From the home of Mourinho, Ronaldo and Xavier
The past two weeks have been especially unusual in the strange world of Portuguese football, and four stories in particular have caught the Portugeezer’s attention.
1. An infamous hot-head is one step closer to management
Former Portuguese international Ricardo Sá Pinto seems hell bent on prolonging his career in football, despite his disastrous spell as Sporting’s sporting director. Known for his short temper, it will be interesting to see how long he’ll able to withstand playing second fiddle to the relative unknown Pedro Caixinha, for whom he'll be acting as assistant manager at União Leiria.
For those less familiar with Pinto’s public displays of err…affection, let’s just say he’s famous for his assault on then-Portugal manager Artur Jorge and more recently for his physical confrontation with Liédson that ultimately signalled his departure from the Lions.
Sá Pinto is given his third yellow card of the evening...
Here’s a not-so-bold prediction: Caixinha, already struggling to deliver, will sooner or later get the dreaded axe, at which point Ricardo the Lion Heart will most likely step into the void - and that’s when things could get really interesting…
2. Liverpool could be ripped off by a Portuguese club again
Seriously, it’s not like the Portugeezer has a beef with Liverpool. But after overpaying for Raul Meireles, they’re now apparently ready to break the bank for the Paraguayan forward Cardozo.
If these rumours contain a single iota of truth - and that is a big ‘if‘, granted - then it is official: Liverpool are the most ill-managed club in the world. No doubt Cardozo was pivotal in Benfica’s successful bid to the title last season, but the formation employed and the supporting cast helped him a lot. €25 million would be a lot to pay for a player still yet to convince his current club’s fans of his own ability.
"Up yours, Portugeezer - surely I'm better than N'gog..."
At 27, he would struggle with the language, the pace and physical nature of the English game (heck, he’s even dead slow for the Portuguese league) and the insurmountable pressure of having to share the goalscoring burden with some guy named Fernando Torres. Not that Benfica wouldn’t mind ripping Liverpool off, but even snake-oil salesmen would be amazed at such improbable deal.
3. The grass is greener on the other side for Sporting
For Sporting chairman José Eduardo Bettencourt the grass is definitely greener on the other side, because according to the 50-year-old, the pitch at Estádio Alvalade XXI is holding back the team.
Dazed and confused? Well, in an unorthodox move - at least for a team in Southern Europe - Bettencourt said that next year the club would replace the current playing surface with an artificial one, simply because the club has found it difficult to create perfect playing conditions, having had to replace the pitch six(!) times.
Could Sporting be about to go plastic fantastic?
That’s fair assessment and it would actually be very interesting to see the economic impact of such decision, because it is well-known that artificial pitches have lower maintenance costs and allow the owner to use them for just about every day of the year if he intends to. And while strange, it’s not like Sporting would be the first club at top level to play in an artificial pitch, with Young Boys and Spartak Moscow being two prime examples of clubs whose stadiums possess a FIFA-approved state-of-the-art artificial turf.
But that can’t cover the fact that Bettencourt is only touting the notion as an excuse to justify sub-par results. If Sporting were to go ahead with the scheme, it would come as no surprise to hear the very same man complain that away pitches were too different to the one his players are used to, following a defeat on the road for the Lisbon side.
4. Aimar turns back the clock, while Varela defies logic
Unlike the English or the Spanish League, it’s not every weekend fans in Portugal witness jaw-dropping goals that make the admission fees seem worthwhile. But it just so happens that this past weekend witnessed two of those moments.
As Benfica entertained Paços de Ferreira at home, Pablo Aimar decided it was probably about time to remind people why he was once regarded as one of the most gifted playmakers in the world.
The Argentinean – whose undoubted technical finesse still manages to hide his visible physical limitations – made a run from inside his team’s own half, dribbled past two opponents before unleashing a powerful, well-placed shot that lifted the entire stadium. An absolutely gorgeous goal that paved way for the 2:0 victory.
Benfica 1-0 Paços de FerreiraSimão | Myspace Video
The other amazing moment occurred in the match between Académica and Porto. The soaked pitch and the intense rain throughout the match made it difficult for both teams to play football, and only an individual effort would realistically break the deadlock.
That was exactly what happened in the 43rd minute when Silvestre Varela turned around and hit a right-footed volley with aplomb from an seemingly harmless ball
Academica 0-1 FC PortoSimão | Myspace Video
A great effort that ultimately decided the match.
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