From the home of Mourinho, Ronaldo and Xavier
Last week Benfica beat Braga 1-0 in the all-important title battle and cemented their position as big favourites to be crowned Portuguese Champions.
The match was far from exciting but overall Benfica were the better side and will be more than happy to have opened a six-point gap to their closest rivals.
If that match was supposed to be the main dish of the previous weekend’s feast, the return of FC Porto forward Hulk was able to at least share the spotlight.
The explosive Brazilian had been handed a four-month ban for the infamous ‘tunnel-gate’ back in the December 20 match against Benfica, but the Liga Disciplinary Committee’s decision was incredibly overturned by the Federation Justice Council.
His suspension was therefore slashed to just three matches, which means that the player ended up spending 14 more matches on the sidelines than he should have.
The whole controversy stemmed from the status of the stewards in the law which wasn’t very clear: should they be regarded as match officials or not?
"It doesn't bloody taste of oranges..."
That tiny detail was the difference between getting a minimum of three months or a minimum of three matches.
Now, the Portugeezer is no expert when it comes to the finer laws of the game, but regardless of what the right decision may have been – if there’s only one, that is – one thing seems as clear as crystal: the whole process was a disgrace that should embarrass every person from the governing bodies of Portuguese football.
FC Porto knew the player would be suspended for either three matches or three months. Even if the law could be read in the two distinct ways, the final decision should have always come out before the ‘best-case’ scenario, i.e. before the third match of suspension.
The members of the Liga Disciplinary Committee responsible (namely Ricardo Costa) have no other option but to resign. They lost every bit of credibility they still had and any further decision taken by the same people will be taken with a grain of salt....
Who’s in charge of Liga Sagres affairs after all? The Portuguese Federation oversees the Portuguese Cup and the third and fourth tiers of our football, but ultimately they were the ones to decide. Two bodies governing one league is never a good thing...
Porto are outraged and rightly so; they were without an important player for 17 matches and they should naturally seek compensation.
Porto supremo Pinto da Costa floated a staggering amount of €17M to account for the player devaluation and the hypothetical failure to qualify for the Champions League, but while that seems a bit over the top, at the very least the player’s salaries ought to be paid back.
Hulk was able to return to action in the match against Belenenses – which Porto comfortably won 3-0 – and to make his point the trick artist scored one goal and layed on two assists.
His goal was actually the best of the week, as he blasted one of his trademark rockets into the roof of the net.
"You won't like me when I'm....scoring goals against you"
In other news – if you can call it that – Sporting announced that Carlos Carvalhal is due to leave at the end of the season.
From the very beginning, it seemed obvious that Carvalhal was an ugly duckling type of figure at the club and looking back there were many things hinting he would be only a short-term replacement for Paulo Bento.
These included the announcement of his appointment at two in the morning, the lack of a proper press conference to confirm his arrival, the six-month deal and the constant rumours that he was never President Betterncourt’s first option.
For Carvalhal, Sporting was like the rollercoaster you only ride once...
"Stop Sporting, I want to get off..."
Who will be the next in line for the Lions? André Villas-Boas seems to have caught the eye of both Bettencourt and Costinha, but Paul Le Guen and Jean Tigana have also been mooted in the press.
If those three names are indeed the only ones in their shortlist, then the Portugeezer would go for the Académica manager in a heartbeat.
He’s a good prospect, has a scouting background and actually knows Portuguese football. It may be a bit early for him, but the French duo would also need time to get acquainted to the peculiar world of Portuguese football.
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