Joao Felix ready to shine for Portugal - Santos

By Sports Desk June 04, 2019

Portugal head coach Fernando Santos will have no hesitation over throwing Benfica sensation Joao Felix into action in the Nations League Finals.

The uncapped 19-year-old was the headline selection in Santos' 23-man squad for the finale of the inaugural UEFA competition.

Joao Felix enjoyed a breakout season as Benfica claimed their 37th Portuguese league title, scoring 15 times over the course of 26 top-flight appearances.

A host of Europe's clubs have been linked with triggering his €120million release clause as a result.

Portugal were somewhat shot shy in their back-to-back Euro 2020 qualification draws against Serbia and Ukraine in May and Santos backed Joao Felix to shine if called upon for Wednesday's semi-final against Switzerland at Estadio do Dragao.

"If he wasn't ready he wouldn't be called up," the veteran tactician told a pre-match news conference. "Regardless of age we assess capabilities.

"So, if he was selected and is part of this team and others were left out that is because he is ready to play.

"He's been called up for a reason. We need to call up players who can contribute. He has great qualities."

Santos is not averse to adopting a confrontational tone when facing the media and he bridled at the suggestion that a new generation featuring the likes of Bernardo Silva, Bruno Fernandes and Joao Felix represented an exceptional crop of talent.

"Since when has Portugal not been able to produce talents? Just look at the last 20 years - we've always done it," he said. "Portugal has always had many talents. 

"The players are different, but if you want to win you have to make everything compatible. It was always like this. We make of the past something that did not exist. 

"We want to pass on the idea that in the past we had no talent."

In a prolonged exchange, during which Santos gestured in the direction of Joao Pinto – the former Portugal forward, who is now a member of the national team backroom staff and was observing the briefing – to make his point, the 64-year-old recalled previous selection dilemmas.

"At the 2004 European Championships there was doubt whether they would play Deco or Rui Costa would play, and we had Luís Figo and Cristiano," he added. 

"It's up to me to have 20 high-quality outfield players and they are all fit to play for the main team."

Manchester City's player of the season Silva could be one of Portugal's stars of the tournament if he maintains his club form, although the playmaker is taking nothing for granted.

"There’s no undisputed starters in this team," he said. "There're 23 players called up, all 23 have the ability to contribute and to give their own qualities to this national team and that's why they're here - to help us win this competition.

"Of course having a great season at club level has given me confidence coming into the national side, and it would be brilliant to finish this season with a title with Portugal, too."

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