Portugal’s forgotten man André Silva on turning down Saudi, Seleção being Euro underdogs and Cristiano Ronaldo’s legacy

André Silva has been speaking to Spanish media about life with Real Sociedad, where the Portugal forward finds himself happy with his surroundings but struggling for minutes in La Liga.

Silva also touched on his international prospects, as well as the Selecao’s chances at this summer’s European Championships. The subject of Cristiano Ronaldo was also raised, with Silva praising the Portugal captain’s influence and suggesting he does not see Ronaldo ending his career anytime soon.

Since making his breakthrough goalscoring campaign with Porto in 2016-17, Silva has switched between multiple clubs abroad in recent years. Brief dalliances with AC Milan in Italy and Sevilla in Spain were followed by a fantastic spell in Germany at Eintracht Frankfurt. A move to RB Leipzig followed, difficulties in recapture his best form resulted in a loan back to Spanish football with Real Sociedad last summer.

The 28-year-old’s hopes of resurrecting his career in San Sebastian have been hugely hampered by injuries. A hamstring problem suffered upon arrival cost Silva most of pre-season and the start of the new campaign, while a calf injury in November put him out of action for a month. Now fully fit, Silva is struggling for minutes at the Anoeta – averaging 14 minutes across six appearances in the last month - but remains positive about his situation.

“I have been feeling very well for quite some time,” he told Madrid publication AS. “I have never felt so good and so strong. Injuries have not been something that have followed me, but at the beginning of this season I suffered one and then a small relapse. However, since then I have felt better every day.

“It is different to start a season with an injury and without being able to do the preseason with the team you newly join. What complicated my performance the most was the lack of continuity and opportunities,” said Silva, who has 3 goals from 23 appearances in all competitions.

“The coach praises me? Well one of the reasons I came is the coach wanted me. Lately, he's also given me very positive feedback that I looked great, that I was fit, that my work was being recognised, but I haven't had as many opportunities after that. I have always spoken very well with the coach, with the utmost respect and trying to show him every day that he can trust me.

"Not even close to my best season"

“My adaptation has been easy. On the pitch it has not been even close to my best season, but it has been a year of a lot of learning and good people. We have five games left and I still have hope that things will change a lot in these games. I feel very strong and capable of changing things.

“Would I like to stay? I have felt very good and I would like to, but what I like most is playing and being important for the team. I am still convinced that it will be like this. I know it's possible. The most important thing for a player is to feel valued and reciprocated with what he tries to offer.

“Basically, I want to feel like an integral part of the project. I want to be where they want me, where they believe in me and give me the feeling of confidence to be able to make it happen. That is, doing what I like to do, which is being useful to the team, fighting and suffering for the team, making assists and scoring goals, which are two of my attributes, as I have demonstrated throughout my career.

“Right now, we are trying to achieve our goals. We want to qualify for Europe the fifth consecutive year. That's why my representative hasn't come to talk about my future. I have felt very good in the city, with my teammates, with the team, with the fans, with the culture..., but the most important thing is to play. I am on loan at Real and they have an option for me to stay. If they don’t exercise it, I will return to Leipzig.”

One option taken by many players over the last 18 months is the Saudi Arabian Pro League, where Cristiano Ronaldo stars for Al Nassr and Rúben Neves is on the brink of the championship with Al-Hilal. Silva admits he was given the opportunity to make the move to the Middle East, but chose to remain in Europe.

“My agent told me about that possibility last year, but I didn't want to hear anything because I wanted to be in Europe, closer to the national team,” Silva insisted. “In the future you never know. Of the major European leagues, I only miss England. I returned to Spain because it has always attracted me a lot and the year I spent in Seville I did very well in the first half of the season.

“This is a very strong league with a lot of quality, where you learn a lot. I have already been through many leagues and I want to enjoy this moment, feel that people are counting on me and that I can offer something to Real. What I would like is to have a little stability. So far I have had a career with many adaptations and changes.”

Silva made a strong start to his international career upon receiving his first cap in 2016, but has yet to feature under Roberto Martinez. Asked if he felt there was a chance of him representing Portugal at the European Championships, the Porto native was modest in his answer, as well as in assessing his nation’s chances.

“I feel stronger and more capable than ever. I could contribute things to the national team, but it is a huge group of very talented players. My focus is on showing that I can be there, although the most important thing first is to have opportunities domestically.

“Portugal one of the favourites? Portugal is not in the top 3 in the world, but I think people look at us in a different way than how they saw us 20 years ago. We are a school of great talents and we have also won titles, but I think the favourites are France, Germany, Spain, England. Rivals look at us with a lot of respect, because we have Portuguese players throughout Europe, in the best clubs in the world.”

“We are who we are because of Cristiano”

Finally, it was inevitable that a Madrid publication would probe Silva about Cristiano Ronaldo. AS asked the forward what the Portuguese national team looks like when Ronaldo finally decides to hang up his boots.

“I'm not sure Cristiano is going to leave (laughs)! A player like Cristiano will always leave something for history and the strength and what he has created will always be noted. We are what we are because of what Cristiano has done.

“My growth has been influenced by him. We are inspired by him. The future will be different because of the strength he has, but I hope it will be good too.”

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