Portugal has started to emerge as a source of cheap MLS talent in the past few years. Following the successful additions of Pedro Santos, and Gerso last seasons, teams are starting to scour the league for potential bargains. Currently LAFC are linked heavily with the highly rated attackers Andre Horta and Geraldes to fill their last designated player slot, and it seems like a smart strategy. Minus the Benfica, Porto, and Sporting stars on display in European competition, the league produces a plethora of top-tier players at mid-tier prices. In contrast, Spain has traditionally been a higher-priced market. While Victor Rodriquez was a smart signing for Seattle on a free, both Dos Santos’ have been relatively underwhelming for the price that the Galaxy paid. And while there’s hope that Carlos Vela will be a better return on investment, we think we’ve found a few more players in the region that could make an immediate impact.
*Diego Reyes (CB, CDM) Estimated Market Value (Free-$5 million)
Diego Reyes is a player that every MLS team should have an eye on. A long-time Mexican international, Reyes is comfortable both in the midfield and at the back. As his contract runs out in the summer, the Porto man could enter MLS as both one of its best center backs. Although he would demand a high salary, Reyes’ contract runs out in the summer, and in a city with Mexican demographics, he’d certainly be worth the price for what he’d immediately bring in both status and ability.
*Paulinho (CAM, CM, LW) Estimated Market Value ($4-$8 million)
Paulinho has been one of the more underrated players in the league this season at Portimonese. A technically gifted, left footed-playmaker with a powerful shot, his form has seen him linked to top clubs in the league in the past few weeks. With a five year contract in place, Paulinho certainly wouldn’t be cheap, but at age 22, he certainly has sell-on value, and there’s no doubt in my mind he’d bring more to the field than similar links in his price range
*Sergio Canales (CAM) Estimated Market Value (Free-$5 million)
A few years prior, Canales was seen as one of the hottest young prospects in Spain. Although three major ligament injuries, and possibly unrealistic expectations have prevented him from reaching those heights, at age 26, he still remains a very good player when healthy for Real Sociedad. He would definitely be a risk with his injury record, but if an MLS team could convince him to leave on decent wages and a free transfer this summer, Canales’ supreme dribbling skills and passing ability could make him an instant hit at any MLS club.
*Alexander Szymanowksi (LW) Estimated Market Value (Free-$7 million)
Since his 2015 arrival from Brondby, the 28-year old has been a standout player for CD Leganes. A pacy left-winger with tons of ability, Szymanowksi’s contract with Leganes runs out in the summer, and it wouldn’t surprise me if he looked for a move abroad in June. Although Szymanowksi is an Argentine, he remains eligible to play for Poland. With this heritage and his tested ability on the left. Szymanowksi could be a great signing for Chicago as David Accam’s potential replacement (please not Arda Turan).
*Marcelo (CB) Estimated Market Value ($3-5 million)
After a fantastic season with Real Madrid…oh wait. No, the world’s best left-back will not be joining the MLS in the near future. However, there’s another Brazilian defender named Marcelo who could make an impact in the US. Marcelo dos Santos Ferreira is a 28-year-old center-back belonging to Portuguese side Rio Ave. He’s currently competing for a European spot in the Liga NOS in the midst of his sixth season at the club. As one of the best players at an overachieving Rio Ave, Marcelo has been linked with a move to the bigger Portuguese sides in recent years.
There’s very little about Marcelo’s game that can be described as a weakness, except perhaps his tendency to accumulate many yellow cards (6 in 15 appearances). The former Rio Preto EC youth product is a classic ball-playing defender, showing his maturity when passing the ball calmly under pressure. Standing at 1.85m (6’0”), Marcelo is not an imposing figure at the back and should probably be paired with a more physical and taller partner. His defending is great, though, and he often cuts out dangerous attacks with his smart tackling. Marcelo wouldn’t be a flashy signing for an MLS club, but he would be a measured and smart one. The Brazilian may take some convincing to move to the United States – as well as a hefty transfer fee for someone his age – but I am convinced that he’d make a brilliant defender in a side that needs some help building up play from the back. A team with a history of Portuguese-speaking players like the New England Revolution, LA Galaxy, or Orlando City could definitely benefit from the presence of the Brazilian defender.
*Iker Casillas (GK) Estimated market value (Free)
Lol. Not. Save your money and sign someone else on this list.
*Bryan Ruiz (CAM, RW, F) Estimated Market Value (Free-$2 million)
There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that most MLS teams have the name Bryan Ruiz on a board somewhere. A long-time star for Costa Rica, Ruiz has been equally visible in his travels throughout Europe. At 31, Ruiz isn’t as athletic as he used to be, but his ability to find pockets of space surely remains as strong as ever. Although I wouldn’t pay a transfer fee for Ruiz, he’d be a great look for any team when his contract expires in the summer. On his day, he could easily be one of the most influential attacking players in the league.
*Pablo Sisniega (GK) Estimated Market Value ($250k-$500k)
Pablo Sisniega could be a cheeky look for a team with an ambitious scouting department. Currently a highly-rated player for Real Sociedad B, the Mexican goalkeeper doesn’t look like he’ll be surpassing Geronimo Ruilli any time soon. Although I can’t imagine why anyone would ever leave San Sebastian, a move closer to home and the lure of a starting spot could be enough to potentially tempt Sisniega. It’s at least worth a shot.
Written/Scouted- Ryan Huettel
Additional Contributions- Alex Dieker