Sporting CP Making Moves


Fabio Coentrao - Sporting

With preseason upon us, many Portuguese teams are already in the thick of squad formation. The transfer window has been open for not even two weeks and already, big moves have been made. Sporting CP, one of Portugal’s “Big Three,” have been active already this window. With his take on the transfer window is guest contributor, Joshua Bunting (Twitter: @Distillerymad).

Jorge Jesus has been busy already this summer strengthening his Sporting Lisbon side. The former Benfica manager has brought in Portuguese defender Fábio Coentrão and Frenchman Jérémy Mathieu. Jesus is clearly focusing on defence first and foremost with the signings and what a signing Coentrão could prove to be on loan from Real Madrid. Coentrão however said in a press conference that he would never play for former club Benfica’s biggest rivals, which led to abuse on his twitter account. However, this is the time now for the left-back to get his place back in the national team and impress Zidane ahead on the 2018-19 season to provide competition for Marcelo. The only doubt with Coentrão is his injury record as he only made 106 appearances for the current Spanish champions however the more concerning stat is that he’s played just 25 times in the last two seasons. 

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Match Report: All Even at the Lisbon Derby


Sporting vs Benfica - August 2014

Benfica 1-1 Sporting

Match Report

The Lisbon Derby between Benfica and Sporting at Estadio da Luz on Sunday ended in a 1-1 draw.

Benfica as well as Sporting came into the match undefeated in the early stages of the Primeira Liga and both teams got a point out of the game to ensure their unbeaten records stayed intact.

Both teams have amassed 51 Liga titles (Benfica 33, Sporting 18) between them, so it is usually a very intense derby with title implications, and this game was no different with the action starting early: Slimani’s header just missed from a dangerous Jefferson corner kick in the 3rd minute that had everyone beat.

In the 5th minute Rui Patricio made a great save tipping a well struck Talisca free kick over the bar, in a subsequent play Patricio comes up big again as Luisao’s hard shot off a corner gets pushed out at the far post.

The first goal in this clash of titans came early as Maxi Pereira linked up with Salvio on a give-and-go that fed Gaitan at the top of the box for a Benfica goal. It is one of the prettier goals so far in the young season as Salvio’s incisive run to the box, and Maxi’s quick follow-up caught the Sporting defence on the back foot, besides Patricio’s agility to get his hand on the Gaitan wonder strike, he had no chance and was beaten to the near post in the 11th minute.

Sporting fought back and with great pressure caused Artur to make an unforced error when Eliseu’s back pass was literally that a mishit off of Carillo’s backside (who charged down the ball) to hit an open Slimani in front of goal. Slimani made sure to penalize the Goalkeeper by heading it in off of the line for the tying goal making the scoreline level at 1-1.

Benfica along with Sporting traded chances to close out the first half with Eliseu hitting a bomb that went over the bar in the 26th minute, as well as Slimani getting a couple of good chances one in the 28th that he hit weakly towards Artur, and in the 42nd when he deflected a ball that Artur made a great save on (the Ref called the play back on an offside).

Second half started quickly with Gaitan chipping Patricio but the effort went over the bar in the 47th minute, then he turned provider when his cross to Salvio at the top of the box who shot just wide of the right post (48’).

Benfica kept the pressure on and had the better chances in the second half, with Talisca’s dangerous shot on goal in the 61st minute ricocheting off of Mauricio wide right (it almost caught Patricio out), which led to a threatening strike from outside the box by Enzo Perez that just evaded the far post (61’).

Salvio was then fed all alone in the heart of the box by a clever pass from Lima on the byline, but he could only muster a direct strike at Patricio who easily pushed it from harm’s way (62’). The action didn’t stop there as a great corner from Talisca found Andre Almeida’s powerful header in the box, forcing Patricio to make a spectacular flying save on the Portuguese International (64’). Lima then again made a dangerous run off of a Gaitan diagonal and found Salvio open at the back post (66’), but Salvio could only hit the side netting from the deadly cross.

Although Benfica had the Lion’s share of chances (excuse the pun) Sporting was never out of this game and a menacing free kick from Jefferson in the 71st minute forced Artur to make an acrobatic save to keep the match tied. Nani then headed easily right at Artur (73’) from a good cross from Capel.

Gaitan got Benfica back in the action in the 79th minute off of an Eliseu corner, when he rose above everyone in the box and just missed the near post with a powerful header.

SportingCP got the final good chance of the game when Nani delivered a dangerous cross to Slimani in the box, which forced an instinctive reflex save out of Artur to keep things level.

In the end both sides dropped points in the title race, but are still undefeated.

