All posts by Patrick Ribeiro

Freelance journalist. @P_SRibeiro

Ruben Amorim to the world – Sporting CP’s manager looking to take over Europe

Ludicrous, impulsive and straight-up nonsensical were just a portion of the adjectives awaiting Rúben Amorim in light of his appointment as Sporting manager for a whopping €10 million compensation fee, the third highest ever, just two months into his first stint in charge of his first top-flight club, Sporting de Braga.

The Lions’ club president, Frederico Varandas, and his camp were quick to remind critics of the last managerial gamble Sporting passed on – a relatively well-known individual by the name of José Mourinho – adding that the value forked out for Amorim would be nothing compared to money placed back into the coffers through player development and future sales.

For Sporting fans, promised a return to the glory days for so long, the vision in place seemed farfetched for a club who had not only gone 18 years without tasting Primeira Liga success, but had also seen their quality in numbers gutted by the mayhem that ensued in 2018 with widespread contract terminations, as the task to build on an uneven foundation rested on Amorim’s shoulders.



Against the better judgement of the doubters, however, of which there were, of course, plenty, what Amorim has been able to do in the green half of Lisbon since the bold move has been nothing short of miraculous, marking him out as one of the biggest up-and-coming commodities in the managerial industry.

Perhaps aided by a mid-season arrival at Sporting in early 2020, the then 35-year-old was quick to adhere to the historical connection the club has with its own academy by blooding youth, introducing a lot of the younger faces to the multi-faceted 3-4-3 formation he’s sworn by since arriving at the pinnacle of Portuguese football.

The results improved slowly and surely under the manager’s command and the eventual rise in prominence of Matheus Nunes, Nuno Mendes and Gonçalo Inácio, among others, served as the guiding light for what Amorim was looking to build.

Fresh doubts were cast during the following summer, with Sporting committing considerable funds to land the likes of Pedro Gonçalves and Nuno Santos, on top of others who had previously failed to inspire at previous clubs, such as Pedro Porro and the more experienced Antonio Adán and Zouhair Feddal.

Sporting Lisbon's Uruguayan defender Sebastian Coates takes part in a training session at Cristiano Ronaldo Academy training ground in Alcochete near...

But as Pedro Gonçalves banged in the goals and ex-La Liga trio, Adán, Feddal and Porro formed part of an almost impenetrable defence, pushing its side up the table, it quickly became visible that what Amorim was cooking had clearly showed signs of bubbling.

The youthfulness of the squad continued the catch the eye as the onlookers quizzed Sporting’s manager, right throughout the season, how long such young heads could keep their title-winning form going.

Never one to pile on the pressure, Amorim was always and continues to be very measured with his words, disarming each and every press conference with rational and insightful dialogue.

He’s a grand protector of his players and in that, some may say, lies the key ingredient to his recent managerial success of late.

The rapport between player and manager is close-knit, with the fresh-faced coach often seen cracking a joke with his pupils at training and on the sidelines. That camaraderie extends itself throughout the entire squad, amongst the players, many of which are meant to be rivalling each other for the same position in Amorim’s plans.

Pablo Sarabia of Sporting CP celebrates with teammates after scoring a goal during the Liga Bwin match between Sporting CP and FC Famalicao at...

With Sporting’s future stars, already fuelled by the prospect of causing an impression at such a young age, being nurtured by the importance of work ethic and togetherness, the club was able to achieve what the wealth of Benfica and the experience of FC Porto could not in 2021, bringing to a close a dispiriting cycle of 19 years without the evasive Primeira Liga title.

This season, with greater expectations attached to the precedent set, Amorim & co. are hoping to go back-to-back as they tussle with Porto at the midpoint of the season.

In the meantime, the former Portugal international has made inroads on the European stage too, where they made it out of the UEFA Champions League group for the first time since 2008, with a date against Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City set up for the last round of 16.

The match-up presents a platform for João Palhinha and Pedro Gonçalves, among many others, to increase the number of suitors already onto the noise emanating from Alvalade, but you can bet much of the attention will also coming knocking for the 37-year-old manager, particularly if the current title holder manages to pull off a shock against ‘the Citizens’.

Ruben Amorim the manager of Sporting CP reacts during the Liga Portugal Bwin match between FC Porto and Sporting CP at Estadio do Dragao on February...

Whoever it is that comes calling will have to part way with €30 million, as per Amorim’s release clause, running across a deal that expires in 2024.

