Hey friends, much like I did last season, I decided to write you guys a bit of an update of everything that is going on in each team’s transfer activity in preparation for the new season that is about to start. That includes my very general thoughts on each relevant move each side has made and what gaps I expect them to fill by the end of August.
As expected, this turned out way too long so you have two options: either just check out your preferred team or lay down on your beach towel and go to town on this nerdiness for half an hour of your day. Two more things: whenever an “update” is mentioned it means it’s complementary news added after I wrote the text for that team and no, the big three aren’t mentioned here, because you know who they signed already.
VITORIA SC (Vitória Guimarães)
Surprisingly enough Vitória SC kept Pedro Martins after their great season and are now back in Europe. Bruno Gaspar is the main out: the right-back finally made the jump, earning VSC €4M from Fiorentina. The club should really be looking to get a replacement for him as, at the moment, the versatile Aurélio seems to be the only option for the position. The loanees said goodbye to the club and, while it may have been expected, it’ll be tough to deal with: wide forwards Hernâni and Marega – 32 of the 50 goals that VSC scored last season were scored or assisted by these two. There is real pressure for both the new signings and guys like Rafael Martins to start getting on the scoresheet because the difference makers from months ago are gone. All other exits have been players who were previously on loan or that got minimal minutes so they’ll have minor impact.
Two young Colombians arrived as the club’s main investments: Rincón after a somewhat unspectacular season as a right winger for Tigre in Argentina and Estupiñan who is a very interesting 20-year-old from Once Caldas who can play up top or from the left. I’m a lot more excited about the latter than the former. More important than this duo is the signing combo of Hurtado and Celis. Both very useful on loan at the club last season, they made their deals permanent. Chico Ramos is the final add on: the Olympic midfielder for Portugal is talented but will have to recover from a “non-season” filled with injury.
Besides the previously mentioned RB situation, Martins’s side could have an issue with their centre-backs if injury strikes. Pedrão, a starter last season, signed permanently at the club a couple of days ago, but Gouano, a 3rd option last year has left. An injury to Pedrão or Josué could prove troublesome.
Update 1: Apparently VSC is closing in on Porto CB Abdoulaye Bá. Not sure to what point he would be ideal, as the images of his errors are daunting to think about, but if a manager like Vitor Pereira trusted him enough to take him everywhere, who am I to judge. Still think the decision to move João Afonso to Cordoba on loan was odd, as even with Bá’s arrival, another CB could be needed.
Abel was the chosen one to take over the club and he’ll be bringing a completely new philosophy compared to Jorge Simão. Braga will play offensive football again, playing with a high line, focusing on build-up. This means a lot of moves happened as the manager tried to tailor the team to his ideas. Marítimo trio of Raul Silva, Fransergio and Dyego Sousa all arrived as options for the starting eleven. Jefferson and Esgaio didn’t get much game time with Sporting but will be the starting full-backs here. Sequeira was one of the few decent performers at Nacional last season and will compete with the Brazilian, while on the right. Baiano is still at the club but seems to be on his way out, while Paulinho already returned to his former club Chaves, so Goiano will be the one left to compete with Esgaio.
Pinto moved to Sporting, Velasquez’s loan ended and Artur Jorge moved on loan to Mouscron, which means the CB position might need reinforcements beyond the aforementioned Raul. André Moreira arrived on loan from Atleti to bolster the GK area, since Marafona will be out injured for a while longer. Horta signed after a good season on loan and Fábio Martins returned – talented winger who will be a good option for the club but, unlike many, I’m not at all expecting him to repeat his output from last season. Danilo is also back at the club, after an almost minute-less season between Benfica and Standard that doesn’t at all hinder his qualities, so I’m expecting good things from him.
Making around €10M on three players that weren’t at all essential to the club – Battaglia, Martinez and Xeka – is fantastic and helped the side financially. The squad has quality, a defined style and options: almost every position has two players of similar calibre. Centre-backs need a boost though: none of the starters are great on the ball which is needed and there isn’t much depth. Expecting good things, though.
