It took a long time for Portuguese players to explore English football but the rise of quality in the Premier League saw them arrive with a vengeance in the 21st century. Many of the game’s best stars have emerged from the Iberian Peninsula and it saw them enjoy some prolonged stays in the Premier League. Over the past 30 years, 81 Portuguese players have appeared in the English top flight with some of the best setting numerous records throughout their time in England. So just who are the best Portuguese players in Premier League history?
Best Portuguese players in Premier League history
Ricardo Carvalho (Chelsea)
When Jose Mourinho took over at Chelsea, his arrival saw “The Special One” raid his Champions League winning Porto side for players. The biggest star from this influx was commanding centre-back Ricardo Carvalho. Hardly ever one to back out of a challenge, Carvalho’s strength and timing often ensured he won any one-on-one battle.
With a coolness under pressure that few could match, Carvalho was the ideal man to anchor a defence. During his 6 years with Chelsea, Carvalho won 3 Premier League titles and was also voted Chelsea’s Player of the Year in 2008. A player who is still beloved by many at Stamford Bridge to this very day.
Nani (Manchester United)
At times, Nani could divide fans throughout a stadium but when he was on form, he was nigh on unplayable. The winger was supremely talented on the ball and his many different tricks were just as spectacular as his passes were precise. Nani spent 8 years in English football with Manchester United enjoying much success including a staggering 4 Premier League titles.
His best form came in the 2010-11 season where he scored 9 goals in 33 games and he also topped the entire league with assists that season too. It underlined all the top qualities that Nani had and who proved himself to be a reliable source of goals for United for the best part of a decade and is certainly one of the best Portuguese players in Premier League history.
Paulo Ferreira (Chelsea)
Another to join Stamford Bridge when Mourinho took over at Chelsea, Paulo Ferreira filled a much needed hole in The Blues’ backline. Whilst not as quick as other full-backs, Ferreira made up for that in both strength and guile never letting himself be outdone by his opponents. His defensive skillset made him an indispensable member of a Chelsea squad that won 3 league titles during his time in London.
Having outlasted many of his contemporaries, Ferreira proved to be a loyal member for Chelsea for nine seasons before departing the club in 2013. An underrated part of a time where Chelsea were one of the best sides in both England and Europe.
Bruno Fernandes (Manchester United)
It is hard to think of too many players that have influenced a squad quite like Bruno Fernandes has. The lively playmaker has helped reinvigorate Manchester United into a threatening force since arriving from Sporting Lisbon in January 2020. Fernandes has the ability to open teams up in a heartbeat as well as find the net from almost anywhere on the pitch.
His 18 goals in the 2020/21 season led the team and saw him win no less than 4 Premier League Player of the Month Awards in the 2020 calendar year. Having also claimed Manchester United’s Player of the Year award for the 2020/21 season, Bruno Fernandes has proven to be the catalyst that has turned United into genuine title contenders once again in English football. Already one of the best Portuguese players in Premier League history and he’s nowhere near finished yet.
Ruben Dias (Manchester City)
If his early days in English football are anything to go by, Ruben Dias has all the skills needed to become an all-time great in English football. Dias joined Manchester City from Benfica in July 2020 and has not looked back since. The centre-back has perfect timing when going in for challenges and is also extremely strong in the air. Add to that an excellent long passing game and you have the perfect recipe for a leading defender.
His first year in English football was unparalleled as his constancy and form helped him claim the Premier League Player of the Year Award in his first season in the country. Add to that City’s Club Player of the Year award and a Premier League’s Winner’s medal to the list and Dias is already proving to be one of the very best in the business.
Bernardo Silva (Manchester City)
Despite his lack of size or profile, Bernardo Silva has proven himself to be one of the best playmakers in English football. With lightning quick pace and a sharp eye for a pass, Silva has terrorized defences throughout England when he has appeared for Manchester City. Silva also has developed a taste for goals and his 7 goals during the 2018/19 campaign helped City to a successful title defence – one of three during his time in Manchester.
It was during that year that Silva also won the club’s Player of the Year award as well as a spot in the Premier League Team of the Year. With no real weaknesses in his skillset, Silva has proven he is one of the best playmakers in the English top flight.
Cristiano Ronaldo (Manchester United)
Whilst everyone knows how good Cristiano Ronaldo is now, few were not so sure when he joined Manchester United back in 2003. It didn’t take long for those views to change as his flashy skills and scary technical ability destroyed defences instantaneously. As Ronaldo gained in experience, his skillset exploded becoming a master of set-pieces, passing and eventually scoring.
His best form came comfortably in the 2007/08 season where Ronaldo scored 31 goals in 34 games underlining his ascent to superstardom. It was this form that helped in win the 2008 Ballon D’Or award – the first time the award was ever given to someone playing in English football. Having also won 2xPremier League Player of the Season awards and 3 Premier League titles, it is safe to say that Ronaldo is one of the greatest Portuguese players to appear in the Premier League and he is arguably the greatest player of all time.
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