With the Portuguese domestic season now officially over, some of the country’s top clubs have wasted no time in looking for new leadership. As it stands now, Sporting, Benfica, Vitória Guimarães, Braga, and Paços Ferreira will all have new coaches for next season. And at the heart of all of this upheaval is Jorge Jesus, who scandalously chose to leave Benfica to coach their cross-town rivals Sporting Lisbon. Continue reading
It was the best of times; it was the worst of times. You won’t find a better analysis of last weekend’s Primeira Liga action than Charles Dickens’ introductory sentiment in his classic A Tale of Two Cities. It was as if the Portuguese soccer world turned on its head overnight: All the minnows became giants and all the winners became losers. All, that is, except for the Lions of Lisbon, who were the only top-five team to escape the round with a victory.
Depending on where you pledge your allegiance, you were either thrilled or distraught; no doubt most neutrals loved the results as they blew what was once a foregone conclusion of a title race wide open to a three team race that, if last week’s scores are anything to go by, could go either way down the stretch.
As Portuguese football fans, we were treated to a number of curious results and shock upsets that thoroughly entertained us in one way or another; as Portuguese football prognosticators, however, we were made complete fools of and left to pick up the pieces of our shattered confidence.
My confidence in particular has left the building along with Elvis: I only correctly guessed the winner of one match (Sporting over Academica) and came away from the weekend with an embarrassing 1-8 record. I now have an overall record of 6-12. Yikes. I guess my new approach didn’t pay off huh?
Something tells me I wasn’t the only one cryin’ like a hound dog when it was all over though. I mean, who in their right mind would’ve tipped Vitoria de Guimaraes to drop points at home against last place Gil Vicente, or, Benfica, Porto, AND Braga to lose to the likes of Pacos de Ferreira, Maritimo, and Boavista? It’s insanity I tell ya – insanity!
But, let’s be honest, that’s what makes betting – even just friendly betting with no money involved – fun. Nothing is a sure thing no matter how much we’d like to believe it is, and, it’s the mystery that keeps us engaged.
Speaking of a mystery, who knows how my picks will play out this week? If I have another terrible showing I might just revert to flipping a coin or pulling teams out of a hat to see if my record becomes more respectable. But, for the time being, I’m taking one more chance without literally resorting to chance. Here are my inclinations for the 19th round of play: Continue reading
Benfica fan favourite Nicolas Gaitan has been in the transfer rumour news all summer with Monaco, Manchester United, and Liverpool all keen on picking up his services. I’ll take a look at why Benfica should transfer him.
This will not be a popular article with Benfiquistas in light of all the transfers Luis Felipe Vieira has made this summer, but with all the player purchases last season, and few sales. Tough decisions have to be made at the club, and the pipeline restocked with good younger talent.
It is imperative for Portuguese Liga teams to sell to maintain their club co-efficient standings and performances in Europe. Benfica currently rank 5th; quite an impressive feat when you look at it.
So stars like Gaitan will come and go that is the nature of the business. The more important part is selecting the players that should stay, pay them more and keep them a few seasons at BIG RED. Gaitan has had his few seasons, most of which have been losing ones with only one Liga win for Benfica, while he has featured in primetime. The more important part is that 3 out of those 4 seasons he has starred Benfica had the better team, and has one Liga crown to show for it.
So I hope you keep an open mind as I play Red Devils Advocate. Here are the main reasons I think Gaitan should be sold now:
- If they don’t transfer him, Enzo Perez will go – Enzo actually plays for his National team and is a workhorse both offensively and defensively on the pitch. He is not an easy replacement whereas Benfica have Ola John & Pizzi to replace Gaitan on the wing.
- He is a selfish player – Gaitan averages a lot of shots a game, with very few on target. He has averaged 3.3 goals a year in the Liga and doesn’t feed his strikers who have a higher goal rate (even when they are open in the 6 yard box). Time is also running out on his valuation, IF Benfica have a rough season we will never get the transfer fee which is currently being offered in excess of the £30m mark. He also looks for highlight reel plays (looking to get a bigger clubs attention) and accomplishes it every 4 games, but it hurts the team game in game out.
