soccer players! The country is mostly divided between three major teams: Benfica, Porto and Sporting, but the national soccer team gets everyone to agree and cheer for the players together!

In 2019, the national team won the Euro. But its players stand out for many other reasons. In this article, I will tell you a little about each one of them, explain why they are part of the greatest Portuguese soccer players of all time, and share with you a few of their exploits! Read on and learn more about the 5 greatest Portuguese soccer players of all time!

The greatest: Cristiano Ronaldo

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First on my list of the 5 greatest Portuguese soccer players of all time is obviously the amazing Cristiano Ronaldo. He was born on February, 5th of 1985, in Funchal in the Madeira Island. Nicknamed “CR7“, thanks to his shirt number, Cristiano Ronaldo is considered to be the best active soccer player in the world along with Lionel Messi.

The famous attacking player won the Ballon d’Or prize five times: in 2008, 2013, 2014, 2016 and in 2017. Cristiano Ronaldo has scored about 650 winning goals throughout his career, some of which during the Champions League, which makes him the best scorer of the UEFA Champions League and of the Real Madrid team.

After being trained during his time in the Sporting team, Cristiano Ronaldo was recruited by the Manchester United in 2003. Then, in 2009, he joined the Real Madrid for about 94 millions of euros, which was the most expensive transfers at the time of signature. While he was part of the Real Madrid team, he won La Liga twice and the Champions League four times.

At 33 years old, he left the Real Madrid and joined the Juventus team in 2018.

In 2016 and in 2017, he was considered to be the better paid athelete in the world by the Forbes magazine, thanks to his advertising contracts. He also owns his own underwear brand and a luxury hotel chain.

If you want to know more about him, you can read our article that’s been completely dedicated to him!

The most humble: Eusébio

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Born on January, 25th of 1942, Eusébio started showing his talents and skills for soccer very early! In the neighborhood of Mafalala, one of the poorest places of Maputo, the Benfica legend started kicking the ball before getting noticed and famous around the world!

Eusébio, also known as Pantera PretaBlack Panther in English, first began as a soccer player in the Benfica team. The first match was against the Atlético, against which he scored three goals. Over time, he became a reference for the team’s attack and a real nightmare for the opposing defences.

He was fast, easily led the ball over the opponent goal lines, and his shots were accurate, which made it very hard for the opponents to defend!

Eusébio made his debut in the Portuguese national soccer team in 1961 against the Luxembourg team. The peak of his career as a player for the Portuguese national team happened in 1966, in England. During the World Cup of 1966, the Black Panther realized a great competition. Thanks to him, the team got to reach the podium but the England team actually ended up winning the cup.

A year earlier, the Black Panther made history when he was the first Portuguese soccer player to ever receive the Ballon d’Or prize. Without losing humbleness that is so distinctive of his personality, Eursébio showed that the Ballon d’Or only increased his focus! After receiving this prize, he revealed that all he wanted was to help Benfica winning more titles and he promised to keep dazzle the soccer world with the help of his partners.

While he was active, Eusébio won many prizes on behalf of the Benfica and Portugal. Him and the Benfica team won eleven championships together. His exploits were recognized! He won the Balon d’Or in 1965 and in 1968 and 1973, he won two European Golden Shoes, becoming the best scorer of the European leagues!

The best: Luís Figo

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On November, 4th of 1972, Luís Filipe Madeira Caeiro Figo, one of the greatest Portuguese soccer player, was born in Lisbon. Figo is a world icon! He left the soccer world a good deal poorer, when he retired in May of 2009. During his career as a soccer player, the world was able to witness his elegance and talents! For more than twenty years, Figo played in several teams, part of Portugal, Spain and Italy. He’s one of the Portuguese players that wore the National team jersey the most times, 127 times to be precise! In 2001, he was elected the Best Player in the World by the FIFA and won the Ballon d’Or prize in 2000.

Figo first started playing soccer in a small team of Cova da Piedade, which is only known due to the fact Figo was once a player of the team. His potential was immediately noticed and he got a contract with the Sporting team. During his time as part of the Sporting, he completed his training, marking the beginning of his outstanding career. From 1989 to 1995, Figo represented the Sporting, for which he played 129 matches and scored 16 goals.

His talents were so obvious that many European clubs wanted him! Luís Figo signed a contract with two teams, the Juventus and the Parma. Due to the situation, he was forbidden to play for Italy for two years. As he was so talentend, he had no issue to sign a new contract, this time with Barcelona! He won La Liga twice, Supercopa de España once, and the UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup also once.

In 2000, Figo was on the frontpages of the newspapers, because he was part of one of the most controversial transfers the soccer world ever witnessed! Florentino Perez, the former President of the Real Madrid, promised to contract the Portuguese soccer player for his team. He bought Figo for sixty millions of euros and stole him from the Barcelona! Figo became one of the few soccer players to ever play for the two main Spanish soccer teams, the Real Madrid and the Barcelona. The Barcelona fans never forgave, they felt betrayed. But Figo easily won the hearts of the Real Madrid fans, thanks to his talents. He scored many goals and won many cups, Ligas, one Champions League, UEFA Super Cup and the FIFA Club World Cup.

