From the home of Mourinho, Ronaldo and Xavier
FFT.com's Portugal correspondent Sérgio Santos on the most hectic transfer market in Europe...
People say that with a new year there’s a new beginning and 2010 is already witnessing a lot of activity in the Portuguese League.
The January transfer window may have only opened on the 1st, but at the moment Liga Sagres leads Europe in money invested with an aggregate amount of €17.5m.
Naturally there will be a couple of big money transfers in England and Spain, but nevertheless it is quite an accomplishment.
Whether that means Portuguese clubs are quick to spot a good deal or that bad management is rife in the country is something we’ll have to wait and see.
Perhaps equally surprising is the fact that the Portuguese team leading that investment is Sporting CP with €9.7m.
How ironic it is that the club that used to whine about their “smaller budget” and question the source of the millions spent by the other two 'big' clubs is now mimicking that duo.
Even when Sporting club president Bettencourt hinted in December that there would be money available for transfers, few would expect the club to pursue such an aggressive player in the market.
Mozambican defender Mexer was the first signing, costing around €160,000; the Lions would later raid leaders Braga to bring, as previously mentioned, João Pereira.
The right-back established himself as one of the best full-backs in Liga Sagres and is now given an opportunity to shine at one of the three historical clubs.
Sporting paid €3M for his services, but given that the wings are an area manager Carlos Carvalhal is keen to strengthen, the transfer may come off as cheap.
The big-money move of this window is without a doubt former Liverpool and Atlético Madrid hitman Florent Sinama-Pongolle.
The French player failed to make an impact at Madrid (with Forlán and Aguero, it would always be difficult for any player), but at 25 he’s still young and can share the goalscoring burden with star striker Liédson.
Like the Javier Saviola transfer though, the hefty €6.5m spent is more of a gamble than an investment with a guaranteed return.
Having already played in the more competitive English and Spanish leagues, will Sinama-Pongolle have the motivation to be a hit at Sporting?
These three transfers may not signal the end of the club’s spending spree, as Carvalhal warned that the club would continue to monitor the transfer market.
Braga centre-back Alberto Rodríguez, Nacional midfielder Rúben Micael and Valencia left-back Asier Del Horno are rumoured to be next targets for this new Sporting.
It's quite a shift in policy for the usually quiet club and one thing is certain: this newfound ambition quashes the argument that Sporting cannot financially compete with the other main title contenders.
Which means they have run out of excuses: win or lose, Bettencourt and Carvalhal are the engineers of the outcome.
As mentioned in a previous post, Benfica built on their summer spending spree by bringing in three players – all from Brazil and, therefore, eligible for the Europa League – for a total of €7.3m.
Flamengo's 19-year-old Airton (pictured) was signed in an attempt to increase competition for the holding midfielder role.
Under-20 international Alan Kardec, a striker in the similar mould of Cardozo (big, strong and mostly a poacher), was signed as a replacement for Keirrison, who is expected to move to Spanish side Zaragoza.
‘K11’ was one of the biggest letdowns of the season and with no chance of dislodging Cardozo and Saviola from the starting XI, his departure benefits all the parties involved.
Éder Luis, the last one to arrive, moved from Atlético Mineiro and is an attacking midfielder-***-forward with an apparent goalscoring prowess.
Regardless of the trio’s ability, one has to question the club strategy here.
In the forward department, Benfica already possess Cardozo, Saviola, Wéldon and Nuno Gomes.
With Kardec and Luis, that makes six players without even considering crippled Pedro Mantorras, soon-to-depart Keirrison and the fact that Di Maria or even Aimar can play as forwards, albeit in a deeper role.
It’s an awful lot of strikers for a team that usually plays with just two. Either some tensions will arise or another striker is due to leave.
As for the much-debated left-back position, well... the club don’t see it as a priority!
Unlike the Lisbon duo, Braga and Porto have been quiet, opting to focus on their current squad.
The Arsenalistas moved quickly to replace João Pereira by signing Olhanense right-back Miguel Garcia for just €50,000.
Garcia has a lot of experience, having already played at Sporting earlier in his career, and is a clever, ready-made piece of business.
It will also be interesting to see whether Braga are able to strengthen their squad in order to boost their chances of claiming the title.
Porto must be quite happy with their players, as there’s barely any transfer talk involving the club.
Manager Jesualdo Ferreira will nevertheless be pleased to have another striker at his disposal, as Orlando Sá returns after a seven-month injury lay-off.
If the Dragons are to go into the market, expect them to buy just one player, probably an attacking midfielder – but they're traditionally not big fans of the January transfer window.
It's still very early, but the first signs already predict an exciting second-half of the season.
Stay tuned and have a great 2010... with The Portugeezer!
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What I don't understand is the logic in paying 3 million for a decent defender in Pereira, while you're watching your rivals pay 2.3 million euros for a future superstar in Kardec, especially considering that a good defender never costs as much as a good striker. And the Pongolle money is a bit absurd, he's not a regular goal-scorer. For the same price, they could've bought two good up-coming strikers, not a player who is quickly becoming a 'never-was.'
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