Vitor Pereira’s Shanghai SIPG are the new leaders of the Chinese Super League as the campaign nears the home straight.
Meanwhile, former Everton and Portugal defender Abel Xavier has been discussing the impact of Marco Silva at his old club, while Ruben Neves talks Porto and Rui Fonte settles alongside his brother in France with Lille.
Pereira on course to make history
Former Porto coach Pereira is hoping to go one better than countryman André Villas-Boas with Shanghai SIPG. Villas-Boas led the club to a second-place finish in the Super League last year, but Friday’s 5-2 victory at Tianjin Teda saw Pereira’s men top the league thanks to goals from ex-Porto striker Hulk, Brazilian pair Oscar (2) and Elkeson, as well as top goalscorer Wu Lei.
Shanghai hold a one-point lead over Beijing Guoan and Guangzhou Evergrande, having played 21 of the 30 scheduled league matches. Under Villas-Boas, the team nicknamed Chinese Red Devils finished six points adrift of Guangzhou last season. A title this season would represent the first for the club since they were founded in 2005.
Silva gets Xavier backing
In England, Former Portugal defender Abel Xavier has been speaking about the prospects for Marco Silva at his old club Everton. Xavier, who currently coaches Mozambique, played for The Toffees between 1999 and 2002, and feels his countryman is the perfect fit at Goodison Park.
“Evertonians will like Marco Silva’s thinking and I am certain he will raise the team’s level,” Xavier told evertonfc.com. “Everton fans love their team to be competitive and aggressive. But they also love good football.
“Marco is a coach who improves players and, when you watch his teams, it is clear what he is asking from them. He has had a positive influence at all his previous clubs and quickly assembled a very good squad at Everton. Everton has a lot of ambition and they can have a big season.
“All my family is from Estoril; the club’s stadium is about one mile from the house where my kids live, and we have a real attachment to the club. Marco Silva had a great impact on Estoril. In a small environment, he created a strong mentality and attractive football.
“He had Estoril playing football like a big club. They believed in what they were doing and always went on the pitch certain they could beat any opponent. That is a great achievement.
“Marco’s style of play made a great statement about his views on football.”
Fonte brothers reunited in France
Former Sporting, Benfica and Braga striker Rui Fonte was presented at new club Lille on Thursday, where he is once again reunited with his brother José Fonte, who arrived at the club in January. The brothers have played together both in Portugal and in English football, where they wore the colours of Crystal Palace in 2009.
“The fact that my brother plays here helped,” Rui said. “I spoke to him and received good information about the club which helped the decision. It was also a good opportunity to join him again since we played at Palace, which was for five months when I was 18. Now the chance reappeared. Off the field he is my older brother; on field we are teammates.
“But even without him being here I would have had interest in coming. It’s a great club. Despite a difficult season last year there is a lot of potential here. I understand some French and I hope to speak it in a few months.”
PSG target Neves reaffirms Porto love
Another possible addition to the French league could be Rúben Neves, with the Wolverhampton midfielder recently linked with a switch to Ligue 1 champions Paris Saint-Germain. The 21-year-old is likely to be the subject of interest from a host of top clubs as he enjoys fine form and rave reviews in England with the newly-promoted side.
However, it is his former club Porto and his national team who have been the subject of discussion for Neves. Speaking ahead of the resumption of Premier League football this weekend, Neves reflected on his time in his homeland and playing for his country.
“Every memory is good from Porto,” he said. “Unfortunately, I didn’t win any titles with Porto, but it was my dream to play for the club and I achieved that. It’s been my team since I was young, so it was very good to play for Porto, I love the club.
“My first ever goal? It was my first game for Porto and it was incredible. It was a corner which they cleared and like usual I was on the second ball, and I shot with my first touch which was really good – a dream.”
Recently joined in England by esteemed international colleagues Rui Patrício and João Moutinho, the Wolves youngster was asked about his feelings for the Seleção. “It’s incredible. Every player wants to play for their national team. I’ve played with some very good players, who I watched when I was younger. It’s very good for me and I hope I can help the team again in the future. They are the European champions so it’s good to play with some of the winners again at Wolves.”
“Nonsense” to say Mourinho is finished – Neville
Former Manchester United defender Gary Neville, who played over 600 games for the club, has rejected suggestions that manager José Mourinho has lost some of his magic in football. The Portuguese manager has been under criticism this season, with his press conferences the subject of intense media scrutiny. Speaking to The Times, Neville said he believes there have been positive signs during United’s recent matches, despite two defeats from their opening four games.
“He's having a difficult time, but finished? I genuinely think that's a nonsense. Even Sir Alex Ferguson, from 2003 to 2006 when we didn’t win the league and people said he had lost it, end of an era, he’s finished. I think José is a brilliant manager and, in a 25-year career, young managers will emerge, people will ask questions if you aren't successful.
“Believe it or not I liked the Tottenham game (United lost 3-0), certainly the first 40 minutes. I watched [the win over] Burnley and thought it was really good. I think they've turned a corner.”
João Mário to leave Inter in January – report
Italians Internazionale are being monitored by UEFA and must raise €40m in sales to meet Financial Fair Play regulations by June 30, according to reports in Italy. As a result, the club have apparently decided that Portuguese midfielder João Mário will be offloaded in January as one of the priority sales.
The former Sporting man, who arrived in Italy for €40m plus bonuses in 2016, is expected to again be offloaded on loan with an obligation to buy for less than half the original fee paid. The 25-year-old spent the second half of last season on-loan in England with West Ham and was not named on Inter’s Champions League squad for this season.
By Sean Gillen