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Monday, 21 July 2014 20:42

Transfer frenzy leaves Portuguese title impossible to predict

Wholesale changes at Benfica and Porto, Sporting strengthen

markovic-lob-20140224.jpgThe Portuguese Primeira Liga has again proven to be a popular shopping place for some of Europe's biggest clubs. With seven weeks still to go until the summer transfer window closes, Benfica and FC Porto have a radical new look to their squads, while Sporting's remains relatively unscathed - so far.

PortuGOAL rounds up the major deals involving the three perpetual title candidates.


Benfica

Benfica fans celebrated long and hard last season as the club swept to a unique treble of domestic trophies. But hopes they may have harboured of a repeat performance seem to have been knocked by an exodus of many of the Eagles' main men from 2013/14. "We are paying the price of our success," lamented coach Jorge Jesus yesterday.

Jan Oblak (Atletico Madrid), Siqueira (Atletico Madrid), Garay (Zenit), Markovic (Liverpool), André Gomes (Valencia) have all left the Lisbon club, and striker Rodrigo's move to Valencia is expected to be made official tomorrow. All six men played key roles at different stages of last season and will surely be difficult to replace. The hammer blows may not stop there, with ongoing speculation that Enzo Pérez and Nico Gaitán could also be taking their leave of the Estádio da Luz.

candeias-benfica.jpgAs such, the newcomers to the Portuguese champions are obliged to hit the ground running if Benfica are to maintain their level of last season. Brazil has been a fertile recruitment ground, with the Eagles signing Talisca, César, Luis Felipe, Djavan and Derley, all of whom hail from the South American country. The latter two impressed at Académica and Marítimo respectively last season, while the first three came direct from Brazilian clubs.

Also added to the ranks are Swiss left-back Loris Benito and Portuguese winger Candeias (pictured above), signed from Nacional. 
 

 

FC Porto

The departures from Porto have not been so devastating, at least in number, although the undoubted quality of Fernando (Manchester City) and Mangala, who is expected to join him at the English champions, could be difficult to overcome, especially if the rumours surrounding the possible exit of Jackson Martínez turn out to be true. Misfits Iturbe and Fucile have also left for good.

tello-barcelona.jpgHowever, Porto fans will be buoyed by a number of exciting-looking recruits. New Spanish coach Julen Lopetegui has been making full use of his connections in his home country and links with young Spain stars from his time as the country's U21 manager. Barcelona's Tello (pictured) is the star signing, but Adrián Lopez and Óliver (both from Atletico Madrid) will be looking to make a big impact at the Estádio do Dragão. The recent addition of Real Madrid's Brazilian midfielder Casemiro as well as Dutch World Cup star Bruno Martins Indi also look solid pick-ups.

Porto have also been shopping internally, buying Académica goalkeeper Ricardo, Estoril playmaker Evandro and Marítimo forward Sami. The Dragons appear set on making sure there is no repeat of last year's poor season. 

 

Sporting

Sporting exceeded all expectations last season, and so far at least the Lions have resisted the temptation to sell any of the players who helped secure them a second place finish. William Carvalho, Marcos Rojo and Islam Slimani have all been linked with big-money moves abroad, the first on the back of a magnificent debut season, the other two after enjoying fabulous World Cups for Argentina and Algeria respectively, but for now the trio remain in the Portuguese capital.

oriol-rosell.jpgIt may have been quiet as regards departures from the Alvalade, Wilson Eduardo (Dinamo Zagreb) the only player of note to leave, but the squad has been boosted by a raft new recruits, most of whom follow a discernable pattern. Simeon Slavchev, 22 years old, Paulo Oliveira, 22, Oriol Rosell, 21 (pictured), André Geraldes, 23 and Ryan Gauld, 18 leave no doubt about the club's policy of further enhancing its reputation for developing raw talent.

Japanese forward Tanaka has also been added to Marco Silva's options.

 
 

Championship up for grabs?

The frantic comings and goings, which certainly are far from over, make for a fascinating backdrop ahead of 2014/15, with this season being the first in a long while in which all three of the traditional candidates will start believing they have a genuine chance of being crowned champions come May.

by Tom Kundert

 
 

Comments (22)
Neutral Thoughts #1
22 Wednesday, 30 July 2014 14:39
Val/Canada
I am a neutral fan. I do tend to lean towards certain teams every season but mostly due to the style they play or they might have a favourite player of mine.

We (myself included) have all given Porto and Benifca a lot of grief about not truly giving the promising Portuguese talent a chance but cashing in on foreign players.

