Last night, FC Porto beat LOSC Lille 1-0 away from home to put themselves in a very good position to progress to the Champions League Group stages, a stage where they have only been absent five times since the tournament’s start in 1992. The difference this season is that they are doing it with a new look to the side, the squad has been filled with Spanish players under new Spanish Head Coach Julen Lopetegui. It’s safe to say we are witnessing a Spanish revolution in northern Portugal.
World class scouting and developing
Over the last decade, football fans across the world have marvelled at the magnificent scouting conducted by Porto, and also the massive transfer fees their players command. Since 2003, Porto have made a profit of almost £400million on transfers. Basically it is a three-step-programme; first you need to find talent with the required potential, mainly they’ve found these players on the South American market, where it’s cheaper to buy players compared to in Europe. Step two is to develop the talent in the club, and here Porto have a big advantage on Spanish, English or Italian clubs: the Portuguese league is nowhere near as good as in the aforementioned countries. This provides Porto with the opportunity to slowly embed the players into the first-team without running the risk of compromising results. As mentioned previously, Porto are almost ever presents in the Champions League which is a good window for the players to showcase their talents against clubs from better leagues, and attract interest from potential suitors. Step three is to get as much money as possible for the players.
There are a lot of good examples of this process (since 2003, Porto have sold 24 players’ for more than 10 million euros): James Rodriguez was signed from Argentinian side Banfield in 2010 for 5,1 million euros and then sold to Monaco three years later for 45 million euros, a 40 million euros profit. Similarly, Falcao was signed from River Plate for 3,93 million euros and in 2011 sold to Atlético Madrid for 40 million euros, a 36 million euros profit. Other players’ who have left for transfer fees bigger than 20 million euros include Hulk (40m euros), Pepe (30m euros), Anderson (30m euros), Ricardo Carvalho (30m euros), Joao Moutinho (25m euros), Ricardo Quaresma (25m euros), Lisandro Lopez (24m euros), Bruno Alves (22m euros), Bosingwa (21m euros) and Paulo Ferreira (20m euros). Just a few weeks ago, Porto sold defender Eliaquim Mangala to Manchester City for 30m euros. It’s safe to say that no club in world football is better than FC Porto in terms of spotting talent, develop and then sell for big transfer fees.
The Spanish Revolution
As seen by some of the players’ mentioned above, the South American market has been very successful for Porto in terms of finding talent. In the current squad, players like Juan Quintero, Hector Herrera and Jackson Martinez are sure to command big transfer fees in the coming years. However, this summer we can notice a change in how the club recruit. First of all, Porto appointed Julen Lopetegui as their new Head Coach. Lopetegui has been very successful with the Spanish national youth teams, for example winning the European Championships in 2012 with the under-19s and again in 2013 with the under-21s. Following the Spaniard’s appointment, the signings Porto have made are telling. Six Spanish players (Ivan Marcano, Adrian Lopez, Oliver Torres, Jose Angel, Andres Fernandez and Christian Tello) have been signed, and also Yacine Brahimi who played in Spain for Granada and Casemiro, who joined on loan from Real Madrid. Additionally, Dutch centre-back Bruno Martins Indi signed from Feyenoord in Holland. So far, there hasn’t been a single player signed from South America, although there have been two Brazilians (Evandro and Casemiro) joining from European clubs. This might be just be a one-off, but it is still very interesting to see how the influx of Spanish players and coaches will affect Porto.
Traditionally, Porto use a 4-3-3 with a defensive midfielder in front of the defence and two midfielders, one box-to-box and one playmaker ahead of him, with two pacey wingers complementing the striker. Recently, that defensive midfielder has been Fernando, but after his move to England and Manchester City, that role now looks likely to be filled by Casemiro. He will be accompanied by Mexican international Hector Herrera and another in midfield, right now that player has been 17-year-old Ruben Neves from Porto’s academy who has impressed massively so far. In attack, Jackson Martinez is the vocal point and the two places either side of him are up for grabs. Yesterday, Brahimi played on the right before being replaced by Tello and Oliver Torres started on the left. That is the Spanish influence already, Torres is a playmaker who thrives in midfield but is now given a role similar to the one Isco played in Lopetegui’s Spanish under-21s side. Previously that player has been a Hulk or a Quaresma, so it will be interesting to see if Lopetegui keeps Torres in that position. Juan Quintero is one of the most talented players in the team and should be given an important role, either in the midfield three, or in attack.
The defence looks solid with new signing Martins Indi filling the void left by Mangala alongside Maicon at the heart of defence, with Alex Sandro at left-back and Danilo at right-back.
Porto is the best club in the world in terms of scouting and developing potential before selling expensively and has previously used South America as the place to spot talent. Now though, after the appointment of Spanish Head Coach Julen Lopetegui, it seems as they have moved their scouts to Spain and the rest of Europe to find the best talent available. With the club set to once again qualify for the Champions League, the new man in charge is certainly off to a good start. This season we are witnessing a Spanish revolution, in Portugal.