Finally, he got to play for the Inter Milan, with whom he won four Serie A league competitions, three Supercoppa Italiana and one Coppa Italia! For these and so many other reasons, Figo is one of the greatest Portuguese soccer players of all time!

The coach: Paulo Sousa


Next on my list of the 5 greatest Portuguese soccer players of all time is Paulo Sousa! He’s now the coach of the Bordeaux team.

He started his career playing for the Benfica team. With his team, he won many cups, such as the Taça de Portugal (Cup of Portugal).

During the summer of 1993, Paulo Sousa cancelled his contract with Benfica and signed with the rival Sporting. His skills and talents were recognized earned him to be transferred to the Juventus. With his new team, he won the Champions League in 1996. He won again the next year, but this time he was serving the Borussia Dortmund. Nonetheless, in 1997, he suffered from many severe injuries. But he kept playing, got transferred to the Inter Milan in 1998, then he also played for Parma, Panathinaikos, and for the RCD Espanyol in 2002, the year that ended his career as a soccer player.

Paulo Sousa obviously also played with the Portuguese national soccer team, along with Luís Figo. He participated in the Euro Cups of 1996 and 2000, and in the 2002 World Cup in Korea.

After he retired, Paulo Sousa started training many teams. Queens Park Rangers, Swansea, Leicester, and Fiorentina are some of the teams he has coached. He is now the coach of the Bordeaux soccer team!

The unpredictable: Paulo Futre

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Paulo Futre was trained in the Sporting team, and then got transferred to the Porto team. During his time playing for Porto, his skills were obvious and won two Portuguese cups and one Champions League cup.

In 1987, he signed a contract with the Atlético de Madrid. Then, five years later, he got transferred to the Benfica and won the Taça de Portugal. During his career, he got to play with the Olympique de Marseille, Reggiana and the AC Milan.


The Master: Rui Costa

He started to play as a professional in 1991 but he had to wait for two years before winning his first trophy: The Portuguese Cup 1993.

After winning the league in 1994, Fiorentina payed 7 millions to transfer him. He won The Italian cup in 1996.
In 2001, he was hired by AC Milan, club that payed more than £30 million to include him in its team. He played in Milano for five great seasons in which he won the A Series, an Italian Cup,  an Italian Supercup, a Champions League and a European Supercup.

In May, 25th,  2006, he returned to Portugual and played for Benfica.

The owner of the ball: Deco

Anderson Luis de Souza, known as Deco, started to play soccer in Brazil. He played his first match as a professional in 1995, when he was 18 years old, and stayed in brazil for three seasons before jumping to European Football.

There, Deco got the Portuguese nationality an won the UEFA Champions League with FC Porto in season 2003-2004. Once at the elite of the European Football,  he got hired by FC Barcelona, He played his first match in La Liga the 29th of August, in 2004. A year later, in season 2005-2006, he won his second UEFA Champions League.

The wall: Ricardo Carvalho

Ricardo Carvalho was a Portuguese center defender who played in Europe from 1997 to 2017. He was one of the best defenders of his times who played for Oporto, Chelsea and Real Madrid, mostly under the commands of coach Jose Mourinho. He retired in 2017 in Shanghai SIPG, in the Chinese Super League. In 2004 he won with Porto his most important trophy, the UEFA Champions League.

The Nomad: Ricardo Quaresma

Ricardo Andrade Quaresma Bernardo, known simply as Quaresma, is a 36 years old Portuguese right wing, who plays for Kasimpasa SK from the Turkish Super League. During his long career he played for Sopritng of Lisboa, Futbol Club Barcelona, Oporto, Inter, Besiktas, Al-Ahli Football Club and Kasimpasa.

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The promise: Bernardo Silva

Bernardo Mota Veiga de Carvalho e Silva is a 25 years old professional Portuguese soccer player, who can play both as right wing and center field. His team is Manchester City, Football Club from the Premier League. Before, he played for A.S Monaco, were he was part of the club’s project, that aimed to develop young talents.  Of course, since he was both young and talented, he did well and had great performances in that season 2014-2015. Previously he had played in Benfica, in season 2013/2014.

Bernardo Silva also plays for his national team since 2015. In 2016 he scored his first goal against Gibraltar and played in the 2018 FIFA world Cup, in Russia.

All these Portuguese soccer players stand out, each in their own way. Each of them demonstrated and still demonstrate unique and unmatched skills and talents that need to be recognize! This is why I thought it would be a cool subject for an article for you to get introduced to some of the greatest Portuguese soccer players of all time! Of course, there are many others, such as Pauleta, Deco, Fernando Chalana, Mário Coluna, Fernando Gomes, Rui Costa, and many others! I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this article and I also hope to see you soon in one of our tours in Lisbon during which we will be able to debate about the greatest Portuguese soccer players of all time!