Sporting Braga are looking to put a disappointing season behind them. After the arrival of club legend and proven tactician Jesualdo Ferreira at the beginning of last season, much was expected of the team. But after a string of bad results, the Minho club found themselves at 9th place in the league by the end of the season, their worst finish since the 2002-2003 season. And that finish was all the worse as Braga was not even present in European competition, after failing to qualify for the Europa League(knocked out in the play-off by Romanian side Pandurii).
This season looks to go better. Antonio Salvador, the frugal and competent president of the club, immediately signed Sergio Conceicao as the head coach. Conceicao, who was a regular for the national team during his playing days, joined from Academica, where he guided the team to an 8th place finish. Since taking charge at Braga, Conceicao has made a number of transfers, most notably of Danilo Barbosa da Silva, who is a highly-regarded Brazilian midfield prospect, and Matheus Magalhaes, a 21-year old Brazilian goalkeeper.
But Conceicao is not just looking to Brazilian talent. Aves winger Fabio Martins is another of Conceicao’s recruits. Martins joins after an impressive season for Aves, where he managed 33 league appearances, helping the team to an impressive 4th placed finish in the Segunda Liga. A product of Porto’s youth academy, Martins made his senior debuts in the 2012-2013 season for Porto’s B team, appearing 29 times for the team. After that season, Aves signed Martins on a free transfer, and with another impressive season under his belt, he looks set to join Braga and show his skills on a larger stage.
With the advent of the B-team system in Portugal two seasons ago, teams such as Braga, Benfica, and Sporting (among others) had the opportunity to give their younger players valuable playing time in the Segunda Liga while also keeping them close enough to track and influence their development. Benfica, Porto, and Sporting have all found success with their B-teams, with all three finishing well last season. Braga’s team was not as fortunate. Only managing a 20th place finish, the Minho team barely escaped a disastrous season. Braga is a team that has historically not been gifted with many financial resources, and their lack of investment in the B-team last season shows the lack of resources perfectly. Likely looking to build the team and the future of the club, Conceicao has signed 19 year old Portuguese striker Carlos Fortes from Spanish club Racing Santander. Fortes had spells with various youth teams in Portugal before moving to Spain. In Spain, though he did not manage a single senior appearance for Santander, Fortes caught the attention of the Portuguese U-20s coach. The striker went on to make three appearances for the U-20 team. There is every indication that Fortes is set to join Braga’s B team and spearhead their attack next season. This signing, coupled with players promoted from the U-19 youth team (who won the Portuguese U-19 championship last season), may prove to be exactly what the team needs.