The figure has served as a repellent for interested teams during a time of absolute focus on the project at hand from the former Portugal international, but Sporting know they won’t be able to hold onto their poster boy for too long.

The club fortunate enough to reel him in will be acquiring the latest in a line of promising Portuguese managers – dubbed the leader of the new school and, still, the heir to Mourinho’s throne.

Unlike the former Chelsea and Inter boss, however, Amorim’s foundations stem from a great sense of modesty, respect and general correctness. He’s an adaptable figure who’s rallying cries touch numerous types of characters and make Sporting the thriving family-like ambience it is today.

It’s this clear vision and approach that’s enabled Amorim’s teams to dream and excel, decorating a CV that becomes more and more attractive to his suitors by the week.

Tuesday night, against City, holds the power of fast-forwarding the inevitable – presenting Amorim to the world.

My Perfect Footballer #4 – Portugal edition

With a population as little as ten million, it is fair to say Portugal has done pretty well for themselves as a footballing powerhouse. Never ones to be taken lightly in international competition, their respect is a direct result of the constant stream of talent that, to this day, shows no sign of drying up.

From the stardust sprinkled by Eusebio and Paulo Futre, right through to the golden years of Luis Figo, Rui Costa and the unprecedented Cristiano Ronaldo, Portugal’s not short of generational talent.

Which begs the question, if we were to call on the representation of one player to a single attribute, what would the perfect Portuguese player look like?


Brain
Bruno Fernandes

Manchester United’s man of the moment took a unique route to the top, taking in the Italian way of playing the game before his 2016 move back game with Sporting.

A true sponge, tactically, his rich knowledge of the game shows in the way he commands his team on the pitch, with or without the captain’s armband and, despite his many technical qualities, it’s his mentality that promises to take him and his teammates right to the very top. A true footballing brain on his shoulders.

Heading Ability
Cristiano Ronaldo

There’s no doubting the magnitude of the phenom we have in our hands here, fit to top almost every category available in this piece. Since few will be able dispute the overwhelming superiority Cristiano Ronaldo holds over others in the air, this category is his to don.

A lethal finisher with his head, even at a very young age, his favourable height, cunning anticipation and outrageous leap make him a force to be reckoned with inside the box. Truly superhuman.

Physique
André Silva

Undoubtedly in lofty company, here, the ex-FC Porto and A.C. Milan striker falls short of the talent and consistency possessed by many throughout this list, which is a shame given the threat he poses.

Somewhat likened to Ronaldo, physically, André Silva’s tall, strong and elegant frame equips him to be in the mould of a true modern-day athlete – the complete striker. All that’s really missing for the young frontman is a little more consistency before he starts looking like the fearsome prospect that once took him to the San Siro.

Hands
Rui Patrício

Two names spring to mind where goalkeeping’s concerned – that of UEFA Champions League winner Vitor Baía, a mainstay in the Portugal national team in his day, and Rui Patricio, central to his nation’s Euro 2016 success in France, against the hosts.

With a blunder or two in his game, Baía loses out here to Rui Patricio, who’s matured brilliantly over the years and offers Wolverhampton Wanderers and Portugal with the adequate security required to compete.

Tackling
Ricardo Carvalho

Barely in the six foot region, there’s plenty to admire about Ricardo Carvalho’s game in a world dominated by bulkier, far more imposing centre-backs and strikers alike.

Excelling at the very highest level with FC Porto, Chelsea and Real Madrid, Carvalho’s positioning, anticipation and composure often saw him outsmart his competitors in the tackle, adding greater comfort to the backline wherever he went.

Agility
João Moutinho

Great things were expected of João Moutinho when he first broke through at Sporting in 2004 and, meanwhile, it’s fair to say he hasn’t quite lived up to the promise set out, the midfielder’s career isn’t one to frown at either.

Still competing in the Premier League at the age of 34, his small stature aids his agility that, throughout the years, has seen the creative quantity mature into a combative source, relentlessly zipping across the midfields.

Passing
Manuel Rui Costa

Another in a class of his own, capable of taking a handful of categories for himself, Rui Costa, formerly referred to as ‘the Maestro,’ comes in to claim what his nickname implies – orchestrating play.

The ex-Fiorentina and A.C. Milan star had the innate ability to play at his own pace, capable of short bursts through the midfield with the ball glued at his feet, and when he was not practically passing the ball into the net, such was his accuracy, Rui Costa was feeding his star-studded forward lines with the utmost precision expected of a number ten.