Like any other team that overperforms, Marítimo lost a lot of their best assets. Fransérgio, Raul Silva and Dyego Sousa all moved to Braga. Patrick signed with Benfica and Alex Soares went to Cyprus. Most of them are extremely important, most of them on free deals – not great. The “ins” are a bit of a mixed bag. Fábio Pacheco is a great defensive mid and while he’ll start the season as back up to Sen, he can become a starter if the Turk makes the jump in August – just a shame he’s so injury prone. Rodrigo Pinho and Lundberg, both arrived to compete with Alhassane Keita for the starting spot. I’m very interested to see how the Swede adapts but Pinho seems to be the main man for now – either way, none of them seem high calibre goalscorers. With Raul, who was the team’s top scorer, leaving too, they might be in even more trouble to score goals this season. Valente arrives after a poor season and Piqueti was still only playing for Braga B despite being 24: neither of the wingers are great but I doubt they’ll become starters if Edgar Costa and Ghazaryan are free.
Gamboa is only 20 and got some minutes for Braga last season – everything points to him being a starter here, even if on a slightly more advanced role in midfield than he was used to (the Fransérgio role). Mozambique international Zainadine made his deal permanent and will likely go from a quality-versatile-filler-player to the starting CB alongside Maurício since Raul left. And, as the club usually does, five lesser known Brazilians signed to cover for most positions – Bebeto seems to be the only one who’ll jump straight into the starting line-up as the right-back. A couple of interesting players but the drop in quality from the main “outs” at the moment is noticeable, as with any smaller side facing European competitions I don’t predict an easy start to the season.
Update 1: Captain Maurício, the other half of the Maurício-Raul CB duo from last season, is leaving for Urawa Red Diamonds in Japan. Think he could’ve gotten a better team in Europe, but fair enough. If I already felt like another CB may have been needed, now it’s crucial. They need to get someone good and they better do it fast.
Luis Castro moved to Chaves but Miguel Cardoso arrived to take over the team and I still expect an entertaining, offensive-minded style of play from a side that will aim for a Europa League spot. A couple of important players moved away but a solid chunk of money was raised: €6M from the transfers of Krovinovic to Benfica and Roderick to Wolves. All the starters that were on loan also left: wingers Gil Dias and Heldon, Petrovic and Rafa Soares, who was one of the best left-backs in the league.
The replacements have been solid, though. Nuno Santos signed from Benfica after a year on loan in Setúbal, the very talented lefty will be one of the starters on the wing. Gabrielzinho, from Brazilian side Linense, is said to be one of the most expensive buys in the club’s history – I personally don’t know much about him but the 20-year-old is one I’ll be watching out for. After an injury-haunted season, Pelé signed from Benfica. His success will depend a lot on how physically-ready he is, if fit he’ll be a very good addition.
Rio Ave’s connection to the big teams helped them bring in two talented loanees yet again: Benfica’s Yuri Ribeiro will be the starting left-back and Chico Geraldes arrives to replace Krovinovic. Now some of you know Geraldes is one of my absolute favourite players and I can’t tell you how excited I am for his season: if last year’s loan at Moreirense went well, this year, on a team that fits his characteristics all so well, will likely be even better for Sporting’s 22-year-old playmaker. To finish up, three other viable options. Brazilian CB Marcão signed but had little game time in the past few seasons, so I believe young Nelson Monte will step up to play in Roderick’s spot. Greek forward Karamanos comes on a loan deal from Olympiakos, after an okay season with Feirense (don’t expect him to start over Guedes) and Colombian Oscar Barreto also signed on a loan deal and will offer extra options out wide.
The team is pretty much built at this point, so I don’t expect a huge amount of extra transfer activity. It’ll also be interesting to see if Del Valle stays after two seasons on loan in Turkey with Kasimpasa and Bursaspor, or if the Venezuelan winger moves yet again – feel like there could be some money to be made on him. Either way, Rio Ave will be aiming high and I would bet on them to be in a European position come the end of the season – especially since they don’t have to deal with European games themselves this year.
After an unsurprisingly poor start to last season, young manager Nuno Manta arrived to push the relegation candidates all the way to an insane 8th spot – time to see how he’ll do with a pre-season and a team shaped at his will. A couple of important players left: goalkeeper Vaná – who made the poor the decision to single-handedly hold Porto to a tie at the Dragão so they bought him for no apparent reason as punishment – forwards Karamanos and Platiny, and starting left-back Vitor Bruno. Icaro and Monteiro, two centre-backs, didn’t get their deals renewed.