- Need to restock the pipeline with younger/better prospects – With the sales of Garay, Cardozo, and Oblak players who aren’t easily replaced and will require many buys to do so. The sale of Gaitan would generate enough money to purchase a new stable of young players that can fight for those important roles.
- He doesn’t know defence – Gaitan is a notoriously bad defender that believes in a one way effort. The same is not true for his countrymen Enzo and Salvio. Eduardo might not be the best defender but he chases relentlessly to the backline in the meantime scoring on average 4.25 goals the last 4 seasons which is higher than Gaitan’s average. With Jesus’ all out attacking team formations you need players to track back on the opposite wing to balance out the attack. The holes Gaitan leaves make us vulnerable at the back.
- Ola John is faster and a better crosser/passer – With his speed Ola John is a terror on the left, has a great shot that does hit the target, and tracks back well as a defender. Ola is only 22 and it is time he was given his full run out. Ola John also knows where his bread gets buttered and links up well with his Fullbacks and Strikers to over-run opposing defences and improves the score line. In 2012/3 when Gaitan was out with injury Ola combined with Luisinho and his strikers for a team average close to 4 goals a game. As soon as Gaitan came back in the line-up that average dropped to 2 goals per game for the team. Same goes for Pizzi who is 24 as with Ola, Pizzi has averaged 5.5 goals on some bad Spanish teams. Just imagine what he could do on a great Benfica team.
So as you can see there are many great reasons to transfer Nico Gaitan, and to cash in now while the valuation is good. Failure to do so will result in Benfica selling him on the cheap next season. So you have to pick your poison.
For Benfica to do well this season they need to keep Enzo Perez (give him a raise and sell him next year), and dispatch Gaitan to the outhouse.
Agree or Disagree?
So what is your opinion?
Would you like to see Gaitan sold?
If not what do you think LFV should do?
Keep the comments coming…
Written by Orlando Mac (@OrlandoMaxxx)
Some players come into the spotlight because of playing for a big club. Their performances may not be any more noteworthy than other players’, but they continue to get press recognition because of the club that they play for. As a result, there are sometimes players whose solid performances fly under the radar; players who do not get as much hype. In Portugal, there has become a domination from teams known as “The Big Three.” Made up of Sporting, Benfica, and Porto, the “Big Three” has not been as clearly defined in recent seasons (Pacos Ferreira finished third in 2012/2013, Braga has risen to prominence, as has Estoril). This past season, however, “The Big Three” were back again with Benfica finishing 1st, Sporting 2nd, and Porto 3rd. As stated above, players from clubs outside of the “Big Three” in Portugal sometimes don’t really rise to prominence until they earn a move to one of the “Big Three” or abroad. That’s not to say their performances aren’t worthy of recognition. So, Portugal Football has decided to list the…
Top 5 Under-24 Liga Zon Sagres Players from the 2013/2014 Season…Outside the “Big Three”
The very fact that Joao Mario tops our list despite only spending half of a season at Vitoria Setubal says a lot. A center midfielder by trade, Mario is widely regarded as one of Portugal’s top prospects. In his 15 league appearances for Setubal, Mario helped his team to notable draws against Benfica and Sporting, and played a large role in the team’s impressive season. His performances were impressive enough to earn him a starting spot with the Portuguese Under-21 team and a role in Sporting’s first team for this season.
The oldest on our list, Andre Andre has become an irreplaceable part of Rui Vitoria’s side. Andre has garnered attention abroad from his performances this season, and it comes as no surprise. The center midfielder made 37 appearances in all competitions, leading the team through a campaign both in the Liga Zon Sagres and the Europa League. Dinamo Zagreb are said to be interested in Andre, but if he gets another solid season under his belt, there will likely be larger clubs interested.
