FC Porto – Wheeling, dealing and treading water in Europe

Just being in the Champions League is an end in itself for many clubs. Arsenal fans will understand that – sorry Gunners! And so too will those of Porto.

Over time, the competition has become more a critical financial and commercial lifeline than a football tournament for the men from Portugal’s second city.


It’s a difficult pill for many fans to swallow, however – your club being in a top level competition with a hierarchy that doesn’t really believe in the chances of success or even plan to win it.

And yet the funds generated by the competition itself, not to mention the high level exposure it offers players – players that the club buys to sell – allow a club like Porto to dominate domestically, holding sway over Portuguese competitors who cannot gain entry.

It’s a delicate balance – but so long as the club is winning at home, fans find it hard to question the rationale.

Porto impressed in their demolition of Basel on Tuesday night in the second leg of their last 16 tie. But for the big guns with designs on outright victory, drawing the Portuguese champions in the last eight, based on recent history, would be greeted respectfully but without any great fear.

Porto are a mainstay of the competition – but not a side expected to seriously challenge.

For the club’s hierarchy, the last eight is probably the height of their realistic ambitions – anything beyond that a massive bonus, as much from a financial perspective as a purely football one.

Drawing one of the giants will bring added TV interest and TV money and perhaps just as importantly, a chance for the club to show their player inventory to prospective buyers and for the buyers to get up close and personal, and do a little tyre kicking in the Porto showrooms.

Porto’s ability to buy low and sell very high when it comes to transfer market is unsurpassed in the game. The talent that has been scouted, developed and sold on by the Portuguese side in the last 10 years has been jaw dropping.

Amazingly, Porto have sold at least one player for a fee in excess of €25 million in seven of the last eight summers! Some of the very biggest names in the game – Pepe, James Rodriguez, Radamel Falcao, Ricardo Carvalho, Hulk, Moutinho, not to mention the likes of Freddy Guarin, Ricardo Quaresma, Lisandro Lopez, Bruno Alves, Deco and more recently Eliaquim Mangala – were all sold for a considerable profit by the club.

And Porto’s comfortable run to the last eight this season suggests the shop window will once again be stocked with some very attractive talent. The fans are used to the summer sales by now.

But given how the competition is panning out this term, they might be forgiven for wondering if maybe, just maybe, Porto actually have a realistic chance of repeating the surprise of 2003-04.

However, with the bank apparently knocking at the door for monies owed and with the books having to be balanced, even winning Old Big Ears probably won’t be enough to spare the fans seeing yet another Porto side broken up before realising its true potential.

The big guns are certainly circling and will no doubt be paying a visit to the city in the next few months with their shopping lists. And three Porto stars likely to be on the move this summer are Brazilian right-back back Danilo, Colombian hitman Jackson Martinez and Algerian winger Yacine Brahimi.

According to Spanish paper Marca, 23-year-old attacking full back Danilo may already be off the market, with Real Madrid having reportedly agreed a deal with Porto for his services.

There’s no confirmation of a deal yet – but given the Marca’s ties with Los Merengues, it’d be something of a surprise if he doesn’t end up at the Bernabeu.


Jackson Martinez will also surely be on the move. At 28, Porto will need to cash out this summer on Colombian international striker. Quick and powerful, the Martinez has done a brilliant job in replacing the goals of his international team mate Radamel Falcao at the Estadio Do Dragao.

An impressive 86 goals in 122 games in all competitions has caught the attention of the likes of Liverpool, Arsenal and Manchester United, so it’d be no surprise if he were to pitch up in the Premier League next season.

But perhaps it’s Yacine Brahimi who is likely to bring in the really big money. Signed for €5.6m from La Liga side Granada in the summer, the Algerian winger has been attracting a lot of attention with his displays this season – with a number of clubs reportedly prepared to meet his €45 million buy out clause.

Ostensibly positioned on the left at Porto, Brahimi is comfortable off either foot, has pace and loves to run at opponents. In fact, only Lionel Messi and Eden Hazard completed more dribbles per 90 minutes than Brahimi in the Champions League group stages this season.

The 25-year-old, who takes a mean free kick, has also started to add end product to his exciting style, as five goals in seven Champions League games testify.

One can only imagine the frustration felt by Porto fans as they see such talent pass through their club season after season. But for a club that doesn’t figure in the top 30 richest clubs in Europe, a list that includes the might of Stoke and Sunderland, the supporters have little choice but to accept that Porto’s current model at least allows them to maintain a decent level of competitiveness in Europe and keeps them ahead of rivals Benfica at home.

That’s some consolation at least.

The Author

Paul Little

Freelance football columnist. European Football with the Irish Daily Star. Hold the Back Page podcast regular. Family and Renaissance Man. Dublin born, Wicklow resident.

2 thoughts on “FC Porto – Wheeling, dealing and treading water in Europe

  1. Banning 3rd party ownership will put an end to Porto being able to compete at this level. Like you said Porto aren’t even on the rich list.
    The price of players from smaller countries is increasing fast. Even Brahimi cost Porto 5.6 million. That’s a lot of money for a Portuguese team. The TV money in portugal is not like it is England. It’s probably the lowest in Europe.

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