It’s been quite a week for Raphael Guerreiro.

The 20-year-old defender, who plays for modest French club Lorient, was largely unknown among Portuguese fans until last Friday.

That changed after the left-back’s sparkling debut for the Seleção against Armenia. Things got even better in Manchester on Tuesday night as Guerreiro scored a spectacular winning goal against World Cup runners-up Argentina at Old Trafford.

Portugal over France

Guerreiro, born in Blanc-Mesnil in north-western France to a Portuguese father and a French mother has lived in France all his life, yet the decision about which country to play for was never in doubt.

“I want to make something clear: it was me who chose Portugal. It’s my choice and nobody from my family or my agent tried to influence me,” he told Eurosport in September last year.

After throwing in his lot with the Seleção he made seven appearances for the U21 side, with coach Rui Jorge giving glowing reports to the Portuguese Football Federation (FPF) coaching staff, so much so that he got the call-up to the senior side from Fernando Santos.

Given what has happened this week, Guerreiro must be happier than ever with his decision. He made no attempt to hide his delight when speaking to fpf.pt after the match in Manchester.

“I work every day to improve and it’s not this goal or this game that’s going to stop me doing that. I know that to return to the Seleção I have to keep working very hard, starting from tomorrow.

“This is a joyful day for me. Scoring in this stadium, against Argentina, is obviously a very happy moment. I feel I’m growing as a player and coming to the Seleção will help me in this evolution. The squad has treated me fantastically all week. It’s with enormous pride that I wear the Portugal shirt, and I hope to wear it for many years.”

Clairefontaine background

Guerreiro may have come out of the blue for many, but for the more attentive he showed excellent potential from a young age. He passed through France’s famous Clairefontaine football academy, and began his career at local team Caen, where he soon stood out and was considered the best left-back in Ligue2.

Rumours began swirling that big clubs were after his signature, but Guerreiro made the wise move of signing for Lorient, where he had a good chance of nailing down a first-team place, the Ligue1 side paying €2.5 million for his services.

The full-back soon established himself as an automatic starter. A tenacious and aggressive defender, his speed, accurate passing and good crossing make him a useful attacking weapon.

Real Madrid ambition

His game has drawn comparisons with Real Madrid’s Portuguese left-back Fábio Coentrão. Guerreiro may soon be competing with Coentrão for a starting spot in the Seleção, and if his career continues on an upward trajectory and pans out as he desires, even at club level.

“My father is a Benfica fan and me too, and I’d love to play for them. But my dream is to play for Real Madrid,” he said in the Eurosport interview. “When you’re a footballer you can’t be indifferent to the history of that club.”

One month shy of his 21st birthday, Guerreiro still has a lot to learn to reach such heights. For now, Seleção coach Fernando Santos must be delighted that in an ageing Portugal squad, at least in one position he has two high-quality alternatives to wage a healthy battle for the starting berth.


Fact file:

Name: Raphael Adelino José Guerreiro

Date of birth: 22 December 1993 (20 years old)

Place of birth: Le Blanc-Mesnil, France

Height: 1.70 m

Weight: 67 kg

Current club: Lorient (France)

Position: Left-back

Portugal caps: 2 (1 goal)

 

by Tom Kundert

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  • Guest - DL

    Can we be frank for a minute: How many youngsters do we think can realistically develop in time for Euro 2016? I mean, the team as currently constituted is not going to win this tournament. They just don't have the talent. But what about over the next season and a half, is anybody going to step up and pry a spot away from these old folks? Or is 2016 going to be another case of Ronaldo towing the truck for the rest of the squad?

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  • Guest - jon/usa

    DL,

    There are actually quite a few U-23 players who could definitely work their way into the senior national side by the Euros.

    In my opinion, the following youngsters have the best chance of finding themselves in the 23-man squad in France.

    Defenders:

    Paulo Oliveira (CB) - Sporting
    Ruben Vezo (CB)- Valencia
    Tiago Ilori (CB) - Liverpool (On loan at Bordeaux)
    Raphael Guerreiro (LB) - Lorient
    Cedric (RB) - Sporting

    Midfielders:

    William Carvalho (DM) - Sporting
    Andre Gomes (CM) - Valencia
    Joao Mario (CM) - Sporting
    Bernardo Silva (AM) - Monaco
    Bruno Fernandes (AM) - Udinese
    Rony Lopes (AM) - Manchester City (On loan at Lille)
    Ruben Neves (DM) - Porto

    Forwards/Wingers:

    Bruma (W) - Galatasaray
    Carlos Mane (W) - Sporting
    Ivan Cavaleiro (W) - Benfica (On loan at Deportivo)
    Ricardo Horta (W) - Malaga

    Fabio Coentrao isn't going to lose his spot any time soon, but Guerreiro could potentially prove to be a fantastic back-up, especially considering that Coentrao is constantly injured. Vitorino Antunes is a more experienced, defensively sound alternative, but he lacks Guerreiro's pace, energy, and fantastic link-up play.

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  • Guest - saintlennon

    Rated 5 out of 5 stars

    Excited to see this kid, and the other young stars, get some playing time with the national team.

    0 Like Short URL:

      

 

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"It’s with enormous pride that I wear the Portugal shirt, and I hope to wear it for many years."

Raphael Guerreiro
(Portugal left-back)
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