Before moving to England, Meireles had played all his club football in his homeland, starting his career at Boavista where he was loaned to second division Aves for a couple of seasons. After impressing with Boavista's first team in his debut campaign in 2003/04 he was snapped up by European champions Porto, where he needed a couple of years before becoming a regular as a central midfielder. During his six seasons with Porto, Meireles was part of a squad who won the Portuguese title four times and the cup on three occasions. As his reputation grew, international recognition followed with his full debut coming in 2006. He was a member of his country’s squad for the 2008 European Championships in Austria/Switzerland and also the World Cup in South Africa two years later, where he played from the start in all four of Portugal’s matches, scoring the opening goal of their 7-0 thrashing of North Korea in Cape Town. At the time of his move to Liverpool, he had appeared 38 times in senior internationals and scored six times. Since then he has featured in the national team more than any other player, considered indispensable by coach Paulo Bento.
Meireles' only season at Liverpool was a success. He only missed five Premier League matches and also played in eight cup-ties. He struggled initially as he was stuck on the right flank as Roy Hodgson obviously didn't realise what his main strengths were. Once he was moved to the centre he started to come into his own. Never a really consistent scorer from midfield at his previous club Porto, with 15 goals from 137 league matches, he nevertheless showed he was more than capable of hitting the target by netting five times in six matches from 16 January - 12 February 2011. This hot streak included a sweet strike to give Reds the lead in the Anfield derby against Everton and a sensational volley at Wolverhampton the following weekend which was Liverpool's Goal of the Season. Meireles also netted the second-half winner at Stamford Bridge as the team's revival under Kenny Dalglish gathered pace. During the season the industrious midfielder scored one goal every 509 minutes and had five assists to his name from 66 chances created. Meireles covered more ground than anyone else and never hid. His name was not splashed across the papers, but it suited him perfectly to get on with his work quietly as he claimed: “As a player I am a team worker, not a star or an individual player."
The 28-year-old midfielder moved to Chelsea in the summer of 2011. He played in nearly four dozen first-team matches for the London outfit in 2011/12. He came on as a substitute fifteen minutes from the end of the FA Cup final against Liverpool to earn his first winners' medal in English football, but was suspended for the Champions League final against Bayern Munich because of a caution he had received against Barcelona in the semi-final. After just one season with Chelsea Meireles joined Fenerbache in Turkey. He caused an uproar in Turkish football in December 2012 when he was sent off in a game against Galatasaray. He responded to his red card by allegedly spitting at the referee and making a homophobic gesture towards him. The until-then quiet Portuguese international denied the charges emphatically: "I'm really annoyed at being accused of spitting at the referee. I have an eight year old kid, can you imagine if kids at school start saying your father spat at a ref, this could ruin my reputation in the eyes of my child. I have many gay friends who I deeply respect. The hand gesture I made is directed at the referee caving in to the pressure of the home fans. That hand gesture was to tell him he was scared. Look at my hairstyle, what I wear, I'm not a prejudiced person." The Turkish FA still suspended him for 11 games, later reduced to four on appeal as it had been "physically impossible" for Meireles to have spat at the referee as he was speaking throughout when berating the match official.
Meireles played in twenty-two Turkish Süper Lig matches in 2012/13 and also appeared in the Europa League eight times as Fenerbahçe progressed through to the semi-final stage of the competition, being beaten there by Benfica.
Fenerbahçe became Turkish champions in 2013/14 and Meireles played in 20 of the 34 league matches to qualify for a winners' medal. He also played in four Champions League qualifying matches against Red Bull Salzburg (2) and Arsenal (2). Around the time of playing the London club, Fenerbahçe were banned by UEFA for two seasons after facing match-fixing allegations. Although they appealed the ban, the decision was upheld by Europe'a governing body. So there will be no Champions League football for Meireles in 2014/15 but he was confirmed as a member of Portugal's squad for the World Cup finals in Brazil in the summer of 2014. As of the end of 2014/15 he had scored seven goals in a total of 84 appearances for Fenerbahce. 2015-16 was a frustrating season for Meireles and he appeared only 11 times for Fenerbahce due knee problems. At the end of the season his contract was not extended and he retired from the game.