More artisan than artist, Pedro Mendes is an unsung hero of the Portugal squad. He specialises in hard graft, often sacrificing himself so that others around him can express themselves. But Mendes is also a shrewd reader of the game, an experienced campaigner who is a vital cog in the Portuguese midfield machine.
Success has followed Mendes throughout his career. At the tender age of 20, he was already a regular for Vitoria de Guimaraes, the club he supported as a boy, making a name for himself as a disciplined and unselfish presence in the middle of the park.
After four outstanding seasons with his hometown club, he made a dream move to FC Porto in 2003/04. Jose Mourinho’s men were coming off a stellar campaign, in which they had notched up another Portuguese league title as well as winning the UEFA Cup and Mendes helped the men from the Estadio das Antas to even greater heights, in the shape of the UEFA Champions League. The midfielder started the final against Monaco, putting in yet another efficient and measured performance as Porto sealed a comprehensive 3-0 victory.
By then, the hardworking Mendes was already a Portugal international, but an embarrassment of midfield riches on the part of coach Luiz Felipe Scolari meant that the player missed out on UEFA EURO 2004. Instead, with his UEFA Champions League medal in the bag, he moved to England, where he enjoyed spells with Tottenham Hotspur and Portsmouth, before signing for Scottish club Glasgow Rangers.
Five years after his last call-up, the experienced Mendes was a surprise choice for Portugal’s qualifying campaign for South Africa 2010, but he was quick to seize his opportunity. Now safely ensconced back in Portuguese football with Sporting, it seems as if the time has come for the midfielder to fulfil a long-standing ambition, and represent his country at a major international tournament.