Sporting CP, despite its grand stature in Portugal, isn’t a club that is talked about enough on a grand scale in the same way as Barcelona, Manchester United and others who have produced some of the world’s best players over the years.
But the famed Lisbon club have an academy to rival anyone else on the planet. And that was proven by the fact that 10 of the 14 players who featured in Sunday’s Euro 2016 final came off the conveyor belt at Academia Sporting.
Goalkeeper Rui Patricio, national team number one since 2011, is still at Sporting even now after initially joining as a 12-year-old back in 2000. He has played for his country at every level from Under-16 through to the seniors and has turned out for the club’s first-team nearly 400 times.
Southampton pair Cédric Soares and José Fonte were also schooled in Lisbon.
Fonte, who moved to England and Crystal Palace from Benfica in 2008, was there from 1994 to 2002 and spent a further two years with Sporting B, while German-born Cedric joined at the age of eight. He remained at Sporting until last year.
Midfield enforcer William Carvalho has been a Sporting player since 2005. He joined at the age of 13 and now, as vice-captain, is one of the club’s most prominent and valuable assets at 24.
Carvalho serves as deputy to club captain Adrien Silva, on the books since 2002. A relatively late bloomer, he finally became a regular in 2013 and only made his senior international debut two years ago.
Rising midfielder João Mário is another still at the Estádio José Alvalade. He actually began his career in the academy at Porto before switching to Sporting two years later in 2004 when he was still only 11.
Cristiano Ronaldo and Nani are by far the two most famous Academia graduates in recent times. Spotted playing youth football in Madeira and Cape Verde respectively, both talents were brought to the mainland at a young age, Ronaldo at 12 in 1997 and Nani at 15 in 2003.
Both were eventually sold on to Manchester United and Ronaldo has since become one of the greatest players of all-time with three Ballon d’Or awards and well over 500 career goals to his name.
Off the bench in the final was Ricardo Quaresma, a contemporary of Ronaldo in those early days at Sporting. He joined at same time and was actually hailed as a bigger talent to begin with, joining Barcelona in 2003 shortly before his friend left for England.
João Moutinho, also a substitute in the final, came through at Sporting in 2005 after spending five years with the club’s academy and B teams from the age of 13. The midfielder left for rivals Porto in 2010 and later joined Monaco for €25m in 2013.
The only four players that appeared in Sunday’s final with no attachment to Sporting were Pepe, born and raised in Brazil, Raphael Guerreiro, born and raised in France, Benfica product Renato Sanches and scorer of the only goal, Éder.
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