Football

Can FC Porto challenge for the Champions League once again?

The Special One: Champions league winning manager Jose Mourinho (©GettyImages)
The Special One: Champions league winning manager Jose Mourinho (©GettyImages).

When FC Porto were knocked out by Malaga in the last 16 of the Champions League last season, one can only imagine that their supporters felt a great deal of frustration and annoyance rather than disappointment and sadness as their team's European hopes were dashed for another season. 

Their conquerors Malaga, were one of the fairytale stories of the Champions League in the 2012/2013 season along with Galatasaray. 

Manuel Pellegrini's men were characterised by a fearless and bold spirit that won many admirers as they fell only seconds shorts of what would have been a historic semi final appearance in what was miraculously their maiden campaign in Europe's premier club competition. 

However, for all the enterprise and spirit that Malaga were armed with, Porto are a club of rich history and tradition in European club football, and will have felt a great deal of heartache and dejection in falling to essentially a minnow of European football in terms of stature and experience.

It has been a story that has been all too familiar over the past decade as the last remnants of old glories that ascended the club to the title of European champions under the tutelage of Jose Mourinho, remain merely a memory nearly a decade on. 

Since the incredible Champions League success of 2004, Porto have been perennial knockout stage participants in the champions league. 

However, their best performance has been a quarter final appearance in 2008/2009 which remains their only notable achievement in European competition along with a Europa League triumph in 2010/2011 since the glory days under Jose Mourinho. 

For one of the iconic clubs of European football, there is a lot left to be desired for the players, club and fans alike as the last decade has appeared to be one that has lacked ambition, almost as if the club is still living off it's second European triumph. 

One would imagine that after achieving one of the great feats of European football, the club would be inspired and encouraged to really consolidate itself among the very elite of European football by lifting its expectations and objectives as a club. 

Instead, it has been off the field where the club has excelled as the preference for financial austerity that has sparked a remarkable shrewdness in the transfer market, which has been rivalled by virtually nobody.

This is where Porto have thrived in the last decade, perhaps an explanation for its modest performances in recent years. 

Over the last decade, Porto have - either through it's scouting, academy or astute transfer activity - produced some truly world class footballers at bargain prices, and after bringing the best out of them have gone on to sell for mammoth profits. 

Here is a list of some of their best pieces of business during the last decade:

Radamel Falcao sold to Athletico Madrid for 47 million euros

James Rodriguez to AS Monaco for 45 million euros

Hulk sold to Zenit St Petersburg for 40 million euros

Anderson to Manchester United for 32 million euros

Ricardo Carvalho to Chelsea for 30 million euros

Pepe to Real Madrid for 30 million euros

Ricardo Quaresma to Internazionale for 25 million euros

Joao Moutinho to AS Monaco for 25 million euros

Lisandro Lopez to Lyon for 24 million euros 

Bruno Alves to Zenit St Petersburg for 22 million euros 

Deco to Barcelona for 21 million euros

Jose Bosingwa to Chelsea for 21 millions euros

Paulo Ferreira to Chelsea for 20 million euros

Lucho Gonzalez to Marseille for 18 million euros

Maniche to Dinamo Moscow for 16 million euros 

Of Porto's 15 biggest sales over the past decade, they have made a staggering gross profit of 416 million euros, with most of that figure being what the club would have actually profited given how cheaply they have acquired the aforementioned players on the list. 

This unique transfer model that relies heavily upon clever scouting and elevating youth prospects, while selling for substantial profits when a player reaches their peak in value, has been astonishingly successful given the amount of money Porto have made through it's transfer dealings whilst still remaining competitive on the field. 

Between the 2002/2003 and 2012/2013 seasons, Porto have amassed a whopping 25 trophies that include the coveted Champions League title as well as both incarnations of Europe's secondary club competition in the UEFA Cup and Europa League, to highlight that Porto's success also extends to the continent.

However, the truth is that Porto is a big fish in a small pond so the club is almost impossible to dislodge from title contention domestically year in year out.

Meanwhile, its ventures in Europe have appeared to be more of hit and hope with no genuine aspirations to succeed. 

Therefore, the real question that will surely become more pertinent as the club continues to strengthen financially with such emphatic business, is when will it be time to stop selling? 

With such a healthy financial position being forged in recent years, surely there will become a time when the club will realise it needs a change of direction, where the biggest trophies are the targets and a desire to consistently challenge the continental powerhouses are the ambitions, rather than simply injecting more cash into the club.

There is no way you can criticise Porto about the way they have gone about their business over the last decade. They have experienced immense success domestically, winning trophy after trophy, whilst flying the flag for Portugal in the Champions League with dignity and pride. 

It has also masterminded an exceptional production line of outstanding players who have been brought to the club at little to no cost, while being sold for astronomical gains in a decade-long cycle that has been simply astonishing to witness. 

But as the old saying goes, all good things must come to an end and it is not inconceivable to think, given the nature of the sport, that this remarkable production line will come to a grinding halt.

Therefore, it would be wise for Porto to quit while they are ahead and step out of mediocrity and attempt to step into the exclusivity of Europe's elite and plan to stay there by not selling it's best players, but constructing a world class team that is capable of challenging anyone. 

It is very rare today for a club to have made its way to the very top without wealthy backers, but Porto have an opportunity to chase glory again by their own means and transform itself into a legitimate powerhouse of European football. 

Greatness will never be achieved without ambition, and just like how Jose Mourinho inspired the club to achieve the impossible, Porto can put itself on the European footballing map permanently, without having to resort to phases of flashes in the pan.

They have been afforded an incredible opportunity with no financial pressures whatsoever to build a team capable of challenging the very best teams in Europe. 

We know that given the calibre of players that have so consistently been produced, that if they decide to keep their best players, there is no reason to not believe that Porto can assemble a squad that can compete with the very best for the Champions League.  

The history, resources and foundations are there for Porto to make an ambitious leap forward successful, so for the sake of the club, its supporters and frustrated neutrals, Porto must endeavour to grow as a club just like its finances have, or risk more years in relative mediocrity.

 

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Topics:
UEFA Champions League
Europa League
Football

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