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Portugal's Twin Triumphs: Football and Pastel de Nata Conquer Europe

Maria Nata Team

Portugal might be a relatively small European nation, but it punches far above its weight when it comes to football. It is arguably one of the favourites in the current European Championship in Germany. But the true excitement of tournaments lies in the potential for underdogs to upset the giants. Portugal's rise to football prominence was gradual. Its status as a powerhouse solidified as more of its players gained international recognition and secured spots in elite clubs worldwide, elevating the nation's reputation on the global stage.

Cristiano Ronaldo is undisputedly the most successful Portuguese player, having won multiple Ballon d'Or awards and setting numerous records in his career at Manchester United, Real Madrid, Juventus and, more recently, Al-Nassr. Luís Figo was a key player for Barcelona and Real Madrid, winning the Ballon d'Or in 2000. More recently, Vitinha at Paris Saint-Germain, Rafael Leão at AC Milan, Bruno Fernandes at Manchester United, Rúben Dias or Bernardo Silva at Manchester City have been standout performers.

The sustained development of young talents has come to fruition when the national team finally reached a momentous achievement by winning the Euro 2016, followed by the inaugural UEFA Nations League title in 2019. And Portugal's ascent as a football player exporter brings significant revenue to the clubs that develop them. In the 2021/22 season alone, professional football contributed a significant €617 million to Portugal's GDP, according to the consulting firm EY. This doesn’t take into consideration other benefits in terms of tourism and cultural impact.

Now let’s forget Cristiano Ronaldo's stepovers for a moment and focus on another of the country’s strikers. Just like football represents the Portuguese calibre in sport at large, so does Pastel de Nata, the quintessential Portuguese pastry, epitomise the pinnacle of the nation's contribution to the world's gastronomy. Off the pitch, Portugal captivates taste buds with this iconic pastry.

The Pastel de Nata itself isn't exported from Portugal, but the recipe and expertise travel internationally, allowing for local production. While bakers have been perfecting this treat for generations, a new wave of entrepreneurs is taking it global. They're investing in state-of-the-art factories and opening premium shops, bringing the taste of Portugal to discerning palates worldwide. And, like football, players, all the main European capitals have now at least one quality chain of cafes or bakeries selling Pastel de Nata. Santa Nata and Cafe de Nata are in the UK Premier League of Pastel de Nata baking, Manteigaria stands out in Paris, Nata d'Ouro, De Nata and Nata Artesanos are striving in Spain, Nata Lisboa has been expanding in Spain, Austria, Turkey, Poland and Angola. And, similar to football's recent expansion in Saudi Arabia, some businesses have also been venturing into the Middle East, like Lisboa, Nata & Cafe in Jeddah and Nattas in Dubai.

Both footballers and the Pastel de Nata serve as key ambassadors for Portugal, igniting global interest in Portuguese culture and heritage. They symbolise a country that extends its influence beyond its geographical borders to enhance its cultural impact worldwide. And watching Portuguese football mastery or savouring a Pastel de Nata can both ignite a range of emotions, from excitement and passion to pure sensory delight.

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