The signings have been few and they show a limited budget, as expected. Two players were picked up from the second division with left-back Kiki – who had a swift passage through Dag & Red for all of you Brits reading this – arriving from Olhanense, and Alphonse from Gil Vicente bolstering the midfield. Bruno Nascimento, who has done well in Portugal in the past, arrived on a free to be an option central defence and so did Briseño, the Mexican defender will have his first European experience after playing for a couple of different teams in his home nation. Further up the pitch an interesting addition was made: Luis Henrique, a talented 19-year-old striker who debuted for Botafogo at 16, signed and will have a real shot at first team football. José Valencia will be the alterative. The Colombian forward who has played in Argentina and in the MLS could be very useful but was never really much of a goalscorer. Perhaps not the talent people were expecting him to be at this point but with plenty of time on his side. To play out wide, Emmel signed on a loan from Figueirense and so did FC Porto loanee Zé Pedro, who spent last season with two different 3rd division sides.
For Feirense the most important thing was being able to keep guys like Etebo, Tiago Silva and Luis Machado – which they’ve done (so far). Don’t expect many changes to the team that finished the season barring in the positions where players departed. I can see a couple more players appearing in August for the Fogaceiros.
Chaves have one of the most interesting projects in the league. After a great season in their first year back in the main division – finishing mid table – they are now looking to take the next step forward and push higher. Luís Castro was brought in to switch the side from the defensively organized underdogs they were, to a more powerful offensive force to be reckoned with like his Rio Ave team were last season and his Porto B the year before. For that the squad had to change quite a bit. Captain Nelson Lenho and attacking mid Bruno Braga, 34 and 33 respectively, were two of the most utilized players last season and they were both moved away – a statement of intent. Rafael Lopes was too one-dimensional to be playing up top under Castro and couldn’t resist an offer from Cyprus. Ponck returned to Benfica after his loan deal finished and some other fringe players made their way out of the club.
Ricardo will retain his spot in goal, as his loan deal turned into a permanent one. A pair of full-backs came in to be in the line-up: Ruben Ferreira, who didn’t find much space in Vitoria SC’s squad last season after Konan emerged, and Paulinho, who returns to Chaves after a swift passage through Braga’s locker room. They’ll provide width and Ferreira brings quality to set-piece taking which is an obvious plus. Platiny was a solid performer for Feirense when fit and arrives in Chaves with the capacity to play up top and as a wide forward. Jefferson appears to be a very interesting addition in midfield: the club invested €350k on the Brazilian who played 76 matches for Hadjuk Split in the last two seasons, getting a couple of 3rd place finishes in Croatia. Felipe Melo, another pass-focused centre-mid, signed after a couple of months with Paços and Galvão, an attacking mid who spent the last seven years playing in Eastern Europe, also arrived.
The latest player to sign has been Jorginho: the talented ex-City winger had 7 G+A in under 800’ from the wing with Arouca last season and will be on loan from Saint-Ettienne, who he signed for in January. Four players arrived from the Brazilian lower leagues and I have no idea to what point will they have a first-team impact.
Finally, the club’s 3 most important signings. Wilmar Jordan, 26-year-old Colombian striker who was reportedly close to Sporting a couple of seasons ago, joins to be the starting man up front. Physically very impressive, it’ll be interesting to see him in a more technical league like ours. He hasn’t scored many since leaving Litex in 2014 but I think he can make an impact – having signed on a free means this is a solid deal to replace Rafael Lopes.
From Sporting comes a pair of young talents that will be key for this side: Domingos Duarte (Belenenses’s best performer last season), solid CB who carries the passing ability that Castro demands, and Matheus Pereira – I expect this to be his breakout season as he finally will get regular minutes. Pereira could be the creative source from wide that Castro had in Gil Dias at Rio Ave. Overall: a bunch of good transfers – I’m big fan of pushing back the squad’s age average – and a team that will be aiming high. Outside candidates for a European spot.
Miguel Leal solidified Boavista upon his arrival and now had a pre-season to work his side to his preference. Iuri Medeiros carried the team’s offensive load, with 7 goals, 8 assists and a tremendous impact in the set-pieces the team so highly relied on. The most common centre-back duo of Lucas and Sampaio both moved away, so did Anderson Carvalho, who became a starting piece in midfield. So Boavista had plenty to do: not just replace the very important pieces heading out but also to try and improve the flaws the squad previously had.
