A mini-armada of Australian talent has descended on Portugal to join the likes of Young Socceroos Ryan Teague and Tristan Hammond and Olyroos flier Samuel Silvera in one of the world’s greatest football nurseries.
At the last count there were at least 10 young Aussies chasing their dreams across four divisions in a nation which produced UEFA Youth League winner FC Porto last year, with Benfica finishing runners up to Real Madrid in this season’s final.
Benfica have been lauded for possessing the world’s top youth academy whilst Portugal’s national team are ranked sixth by FIFA in affirmation of a nation with much more going for it than just spawning Cristiano Ronaldo and Jose Mourinho.
Former Sydney FC rookie midfielder Teague, who is on the books of Primeira Liga Famalicao, has commanded most attention thus far of the Aussie foreign legion.
Not far behind is Sporting Lisbon’s U-19 winger Tristan Hammond, who played for Australia at the FIFA U-17 World Cup.
Central Coast product Silvera, currently on loan at second-tier Casa Pia from top division Pacos de Ferreira, is also making strides.
Beyond that, there’s a contingent of compatriots scattered across teams and divisions up and down the country.
Building their profiles at Cova de Piedade, in the second tier LigaPro, are former Sydney Olympic and Hakoah FC midfielder Brooklyn Barataud, ex-North Shore Mariners centre-back Jack Mitsoulas along with another former NSW NPL player, Samuel Harb.
The latter, who cut his teeth with Rydalmere FC, has already represented Lebanon at U-20 level.
All three will are competing in the U-23 ranks but are aiming high.
At Primeira Liga Belenenses OS, former Western Sydney Wanderers U-18 defender and Australian School Boys representative Evan Ball will face the night of Benfica, Porto and Sporting Braga in the U-19 championship.
Further down the ladder at fourth tier Oeiras FC, defensive midfielder Dimitri Kostopoulos - formerly part of the Wanderers Academy - and ex-Blacktown City youth midfielder Adrian Cabral are out to impress.
Meanwhile, fourth division leaders UFCI Setubal have recruited another ex-Wanderers product in right-back Bailey Rule.
Yet another, defender Jeremy Siarakas, is slated to sign for third tier Real Massana, based near Lisbon, in the next transfer window after a successful trial.
Barataud, 20, believes he and his compatriots couldn’t be in a better to place to shave the rough edges off their games and progress.
“Portugal’s national team are doing well and there are excellent players in academies across the country,” he explained.
“Players are so well educated in everything they do here and having other Australian players around makes it a lot easier to adapt.”
Teammate Mitsoulas, 19, sees a clear pathway to the senior team.
“It’s definitely there - we’re in the U-23s at the moment and if we perform we’ll hopefully get a run in the first grade.
“From there you might get seen by a bigger club in Portugal.
“Coming from Australia, it’s quicker here and you have to be one step ahead of everyone, whereas back home you have more time on the ball.
“I don’t think enough young players get a go in Australia - it seems to be more about team performance and not risking bringing in young players.
“I think it’s changing a bit but it’s great the experience you can pick up overseas, especially here in Portugal where the football is amazing.”
Former Wanderer Ball, who is part of the Belenenses U-19 setup, is also a firm believer in Portugal being the perfect finishing school.
“Football is so much stronger here - it’s a different type of play, quicker and more technical,” he said.
“The goal is to be playing first team eventually - I think if I work hard that’s going to be achievable.”