Here are some players that the continent's top clubs would have been keeping an eye on and might even move for in the January window.
Yacine Brahimi (FC Porto)
The FC Porto winger burst onto the scene at the 2014 FIFA World Cup for Algeria and has continued to put in standout performances at club level in both Portugal and the UEFA Champions League. An immensely talented dribbler in the traditional style of making a mockery of his opponent rather than speed past them, he also posses great football intelligence. At 25, it seems the time is right for Brahimi to take the next step and with Porto out of the Champions League, they may be ready to sell, but for a hefty price as is the custom at the Estadio do Dragao.
William Carvalho (Sporting CP)
The imposing defensive midfielder has been heavily linked with a move to Arsenal and it’s easy to see why. There’s a hint of Patrick Vieira about this Portugal international. His height and strength make him very difficult to beat in the middle of the pitch, yet he couples that with an exceptional reading of the game and is constantly making crucial interceptions. Most importantly for a modern midfielder, he is equally capable on the ball. Carvalho has excellent vision and is a master at picking a pass that launches counter attacks, once he inevitably wins the ball. Now that he’s back from an early season injury, the Gunners might finally make their move.
Ruben Neves (FC Porto)
Another number 6 and surprise, surprise another player heavily linked with a move to Arsenal. Yet Neves is quite different from Carvalho. The 18 year-old, who became the youngest ever Champions League captain, is an immensely talented technician and would be equally capable in a more advanced role. Rather than using his physical presence in the centre of the pitch, Neves utilises an impressive football intelligence to break up opposition attacks. It’s his passing however that really stands out and why he will be, if not already, one of the most sought-after midfielders in Europe. While it may be too early for him to leave the Portuguese league, Arsenal is always prepared to pay for teenagers who show potential and teach them the Wenger way.
Renato Sanches (Benfica)
Eighteen year-old Sanches burst onto the scene by scoring a long-range bullet against Academica in December. This came as no surprise to Benfica fans who had seen the potential talent of the Portuguese youth international on show in their B team. The central midfielder combines great skill, with speed and power, making him a potential superstar. Sanches only made his first-team Benfica debut in October, yet that hasn’t stopped the likes of Manchester United becoming reportedly interested. His lack of experience at the top level might make him a gamble buy, but they probably said that of Cristiano Ronaldo.
Nico Gaitan (Benfica)
How Benfica have managed to hold on to the immense talent that is Nico Gaitan has been extraordinary. In almost every transfer window, the Argentine winger/playmaker is linked with a move to a host of clubs, yet he remains at the Estadio da Luz. Now 27 years-old, time is running out for the sublimely talented attacker to make his move. There were times last season when Gaitan’s creativity alone would open opposing defences. While the Eagles will be loathe to let their gem leave, the team does appear to be entering a transitional phase and might feel the time is right to get a financial return on their investment in Gaitan.
Gelson Martins (Sporting CP)
Martins is not yet a Sporting first-team regular but educated at the world’s most renowned school for wizardry wingers, it’s hard not think that the 20 year-old could emulate the likes of his predecessors, Luis Figo and Cristiano Ronaldo. Not dissimilar to those Portuguese legends, Martins has yet to develop a physical presence, which can at times make him easy to knock off the ball. However, his abilities on the ball are impossible to ignore and while his decision making needs improvement, the raw ingreditens are there. Hailing from Cape Verde will likely draw comparisons with Nani, who never fully reached his potential. Hopefully the same won’t be said for Martins.
Suk Hyun-Jun (Vitoria de Setubal)
Much to my delight, Vitoria de Setubal are having a phenomenal season and playing some entertaining, attacking football. Spearheading that attack his Korea Republic striker Suk, who incredibly was signed on a free transfer last season but only got a genuine chance this campaign. The hard-working forward combines accomplished technique with a keen eye for the goal, all which has become evident at Estado do Bonfim this season. He made his mark by scoring a magnificent goal against Academica that made headlines around the world and must be a contender for global goal of the season. Suk has attracted interest from all over Europe and could end up being the bargain buy of this transfer window. While I’ll be sad to see him leave, he deserves a chance at a bigger club and of course Setubal need the money for... just about everything.