Portugal have a potential new golden generation on their hands ... but who should we look out for?

Team 33 spoke to World Soccer's Portugal correspondent about the Iberian nation's old and new crop of stars

Portugal have a potential new golden generation on their hands ... but who should we look out for?

Portugal's William Carvalho (left) and Bernardo Silva (second left) celebrate thrashing Germany 5-0 (Image by: John Walton / EMPICS Sport)

As we discussed on this week's Team 33, 'golden generation' is very much a contested term. 

Is it a case that a golden generation is purely based on potential talent even if senior success does not ultimately follow?

Or are golden generations simply the waves of teams that enjoy success within a particular age group after the fact like France 1998 to 2000 or Italy 2006?

The Luis Figo, Rui Costa, Vitor Baia and Paulo Sousa Portugal crop of the early '90s to mid-noughties was one which was regarded as a "golden generation" having won two World Cups at U20 level in 1989 and 1991.

But the closest they came to senior success is when they lost to Greece in the Euro 2004 on home soil.

On this week's show, World Soccer magazine Portugal expert and Portugoal.net founder Tom Kundert joined us to talk about the legacy of that team, how they are viewed today and how they blended with the subsequent Cristiano Ronaldo-led silver generation.

Listen to our chat with Tom via the podcast player or download the episode for free on iTunes:

But Tom also gave us an insight into a new generation that people in Portugal are getting excited about after their country shone at this summer's European U21 Championships, only losing the final to Sweden on penalties.

So here are the three top players Tom identified as standout prospects on the show.

William Carvalho

The Sporting Lisbon midfielder might be the man who missed the crucial penalty against Sweden in the U21 final but as Tom confirmed, "William Carvalho is probably the standout in terms of where he is in terms of his progression."

Named best player at the U21 Euros, the 23-year-old Angola born defensive midfielder was part of Portugal's senior squad at last year's World Cup - and someone who had come to our attention before the tournament as one of the best young players to look out for, with Tom's Portugoal colleague Vasco Mota Perreira likening him to Sergio Busquets.

Linked with moves to the Premier League - Arsenal in particular - the 6-foot-1 player has been a regular for Sporting in recent seasons, although injury has restricted his involvement this campaign.

Having played at every level for Portugal since the U17s, he already has 15 caps for the senior team and is a cert for the Euro 2016 squad if fit.

Bernardo Silva

"Another player who I think you'll be hearing a lot of in the next few years is Bernardo Silva".

As Tom added, the 21-year-old attacking midfielder who joined Monaco in 2014, was seen by some as Portugal's real best player at the U21 Euros, where he scored against Germany in a 5-0 semi-final mauling:

 

"He's a very different player to William Carvalho. William Carvalho is amazingly strong as a holding midfielder, just sitting in front of the back four, almost like a human wall with great distribution as well. Bernardo Silva is much more of the archetypal Portuguese player - very skillful, quite slight, very clever on the ball, good dribbler, very good distribution and very creative. He really seems to be a fantastic player in the making."      

Silva has five Portugal caps to his name.

Ruben Neves

Another midfielder, the Porto youth graduate is only 18 but was part of the U21 squad in the summer and "looks an incredible prospect" according to Tom.

Already getting ample game-time at Porto, particularly last season when he was entrusted with 37 appearances in all competitions, Neves has already been fast-tracked into the Portugal senior team, although as Tom says, he's got a challenge on his hands for the foreseeable future.

"Unfortunately for Portugal, maybe, he plays in exactly the same position as William Carvalho. Portugal are really spoilt for choice in that holding midfield position."  

You can check out more from Tom and his colleagues on Portugoal.net.