Highly rated young French centre-back Sparagna signed on a free from Marseille after a season on loan with Auxerre, it was an unexpected move but I’m expecting a lot from him. To partner him it’ll be between Nuno Henrique, who had a bit of an injury-prone season and Raphael Rossi, who has been with Swindon Town for the last four seasons. Vitor Bruno had quite a consistent season with Feirense (despite finishing the league on top of the yellow card table with 14) and will provide competition to Talocha on the left side of the backline. Alex Gorrin, Spanish centre-mid who has been plying his trait in Australia, will be one of the options to replace the aforementioned Anderson. Tahar, who played for Boavista on loan a couple of seasons ago, is another one – arriving from Romania. Mateus, capped 50 times by Angola, wasn’t really impactful for Arouca last season, but the 33-year-old winger made the jump to Boavista – should be fine as long as he isn’t a starting option. Another wide forward, Venezuela champion Ricardo Clarke, will likely be one of the main options, though – the Panama international has an interesting goal scoring record from wide.
While Bulos was the main man up top as the season finished, Leonardo Ruiz just arrived on loan from Sporting and will provide the team with a technical capacity up front that the Peruvian really doesn’t possess. The club also got a new pair of goalkeepers – special focus on Spiegel who arrived from West Ham after only playing in the PL2 – which I found odd since Vagner will stay as a starter on loan for another year. Really feels like the side needs extra creative sources: most midfielders are defensive minded and the wingers are below average, that’s what they should be after in August.
World Football Index audio preview of 2017/18 Primeira Liga season
As most of us know, Estoril was in a very tough situation last season until Pedro Emanuel arrived to bring them to a 10th place finish with an incredible sequence of results. So far his team has been a bit more of a selling side than anything. Matheus Oliveira made the jump to Sporting, the very underrated Ailton got a move to Stuttgart in the Bundesliga, captain and long-time servant of the club Diogo Amado went to Qatar and his midfield partner Taira signed with Kyriat Shmona in Israel. These moves raised a solid chunk of money that is so useful for a team like Estoril. Emanuel’s side also said goodbye to Licá, João Afonso and Bruno Gomes, all on loan, and Dankler – who they loaned out to RC Lens in France.
The purchases have been few, though. With Dankler and Afonso moving out a CB had to arrive and Pedro Monteiro was the chosen one: still 23, but played only around 800’ on loan from Braga to Paços last season, and overall seems like an okay buy that won’t be first choice. Panama international Jorman Aguilar – who, fun fact, has played in 5 different countries despite being 22 – arrived to bolster the wide forward position, scoring 11 goals last season in the second league. From Udinese, Lucas Evangelista, an attacking midfielder who the Italian club paid São Paulo €4M for signed on a loan and will get the minutes he was craving for in Italy. He is my arrival to watch out for here. Perhaps more important than these signings have been the definitive deals for players who were previously on loan, guys like Allano, Matheus Indio and Eduardo.
The squad is looking quite thin. The attacking options are above average and the defensive ones are okay but losing both Amado and Taira means there are holes to be filled in midfield. Except if the idea is to play Lucas Evangelista further back than I imagined (perhaps in the Matheus Oliveira role), at the moment the only midfield options are Eduardo, who will start, Wesley, an unknown Brazilian who just arrived from Paysandu in the 2nd tier and Morelatto – who Estoril had out on loan to Mafra, in our 3rd tier, last season. They need one, if not two, more.
VITORIA FC (Vitória Setúbal)
Couceiro’s side had a safe season last year, which explains them being one of the only 5 sides that didn’t switch manager halfway through the season. He did lose half of his usual starting line-up, though, and some more important options so he has his work cut out for him. Cardoso moved to Caixinha’s Rangers side, while defensive mid Pacheco – great when fit – had his deal run out and moved to Madeira to be a part of Marítimo’s team. The crop of loanees that was integral to the first team also left – Agu, Nuno Santos, Carvalho and Zé Manuel. Oh and goalkeeper Varela who had a season good enough to earn him NT call up, went back to Benfica – the team he had previously left due to a lack of minutes – where he won’t get minutes. (I understand they had a small buy back and now probably want to make a profit on him, but since there hasn’t really been any reported interest from teams, it just seems like a poor decision).
The talented yet inconsistent Willyan arrives from Nacional, goalkeeper Cristiano (ex-Belenenses) will contest for the spot with Trigueira – both of them a huge quality drop from Varela. Tomás Podstawski is the team’s most intriguing purchase: Porto finally let go of the Olympian after having him stuck in the B team for so long and I believe he’ll impress as Vitória’s starting defensive midfielder. Like they usually do so well, VFC dipped their hands in the 3rd tier yet again to find gems that they integrate in their squad – this season Rafinha, Allef and Lázaro are Couceiro’s bets.
