Pre-season form means nothing. Or does it?
During a summer of no major international football for European nations, fans spend a substantial amount of time analysing skewed YouTube compilations of transfer-linked players and dissecting friendly performances for a hint of what the season ahead is likely to bring.
If you're a Sporting CP fan, you'll have been buoyed not only by wins over Crystal Palace and AS Roma but by a new sense of purpose in the transfer market.
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With President Bruno De Carvalho at the helm, gone was the often unsuccessful tactic of bringing in young South American talent, and instead a calculated approach of bringing in proven, experienced talent to compliment the latest in the supply line of highly-rated youngsters.
Ex-Fulham man Bryan Ruiz, Italy international Alberto Aquilani and former Udinese centre-back Naldo are some of the signings. But the most important signing of them all? That'd be manager Jorge Jesus.
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Jesus is Benfica's most decorated manager and became the first coach to move directly between the two teams when he took over at the Estadio Jose Alvalade in June after a contract dispute.
What he also brought with him was an aura of unwavering confidence. Sporting's pre-season performances were topped off with a Supertaca win over their Segunda Circular rivals and even more interesting was the accepted observation that Benfica's players were overawed by their hooped counterparts.
But why? For the last ten years, the title has been an often ill-mannered tussle between Benfica and Porto. The Aguias pipped their Northern rivals to the title last season and more of the same was expected for the 2015/16 campaign. Could the Jesus effect single handedly turn Sporting into serious challengers?
Judging by Sporting's opening game of the league season the answer seems to be a definite 'yes'. Gone was the laborious build up play and lack of cutting edge replaced by incisive transitional passing complimented with energetic overlapping runs and willing forward runners. Sound familiar? It's a famed Jesus trait.
It wasn't all plain sailing though. Victory against Tondela came courtesy of a injury time penalty and Sporting's common nervousness when defending set pieces was again evident. But, as the famous saying goes, Rome wasn't built in a day. Sporting are, however, undoubtedly building an empire of their own.
Sporting have long been Portugal's sleeping giant. A club with a famed youth academy that too often fails to turn boys into men. A team best known to football fans for being a useful place to look for youngsters on Football Manager that you can then buy and turn into world class talent. A football school in need of a headmaster.
In Jesus, they have an authoritative winner that demands discipline and results, and for a relatively young team it may just be the perfect fit. Develop players, raise their profile and deliver results.
Will Jorge Jesus bring a long overdue title to Sporting Lisbon? Have your say below!
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