Bebe was the laughing stock of English football after his ill-fated move from Vitoria Guimaraes to Manchester United in 2010. And to a certain extent, he still is. But not in Portugal. Bebe was on loan this season at Pacos Ferreira from Manchester United. Though the side struggled, barely managing to avoid relegation, Bebe shone. The Manchester United man struck 12 times for the team in only 27 appearances. These statistics are even more impressive when you consider that he scored these from his primary position out wide. His scoring exploits made him the highest scoring Portuguese player in the league last season, and Manchester United have opted to take him on their pre-season tour most likely as a result of his performances. But Manchester United will have to fend off interest from Benfica, who are reportedly very interested in acquiring his services.
Last season was possibly the best debut season Ricardo Horta could have hoped for. A product of both Benfica’s and Vitoria Setubal’s youth setups, Horta was promoted to Setubal’s first team this season. After impressive performances early in the season, Horta was awarded a starting spot and never looked back. Finishing the season with seven goals in 34 appearances on the wing, Horta was named to the Portuguese Under-20 team’s Toulon Tournament squad, scoring the deciding goal in the third place match against England. Malaga are said to be very interested and extremely close to signing the player, and it comes as no surprise. And he’s only 19!
A product of Benfica’s famed youth academy, Danilo Pereira first rose to prominence at the 2011 FIFA U-20 World Cup, where he performed admirably in Portugal’s midfield, helping them to a second place finish. A move abroad ensued, and after some more spells abroad, Pereira ended up at Maritimo last season. Pereira appeared 28 times for the Madeira-based club, helping them to a mid-table finish. His performances drew the interest of Sporting, who many speculate see him as the natural successor to William Carvalho.
Porto to Estoril (2-season loan)
Porto midfielder Antonio Jose Pinheiro Carvalho, more commonly referred to as “Toze“, has joined Liga Zon Sagres side Estoril from Porto on a two-season loan deal. Speculation on Toze’s future had been building ever since the season ended, and the midfielder was heavily linked to Estoril following the announcement of Porto’s purchase of Estoril’s Evandro. Following the sale of Carlitos from Estoril to Sion, Toze’s loan deal was arranged, and the midfielder will join the team immediately.
Estoril have had two fairy-tale seasons back-to-back. After being promoted after the 2011-2012 season, Estoril finished their first season in the top flight in almost a decade at an impressive 5th place. They improved upon that success with an even more impressive 4th place finish last season. The mastermind behind the revival was their young coach Marco Silva, who was promptly signed by Sporting Lisbon this off-season. Though they lost their talismanic leader, there is still much hope for the future. Jose Couceiro has taken charge. Couceiro is a hugely experienced coach, having spent time in Turkey, Russia, and Lithuania coaching before returning to Portugal last season to take charge at Vitoria Setubal. In his only season in Setubal, Couceiro led the team to an impressive 7th place finish, their best finish since the 2007-2008 season. A large amount of his success was due to his penchant for thrifty transfers. Striker Rafael Martins was signed on loan at the beginning of the season, and was a virtual unknown. By the end of the season, Martins had scored 15 league goals and was attracting serious interest from clubs such as Porto and Benfica. Couciero also has very few qualms about playing young, raw talent. Last season at Vitoria Setubal, Couceiro boldly gave Ricardo Horta a starting spot on the left wing. By the end of the season, Horta had established himelf as one of the team’s finest assets, and was according attracting interest from Benfica.
With a proven tactician in charge this season at Estoril in the form of Jose Couceiro, the team’s future looks bright. Toze will join the team to fill the voids opened following the departures of Carlitos and Evandro. With spots open in the team, Toze’s chance at playing time looks promising. And with a two-year loan deal, the midfielder has ample time to show what he’s worth and to develop into the player that Porto believes he can become.
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.
Happy new years everyone! Transfer stories in Portugal have been few and far between thusfar this transfer window, but here are the major moves.