Finally, a new crop of loans will be getting their fair share of minutes (none from Sporting as expected after last year’s fight between the two clubs). Gonçalo Paciência will likely get the nod ahead an ever declining Edinho up front and will need to take advantage of this opportunity to prove people – like me – that he can still make it at a high level. The talented João Teixeira will make his league debut after a tough season in the Championship, while César will be an option as a CB or DM like he was at Nacional. Patrick – in similar fashion to Vaná with Porto – was unlucky to score against Benfica, which led to the Lisbon club unnecessarily buying him and now sending him on loan to wherever they please until his contract runs out when he could’ve been playing in Europe for Marítimo. He’ll be very useful for Vitória as a more offensive minded right-back though, they needed it last season and now they got it.
PAÇOS DE FERREIRA
At only 33 years of age, Vasco Seabra is the youngest manager in the league. He became manager when things were troublesome last season and stabilized the boat, with his approach to the winter transfer window being key. Now it’s time to analyse what their early summer window is looking like.
The main man leaving was Gege: the Cape Verde defender, one of the pieces that helped stabilize the team in January, got transferred to Saudi Arabia and the Beavers made €500k on someone who played for them for a couple of months. All the loanees were sent back as well, which included guys like Melo – a starter from January onwards – or wingers Ivo Rodrigues and Valente. A few part players made the step down to our lower divisions looking for game time but, so far, the club hasn’t been torn apart – which is also a sign of how unspectacular their last season went.
Their approach to the market is a good mix of “trusting what you know” and “exploring new paths”. André Leão returns to the club to replace Melo in midfield after three seasons playing for Valladolid and Bruno Moreira, who moved to Thailand a year ago after scoring 14 for Paços in 15/16, also made his return – can’t help but feel like this is the “just-in-case-anyone-buys-Welthon” buy, but at 29 Bruno should be a perfectly good starter.
On the new market paths situation I mentioned, they signed two Aussies. Dylan McGowan, one of the best A-League centre-backs, will take over from Gege in the starting eleven for Paços. Dylan, who has played in Scotland as well, arrived on a free and is a quality addition – wouldn’t be surprised to see him sneak into Australia’s World Cup squad if he gets the playtime I expect him to. The other is Awer Mabil: a pacey winger who struggled for playing time with Midtjylland after making the jump from the A-League but who showed promise on loan to Elsbjerg this past season. I’m hopeful about him, doesn’t do much defensive work yet but depending on how high Seabra will want his men to press, he should be fine. Other additions have been Gian Martins, from União, who will be an extra work-horse getting minutes in midfield and Xavier, an average winger from Marítimo. The squad seems solid enough to approach the league without much panic.
After a season with 3 managers, Belenenses are hoping for a more peaceful ride this season under Domingos Paciência. Truth is I was unimpressed with how well they performed under him in the tailgate of this last season – preferring Quim Machado’s stint for example – but at least he has had time to plan this season to his needs.
The club got their first “win” of the summer when Ié became their biggest ever sale to Lille, at €5.5M - fantastic profit on someone who arrived on a free and played six months with the club. That said, Domingos Duarte – the club’s most consistent performer this past season – went back to his parent club, Vitor Gomes left to Aves and goalkeeper Cristiano (starter at the end of the season) also left. While these were the important players that left, it seems as if the club decided to go ahead and hit the market hard beyond just replacing said players. Brazilian goalkeeper Muriel will be the one between the nets for the season, while two new centre-backs came to replace Ié and Domingos. Vincent Sasso, ex-Braga who didn’t make it in England with Sheffield Wednesday, and Cleylton, an unknown from the lower Brazilian leagues. The Frenchman will partner Gonçalo Silva, while Cleylton will be the 3rd option. Tandjigora, Gabon international who was playing in China, will be replacing Gomes in midfield. More of a ball-winner than the Portuguese was but I think he can be a very helpful addition to the team. But this is not, at all, where the buys stop.