Thing is, we must also pat them on the back when they do well.

Currently Benfica squad has 14 Portuguese players on the roster (not including loans or youth squad); potentially half of those can start. Realistically let’s say 3-4 starters (Silvio, Ruben Amorim, Eliseu, A Almeida) but with potential for a lot more.

Porto currently has 3............nuff said.

Sporting (the rightful beacon of Portuguese talent) has 10. Same ratio at least half WILL start, potentially more.

Also Benfica youth squad just lost to Farcalona in the finals of the youth club world cup, not bad.

Here is my quick google research just for perspective as to how many Portuguese players per team currently.

I am not saying one is better than the other, in fact I have nothing but RESPECT for Sporting and Porto but lets be fair here.

Porto – 3
Sporting - 10
Benfica – 14
Braga – 7
Guimaraes – 15
Estoril – 15
Nacional
Maritimo - 11
V. Setubal - 14
Academica – 12

That is good news and contrast that with other leagues, its a high percentage.
One more add on
21 Tuesday, 29 July 2014 12:34
NJ/USA/SLB
First let me apologize for the typos, fat fingers on a cell.

As a Benfiquista I'm a bit concerned with this love affair with Romero. By all accounts heading into the World Cup, Argentinas biggest weakness was their manager and goalie. Romero has failed to impress and hasn't really been tested. Granted many will say he excelled when the most pressure was put on him, but I hope we don't go gaga over this. Playing a full club season is very different than a tourney. Many have excelled at tourneys and failed to impress at major clubs. Apparently his wage demands are high and it could cause problems should we meet them.
I would much prefer to move on. I would like to think that we have other options that we've been tracking.
Some Add Ons
20 Monday, 28 July 2014 12:29
NJ/USA/SLB
Eddie, Nekson started well on Spain and France and tailed off badly in both leagues. For whatever reason he hasn't been able to put it together. He's gotten plenty of opportunities to showcase himself but has failed to impress. Benfica doesn't have the luxury in letting him be wasteful.
A lot if talk of LFV trying to secure either Enzo or Gaitan. I would prefer Enzo, but I think that deal is done and they're just waiting for the date.
As for Gaitan, I too feel he'll need to beoved in order to cash in. He would most likely also sulk fir not going, which would cause issues. Regardless neither will last past the January window.
Ola hopefully will come into his own and realize the magnitude of the task at hand. Much like Nelson, he's squandered opportunities while abroad.

I think that Sportinquistas are forgetting the extended schedule. They will gave European play to contend with, so that may drain the squad a bit.

As for Porto, we'll see. I really don't have a feel for them. They've brought in some nice young names, so we'll see how it shakes out. Many will be disappointed with the, huh huh, great Quaresma on the bench.

Regardless, the fans will expect and demand Silverware from the Big 3. As always, the pressure will be great.
Thoughts on the new Premeira Liga season
19 Monday, 28 July 2014 06:38
Steve/Australia
@Bubba Zanetti SCP - First of all, I too could not wait for the World Cup to end and the new season to start. Personally, I think the quality of teams and excitement is far greater at the Euros than it is at the World Cup. I actually lost most of my interest after the USA game where the Seleccao was horrible. and only got a draw with a last gasp goal. The Seleccao fans have been spoilt for a few years now with our greats teams and players of the last 20 years or so but this world cup Bento and his band of buddies never really turned up. Glad to see it end but disappointed that Bento is still in charge.

In regards to the new season it is very exciting with Boavista coming into the league and I hope they can stay up and then slowly build back into a force that they used to be. I also hope Braga will challenge, be competitive and take control of the 4th place spot. The worry is the mid table squads and for the league to stay high in the European rankings teams like Estoril, Belenenses, Guimaraes, Maritimo, Nacional etc. need to continue to grow, challenge in Europe and stay competitive by strengthen their squads and supporter bases.

I think that the big three will really dominate this year but I'm not really sure who starts favourite. I said all last year that SCP could really challenge this year, so right now I'd say they have a massive chance and could even start as favourites if they can keep their key players.

These are my thoughts on the contenders for the new Premeira Liga season;

Sporting;

Key players - William Carvalho and Adrien Silva

This has been a very stable off season for SCP where they have brought new players and kept most of their important assets. I think this was set up last year when SCP cleared out the most of the highly paid players. Personally, I think BDC is a smart guy and he knows if he keeps the better players this year then he can cash them in for a lot higher fee next year if they perform in the Champions league. Additionally, If SCP do well in the Champions league (which I think they will) then BDC knows that with the enhanced reputation in Europe, Sporting can buy better players as well. For the first time in a long time I think it is good to be a SCP fan. My only worry is, will the fans keep be patient if some of the early result don't go their teams way. With the successes of last year expectation must be rightfully high.

