The Liga NOS transfer window review
As far as transfer windows go, it’d be fair to say the one welcoming the year of 2016 has hardly set the world alight at European level.
In Portugal, however, clubs made full use of the interlude to fine tune their squads ahead of the second half of the season. Here are the pick of the bunch.
Regardless of where his team may be in the league table, Sporting manager Jorge Jesus loves a good transfer window and wasted no time in introducing new faces to the squad currently sitting in 1st place. With Fredy Montero signing for Chinese Super League club Tianjin Teda for €5 million, ex-Gremio striker Hernán Barcos came in the opposite direction as part of the deal. The 31-year-old striker scored 15 times in 29 league appearances in China and could well be the secondary source of goals Sporting needs ahead of their title charge, in particular with the suspension currently looming over the head of regular goal-getter Islam Slimani.
‘Os Leões’ went on to reinforce their backline with the signing of Sunderland’s Sebastian Coates on loan. The Uruguayan centre back failed to impress in the Barclays Premier League for both the Black Cats and Liverpool but should provide adequate cover in the defensive department. Jesus also called on the tried and trusted Bruno César to bolster his squad, joining from Estoril on a free transfer. Elsewhere, the league leaders were quick to replace Boca Juniors loanee Jonathan Silva with the signing of Rio Ave’s left back Marvin Zeegelaar for €370,000, whereas former Inter Milan wing back Ezequiel Schelotto was secured on a free transfer.
On their way out of Alvalade were Salim Cisse to Vitória de Setúbal, Zakaria Labyad to Fulham, Hadi Sacko to Girondins Bordeaux, Marcelo Boeck to Chapecoense and Junya Tanaka to Kashiwa Reysol, all of which are loan deals.
Benfica have remained reasonably quiet throughout the winter transfer window, with fans right to point out that the emergence of Renato Sanches and the eventual return from injury for Nélson Semedo and Eduardo Salvio being just as good as new signings.
They did, however, register one transfer early on in January by signing Álex Grimaldo from Barcelona B for €1.5 million. The 20-year-old had been tipped to break into the Barcelona senior team, but after suffering a cruciate ligament injury in 2013, Grimaldo found his avenue to stardom barricaded by Jordi Alba, Jérémy Mathieu and Adriano. Consequently, the Spaniard opted to sign a five-and-a-half-year contract with Benfica instead.
The Liga NOS holders also took the opportunity to add to their ever-growing Serbian contingent, landing 18-year-old striker Ivan Šaponjić from Partizan Belgrade. With Jonas, Kostas Mitroglou and even Raúl Jiménez firing on all cylinders, it’s likely that Šaponjić will spend some time with the B team first, whereas ‘As Águias’ reinforced their squad further with the arrival of his compatriot Luka Jović from Red Star Belgrade. The two Serbian forwards both sign five-and-a-half-year contracts and join for a combined fee of €3 million.
Benfica went on to trim the volume of their squad by allowing Bryan Cristante and Filip Đuričić to leave the club on loan to Palermo and Anderlecht, respectively.
Yet again, FC Porto dominated the back pages throughout the transfer window and they didn’t even need to smash their transfer record or bring in a handful of South American imports to do so. This time, the northern club focused their attentions on those plying their trade in the Liga NOS, signing Suk Hyun-Jun, Moussa Marega and José Sá.
Interestingly enough, Suk, who had scored 11 times for Vitória de Setúbal this season, was heavily linked with rivals Sporting before choosing Porto over the league leaders. The South Korean striker is likely to provide competition for Vincent Aboubakar, who hasn’t found the back of the net as regularly as his €1.4 million-rated counterpart.
In a repeat of the Suk transfer, the Portuguese press linked Sporting to Marítimo duo Marega and José Sá before Porto appeared to hijack both deals. With Cristian Tello terminating his loan with ‘Os Dragões’ and joining Fiorentina, Marega is now the likely candidate to challenge Jesús Corona in the Porto squad, whereas José Sá becomes the seventh first team goalkeeper to currently be owned by the 2004 Champions League winners. Both Marega and José Sá touchdown at the Estádio do Dragão for a joint fee of €4.6 million.
The club also said their goodbyes to record signing and former Olympique Marseille midfielder Giannelli Imbula, who joins Premier League side Stoke City for £18.3 million after a torrid six months in Portugal, meanwhile Sporting Kansas City defender Erik Palmer-Brown joins Porto on loan until the end of 2016.
Pablo Osvaldo (Boca Juniors) and Igor Lichnovsky (Granada) are two more who head for the exit doors.
Sporting Clube de Braga
With the team playing arguably some of the best football the Liga NOS has seen this season, there wasn’t a great deal Braga boss Paulo Fonseca needed to do to his squad in the January transfer window.
They did, however, manage to pick up Portuguese midfielder Josué on loan from Porto. The 25-year-old failed to settle down in his time on loan at Turkish club Bursaspor, but if Josué can at the very least recapture the form of his Paços de Ferreira days, Braga will have a very nice acquisition to add to current squad members Rafa Silva, Hassan and Pedro Santos.
Heading out of the Estádio Municipal de Braga is first team goalkeeper Stanislav Kritsyuk, joining Russian Premier League club FC Krasnodar on loan after a string of notable performances. ‘Os Arsenalistas’ have recruited well, however, with the signature of Paços de Ferreira goalkeeper José Marafona for €370,000. Braga’s third and final signing of the window is Lilleström SK’s Norwegian full back Stian Ringstad on a free transfer
Vitória de Guimarães
The transition from Rui Vitória to Sérgio Conceição hasn’t been the smoothest for 9th placed Vitória de Guimarães, but there is still plenty of time for the club to close the five-point gap between them and 5th placed Paços de Ferreira ahead of qualification to the Europa League.
In hope of doing so, ‘Os Vimaranenses’ have called on the services of Sporting’s defensive midfielder Oriol Rosell, who joins the club on loan until the end of the season. The deal means Rosell’s parent club now has the option to speak to Guimarães’ Miguel Silva and Xande Silva before any other club.
Conceição spent the final hours of the transfer window concluding the loan signings of promising Benfica midfielder João Teixeira and his teammate Victor Andrade, meanwhile South American duo Francis and Pablo Hurtado also arrived on a temporary basis.
Sitting rather comfortably in 7th, Rio Ave did a bit of late shopping themselves in a final push for the coveted Europa League spots. Karabükspor winger Kuca was the first through the door, having spent the previous half of the season on loan at Belenenses.
With just a few hours to go, the team from Vila do Conde welcomed a far more familiar face in ex-Porto and Sporting striker Hélder Postiga from Indian Super League club Atlético de Kolkata, joining at Rio Ave until the end of the season at the age of 33.
Belenenses made numerous additions in the winter transfer window, such as Fiorentina’s Marko Babic on loan, but by far the most eye-grabbing capture was that of Colombian international Abel Aguilar on loan from Toulouse.
Fitness could be an issue for the defensive midfielder who has been starved of first team football recently in France, but he has featured regularly for Colombia, ranked 8th in the official FIFA rankings, and picked up a total of 56 caps for ‘Los Cafeteros’. The 31-year-old has also represented the likes of Udinese, Real Zaragoza and Deportivo de La Coruña.
by Patrick Ribeiro