Opinion: 10 Reasons Paulo Bento Should be Fired


Photo: publico.pt

Photo: publico.pt

After Portugal’s collapse in this summer’s World Cup in Brazil, Paulo Bento, the Portuguese National Team Manager, has come under fire to resign or for the FPF (Portuguese Football Federation) to sack him. I’ll take a look today at the Top 10 reasons Bento should be fired.

Paulo Bento was born in Lisbon on the 20th of June 1969, he has had some good results over the years as a player, and as a Manager at Sporting CP. Bento even picked up the nickname of Papa-Taças (which translates into Cup Eater) during his tenure at Sporting.

In reality some would say that he won a bunch of meaningless trophies:

• 2 Portuguese Cups
• 2 Super Tacas
• 1 League Cup

As a Manager he lost out on the top prizes including the Liga title, as well as any Euro trophy. His loss to Bayern Munich with a 1-12 aggregate is the record for worst loss by a team in the Champions League, a credit no one wants on their resume.

Of course to the FPF, Bento’s record made him the leading candidate, and on September 20th, 2010 following Queiroz’s dismissal, Bento was hired.

Since then, Portugal has delivered two horrible qualifying campaigns for the 2012 Euro’s and for this World Cup. On both occasions the National Team needed play-offs to qualify, after ending up second behind Denmark and Russia, in relatively easy groups.

Most football pundits had Portugal doing well at this World Cup, although they were slotted in the Group of Death. Expectations were that Portugal would qualify easily in second place from that World Cup group stage.

After the early exit of Portugal from the tournament and the embarrassing defeat by the German’s, many fans and media alike have been critical of Bento’s management of the team.

So here are the Top 10 Reasons Bento Should Be Fired


1. Lack of flexibility in formations – Whether Portugal is playing Azerbaijan, Northern Ireland, Israel, Denmark, Spain, or Germany the formation is always a 4-3-3. Whether the NT is up by a goal, down by two, it is always 4-3-3. If Bento was on Top Chef he would cook the same meal with the same unwashed frying pan, and go out in the first round.

2. Results: Of the last 5 Portuguese National Team Managers (that weren’t interim Manager’s) Bento holds the record for the worst winning percentage. Here is a look at the top 5: 1) Humberto Coelho 66.67% 2) António Oliveira 58.14% 3) Luiz Felipe Scolari 56.76% 4) Carlos Queiroz 55.56% 5) Paulo Bento 54.66%
Unfortunately with the FPF bottom of the table results are good enough to extend a contract till 2016.

3. Playing favourites/Squad selection/Playing over the hill players : Brazil WC 2014 saw 6 of the starters for Portugal were over the age of 30, including three of the back four, and no one was younger than 26. Bento played until he was 35 so has the penchant to believe in older players. He also doesn’t like to feature young players in primetime. Portugal has a wealth of talented young prodigies that unfortunately get wasted at club and country.

4. Pride & Stubbornness – Even after terrible results Bento fly’s against the wind, being hounded by the media and fans at the closing press conference in Brazil after the early exit, Bento replied I have no intention of resigning. Questioned about his formations and squad selections he said, it is not his fault and looks to blame external sources. I am paraphrasing here, but that was the message. If the expectations were higher, Bento would’ve been ashamed and would’ve quit.

5. Training – Your team is headed to a World Cup in very hot and humid locations. The sensible thing to do would be to acclimatize your team to the environment before the tournament. Nope, Bento went for some friendlies in the US, mostly in the North East, meanwhile Northern Euro teams like Belgium, Switzerland, and of course Germany performed well in the heat.

6. Dead ball preparation/Set pieces Offence and Defence – In an extremely tough tournament with narrow decisions, most high level teams have worked out some ingenious plays both to defend and attack. Yet the NT has been weak for years on defending set pieces, and also generating goals. If it is such a deciding factor, why does the NT look so disorganized? We have lost countless BIG GAMES from the inability to win or defend the dead ball. A reasonable man would make this his priority.

7. Failing to adapt quickly in-game/Game time decisions – Joao Perreira is being over-run on the right, Veloso and Mereiles, are losing their markers in midfield because of the other team’s ability or your formation. Yet the status quo is kept to the breaking point, and even though the NT is in a draw or are losing, there are no changes to the formation or player substitutions made until the dying moments of a game.

8. Restraint of players/Leading by Example – Bento’s previous World Cup experience was playing for the NT in 2002 and crashed out when Portugal exited in the first round. He also was suspended for 5 months after a bust-up with the Referee in that tournament. Did Bento learn from his experience? Nope, he accused a Ref of bias after the Germany game in Brazil. His example leads to players surrounding the game officials, and taking idiotic red cards, as Pepe did in that Germany game, none of which is beneficial going forward.