Benfica

Key players - Luisao, Enzo Perez and Lima

The squad has already been decimated but I think if the key players (listed above) in each area can stay then the squad can still stay competitive. Eliseu and Bebe are great buys, the squad will have Salvio and silvio back to full fitness and hopefully some of the younger players like, Nelson Oliveira, Ola John, Bernardo Silva and Joao Cancelo can step up their game and replace the players that have already left. It will be tough early but the hope is we can stay close in the league and make the second round of the Champions league this year

Porto

Key players - Jackson Martinez

With a new coach and a host of players coming and going just like Benfica it is hard to predict how the Dragons will go this year. I think that if Jackson stays then they can still score goals but if he goes then who will score them. Maybe some of the new wingers? It is hard to call. Porto have shown that they do not have two bad seasons in a row
Continued from below
18 Sunday, 27 July 2014 21:45
Orlando Mac
I appreciate.. some on this site.. love Gaitan.. they see the one play per game.. which usually doesn't result in a goal.. and think he has a lot of skill.. the fact is that instead of crossing or passing to strikers with higher shooting averages he makes 6 to 10 attempts at goals per game.. he scored 4 GOALS in 26 games.. I don't need to see 10 shots by a guy who gets few..

He is one of the most selfish players I have ever seen wearing the Aguia emblem.

His crosses and passes are brutal unless he is 5 feet from the player.. and if he is in the box.. most of the times he will run it.. even tho.. Lima, Cardozo, and Rodrigo were right there ready to tap.

Andre the only affect of selling Gaitan is that we will score more goals, and be more defensively sound.

SELL HIM SELL HIM NOW!!!

Quick before anybody notices.. he is going to be a flop.. anywhere he goes...

So we come back to the start.. I think this is a highly competitive season.. the minuses for Benfica hopefully will be positive ones.. for the most part bar Garay.. we have improved...

I think this will be a highly competitive season.. between the Big 3.. who will step-up as a Manager.. two rookies versus JJ.. I know JJ hopes Porto will falter because that is the only way he has won the Liga.. fortunately I think Sporting has improved so much.. that I don't think JJ will get it that easy this year.

JJ has more than enough talent with the current squad.. to win.. all sales aside.. it once again comes down to his selections.. and whether he can do it.. jury is still out for me.. he has tons of excuses.. that the gullible Benfica fans will agree with... for me he has none.. addition by subtraction.. and if Gaitan is gone.. he has no excuses.

I expect a long and spirited fight this season.. with tons of talent..

My expectation is that all Big 3 will do their service in Europe.. will all take it deep again... and take the Portuguese League closer to Germany's, in the rankings.

Of course the transfer window is not closed..

I expect Jackson & Mangala to go.. from Porto.. with little affect.. bar some Jackson goals..

I expect both Gaitan & Enzo to be sold.. Gaitan first of course, who else is going to cover for him.

Also I think Sporting has to sell Carvalho as they need the money.. hopefully it is to a good club and for huge profit of course... but Sporting always has a way of screwing up transfers of super stars.. and never get the right value.. by starting to high then desperately taking a low ball offer at the end.. sell smart.. Carvalho for 30 is great.. you could get more.. but you need the money.. DM's rarely go for that kind of money... In the end Sporting has coverage and they will still compete..

Cheers
I like the progress so far of all of the big clubs...
17 Sunday, 27 July 2014 21:24
Orlando Mac
I like to see all the big clubs strong.. and didn't take much joy out of last years Liga.. beating a resurgent inexperienced Sporting squad, and a Porto squad that was in transition.

I had predicted a bad year for most Portuguese teams, and it was for the most part.. Europe was brutal but for the fact that Benfica once again went to the final (but the fact was that they and Porto have very winnable Champions League groups).. Fortunately that and the Porto show.. got us past Snoria A.. which was questionable for a while.. in the end I attained my goal.. of passing that 5th rate league.

Early in the transfer season I had some major doubts about Porto.. they were sweeping up free transfers and loans.. and I was worried PDC has extended himself the last few years.. but over the last few weeks they have made some big signings and things look on track to get back to normal.

Sporting like Bubba stated have kept their core and have added a few likeable pieces.. and will most definitely be contenders this year.

This has me excited.. I love it when it is competitive as it makes the games that much more important.. and better overall.

