Since the Bosman Ruling revolutionised the European transfer market, more and more clubs are sending scouts far and wide to snap up talented young teenagers all over the continent. Among these are a considerable number of Portuguese players who have been ‘kidnapped’ long before their fledgling careers had a chance of leading them into the domestic limelight. One example of this ‘transplantation’ is that of Ricardo Vaz Te who was plucked from anonymity at Third Division Farense to forge a successful career at Bolton. He is not alone in England.

Edson is on Spurs books, Ricardo Batista at Fulham and Nuno Morais at Chelsea who also have 20-year-old, Filipe Oliveira, currently on loan at Preston, since 2001. Newcastle are currently giving a trial to Cicero and in the lower divisions, Dani Rodrigues is active for Bournemouth and Mario Pessoa is about to join Stoke City. Elsewhere in Europe, Yago Fernandez and João are with Real Madrid, the brothers Marco and Flávio Paixão with Lazio in Rome, Manu plays for Modena in Italy and João Flores for the Dutch club Zwolle. PSV Eindhoven are observing Andre in Portugal, Norwegian side Lyn have Nuno Marques in their first team and even Scotland are represented with Falkirk’s, Pedro Moutinho. Agostino Oliveira, who has worked for the Portuguese FA for 15 years and is currently in charge of the national schoolboy side, sees the trend as positive. “The boys benefit from better training methods and facilities abroad, enhancing their experience and status among their contemporaries”, he says.

Less pleasing are incidents such as the current dispute between Sporting and Chelsea which has resulted in a complaint to FIFA. Adrien Silva, Fabio Ferreira and Ricardo Fernandes, all 15-years-old and national champions with Sporting’s Academy side, had trials at Stamford Bridge without authorisation and only returned last week. The Lisbon club hope to sign professional contracts with the boys who now refuse. A judgement by the sport’s world governing body should resolve the dispute.