9. The FPF earpiece – It is common knowledge in any previous Manager hiring that the FPF have demanded a Portuguese speaking Manager so that they can communicate with them. No foreign tongue is welcome, because the FPF wants to influence the Manager. Bento has a very strong relationship with his handlers, and even after poor results, they have no interest in firing him. Now only if Benfica & Porto loved their own that much.

10. Not playing a true Defensive Mid/Trinco – Bento prefers defence by committee so employs 3 in the middle that are considered more box to box midfielders in Veloso, Meireles, and Moutinho. His thinking is more offensive in its approach as all 3 create more than they defend. With Joao Perreira on the wing in the Neverback position this is a catastrophic mistake, one that Bento has over-played in his tenure as NT Manager. Quieroz was wise to this flaw in the 4-3-3 so deployed Pepe & Meira as DM’s which led to the NT not surrendering a goal in the qualifying round in the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. So with William Carvalho hitting the stage and being widely proclaimed as the best young DM in Europe, the thought was that he was going to get a big role. He did, unfortunately it was in warm-up games. Until injury struck Crvalho was rooted to the bench.

That concludes my Top 10 list of reasons for Bento being fired, but in contrast it is not like Bento hasn’t accomplished anything in his time as Portuguese National Team Manager. He did reach the semi-finals of the Euro Tournament in 2012, although some would argue it was the players doing.

He also defeated World Cup champions Spain 4–0 in Lisbon, imposing the largest defeat to its Iberian neighbours in our history (albeit in a friendly).

In a recent article for Entrepeneur.com, they listed the 5 Signs It’s Time to Fire a Company Manager they were:

1. Decisions are being made based on politics, not productivity.
2. Communication is one-way.
3. Employee complaints are on the rise.
4. The manager abuses his or her power.
5. Employees are being thrown under the bus.

I believe I checked off most of that list, especially when you view fans as employees. Even if you don’t the least you would consider fans, is as stakeholders in the business of football. If a CEO loses his stockholders trust on Wall Street, he is terminated.

Sadly that is not the case in the world of football.

The report the vast majority of Portuguese fans want to read would go somewhat like this:

“In a very brief statement: The FPF has officially announced that Paulo Bento has been sacked as manager.”

So what is your view?
Would you like to see Paulo Bento fired?
What has he done that has upset you?
If not, then what is your reasoning for keeping him at the helm?

Written by Orlando Mac (@OrlandoMaxxx)

Vitoria Guimaraes: Return to Roots


Vitoria_Sport_ClubeThe financial situation around the world has been a talking point for some time. Many countries that usually have strong economies have suffered as a result of the recession. Portugal is one of the worst. At the same time, a common trend has emerged in the world of football. Wealthy individuals have bought football clubs, pumping millions, and even billions, into them. Manchester City, Malaga, and PSG are three prime examples. The very facade of football has changed as a result. While these clubs have not been affected by the economic downturn, some have not been as lucky. Vitoria Guimaraes is a perfect example.

Vitoria SC, as it is known in short, is a club with a rich history, like many clubs in Portugal. founded in 1922, the club has served most of it’s life in the top division in Portugal. Although they have never championed the league, they have established themselves as a dominant force, especially in recent times. Before the emergence of Braga as the fourth top team in Portugal, many would argue that Vitoria Guimaraes was the fourth strongest team in Portugal.

The economic downturn, along with mismanagement, hit Vitoria SC particularly hard. At one point last season, the players’ wages went unpaid for four months. The club had to offload a number of high wage earners as a result. Players such as Edgar Silva, Paulo Sergio, Faouzi, and Anderson Santana were offloaded in the summer, likely to cut the club’s wage expenses. Many did not predict the club to survive the league this season. Vitoria Guimaraes has survived this season, however, and not only have they survived, but they have survived comfortably. How they did is interesting.

The departures of the aforementioned players obviously left some large gaps in the squad for this season. Knowing that the club did not have the resources to buy more higher-profile players, the club turned to their talented youth pool. Ricardo, Tiago Rodrigues, and Paulo Oliveira were all given first-team roles. Likewise, the club secured the loan of Sporting Libson’s youngster Amidio Balde and purchased Andre Andre from Varzim for free. All five of these players have played pivotal roles at one point or another in Vitoria Guimaraes’ campaign so far this season. For instance, Amidio Balde has scored five goals in twelve appearances, while Ricardo and Andre Andre have established themselves as permanent first-team fixtures.