As for Benfica it is a queer street so many fans are dismayed for some reason...last season we didn't sell many.. and bought too many.. at least LFV somewhat corrected that this year. Too much talent without any playing time.. is not good.. he did sell many for a profit so I am happy.

As NJ always states we are a selling league.. and it is correct.. that affords the ability to be a prime candidate to show off some excellent young talent that is not ready for the top 2 leagues.. and pays us handsomely to contend with the greatest leagues in Europe. Portugal is currently ranked 4th best league.. and Benfica is ranked the 5th best team in Europe.. quite an accomplishment.. that shows our consistency as a league and team.

Now Benfica's biggest losses are OBlak, Garay, and Markovic in that order.. usually LFV re-ups someone who had a great year and missed the boat on Oblak to drive that price into the 20 to 30 mil range.. but clearly after being tooled for a few years by JJ.. he didn't want to take the chance and bolted.

Garay is on the decline.. and it was evident in the WC.. where at times he got burnt bad.. and had to crawl on top of players to stop them.. he got away with it and Argentina went much further than they should've.. but the instant replays showed some brutal fouls by a desperate man. Altho the low transfer deal has me thinking LFV is pulling some hocus pocus to get out of paying Real Madrid.. and I expect at some point in the next year another deal with Zenit that we get grossly over-paid. Extremely dodgy but probably legal in the UEFA & FIFA code of conduct especially under Platini and Blatter.

Markovic was pretty raw last season.. showed some huge upside.. was inconsistent for the amount of playing time.. and was extremely selfish at times.. I would've liked to seen him for a year or two more.. but at 22 mil pounds we probably got the best we would ever get for him. Good sale.

Sad to see Gomes go.. but to be honest JJ was wasting him but at 272 mins played in the Liga.. especially after the season he had prior (the expectation was for him to get more playing time and it was cut). Glad that Gomes left.. hopefully with some more trust.. he can take his game to the next level.

Rodrigo hot huge praise last season but in 26 games only scored 11 goals... Cardozo in 15 had 7 better ratio for the reject.. but I will get onto why the striking totals were down later... he is over rated.. selfish.. and misses more sitters than I have ever seen. Buh Bye..We have improved by JJ not being allowed to select him in the starting line-up.

Siqueira is a major loss.. but his wage demands were crazy.. Atleti good luck.

Selling Kardec finally was awesome... at least his family likes him...lol

As for the new guys yesterday.. Bebe was extremely wasteful in the Ajax game.. I was on the ledge about his signing... yesterday didn't help that.. but we will give him time..

Talisca is awesome.. loved him.. great buy.. look forward to seeing him on a full squad..

Eliseu played well linking up with Ola... me likes..

That brings us to Andre's comments "The club has to make sure Enzo Perez and Gaitan are kept otherwise it will be a total face lift for next season."

Now I have been on the Enzo train for the beginning.. with NJ and only a couple of others.. even when he suffered and demanded to go back to the homeland.. with DiMaria out in the WC.. he was Argentina's best player.. Maradona even said that.. said he outplayed Messi by a country mile...

He is quite important to Benfica more so than any other player we have sold the last few seasons.. and for me with his work rate, two way play.. and offensive abilities is on par with Matic.. so I do not want to see him go.. but if we get top dollar.. then so be it.. and there are a few in the wings ready to replace him.. unfortunately the best would've been Gomes.. but he got tired of JJ's favourtism.. and paycheque first squads. So Enzo might have to go.

This leads us to Gaitan... the most over-rated Benfica player since So-Zero was here under Kinky Flowers.. So-Zero played 3/4's of the season and got 4 goals.. and in a quarter of the starts.. Bench boy Cardozo scored 17.

Prime example was two seasons ago.. Gaitan was laid up with an injury and inconsistency.. and Ola John.. and Co.. set up the strikers for some awesome goals.. we averaged near enough 4 goals a game when Ola was in.. then Jj decided to bring back Gaitan after injury.. and bench Ola.. and the 4 a game turned to 2.. JJ blew the liga.. we lost the Euro Final.. and even a Taca de Merda... before Cardozo exploded... in that previous year... Lima had 20 instead of 14
Cardozo had 17 instead of 7 (Cardozo scored more goals in Europe/Cups than the others), Rod had 7 instead of 11 although he was out injured for a bit.

The major goal difference is the time with Ola.. if you watched yesterdays Ajax game.. Ola made so many crosses that were lethal in the second half.. that were missed by team mates.. and was unlucky not to score two.. block leg/open net, low power/beat keeper (cleared off the line)...

