"Once upon a time there was a team" - today's A Bola newspaper

When Sporting goalkeeper Rui Patrício’s wife, Vera Ribeiro, stated publicly last week that masturbation might be a useful tool in helping World Cup squad members relax and focus, she was not – as far as we know – employing irony.

Ms Ribeiro is a sexologist and sexologists tend to put forward haphazard theories about these kinds of activities. In the case of her husband, concentration on the task ahead is beginning to prove increasingly tricky. Having finished the domestic season with a blooper in Funchal that helped Sporting finish just behind eternal rivals Benfica and thus outside the Champions League places allotted to Portugal, Patrício then took part in Sporting’s horrific cup final shambles against the previously unheralded Aves.

That game lost amongst the chaotic scenes of Sporting’s rapidly disintegrating season meant that the green and whites from Alvalade were about to run into one of the biggest crises in its long and illustrious history.

President Bruno de Carvalho has had his sausage fingers in this particularly malodorous pie for some time. It was his combative, member of a claque style leadership that brought about the crisis in the first place. Unusual even in Portugal to see a president sat on the bench alongside the manager and his training staff, De Carvalho took things several steps further, often remonstrating on the touchline, “creating a presence” – as he would have it – to make sure the referee and his team did nothing unfair to his beloved side. On one infamous occasion, he even managed to receive a red card for his pitch-side clowning.

Having had, according to some sources, a catalytic part in the process that ended with a group of hooded thugs “breaking into“ (many ask how security seemed to suddenly melt into the bushes when the hooligans arrived) their Alcochete training complex,  the fall out was and continues to be immense. With certain players picked out and beaten up, the matter went into the hands of eager teams of lawyers, all saying the same thing: if they wish, the players in question (i.e. the entire squad) could initiate a legal process to rescind their million-euro contracts, which would allow them to walk free from the club without any transfer fee going to Sporting.

If alarm bells did not ring at this point, they most certainly did when it became clear the president intended to sit tight and slug it out in traditional style.

What happens to Sporting is a matter of grand conjecture in the Portuguese capital right now. How it all affects the national team’s preparations for their opening game with Spain at the weekend is another matter altogether, however.

There are some signs of a resemblance to Portugal’s ill-fated 1986 World Cup preparations, when – aided and abetted by an attempted player strike for better bonuses – the national team went into a winnable group with England, Morocco and Poland in a state of shambolic disrepair. The dissent continued, thanks to an age-old hankering for dictatorial methods of management amongst the leaders of the FPF, who remained in Mexico City to stay close to the FIFA buffet tables, instead of journeying to the industrial north of Monterrey, where the squad was preparing in an atmosphere as bitter as it was febrile.

Inertia and squabbling led to a first round exit, culminating in a highly embarrassing 1-3 defeat to Morocco. Things beginning to sound familiar?

With Rui Patrício leading the way in announcing the start of a process to rescind his Sporting contract, he has been followed by Bruno Fernandes, Gelson Martins and William Carvalho. Four major Sporting assets and four national team players with every chance of starting against Spain on Friday. All of them with their heads enveloped in a darkening legal cloud of tug and counter-tug, if the fragrant Ms Ribeiro will forgive the imagery.

This can only lead to problems for Fernando Santos, in his attempts to gather focus and energy for the toughest possible start to Portugal’s World Cup campaign. Remember four years ago, at the World Cup in Brazil, a seemingly simple group proved too much for Portugal after a first day hammering against favourites Germany. If the same thing happens against Spain, it will be an uphill struggle to retrieve the necessary sang-froid and focus for tricky games with old friends Morocco and a dangerous looking Iran led by Carlos Queiroz.

Once again, we wait to see what happens next.

Nothing is ever dull around the Portuguese camp and Santos  will hope that his Sporting entourage and their suitcase of problems do not disrupt final preparations for Spain. With the dubious words of Patrício’s wife ringing in his ears, the wily coach will be hoping that her recommended action is the peak of his troubles when the football gets underway in Russia.

By Simon Curtis

Related: Chronicle of a sad day for Sporting Clube de Portugal

Related: Sporting imploding?

 

Comments (9)

This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

And to add insult to injury Benfica are now swarming to sign Fernandes and potentially others. Would be quite a sight to see Sporting’s finest in Benfica red next season...

This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

Quite honestly, if I am running Benfica or Porto I immediately sign all 4. Top tier talents all of them.

This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

I'd at least consider it positive that Bruno Fernandes, William Carvalho and Gelson Martins did the same as Ruis Patricio. Now he is not the only one in the national team in that unpleasant situation. Before, I already imagined him to have...