The situation with Vitoria Guimaraes is an interesting one. Many clubs look abroad for talent, while overlooking the talented players already at their own club. Vitoria SC went back to the basics, and it has paid off for them. Not only are they strong this season (6th so far in the Liga Zon Sagres), but these talented young players will certainly grow, and the team will be stronger every year for years to come. Why? Because the team invested in what they had, and had faith in young Portuguese players.

Joaozinho Loaned to Sporting


Joaozinho - Beira-Mar

Joaozinho

Beira-Mar to Sporting (loan w/ option to buy)

Following the departures of Emiliano Insua and Daniel Pranjic to Gremio and Celta respectively, Sporting has snapped up Beira-Mar left-back Joaozinho on loan until the end of the season. According to reports coming out of Portugal, Sporting chose to loan Joaozinho because he was one of the cheapest options available. Currently sitting in eight in the Portuguese league, Sporting are struggling this season, both on and off the field. The financial problems of the club have come to light recently, and this move was surely an attempt to cut-back at the club. At the end of the loan, the contract states that Sporting may purchase Joaozinho for 750,000 euros.

Lopes and Ventura Involved in Izmailov Swap Deal


Hugo Ventura - Porto

Miguel Lopes - Sporting

Miguel Lopes and Hugo Ventura

Porto to Sporting Lisbon

In another slightly bizarre move, Sporting Lisbon’s Russian winger, Marat Izmailov, has moved to rivals FC Porto, in return for Hugo Ventura and Miguel Lopes. Ventura, a goalkeeper, and Lopes, a right-back, will most likely add depth to Sporting. During the 2010-2011 season, Ventura was called up to the Portuguese National Team, as the team’s third-choice goalkeeper. The main explanation given for this was that he had received regular playing time, while on loan from Porto at Portimonense. This shows that Ventura can be an able deputy for Rui Patricio, and in case Patricio decides to leave, possibly take over the number 1 spot. Miguel Lopes, on the other hand, will most likely not be spending time on the bench. A substitute right-back for Porto, Lopes gained prominence through a loan at Braga at the end of last season. His performances for Braga were enough to convince Paulo Bento to include him in the Euro 2012 squad. He has amassed four appearances for the Seleccao. Both moves are smart ones for both Sporting and Porto. For Porto, they get two fringe players off the books, while for Sporting, they get two useful squad members.

Daniel Carrico Signs on at Reading


Daniel Carrico

Daniel Carrico

Sporting Lisbon to Reading

In a surprise move, Daniel Carrico has switched crisis-ridden Sporting Lisbon with Premier League relegation-battlers Reading. It has been widely-known that Daniel Carrico was looking to leave Sporting. Once touted as the future of Portuguese football, the defender’s development has stalled, and consequently, his starting spot at Sporting has disappeared. Once linked with multi-million dollar moves to clubs like Manchester United, Chelsea, Atletico Madrid, and Manchester City. Now, however, Carrico has moved to a bottom-table Premier League side for not even a million Euros. The final transfer fee? 750,000 Euros. Pretty shabby.

Carrico spoke of his departure from his boyhood club to Sporting’s website, saying: “It is with mixed emotions that I write this farewell message,” he said. “I’m leaving the club of my heart, where I had the privilege of graduating (through the youth ranks) and serving for several years. I’m leaving because I understand that I am at a stage in my career when I have to take chances. Moreover, the proposed project is extremely exciting to me and know I can succeed.”

Opinion: Will Tottenham Swoop for Moutinho?


News came out today that Croatian midfielder Luka Modric had completed Tottenham to Real Madrid for a staggering 33 million euros. This move thins out what was an already thick midfield in regards to talent. On Tottenham’s roster are the likes of Tom Huddlestone, Rafael Van der Vaart, Gylfi Sigurdsson, Jake Livermore, Scott Parker, and Sandro, all of whom are, or have been, regular internationals. Though it appears that more spending in the midfield may not be necessary, it appears that it will nevertheless happen.

All summer, Tottenham have been linked with a host of midfielders, in response to the almost imminent departure of star man Modric. One such player is Porto’s Joao Moutinho. Currently a mainstay of the Porto team, Moutinho dictates the play on the pitch. When he plays, Porto looks noticeably better. When he is benched, the team suffers. His role is that of a box-to-box midfielder. Gifted with loads of stamina, Moutinho will bounce around on the pitch, winning balls, and distributing them out. He’s not simply a tough player, though. At Porto, Moutinho has formed a reputation for being able to play a killer ball through the middle or out to the wings. This is much the same as Luka Modric at Tottenham. The two are similar in their basic strengths, but the are some minor differences (Modric is a better passer, Moutinho is scrappier). The gist of all of this is that Joao Moutinho and Luka Modric are similar players. Keep that in mind.