Braga to Gil Vicente (loan)
Braga purchased Luis Silva in the summer after a highly impressive spell at Liga Orangina side Leixoes last season. The midfielder became a vital cog in Leixoes midfield, playing 38 games and finding the net seven times, while still only 20 years old. A big move beckoned for Silva, and Braga won the race to his signature, signing him for around 800,000 euros. Silva has found playing time hard to come by this season, however, and has only managed four appearances for the Arsenalistas so far this season. Silva will join Gil Vicente on loan until the end of the season.
Sporting to Vitoria Setubal (loan)
After some impressive performances both last season and summer, Joao Mario will get his chance to play in the Liga Zon Sagres regularly, after Vitoria Setubal agreed to take the midfielder on loan until the end of the season. Joao Mario was one of the Portugal U20 team’s most important players at last summer, running the team’s midfield to perfection, leading the team to the second round of the competition. The midfielder has been playing for Sporting’s B team this season, despite his hopes of first team soccer this season. This move will give Joao a bigger stage to display his undoubted talent.
Free Agent to Porto
Ricardo Quaresma has returned home. The winger’s time at the Estadio Dragao were the finest of his career, winning multiple league player of the season accolades. Quaresma was able to be signed for free after his contract was terminated at Al Ahli Dubai after less than one season. The winger has signed a 2.5 year deal, with many curious to see if he can reproduce the skill that made him so popular earlier in his career.
Portugal’s Liga Zon Sagres has formed a reputation for being one of the best formative leagues in Europe. With a seemingly endless conveyer-belt of talent flowing out of the league, it is no wonder that so many young players choose Portugal over other countries. Players such as David Luiz, Fabio Coentrao, Di Maria, Joao Moutinho, Hulk, and Falcao (among others) have all spent their formative years in the Iberian country, only to make multi-million euro moves abroad to some of the finest teams in the world.
This season, there are many young Portuguese talents who will be hoping to emulate the likes of Coentrao and Joao Moutinho; with hopes to earn a big move abroad; with hopes to be noticed by Paulo Bento and be selected for the national team. Regardless, there is much hope, both for the players and the spectators. At the root of all of this is a single hope: that Portuguese football may grow.
In this segment, Portugal Football is highlighting 25 under-22 Portuguese players from across the Liga Zon Sagres. These players are certainly players to watch for. Some are already proven players, while some are yet to showcase their talents on the big stage. So, without further ado, the ones to watch.
|Anibal Capela||22||Center Defense||29|
|Tiago Silva||20||Attacking Midfield||46|
|Andre Gomes||20||Center Midfield||27|
|Luis Silva||20||Center Midfield||44|
|Danilo Pereira||21||Defensive Midfield||31|
|Miguel Rodrigues||20||Center Defense||19|
|Roderick Miranda||22||Center Defense||16|
|Tiago Ilori||20||Center Defense||32|
|Paulo Oliveira||21||Center Defense||43|
|Miguel Lourenco||21||Center Defense||22|
Sporting to Lazio
Lazio announced today the hiring of Sporting Lisbon’s Bruno Pereirinha. The contract is valid until 2016, and there was no talk of the price of the transfer. Pereirinha had been a fringe player throughout his time at Sporting, despite positive performances for the Portugal Under-21 team as captain. His inability to hold down a starting place at Sporting was likely a contributing factor to this move to Lazio. Now, at Lazio, Pereirinha will most likely be fighting Abdoulay Konko for a starting spot at right-midfield. This is no small task, however, as Konko has been Lazio’s first choice right-midfielder for the past two seasons, and with Lazio still in the Serie A title race, change may not happen. Pereirinha may yet again be a fringe player.
Aves to Braga
Aves forward Rabiola has moved up a division to SC Braga. The striker currently leads the Liga Orangina scoring charts with 14 goals in 24 appearances, and has enjoyed a wonderful season thus far. Rabiola will most likely not appear for Braga’s first team, but instead will be inserted into the B team, which also plays in the Liga Orangina. His contract is valid until 2017.