In the first half of yesterdays game.. Ajax owned almost 70% possession when I looked at the stats.. in the second half with Ola.. we dominated and brought it back to 46/54 with the full Ajax roster with Benfica fielding Part-timers.. and new signings.

Personally I think both LFV and JJ have over-valued Gaitan for so long.. LFV is trying to get $45 mil Euros for him... I would cut my ties with him for $10 mil a profit. If LFV doesn't sell him this year it will never be close again.. take the $35 mil from Monaco.. and it it the best sale you ever made. I feel LFV is going to hold out, sell Enzo and keep Gaitan to appease JJ.. LFV.. dude SELL HIM NOW.. unlike Cardozo who will always score goals.. as his style isn't about speed or anything.. Gaitan.. will be done soon.. just like that loser Garcia that wasted Matic's time.. this guy has to be cut for the betterment of the players below him. Ola is ten times the player he is.. faster.. and defends.

I appreciate.. some on this site.. love Gaitan.. they see the one play per game.. which usually doesn't result in a goal.. and think he has a lot of skill.. the fact is that instead of crossing or passing to strikers with higher shooting averages he makes 6 to 10 attempts at goals per game.. he scored
Porto and Sporting have the edge over Benfica right now
16 Sunday, 27 July 2014 16:07
Ricardo
But a lot can change until the transfer deadline. I hope Sporting wins the league since I'm a Sportinguista, but it's also good for the National Team if Sporting succeeds since the majority of the players are Portuguese.
@Adam/Canada
15 Friday, 25 July 2014 16:57
Eddie/Trinidad
Benfica and in particular Jorge Jesus doesn't give a crap about Nelson Oliveira. I was and I still am a fan of Nelson Oliveira, but he's been treated very poorly by JJ. They don't nurture him or give him confidence try to build his game etc. They always have 3 or 4 other strikers they rate ahead of him in the pecking order. In JJ's mind its totally okay for him to sit on the bench all season or play in the B league. Nelson isn't perfect, he needs some better decision making but make no doubt about it he has talent. And its the sad truth that Benfica haven't developed him.

In that same U20 world cup in 2011 he showed his talent, Danilo also showed his talent as a good defensive midfielder. They were two massive players for the team. Look at the respective development of them compared to two Sporting players from that generation, Cedric and William. William Carvalho wasn't even selected for the tournament or was on the reserves. At that point in time Danilo was a good talent and played well. Cedric and William Carvalho have both gone on to develop exceptionally and are household names in the league now, regular starters for Sporting. On the other hand Danilo didn't get any love from Benfica, now he's just an also ran player in Maritimo, and Nelson looks like he's a struggling almost flop sorta player fighting just to prove himself. Fact is both of those Benfica players had just as much potential and talent as their Sporting counterparts, but Cedric and William have developed been supported by Sporting and are now much superior players to them.

If people think oh this is just coincidence or luck it isn't , things happen by design by work. Sure talent is talent, but talent without hard work is nothing. When talent is supported and the club works hard with them that makes a difference.
U19's
14 Thursday, 24 July 2014 15:17
Cesar / Canada
Love this site. Just wondering why we aren't covering and talking about how great our U19's are doing right now in the Euro U19 competition?
We are undefeated throughout the whole tourney and just layed a 6 goal beating on the hosts.

The future does look bright.
I am a Benfiquista, but I admire..
13 Thursday, 24 July 2014 02:22
Adam/Canada
the fact that the majority of Sporting is Portuguese. Signing André Geraldes and Paulo Oliveira is just bringing in MORE Portuguese.

I hope Benfica sign Bebe, and they develop Nelson Oliveira in the striker we ALL need him to be.
Thoughts
12 Wednesday, 23 July 2014 05:16
NJ/USA/SLB
When aren't Portuguese clubs going through a transition?

Benfica's recent transfer statistics, since JJ took over;

TRANSFER RESULTS 14/15 (SO FAR)
Earnings/expenditures Arrivals/Departures Transfer sum
Earnings 11 60,10 Mill. £
Expenditure 21 17,60 Mill. £
Total results +42,50 Mill. £

TRANSFER RESULTS 13/14
Earnings/expenditures Arrivals/Departures Transfer sum
Earnings 32 34,85 Mill. £
Expenditure 30 34,23 Mill. £
Total results +616 Th. £

TRANSFER RESULTS 12/13
Earnings/expenditures Arrivals/Departures Transfer sum
Earnings 34 67,08 Mill. £
Expenditure 36 22,88 Mill. £
Total results +44,20 Mill. £