I'd at least consider it positive that Bruno Fernandes, William Carvalho and Gelson Martins did the same as Ruis Patricio. Now he is not the only one in the national team in that unpleasant situation. Before, I already imagined him to have flashes about his uncertain future during the game with Spain and as a result producing fatal mistakes... trouble shared is a trouble halved, at least. Nothing to say about BdC. He is seriously mentally sick.

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BdC is getting what he deserves. Guy should've stepped down after the attack now he's gonna watch $200+ million fly away. He's an embarrassment to Portuguese football.

This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

Could spur the team on and increase solidity. Not necessarily a bad thing. The Italian national team has a history of doing well in tournaments on the back of scandals. Most recently, their World Cup triumph in 2006 following the calciopoli...

Could spur the team on and increase solidity. Not necessarily a bad thing. The Italian national team has a history of doing well in tournaments on the back of scandals. Most recently, their World Cup triumph in 2006 following the calciopoli scandal which blew up just two months before the start of the tournament.

I see many similarities with Santos' Portugal and the Italians. The defensive grit, experience, team spirit and tactical nous. And now the scandal...a positive omen?

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Hi Tom, Team and Everyone,

It's a really sad situation with Sporting, and with Portugal dropping a champions league place, I hope this doesn't spark a downward slide for Portuguese football, as a strong Sporting is obviously good for the league...

Hi Tom, Team and Everyone,

It's a really sad situation with Sporting, and with Portugal dropping a champions league place, I hope this doesn't spark a downward slide for Portuguese football, as a strong Sporting is obviously good for the league and UEFA country co-efficients.

On another note, what chance do the Sporting players have of getting their contracts rescinded? Even if they are initially successful, I can imagine this could continue on in the courts? Does anyone know the next steps or process and likely timeframes - I.e. could this go to the court if arbitration or somewhere else?

Thanks,
Steve

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The players are winning this. BdC already stated he'd resign if the Sporting players promised to stay on. And then he opened his fat, stupid mouth again and said he'd stay on if he was re-elected. He can't win this, no matter how hard that...

The players are winning this. BdC already stated he'd resign if the Sporting players promised to stay on. And then he opened his fat, stupid mouth again and said he'd stay on if he was re-elected. He can't win this, no matter how hard that massive ego of his forces him to try. From that perspective, I'd say the situation is more positive than negative for the players involved. There are now at least signs that they're doing the right thing and that BdC is caving.

Also, if I'm one of these four players in question - Martins, Patricio, Carvalho, Fernandes - I'm looking at the World Cup as a massive opportunity to embarrass BdC and Sporting by lighting the tournament on fire. Big teams are already keeping tabs on the situation, and, can you imagine how fitting it would be if these players play well, ignite a massive bidding war for their services, with BdC and Sporting receiving none of those profits? It'd be poetic justice as far as I'm concerned.

It's a concerning situation no doubt, but, it could actually pour gasoline on the fire that is our desire to perform well, and potentially win, this tournament. I'd be far more concerned with this situation if Fernando Santos wasn't in charge, and if the group wasn't as positive and experienced as it is now. But, there seems to be a good spirit in this squad and these guys seem to genuinely like and care about each other. I think the four players in question are in good hands. In 1986 the FPF was part of the problem, this time it seems the FPF, or, more specifically, the national team, is a sanctuary. That is a very big difference.

- Essayist George

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Sporting should replace them with players from the youth team next year and sue them for breach of contract so they can't play anywhere until that case and all of it's appeals are resolved.

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I'm not sure how this situation gets resolved, but surely players walking out for nothing is not good for Sporting and for Portuguese football as a whole.

If Sporting collapse, go bankrupt or cannot pay the bills then their academy suffers and...

I'm not sure how this situation gets resolved, but surely players walking out for nothing is not good for Sporting and for Portuguese football as a whole.

If Sporting collapse, go bankrupt or cannot pay the bills then their academy suffers and potentially gets a cut in funding and personal, as the club potential cuts costs to stay afloat. This is serious and has wider implications, because we have to remember that this academy has nurtured a lot of Portugals World class players at the time like Figo, Cristiano Ronaldo, Quaresma, Simao etc, and others such as Paulo Futre, Nani and current Selecao members, Joao Mourinho, William Carvalho, Cedric, Rui Patricio, Gelson Martins, Adrien and Jose Fonte.

My point is that a strong Portuguese league and national team needs a healthy and vibrant Sporting.

Hopefully, sense and rationality will prevail and the players can leave, but also Sporting can get some profit from their sales/departure.

Having them sit out their contracts is a no win for everyone.

Thanks Steve

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