From the home of Mourinho, Ronaldo and Xavier
Team Name: FC PortoNickname: The Dragons
As promised, here I start a series of posts providing a more in-depth analysis of the title contenders in Portugal, the so-called ‘Big Three’.
Can an outsider challenge the elite trio? The simple answer is no. The gulf is so big it would be like crossing a titanic chasm.
But anyway, let’s begin with FC Porto.
FC Porto may have drawn at Paços de Ferreira at the weekend, but they won’t be short on confidence.
Porto were crowned domestic champions last term for the fourth consecutive year. The team also claimed the Portuguese Cup and reached the quarter-finals of the Champions League, eventually losing to Manchester United after two closely-fought encounters.
However, the impressive performances didn’t go unnoticed, with Lucho González, Lisandro López and Aly Cissokho all leaving the club in the summer.
Like many times before, the Dragons didn’t panic-buy and among their 11 signings for the 2009/2010 season are Álvaro Pereira from CFR Cluj, Fernando Belluschi from Olympiakos and the much-coveted Colombian star Radamel Falcão from River Plate.
They also bagged several fringe players that add strength in depth to a squad that aims to do well in every competition.
The dominance enjoyed in recent years and the experience accumulated in the European competitions make Porto the favourites to clinch the Portuguese League, even if the team needs time to gel as a whole.
At the back, there is no doubt the club will be delighted to have kept hold of Bruno Alves, who has established himself as one of the most solid centre-backs in Europe.
Rolando displayed last year he can be a capable defender, and is likely to be first choice to partner Alves in the middle.
On the other hand, the wide-positions do appear shaky, and I remain unconvinced by Sapunaru and Fucile. I will reserve judgement on Álvaro Pereira until after he partakes in a handful of competitive games.
Lucho Gonzaléz was the brain in Porto’s midfield. His silky touches and ability to dictate tempo were invaluable to feed the front line and control possession.
His departure has left a big void and much will be expected from Belluschi.
While he didn’t set the world alight in Greece, Belluschi showed glimpses of his talent during pre-season and the Dragons will hope he maintains his momentum.
The remaining two men in the midfield trio will be Raúl Meireles and Fernando.
At just 22, the already-imposing Fernando can only improve, while Meireles will provide his ever-reliable service to the team.
I believe they’ll find it hard – if not impossible – to replace Lisandro López, a forward whose work-rate, technique and finishing did not often come in a single package.
Falcao appears to be a different type of striker and I suspect Lisandro’s output will be spread over the offensive trio, rather than being inherited by his direct replacement.
Probable starting XI: Hélton; Fucile, Bruno Alves, Rolando, Álvaro; Fernando, Raúl Meireles, Belluschi; Cristián Rodríguez, Hulk, Falcao
Jesualdo Ferreira arrived at FC Porto at the beginning of the 2006/2007 season and has managed to steer the club to three consecutive domestic league crowns.
After overcoming a few hiccups along the way, he now has the backing of the board and the supporters.
With the winning mentality already installed at the Estádio do Dragão, he has the tools to do the job.
One to watch: Hulk
The responsibility of scoring goals can be a huge burden for a striker. Fortunately for Porto, Hulk’s shoulders are quite large to withstand that pressure.
The powerful forward enjoyed a rapid rise to stardom after being signed from Tokyo Verdy.
Nobody expected much from this virtually unknown Brazilian with a funny nickname, but today defenders are no longer laughing.
Hulk has tremendous power and speed as well as a strong left foot, attributes that have already made Porto slap a €40 million price tag on him.
If he improves his decision-making, Hulk can be huge, literally, both in Europe and nationally for Brazil in years to come.
Only time will tell if he can make the grade, but this year expect the incredible Hulk to be tightly marked and tough tackled.
Like the superhero though, that’ll only make him angrier.
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I would like to congratulate you for such an article. It is always interesting to see the outside picture on FC Porto team.
I would like to give you all the chance to visit fcplink.com because it is a really interesting and innovative project around football. Sorry it is in Portuguese only :)
By the way, Sergio. Can i have your e-mail?
the dragons social network
Would it be out of the question for Porto to sign some of the Primera Liga 'big teams' players?...I see Negredo is still looking for a team.
Hulk as already being punished dut to his offensive and energetic profile. He will be even more in the future!
That's some nice website you have! However, I am afraid to tell you that I'm a Benfica supporter. Nevertheless, I am here to share interesting stuff about Portuguese football and I'll try to be as objective as possible!
That's a very interesting question and I could write a lot about it. There are several factors that prevent FC Porto from snatching top Primera liga players:
1) Wages - in Portugal wages are much lows
2) Loan deals - FC Porto doesn't go for loan deals without the option of making it permanent. It just doesn't suit their long-term strategy.
3) Visibility - this one is tricky. The Portuguese league may lack visibility, but Porto is year in year out in the quarterfinals of the Champions League. Wouldn't that help Negredo stake his claim in the National team?
4) Price - Negredo would cost €15M, a very big figure for Portugal. The club prefers to attract top talent from South America or even in Portugal; players with hunger and that one day may be sold for a huge profit.
Hope that helps, though I may come up at a later stage with a more thorough explanation of the Dragons' transfer policy
Thanks Sergio :)
I would like to have your e-mail or another way of contact if you may provide me. I would like to propose you something. email@example.com
I second all the comments so far on your blogs congratulating you on it. Great to see good informed writing on Portuguese footy.
As for Porto constantly picking up great South American talent, any thoughts on why Benfica and Sporting are way behind in this department?
I'm doing my bit to promote Portuguese football through my site www.portugoal.net.
Could you drop us a line (portugoal @ portugoal.net). I'd like to plug this blog and have a chat.
Much appreciated Sergio
First of all, let me congratulate you on your kick-ass website. That's some detailed info on Portuguese football and I am glad to see it.
About your question regarding Porto vs Benfica/Sporting, well...their structures are quite different. FC Porto is used to winning, they've been in the Champions league almost every year and the club is very organised. They can offer South Americans a very effective route to Europe's biggest clubs because language is similar (Portuguese/Spanish in South America), because they usually reach the quarterfinals in the Champions League and because the Portuguese League is a good warm-up for the top tier leagues.
Benfica and Sporting have to play catch-up, but are still some way behind them. Why?
Benfica carries the hopes of millions of nostalgic supports who want the club to get back to its old ways asap. That's part of the reason why every summer sees lots of changes. They lack a real identity and need to focus on long-term stability.
Sporting has relied on its academy, which has produced HUGE players. However, because they cannot offer regular CL competition, players tend to leave way before they reach their peak, being sold for smaller fees.
Because Cristiano Ronaldos don't appear year in year out, they are a bit dependent of the quality of their academy products to ensure their finances are not out of order.
Hope to have answered to your question, though feel free to contact me.
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