TRANSFER RESULTS 11/12
Earnings/expenditures Arrivals/Departures Transfer sum
Earnings 49 36,25 Mill. £
Expenditure 48 26,80 Mill. £
Total results +9,44 Mill. £

TRANSFER RESULTS 10/11
Earnings/expenditures Arrivals/Departures Transfer sum
Earnings 40 77,42 Mill. £
Expenditure 42 32,41 Mill. £
Total results +45,02 Mill. £

TRANSFER RESULTS 09/10
Earnings/expenditures Arrivals/Departures Transfer sum
Earnings 33 6,01 Mill. £
Expenditure 39 30,18 Mill. £
Total results -24,17 Mill. £

The player total/quantity is staggering. It goes to show how many come in from and go back out on loans.
Last season 35 different players were named to the squad roster for league games. Of those, 23 saw in game action.

Benfica had a ton of new players that needed to be incorporated last campaign, and some did and others struggled. The same will take place this campaign. What we can be sure about, is that losing is not an option at Benfica.

There's still plenty of time left in the transfer window, and don't forget Russia's extended period. The Big 3 could still see plenty more changes.

For those who wish that we had more Portuguese players playing, I for one am happy we're not the Scottish League. The EPL, where english players haven't left, hasn't been that fruitful for England. Sometimes it's just about talent.
Can't wait for it to start
11 Tuesday, 22 July 2014 20:43
Mike/Canada
This is going to be an exciting season. 3 teams that genuinely have a chance to be champion. A season where coaching and tactics will not only matter, but probably be the difference - no throwing a bunch of talent out there and hoping that things work out. The coaches will have to earn their salaries this year. A young talented portuguese, a foreigner coaching in the senior ranks for the first time, and a wiley old veteran. What a battle of the coaches! Finally, an opportunity to see some young talent get a chance to play reguilalry and develop before our eyes.
Thank Goodness
10 Tuesday, 22 July 2014 18:09
Bubba Zanetti SCP
I am so happy that the professional leagues are in preseason. I for one couldn't wait until this World Cup was over. After the Germans routed the Seleção, the first thought I had was that I had to endure the rest of the tournament's ridiculousness until the Germans were eventually coronated as World Champions.

So happy that the pro leagues are back in preseason and the fun and games can begin all over Europe. I love this time of year.

I like how Sporting is trying to maintain it's core nucleus of players and add to it in order to increase the team's depth. Expectations are higher this year and with the team back in it's rightful place playing in Europe, the team needs to be bolstered and fine tuned in order to successfully compete on all domestic and European fronts.

I think that in terms of making a good showing in the Champions League, William Carvalho needs to stay for one more year. We need him as our midfield destroyer and his presence in Sporting's midfield is imperative. Oriol Rosell does look like a good pickup to deputize under Carvalho. Plus, by successfully playing in the Champions League, Carvalho's stock will only rise so that when we eventually sell him, we can make as much money as possible.

My biggest worry for Sporting is upfront. Slimani is a tall, strong, aerial threat, who scores many clutch goals, but Montero is notoriously streaky and when the droughts come, they last. This area needs to be watched.

I am most intrigued by the acquisition of young Scottish talent, Ryan Gauld. I know very little of him, but for Sporting to splash the money they did on a foreign kid his age, the scouts must have seen something special.

As for Porto, when their new Spanish coach was announced, I feared the worst for the team and from what I read the media consensus was that there were ominous signs that PdC's senility had caught up with him and that Porto's cycle was going to end sooner than later, but I must say that I am impressed by the acquisitions coming across the border from Spain. Tello and Casimiro are great pickups and at this stage, I am definitely fearing Porto a lot more than benfica.

It is very early, early days and there is plenty, I repeat plenty of time left until the transfer window closes, but if Benfica doesn't do something positive, I think they might be looking at a much tougher season than the one they experienced last year.

I have had to walk several of my Benfica friends off the ledge in the past two weeks. Most benfas that I know are fairly inconsolable and dumbfounded by the garage sale price tag ultimately affixed to Garay as well as the player departures going on at the chicken coop. Benfica had a deep and talented team last year, but it is usually harder to replicate the same amount of success a second year in a row when a team is missing a few of it's key players. (Garay, Markovic Rodrigo, Oblak and Siqueira spring to mind). If Enzo Perez is sold (rumours of Valenica being in discussions to sign him), that could be a hammer blow as I thought he was one of Benfica's best players last season.