Joao Moutinho was born and raised a Sporting Lisbon player. He joined the Under-14 Sporting Lisbon team in 1999, aged just 13. He stayed at the club all the way until 2010, when Porto controversially purchased him. He, along with Miguel Veloso, was the crown jewel of the club, as he and Veloso’s development was because of the team’s youth setup. Moutinho was made vice-captain at age 19, and soon after, was named captain. It seemed like he would be a mainstay at Sporting for years to come. That was not to be the case however. An Andre Villas-Boas-led Porto bought him at the beginning of the 2010-2011 season, and he has never looked back. This move was a curious one, as Moutinho was arguably in the darkest part of his career at the time of his move to Porto. He had just been excluded from the Portuguese team at the World Cup, and had just come off a sub-par year with Sporting. On top of that, he was moving to a club in the midst of a change of managers; from one extremely experienced manager to an unproven rookie. Porto, it should also be said, had only achieved third place in the league the season before. Because of all of this, his move to Porto was a strange one, but it proved to be extremely fruitful.

It now appears that Moutinho may be reunited with Andre Villas-Boas at Tottenham. Last season, when Villas-Boas was the Chelsea boss, there was speculation that he would move for Moutinho. It’s no secret that Villas-Boas is a fan of Moutinho, but with the coach also weighing up moves for French international Yann M’Vila, Dutch international Ibrahim Afellay, Shakhtar star Willian, and American international Clint Dempsey, will a move for Moutinho actually happen?

Renato Neto to Represent Seleccao in Near Future


Sporting Lisbon’s Brazilian-born defensive midfielder Renato Neto is looking to gain Portuguese citizenship next year in a bid to play for the Seleccao. While the player is well-known in Europe, he is much less known in Brazil, which may be the main reason for the switch of allegiance. Neto joined Sporting’s youth setup in 2007, and developed into one of the most promising prospects at the club. In the 2010-2011 season, Neto got his first taste of first-team action when he was loaned to Cercle Brugge, which is a feeder club for Sporting. That season, he would appear in forty matches at Brugge, and established himself as a hugely important player. Another loan was arranged this season, and the midfielder continued his impressive form. Midway through the season, however, he was recalled by Sporitng, due to an injury crisis in the Portuguese club’s midfield. Since then, he has stepped in admirably, and has appeared in ten official matches. Still only aged 20, Renato Neto looks to have a solid future ahead of him, both at Sporting, and the Portuguese National Team.

Transfer Rumors – 1/16/12


Things are starting to heat up in this transfer window that has been largely uneventful. Maybe it will become more interesting if any of these rumors become a reality.

Adrien Silva

Sporting to Everton?

According to reports coming out of Portugal, Everton are very interested in signing Adrien Silva, who is currently on loan from Sporting Lisbon at Academica. Silva has been in rampant form this season for Academica, and his performances have not gone unnoticed. Everton boss David Moyes was in the stands yesterday during the Academica vs Vitoria Guimaraes match, with Silva most likely the reason for his trip. A move is unlikely, however, as Silva’s release clause at Sporting is set at 20 million, and Everton are typically a cash-strapped club.

Joao Pereira

Sporting to PSG?

Sporting right-back Joao Pereira is reportedly a target for French billionaire club PSG. Inter Milan right-back Maicon is said to be their primary target, but if a 15 million pound move for him does not materialize, the French club may look to either Pereira or Porto right-back Jorge Fucile.

Diogo Ribeiro

Sertanense to Chelsea, Wolfsburg, Monaco, or Porto?

Many don’t recognize the name Diogo Ribeiro. There is no reason to. Now, however, Ribeiro is the top scorer in the equivalent of the third division in Portugal. The striker has bagged nine goals so far this season, and that tally has not gone unnoticed. Representatives from Chelsea, Wolfsburg, Monaco, and Porto were all present at the team’s last match, with Ribeiro their intended target.

Silvestre Varela

Porto to Mariselle or Bologna (loan)?

Porto outcast (kind-of) Sivestre Varela is looking for a way out of the club. The winger was an integral part of the team that won virtually everything last season, but this season has been the polar opposite. Under new coach Vitor Pereira, Varela has been pushed into the shadows, and with talk of another winger, Yannick Djalo, joining the club, his playing time looked even more threatened. Though the Yannick move has not materialized, Varela is still looking out. Marsielle and Bologna are both interested in taking the player on loan.