Top Five Portuguese Imports To Play in Serie A

Over the course of its existence, the Serie A has welcomed a fair share of Portuguese

internationals to come ply their trade on the Peninsula – 54 if I’m correct. Included

in this list are plenty of who settled for a brief time, sampling only a teaser of Italian

‘calcio.’ However, a select group spent a large portion of their playing career in Italy

and managed to contribute largely to their respective clubs’ quest for top honours

along the way.

On Monday, AC Milan struck a deal for their fourth signing this summer, landing 21-

year old Portuguese striker André Silva from Porto for an estimated €38m plus

additional bonuses. Acquiring the promising young centre-forward Silva meant that

he became only the third A Selecção international to don rossonero, joining Paulo

Futre – who made one appearance in the 1995-96 campaign – and the brilliantly

creative, awe-inspiring number 10, Rui Costa.

Costa, who earned critical acclaim and European notoriety over seven years in

Firenze with Fiorentina, joined the Rossoneri in 2001 for a club record fee of €42m,

which still holds today. Silva now wears the second most expensive transfer fee in

AC Milan history, and with that, must perform at a level worthy of such an

exorbitant tag.

In lieu of Silva’s arrival in Italy, it’s time to rank the top five Portuguese imports to

ever play in the Italian top-flight.

5. Paulo Sousa, Juventus (1994-96) Inter (1998-00) Parma (2000):

A member of the “Portugal Golden Generation,” Paulo Sousa’s career began at his

academy club Benfica where he went on to appear in 87 matches, hoisting the

Primeira Liga trophy in the 1990-91 season. After a pit stop at Sporting, Sousa spent

two rewarding campaigns with Marcello Lippi’s Juventus, helping ‘La Vecchia

Signora’ win the 1994-95 league title and Coppa Italia in his first season. The

following year, the Viseu born defensive midfielder aided a Bianconeri double as

thee club added the Italian Super Cup and UEFA Champions League trophies to their

cabinet. After a short-lived stay in Germany with Borussia Dortmund, Sousa

returned to Italy in the late 90s, sharing time between Inter and Parma. A

globetrotter of sorts, the long-traveled midfielder left behind a notable mark in the

hearts of ‘the Old Lady’, who are still yearning for another European triumph since

that night in Rome some 21 years ago.

4. Sergio Conceição, Lazio (1998-00, 03-04) Parma (2000-01) Inter (2001-03):

Spending five years in Portugal, Sérgio Paulo Marceneiro da Conceição was brought

in by Sven-Göran Eriksson for an estimated 9 million euros in the summer of 1998.

As a Serie A debutant, Conceição’s speed and on-ball maneuvering over 33

appearances proved key in Le Aquile winning the Italian Super Cup and UEFA Cup

Winner’s Cup. Subsequently, the 1999-00 saw the Roman outfit enjoy increased

success, completing the domestic double by winning their second Scudetto and third

Coppa Italia, along with an impressive UEFA Super Cup victory over English giants

Manchester United. Conceição, as part of a deal to bring in Hernan Crespo, would

join up with Parma where he’d finish with a Coppa Italia runner-up medal. He’d go

on to swap Gialloblu for Nerazzurro, spending two solid seasons with Inter – albeit

with no silverware to show for it – before returning to the Capitale club for a second

spell. The Biancocelesti supporters will surely tell you his versatility paid dividends

in one of the best periods of their club history.

3. Fernando Couto, Parma (1994-96, 05-08) Lazio (1998-05):

Couto began his Italian adventure in the summer of 94’ when he joined the Tardini

tenants, Parma FC. The long-serving Portugal defender chipped in to Parma’s 1994

UEFA Cup victory over the mighty Juventus. He subsequently left the Ducali for

Barcelona in summer 1996, eventually giving it another go in the Italian top-flight;

this time, alongside countryman Conceição. Together, the two would share in Lazio’s

storied run. Seven seasons, seven trophies, and 145 appearances later, Couto

headed back to the Emilio-Romagna club after eleven seasons away. A further three

campaigns served wearing yellow and blue outfit closed the curtains on the centre-

back’s illustrious, trailblazing career. When it comes to Portuguese imports to have

plied their trade in Italy, only a select few could surpass Couto’s body of work.

2. Luis Figo, Inter (2005-09):

Long before moving to Italy, Figo had carved out quite the legacy during highly

successful spells at Sporting CP, Barcelona and Real Madrid. Virtually every top

domestic honour fills his trophy case today, including the 2000 Ballon d’Or which

was given to him at Real Madrid, but earned for his massive achievements with their

Catalan rival. Contract expiration led the winger turned playmaking attacking

midfielder to join the Nerazzurri on a free transfer. Prior to his Barcelona move,

Juventus and Parma jockeyed for his signature, so the opportunity to play in Italy

was simple to undertake. Although his four seasons, 105 appearances and 9 goals

won’t be nearly as remembered as those marvelous years in Spain, four Scudetti,

one Italian Cup, and two Italian Super Cups deserve recognition.

1. Rui Costa, Fiorentina (1994-01) AC Milan (2001-06):

The undisputed number one import hailing from Amadora, Rui Manuel César Costa’s

Italian renaissance stands above the rest. Born and bred through the highly-

regarded Benfica academy, Costa was lured to the Renaissance City for an estimated

6 million euros, a sum his boyhood club quite literally couldn’t refuse due to their

own financial hardships. Widely considered one of the best midfielders of his time,

Rui’s technical superiority and importance in the classic 10 role over 215

appearances for Fiorentina could not be quantified. Over seven sparkling seasons in

Tuscany, Costa bagged 38 goals, helping La Viola win two Coppa Italia trophies (95-

96, 00-01) and an Italian Super Cup in 96. Bankruptcy in 2001-02 forced Fiorentina

to sell the prized Portuguese prince, with AC Milan coughing up a club record fee

that remains well intact 15 years later. While wearing red and black over five stellar

campaigns, he won five honours; Serie A (03-04), Coppa Italia (02-03), Supercoppa

Italiana (04), UEFA Super Cup (03) and UEFA Champions League (02-03) over

Juventus in penalty shoot-out. An AC Milan Hall-of- Famer and Fiorentina All-Time XI

representative, “The Maestro’s” Italian legacy will forever stand the test of time.

Honourable Mentions: Rui Barros, Juventus (1988-90), Bruno Fernandes, Novara

(2012-13) Udinese (2013-16) Sampdoria (2016-present)

Photo Credit: Getty Images-Gerry Penny

By: Matthew Santangelo