Even if they bring in a few good talents JJ, has the tough task of getting different players to play together all over again. I don't know, but out of the Big 3, I think the red team has the most work to do, simply because of the player exodus that is going on and the ensuing psychological effect as well as the fact that their bedrocks such as Luisao, Maxi and Lima are getting long in the tooth.

As far as this season is concerned I hope that we see a commitment to fair play by all teams and officials alike and that we have a fun and exciting year. I wish all Portuguese teams well in Europe and I hope Sporting has a great season and that we beat our rivals whenever our paths cross.

Adeus
Sporting's Best Transfer
9 Tuesday, 22 July 2014 15:58
Sam/USA
This was obviously, and rightly, not listed, but I think that the return of Joao Mario to Sporting from his loan at Setubal may be one of the transfers of the season. In this preseason, Mario has looked spectacular, as he did last season on loan at Vitoria Setubal. He's done a good job of flying under the radar, but it's just a matter of time before he can't avoid the spotlight.

And if you think about it, Sporting's midfield could very easily be Portugal's midfield in a few years time. Adrien, William Carvalho, Andre Martins, and Joao Mario could all be shoo-ins for a NT spot in the future.
Benfica
8 Tuesday, 22 July 2014 14:11
Mem/Uk
Most of the players in the squad are on 3rd party ownership deals which means that these exoduses are the way it's going to be for the foreseeable future. Mendes has far too much influence and JJ's style means a lot of the players can't wait to leave once they've made their name.
Sometimes I wonder if Mendes actually cares about the players he looks after. So many are in Russia and not progressed at all.
Sporting has a very good squad!
7 Tuesday, 22 July 2014 14:00
Eddie/Trinidad
Sporting has gotten stronger with their moves and their team is in great shape in my opinion. Currently as it stands, I think Sporting has the edge. There is still time to go, but as we've all come to realize Bruno de Carvalho has Sporting's true good in his heart. He has protected his players and fostered a great spirit and he won't let any of his stars leave on the cheap for sure. That is a big thing meaning we can all be positive that Sporting's main stars will all be kept around and the team can push on even more from there. The players themeslves I believe want to do it for each other and the club and the fans.

We've all been saying how talented Joao Mario is as he's consistently been on of the best if not the best midfielder in the youth ranks as he's progressed. Last season vs Benfica in the Taca de Honra he was amazing, this season again in the Taca de Honra he was amazing as well. The guy plain and simple is an incredible midfield playmaker! Great touch and control, skill dribbling ability, great tactical intelligence, great vision, speed to dribble past players as well, and he's got decent strength as well (more than Andre Martins). Thankfully he's been good on his loan last season and been impressing in training and preseason so far, and he's won the confidence of Marco Silva who wants to use him as the third midfielder alongside William, Adrien, to be that extra creative player. And personally I think he's a great addition there and will be awesome!

Andre Martins is pretty good, but he still needs to become stronger and gain more stamina, those two things always hamper him. Last season there was no real other players to replace him to do that job properly. Now there are two for sure with Joao Mario and Ryan Gauld. I respect all of them, for their respective traits and value, but honestly my favorite midfield trio would be William Carvalho, Adrien Silva, and Joao Mario! That is TOP midfield! And that will definitely help the Portugal national team as well. Still a shame Adrien wasn't called up for the world cup when he absolutely deserved it. But for sure he's an important player for both Sporting and Portugal now as well as William, and I see Joao Mario making the national team as well eventually sooner rather than later. Simply put those three are CLASS!

Oriol Rosell was a great signing as well, he's a quality player as he's come from Barcelona's la masia so he knows the 4-3-3 style of football perfectly and he's very solid and technically good too as a defensive midfielder. Great back up for William.

I'm happy we've kept hold of Slimani as he's been really showing his quality as he shone in the world cup and shows once again what a great piece of business it was by Sporting signing him on a free. The guy is a powerful number 9 good finisher good footballer. Happy Fredy's around still too, he looks skillful and clever as ever love the number 10 on him, he's a good striker as well with that great link up ball control and creative ability too to help bring the team into play and with a great nose for goal too. Very happy with our strikers.

Great move to sign Paulo Oliveira, another promising talented Portuguese , he's in the perfect place for top Portuguese talents which is Sporting Clube de Portugal! I have a feeling Dier will be leaving soon anyway, cause he doesn't wanna renew his contract I think. He's an englishman, and I believe ultimately he wants to play in the Premier League, so be it, he's a good center back, but we have others to replace him, and thats why Paulo Oliveira was a good signing. Plus we still have Ruben Semedo as well who's a talent center back as well. They're both Portuguese so its all good if Dier leaves anyway. Great that the club has kept onto Rojo and Mauricio. I gotta admit, I didnt like Rojo two seasons ago, but last season he stepped up big time and became a good center back, and he continued his development to be one of the very best defenders in the world cup, so big respect to Rojo! Proud of you! Sporting's doing well to keep him as it'll keep our chemisty together with him and Mauricio.

