Name: William Carvalho
Weight: 196 Lbs
Club: None; terminated contract with Sporting Lisbon (Portugal) in June
World Cup Appearances: Two
Summary: International superstar Cristiano Ronaldo garners most of the attention for the defending European champions. But if Portugal is going to make a deep run in the World Cup, Carvalho will be part of a supporting cast that once again needs to rise up against the elite-level competition.
The defensive forward is one of Portugal’s most reliable role players. He’s made 43 appearances with the national team — and started on Portugal’s 2016 Euro Cup championship squad. But a major controversy surrounding Carvalho’s former club team is casting a dark shadow over Portugal.
Carvalho, along with Portuguese teammates Gelson Martins and Bruno Fernandes are among six players who’ve terminated their contracts with Sporting Lisbon. A group of approximately 50 hooded fans broke into the club’s training facility and attacked players and coaches last month. Carvalho was said to be among the players hurt in the attack. The fans were reportedly angry because the club failed to qualify for the Champions League. 21 people were taken into police custody. The team’s president slammed the players on social media for their performance prior to the incident. The departing players cited “just cause” for ending their contracts.
Portugal has opted not to talk about the Sporting Lisbon scandal. But the ongoing situation has caused an unfortunate distraction for Carvalho. A chaotic end to the club season and no contract for next year is not an ideal lead-into Carvalho’s second World Cup. But he will quickly have to shift focus back onto the pitch. Carvalho anchors the Portuguese mid-field with veteran João Moutinho.
Carvalho comes from a family of pro soccer players. His uncle and grandfather played for the Angolan club, Progresso de Sambizanga. Carvalho, who was born in Angola but moved to Portugal as a young child, rejected an opportunity to play for his native country while a member of Portugal’s Under-20 team.
Since the decision, Carvalho has grown into an important piece of Portugal’s national program. His strong defense will be crucial in helping establish Portugal’s counter attacking strategy in this year’s tournament.