The team scored very few goals last season and Paciência wanted to bring in creative forces to help support Maurides. Filipe Chaby arrives from Sporting on a permanent deal and he is my favourite CFB transfer: a young creative attacking mid who’ll hopefully roam behind the striker offering a bunch of new options in the team’s offensive process. Three new wingers arrived too: Femi Balogun, Nigerian who was an important part of Aves’s promotion campaign, Fredy – after a couple of seasons away between his native Angola and the Dutch Eredivisie with Excelsior, Fredy (who will start the season injured) is back to the club where he played most of his career – and Roni, a Brazilian journeyman winger who I’m not too hopeful about. If we add Diogo Viana – who arrived in January and is, for me, the best winger in the club – and Miguel Rosa to the mix, Belenenses now have five options for two positions. Tiago Gomes, who was great for Braga and even has 1 Portugal cap, signed after some less than great spells, even though the team already had a very decent left-back in Florent Hanin. Pereirinha, who barely played in Brazil with Atletico Paranaense, arrives for no apparent reason – João Diogo is a solid right-back and they have too many wingers if that’s where DP wants to play him. Finally, Venezuelan stiker Jesus Hernandez will offer a second option to Maurides after scoring 9 in 17 for Deportivo Lara in 2017.
Overall, I’m not too hopeful about them at all. A lot of the signings aren’t great and the better ones just aren’t that above average for the league’s level. The centre-back duo will also be considerably worse compared to last season’s and I’m not sure if Maurides can sustainably keep scoring the way he did from January onwards. The team’s objective will clearly be to try and avoid relegation.
Let me start off by saying that Moreirense, at the moment, are my top relegation candidates. Not sure to what point is Manuel Machado adequate to a team of this calibre anymore and the market has not been nice to them – or they haven’t been good enough in the market, however you want to put it. Cauê and Rebocho were two of team’s best performers and, understandably, were turned into profit via moved to Omiya Ardija and Guingamp, respectively. Diego Galo, Oliveira and Nildo Petrolina all ended up playing quite a lot of minutes last season and were all let go of. That said, they were all very much on the wrong side of thirty and I think letting them go is positive.
Bruno Silva and Rafael Lima were picked up from second tier teams and will be fighting for the left-back spot left open by Rebocho. Iago Santos – ex-Academica – is back in Portugal after a year in the Emirates and is one of the three centre-back arrivals. Alongside him there’s Belkaroui and Abarhoun, because it wouldn’t be Machado’s team if it didn’t have mid-career players arriving from North Africa – could work, could not… it’s the latter more often than not. This wasn’t the only position to have a trio of arrivals though: three men signed to battle for what will likely be one spot up top. Cadiz, the interesting but injury prone target man who is yet to be a starter after two seasons in Portugal, Nsor, who scored 16 in the 2nd tier last season with União and Ronaldo Peña, perhaps the most interesting of the trio. The 20-year-old from Venezuela comes from Las Palmas’s B side and was a starter in Venezuela’s impressive U20 side in this summer’s World Cup. He’s the one to watch here. Worth mentioning that Arsénio, a winger who left the club to play in Bulgaria a couple of seasons ago, is back and will be a good addition out wide.
At the moment, they managed to keep Makaridze, the Georgian who has been so essential in goal for them, which is very positive but, even if they do end up keeping him, I just don’t think this squad is equipped talent wise on and off the pitch to compete with most others. Hopefully I’ll see them prove me wrong.
They avoid relegation again, now it’s time for them to aim for a better start to their campaign in hopes of not having to fight all the way until the last minute to stay in the league for the third season in a row. The main loss? Jhon Murillo. After two very solid seasons here on loan, the Venezuelan winger made his way to Kasimpasa in Turkey. Experienced defenders Kaka and Pica, alongside full-back Jailson, all left the green and yellow team as well.
A bunch of new options for the backline made their way to Tondela. Champions League winner and 22 times Portugal international Ricardo Costa made CDT his 9th club and will bring a lot to this team, even if just for one season. Australia youth international Nick Ansell is another option for the same position – think he’ll be the third option behind Costa and the very impressive Osorio who has been at the club since January. After a season on loan, full-back David Bruno made his move from Porto to Tondela definitive, much like the versatile Pité – despite not getting many minutes here last season. Ex-Sporting left-back Joãozinho returns to Portugal and appears to be the starting option on the left. Another full-back option to account for is Fahd Moufi, Lyon academy product who comes to Portugal chasing first-team minutes. The team’s most unexpected buy is probably Zachara, though. A Polish 27-year-old forward with okay minutes-goals ratio but nothing that really stands out at first sight, will rotate with Heliardo and hopefully provide a more complete striker option.