I'm happy Carillo is still here too, I know some people don't like him , but I love him! I think he's one of the best creative attacking players in the league, yes he has at times not been the smartest with decision making, but he's steadily got better season after season with game intelligence. And I believe this season he'll be even better and be a top player.

All in all I think Sporting is very strong right now, we've got the talent and the depth right now that some said we sort of missed last season. We're competing in more competitions this season so we truly would need the depth and management has done their job brilliantly and brought in that depth, all with talent as well. In my opinion Sporting is the strongest team right now in Portugal! A lot of talented Portuguese players to help the national team as well.
With a good mix of foreign talents as well, competition is high all around the team and the spirit is high and all this I believe makes for a great team for Sporting and a great season! FORCA SPORTING!
what michael silva said
6 Tuesday, 22 July 2014 12:57
johnieoooo
x 2....will most likely be sporting.
The reason i was cheering for Seville in the Europa Cup final.
RE:
5 Tuesday, 22 July 2014 12:00
Michael Silva/ Newark, NJ
How many Portuguese players will Benfica, Porto, and Sporting play? I'll support the club that plays the most. That's all I care about, just want to see Portugal succeed.
Shikabala
4 Tuesday, 22 July 2014 11:51
Vasco da Gama / NL
Anybody knows why Shikabala didn´t play with L Jardim and why he´s not playing with M Silva?
Thoughts
3 Tuesday, 22 July 2014 11:37
Andre/UK
Well as has been mentioned, there is still a long way to go in the summer transfer period, in fact it will probably only heat up now post-WC, as the rich clubs of Europe get desperate to add to their squads. At this moment it seems like Benfica have definitely been hit the hardest by departures of key players. I don't think any Benfica fan can be content with how many key players we've lost this summer, practically half of the first team starters from last season, and as replacements we've bought a bunch of young and relatively unknown players. The club has to make sure Enzo Perez and Gaitan are kept otherwise it will be a total face lift for next season. We also need to sign a few more players (and hopefully some more established ones) in key positions.

However I am quite sure that both Porto and Sporting will also lose key players before the transfer deadline is over. Sporting weren't in Europe at all last year and have spent a bit already this summer, without losing anyone. Sporting have by far the lowest budget of the big 3 so I can't believe they will be able to not sell any key players. At least one (if not more) of William, Rojo and Slimane will surely have to be sold. Porto have been spending quite a lot for Portuguese standards (e.g 20 million for Adrian and Martins Indi combined), and even their loanees like Casemiro and Tello will likely demand quite high salaries (for Portuguese standards) coming from their respective parent clubs, so Porto will surely have to cash in this summer on a couple of key players. Mangala is almost certainly gone, while Jackson is likely to go too, as many of the rich clubs are on the lookout for quality centre-forwards.

So while at the moment, Sporting and Porto seem to have the edge on Benfica with the transfer dealings, I think by the end of August it will be more balanced. In Benfica's favour too is JJ remaining in charge, a coach who knows about challenging for the Liga through and through, and is an expert at getting the best out of new players and developing them. Sporting have a promising new young coach, but like Fonseca last season at Porto, one who is not yet used to the pressure and expectation of winning every game. They are in Europe too this season, and their complete absence from it last season was a key factor in their challenge for the Liga, so we'll see how well they deal with the extra games this year. Porto have a promising young coach too, but one who has no real club experience yet and certainly no experience of Portuguese futebol. So we shall see what happens as the new season progresses, it'll be exciting no doubt.
Porto wins
2 Tuesday, 22 July 2014 00:18
Ricardo Castro
There is no doubt that FC Porto will win this year!
overview
1 Monday, 21 July 2014 23:45
Vasco da Gama / NL
Benfica with a lot of work to do (I liked to see Talisca yesterday), never underestimate FC Porto (they look like their building something for the future, a new cycle) and Sporting continue their low budget shopping.

If Sporting keep Rojo, Carvalho, Slimani and still manage to find another striker (let´s see what the world super star Tanaka can do), if André Martins grows (he´s playing good, but it´s the pre-season), they might have a shot at the title. Me says.

I have a feeling Sporting have a surplus of wingers. I also have a feeling FC Porto will surprise. If they do, it won´t actually be a surprise...

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