Leao, Felix, Neto, Dalot: Portugal's best U23 XI has been named

The Cristiano Ronaldo era has been the best in the history of the Portugal national football team.

Sure, there were plenty of great players who represented the nation before the Manchester United superstar became the main man, Eusebio, Rui Costa and Luis Figo in particular.

But not a single member of that trio was able to deliver a major international trophy, with Portugal having to wait until 2016 to get their hands on silverware for the very first time.

Ronaldo was the catalyst for the nation’s memorable triumph at Euro 2016 and he then played a key role in their successful run during the inaugural UEFA Nations League in 2018/19.

There’s no denying that Ronaldo is Portugal’s greatest ever player, especially when you remember that as well as winning major honours, he’s scored 117 goals on international duty.

But the former Juventus and Real Madrid forward is now 37 years of age and the 2022 World Cup will probably be the final time we see him donning his country’s famous jersey.

Cristiano Ronaldo in action with Portugal
LISBON, PORTUGAL – JUNE 05: Cristiano Ronaldo of Portugal reacts during the UEFA Nations League League A Group 2 match between Portugal and Switzerland at Estadio Jose Alvalade on June 05, 2022 in Lisbon, Portugal. (Photo by Carlos Rodrigues/Getty Images)

So now we have to start thinking about Portugal’s post-Ronaldo era and it’s safe to say the next generation of players look capable of having a serious impact at major tournaments.

Transfermarkt have named the nation’s best Under-23 XI – which is worth over £300 million – and it is stacked with talent.

Check it out here…

Portugal’s best U23 XI

Portugal's best Under-23 XI

The XI: Diogo Costa (FC Porto), Diogo Dalot (Man Utd), Goncalo Inacio (Sporting Lisbon), Carmo (Braga), Nuno Mendes (Paris Saint-Germain), Matheus Nunes (Sporting Lisbon), Vitinha (FC Porto), Fabio Vieira (FC Porto), Pedro Neto (Wolves), Joao Felix (Atletico Madrid) & Rafael Leao (AC Milan)

What. A. Team.

Costa, Inacio and Carmo all thrived in Portuguese top-flight throughout 2021/22, while Dalot was one of United’s better performers during what was a dismal campaign for the team. Mendes was also one of PSG’s brightest sparks and he’s a full-back who excels at both defending and attacking.

Nunes and Vitinha – who you may remember spent a short time at Wolves – are two of the best young midfielders in the world and Vieira’s numbers last season for Porto are seriously impressive. In 27 league outings, he scored six goals and assisted a further 14.

Fabio Vieira in action with FC Porto
PORTO, PORTUGAL – FEBRUARY 17: Fabio Vieira of FC Porto in action during the UEFA Europa League Knockout Round Play-Offs Leg One match between FC Porto and SS Lazio at Estadio do Dragao on February 17, 2022 in Porto, Portugal. (Photo by Octavio Passos/Getty Images)

But it’s up top where the Portuguese U23 XI really stands out.

Leao is without question now one of the best left-wingers on the planet after his exceptional campaign with Milan. Across all competitions, he bagged 14 goals and 12 assists. He was also named Serie A’s Most Valuable Player for 2021/22.

Felix’s talent is known by virtually every single football fan these days and the same can be said about Neto, who only recently returned from a serious knee injury.

Portugal’s future is in very safe hands.

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