From the home of Mourinho, Ronaldo and Xavier
For a fair few months before they sealed the title it had been a matter of ‘when’ rather than ‘if’ Porto would clinch their 25th league crown, and the Dragons returned to the throne of Portuguese football at the best possible moment - after defeating arch-rivals Benfica on their own patch.
The bitterness and bad blood between the two teams has been escalating ever since last season’s infamous tunnel controversy which ultimately allowed Hulk and Sapunaru an unplanned mid-season break.
That incident triggered the thus far never-ending war of words between club officials and confrontations between the teams’ supporters. Things have actually reached a point way beyond football and both sides should probably now tone down the rhetoric to ensure everybody can simply enjoy the action on the pitch.
The Eagles have generally been no match for their rivals this season and therefore couldn’t avoid the humiliation of having to stand by and watch them celebrate their title win.
But defeat didn’t end Benfica’s continuing attempts to spoil the party. Even after the match, the floodlights ’mysteriously’ went out and the sprinklers were activated - but all that only served to make Benfica look like petty, sore losers.
Dancing in the dark: Porto celebrate their title win at Benfica
One of the main problems with Benfica is that they still try and convince everybody that they are the best team in Portugal. Fewer and fewer people are buying it.
So blind is their faith that they desperately try and find excuses for the inexcusable. To quickly recap; when they lost to Porto in the Portuguese Super Cup, it was a fluke; when they lost 5-0 at Estádio do Dragão it was due to the referee; when they lost 3-0 to Hapoel it was a terrible day at the office that happens once in a lifetime. And yet, they have suffered seven losses in the league and had to rely on Olympique Lyonnais pinching a late equaliser against Hapoel in the final round of Champions League group games in order leapfrog the Israelis and scrape into the Europa League.
The fact is there are real problems that Luis Filipe Vieira, Rui Costa and Jorge Jesus need to address rather than just finding new excuses. As has already been stated on this very blog earlier this season - Benfica had a great core of players last season and only sold Di María and Ramires last summer. But instead of sticking to that proven winning formula by directly replacing the pair, the club splashed the cash on a multitude of players, only two of which - Nico Gaitán and Salvio - have made a discernible and positive impact, and the latter is only on loan and therefore may well not be at the club next season anyway.
Against Porto, the Eagles once again looked like a bunch of players badly stitched together in a desperate attempt to pass themselves off as team. Porto, on the other hand, had every piece of their jigsaw tidily in place.
Freddy Guarín, who last year was regarded as another overrated South American import, has blossomed into a fine player in the Dragons’ engine room. Alongside him, João Moutinho, who for years carried Sporting’s hopes of winning the league, has consistenly shown exactly why Pinto da Costa claimed the pint-sized midfielder was the only player from Sporting he wanted to see in a Porto shirt.
But still, perhaps the biggest revelation has been manager André Villas-Boas. Even with a glowing reference from Jose Mourinho on his résumé, it would be hard to envision such a season of perfection. Who would have guesses that the 33 year-old manager who only kicked-off his managing duties last season at Académica would enjoy an almost flawless season?
Villas-Boas hasn't had too bad a start to his Porto reign
Few managers in the world have the same King Midas-like effect on clubs as José Mourinho. It happened at Porto where he won the UEFA Cup and the UEFA Champions League, it happened at Chelsea where he won back-to-back Premier Leagues and it also happened at Inter where he surprisingly claimed another Champions League.
But even Mourinho’s first season with Porto doesn’t match that of Villas-Boas.
In the 2002/2003 season, Mourinho collected 86 points in 34 matches and saw his team beaten twice. Villas-Boas is yet to lose a league match this season and his team have so far only succumbed to two draws - both of which were flattering for the other team. His team currently have a haul of 77 points and hold a 19-point lead over Benfica.
With five games left there is every chance the current crop will surpass the points haul of the 2002/03 vintage, despite playing four fewer matches due to the streamlining of the league from 18 teams to 16 five years ago.
This may lead some of you to wonder who the ‘Special One’ really is. Looking at the past decade, the answer should be rather straightforward.
Forget Mourinho or Villas, the term ‘Special’ should be reserved for FC Porto. Players and managers labelled ‘irreplaceable’ have come and gone - Ricardo Carvalho, Pepe, Deco, Anderson, Lisandro López, Lucho González and of course Mourinho - but the club has always continued to thrive. Regardless of who is on the field, there is a winning mentality instilled at the club that is only comparable to the likes of Manchester United and Barcelona. That’s why they have managed to remain so competitive, especially in European competition.
With the league title already sealed, another mouth-watering duel against Benfica at Estádio da Luz for the second leg of the Portuguese Cup semifinals will be played on Wednesday. The champions will have their work cut out for them, after Benfica somehow snatched a precious 2-0 in the first leg. But given Porto have just thrashed Spartak Moscow with an aggregate score of 10-3, it would perhaps be premature to rule them out just yet.
1. Roy Hodgson is king of the road If West Brom can win at Tottenham on Saturday, Roy Hodgson will have
Latest European Football News
PSG turns down Ancelotti request to leave
Anzhi beat Lokomotiv after deadly blasts
Makhachkala match goes ahead despite blasts
Ibrahimovic named Ligue 1 player of season
Undefeated Porto claim title with Pacos win
He's here, he's there, he's...
The cost of Premier League away travel
FourFourTwo is brought to you by Haymarket Consumer Media & FourFourTwo is part of Haymarket Sport
| International Licensing | © Haymarket Media Group 2010