Finally, a couple of loans to round out the squad: Tyler Boyd, New Zealand winger yet to break through Vitória SC’s first team, Joca, another winger in a similar situation with Braga and Pedro Nuno – attacking midfielder who pulled the strings for this side from January onwards will now be here all season, I’m excited to watch. Tondela have a couple of options per position, a bunch of young guys trying to make it and Ricardo Costa in the back – sounds fun to me.
Let me just get this out of my system: VITOR OLIVEIRA IS MANAGING IN THE TOP FLIGHT. I’m legitimately excited about this and hope they do well – also because having a team from the southern part of the country in the league is useful for more reasons than one. Not only is the club and the manager (and his story) support-worthy, they’re doing something unusual in the market which I really like. The squad that got promoted is getting slight upgrades here and there, instead of a completely insane overhaul as most sides do after climbing to the top level (seriously, look at the following text on Aves). Teams need only minor upgrades, the difference between leagues really isn’t as large as we make it out to be in our minds sometimes – also why I support scouting and signing players from our lower divisions – and the trade-off of having a squad that knows itself better and that has been together for longer is so worth it.
The experienced duo of Ivo Nicolau and Zambujo both stayed in the second division, moving to the other two Algarve clubs and…that’s pretty much it when it comes to relevant outs. The main man coming is Ruben Fernandes: the ex-Estoril defender will be one of the starting centre-backs after a stint in Belgium with St Truiden. He wasn’t the only CB recruited, though. Felipe Macedo, will have his first experience outside of Brazil at 23 – since two years ago his deal with Monaco fell through due to him failing his medicals – and Hackman, a young Ghanaian who spent his season as a starter for Aves on a loan from Boavista, arrives on a permanent deal. The left side of defence was bolstered considerably as well: Inácio signed on a loan from Porto and Lumor, a 20-year-old who was great for the club in the first half of last season, is back from a couple of months on loan with 1860 Munich. The latter will start and impress if he doesn’t get picked up by a better team until the end of the month. To finish up, young striker Rui Costa made the jump after being the main man for Varzim last season with 14 goals. Overall, I like how well established this team is and I don’t expect many changes at all.
This Aves side is what I like to call a Football Chimera, made from bits and pieces of all other teams in the league. Is that bad? Not necessarily. As long as there’s quality, which there is. But it’s not easy to integrate a large number of players coming from all sorts of places on all sorts of deals. The other way around, they left behind 15 of the players that got promoted with them to other 2nd division sides.
Ricardo Alves did well in his few months in charge of Chaves and brought a couple of his players with him. Veteran duo of Braga and Lenho will both still play a bunch while providing great connectivity between staff and squad. Adriano Facchini will be between the posts after six months with Nacional, Galo was solid for Moreirense and will be a starting CB, Nildo is a versatile winger who can play in midfield (also from Moreirense) and Pedrinho is a RB option. From Eastern Europe two actual good purchases come in: Gonçalo, ex Estoril DM who spent his last few seasons with Dinamo Zagreb and Defendi from Maribor, Brazilian CB who has played in Portugal in the past.
Now this is the respective age of these 8 transfers: 34, 33, 34, 33, 31, 32, 30, 31. Am I the only one seeing a problem here? They can be useful but it’s not ideal in any way. Let’s get to the additions on the right side of thirty, now. Porto loanee Rodrigo will be the starting right-back, while Ponck - who did so well with Chaves - comes on loan from Benfica. Vitor Gomes proved a very useful midfielder for Belenenses and will be so here as well, while the relentless Washington was picked up from Nacional. A younger face to help these in midfield is Ryan Gauld, who will be on loan from Sporting for the season. The Scot could’ve broken through last season if it wasn’t for a certain episode midway through his last loan so I’m confident he’ll do very well.
Further forward the options are diverse: Amilton was having a great season with Portimonense, got lured into 1860 Munich and is now back and is one to expect good things from, Agra is really good for this level and Sami hasn’t really been relevant for a couple of seasons but will provide cover. Finally, Alexandre Guedes – the main man up top from last season – will have competition in the fantastically named Federico Falcone, an Argentine with a good goal-scoring record in Malta but who comes after a swift stay in Malaysia.
Do I think they have a solid squad? Yes. Do I think it’ll be hard to integrate so many new faces? Yes, very much so. Do I think they’ll go down? Probably not.
by Tiago Estêvão