Portugal plays really good football, but Primeira Liga is a bit overshadowed. The Portuguese league is easily a bit forgotten. I know myself that I talked about “The Big Six” in several articles when I talked about the big European leagues. And I have then referred to the football leagues in England, Spain, Italy, Germany, France and Holland. But I should probably in fact have talked about “The Big Seven” and also included Portugal in this exclusive list.
For the Portuguese highest division in football, La Primeira Liga, holds a really high class and is a nursery for many talents that are then sold to the even bigger leagues (The Big Five).
Portuguese league – a little history
As we mentioned earlier, the Portuguese league was founded in 1934. But it started as an experiment under the name Campeonato da Liga da Primeira Divisão. It was not until four years later, in 1938, that the Portuguese first league became official. In 1999 the name was changed to La Primeira Liga and today it is also called Liga NOS for sponsorship reasons.
La Primeira Liga – an uneven history
Football in Portugal certainly holds a really high class. As you know, Portugal won the European football Championship 2016 in France and also the new Nations Cup 2019 (with 1-0 over the Netherlands). But despite the fact that La Primeira Liga holds a high high class with many really good players, you have to admit that it is a very uneven series. In total, a little over 70 teams have participated since the start in 1934. But only five teams have won the league.
The big three in La Primeira Liga
Because it is actually the case that only three teams usually settle for the league title in Portugal. For the Portuguese league is really totally dominated by “The Big Three”: Benfica, FC Porto and Sporting Clube de Portugal. Together they have won all (!) Except two league titles in the history of the Portuguese league.
This is what the history looks like:
- Benfica: 37 league titles
- FC Porto: 28 league titles
- Sporting CP: 18 league titles
The only times any of these three have not become Portuguese champions were the 1945-46 (Belenenses) and 2000-01 (Boavista) seasons.
Portugal is a small country
The fact that the league is so uneven may be partly due to the fact that Portugal is actually a relatively small country. They have a population of only 10.8 million. Only slightly larger than Sweden then. So even though they produce a lot of good players and import many talents from the Portuguese-speaking Brazil, there are not many to choose from. It’s not like Spain with its 46 million inhabitants.
Primeira Liga is ranked as the sixth best by UEFA
The Portuguese league – Campeonato Português de Futebol – is ranked as the 6th best according to the Uefa coefficient (2020). This is a method used in European football to rank and seed club teams and national teams in international tournaments. In 2020, this ranking looks as follows (top 10):
Famous players through the ages in La Primeira Liga – CR7
The most famous of all is of course the inimitable CR7, Cristiano Ronaldo. We are undoubtedly talking about one of the world’s best football players of all time. He has played for Sporting Lisbon, Manchester United and Real Madrid. Ronaldo currently plays for Juventus in Italian Serie A. He has won the Golden Ball, Ballon d’Or, four times: 2008, 2013, 2014 and 2016, and is without a doubt the most famous Portuguese football player ever and will probably remain so.
Other famous players in the Portuguese league
But La Primeira Liga is so much more than just Cristiano Ronaldo (he has not played there since 2003).
Eusébio da Silva Ferreira, known as only Eusébio or The Black Panther (Pantera Preta in Portuguese) was born in 1942 in Maputo, in the enormously poor area of Mafalala. This was at that time Portuguese East Africa, today Mozambique. He played for Benfica from Lisbon and is also considered one of the world’s best football players of all time. He became the top scorer in Portugal 7 times and won the Portuguese league 11 times.
Luis Figo (born November 4, 1972) is also a legend in the world of football. He played for Sporting CP, FC Barcelona, Real Madrid and Inter. An absolute genius and also one of the few players who played for both FC Barcelona and Real Madrid.
It was usually impossible to go from one team to another because the rivalry between the two Spanish giants is enormous. And when Luis Figo played his first “El Clásico” after leaving FC Barcelona for arch-rival Real Madrid, a pig’s head (!) was thrown onto the pitch when Figo was about to hit a corner. We are talking about the match between FC Barcelona and Real Madrid on November 23, 2002 which was played in Barcelona. Luis Figo had to endure whistles and cries of 110 decibels, like the engines of a jet. Barcelona fans saw the transfer as a betrayal. You wonder how someone managed to smuggle a real pig’s head into the stadium!
The list of talented Portuguese football players can be made very long, but to name a few we have: Paulo Sousa, Rui Costa, Paulo Futre, Deco, Ricardo Carvalho and Ricardo Quaresma.
Contemporary Portuguese football promises
Of the Portuguese who play football today, some of the biggest promises are without a doubt Bernardo Silva and João Félix.
Bernardo Silva (his full name is Bernardo Mota Veiga de Carvalho e Silva) plays for Manchester City in the English Premier League. He was born in 1994 and began his career at Benfica. Before he was recruited to star-studded Manchester City players, he for AS Monaco in French Ligue 1. He has a huge talent.
João Félix is very young, born on November 10, 1999 (20 years old at the time of writing). He was part of Porto’s youth team before he was recruited by arch-rival Benfica when he was 15 years old (2015). Felix helped Benfica win the league title in 2018 and also won the award as Primeira Liga’s best young player that season. He was recruited by Diego Simeone’s Atlético de Madrid in 2019 for a record sum of 126 million euros. João Félix is the youngest player ever to score a hat-trick in the UEFA Europa League (19 years).
Primeira Liga – fun to follow and to bet on
So the Portuguese league La Primeira Liga is definitely worth following and playing a penny a little now and then. Although it’s a lot about a battle between “The Big Three of Portugal”: Benfica, Porto and Sporting. The matches between these three are clearly hot events and you are welcome to check the betting companies’ odds for these Portuguese derbies here with us at ReadyBetWin!