It is not unusual to see a level of disinvestment in relation to the playing squad every summer among Portugal’s major clubs, but this close season could see an unprecedented amount of top talent leave the Liga NOS.
Last night news broke that FC Porto and Portugal centre-forward André Silva was in Italy preparing to take his medical ahead of a €40m move to AC Milan. Just 24 hours earlier, Manchester United had announced that agreement had been reached with Benfica for the purchase of centre-back Victor Lindelöf from the Lisbon giants.
The two departures come on the back of the sales of Benfica goalkeeper Ederson to Manchester City, and Sporting centre-back Rúben Semedo to Villarreal.
Porto forced to sell
It is no secret that Porto’s perilous financial situation means it is inevitable its most bankable players will be sold. In October the club issued its prospective accounts for the coming year, which included forecast revenue of €115m from player sales. And on Friday UEFA imposed sanctions on the Portuguese club for failing to meet financial fair play requirements. The Dragons can only name 22 players for their Champions League squad next season, and were fined €700,000.
Nevertheless, the sale of Silva will come as a big disappointment to the club’s fans. The 21-year-old has been a big hit ever since breaking into the first team at the tail end of 2015/16. This term, his first full season, he scored 21 goals for Porto in 44 games, including four in the Champions League, while he has struck up a sensational partnership with Cristiano Ronaldo for the Seleção. In five World Cup qualifying matches together, Ronaldo and Silva have scored 17 goals, the junior partner notching six of them.
New Porto coach Sérgio Conceição seems likely to lose more players before the summer is out, with speculation linking centre-back Felipe and midfielders Herrera, Danilo and Rúben Neves with moves out of the Dragão, while goalkeeper Iker Casillas and right-back Maxi Pereira could also leave to alleviate the wage bill.
Benfica in the same boat
As for Benfica, despite the substantial revenue earned through the turnstiles after a highly successful recent spell (four straight championship triumphs), prize money coming from creditable runs in the Champions League in the last two seasons, and several huge transfer windfalls (Renato Sanches and Gonçalo Guedes, among others), the Lisbon giants remain heavily in the red.
As reported by PortuGOAL two weeks ago, Benfica president Luís Filipe Vieira dropped a heavy hint that the club would now be focusing on reducing its massive debt. Brazilian goalkeeper Ederson and Swedish centre-back Victor Lindelöf have both been sold for reported fees of €40m and €35m respectively, and it may not end there, with Portugal right-back Nélson Semedo also in line to be let go in exchange for a huge transfer fee.
Sporting to follow suit
Portugal’s other major club, Sporting, may also see one or more of its top players plucked away. Promising centre-back Rúben Semedo was last week sold for €14m to La Liga outfit Villarreal, and several of the club’s best players are linked with big-money moves abroad on almost a daily basis in the press.
It would not be a huge surprise to see the departure of at least one of club captain Adrien Silva, holding midfielder William Carvalho or brilliant young winger Gelson Martins, all currently on national team duty preparing for the Confederations Cup.
by Tom Kundert