First Touch
Deco

One many would consider a rare breed, Deco wasn’t quick, nor strong, but he’d always outwit his opposition with otherworldly vision and guile, best seen in his FC Porto years.

An immaculate first touch set up the Brazilian-born Portugal international for success, enabling him to find the time and space his slight body and creative attributes required. Deco was so good, in fact, there were times he didn’t even need to touch the ball, feigning cutely and giving his opponents the illusion he could control things with his mind.

Speed
Nani

Although he may not be as quick as a certain Portuguese Old Trafford favourite, Nani, with admirers of his own during his time in the north-west, wasn’t far behind when it came to turning on the jets.

Direct, tricky and equally objective, the former Manchester United number 17 was a real threat off the flanks in his pomp, owing much of that to his unforgiving acceleration.

Dribbling
Paulo Futre

Dubbed as Europe’s response to Diego Maradona, the long-haired Atlético Madrid legend was unstoppable in full flow, toying with any defender who dared to believe he may be dispossessed.

Blessed with control, veiled pace and a protective tenacity that kept his detractors at bay, the Maradona comparisons were always very evident for a winger who simply refused to be tackled.

Skills
Ricardo Quaresma

Nobody embodies street football, where imagination, joy and exhilaration is king, quite like Ricardo Quaresma. Despite never delivering the career his abundant talent deserved, the former Porto and Besiktas star never lost sight of what made him a firm favourite in everyone’s hearts – his commitment to leave all in awe with wizardry.

The constant showboating, the trademarked ‘Trivela’ – Quaresma is your one and only stop for mind-boggling trickery on this side of the Atlantic Ocean.

Crossing
Luís Figo

Luís Figo was many things, from an elite dribbler, to a complete visionary in the final third. One of his more underrated qualities was his ability to cause danger from the flanks, via his delivery. Not his most outstanding quality, undoubtedly, but brilliantly consistent.

Right Foot
Eusebio

The perfect Portuguese player would be complete without the great Eusebio, conveying an enormity that is, even in the presence of Ronaldo and co., fondly remembered today.

We’ll leave the striker in his natural habitat, here, borrowing his venomous and ferocious right foot that often left goalkeepers powerless.

Left Foot
Bernardo Silva

The story’s still being written for 25-year-old Bernardo Silva and his thus far glittering career, honing his skills in both France and, most recently, England.

As so often is the case, Bernardo slaloms past his opponents as if a string’s attaching his left foot to the ball, lacing his close control with end product, be it in search of a team mate in the final third, or picking out the top corner. As far as left foots go, his is certainly one of the very best going.


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Benfica’s Champions League Curse Continues

In the uncertain times of today, dominated by the Coronavirus pandemic, few are the football clubs willing to spend as freely as other transfer windows have allowed.

Curiously, irrespective of the risks and needs to safeguard against turns in the financial tide, one team appears to be spending like never before.

Hiring a top-20-earning manager, being linked with the likes of Tottenham Hotspur’s Jan Vertonghen and ex-Paris Saint-Germain star Edinson Cavani before spending a whopping €80 million in transfer fees on top of that, it’ll come as a surprise to many that Benfica, from cash-strapped Portugal, are the ones flaunting such fierce financial firepower.

Free-spending isn’t entirely foreign for the Estádio da Luz outfit, who’ve completed four of their five most expensive deals ever just in the last 12 months, but the manner is as aggressive as ever after a lacklustre 2019/20 season.

SL Benfica v Rennes FC - Pre Season Friendly : News Photo

Fresh in the memory is Bruno Lage’s demise in charge of the Eagles, last season, winning just five of his last 15 games at the club before resigning to the tune of bitter rivals FC Porto charging to the league title.

Lage didn’t pick up all of the blame, however, having previously sealed the title in 2018/19 after two-time champion Rui Vitória, now at Al-Nassr, succumbed to the same fate mid-season.

The board’s harshest critics were quick to point towards the club’s inability to cast in the correct personnel, struggling firstly to cater for the aging Jonas and, later, replacing João Félix effectively.

A season prior to Vitória’s sacking, Benfica also missed the chance to win five league titles in a row, a record held by Porto, who were, against the odds, able to wrap up the 2017/18 league title for themselves on a shoestring budget.

Head-to-head in the last three season, the Dragons are 2-1 up in titles, which weighs heavy on Luís Filipe Vieira’s reputation as club president, with elections looming over the club next month.

The club’s European success, or lack thereof, has been an even bigger source of disappointment, falling at the group stages in each of their last three Champions League campaigns which included 2017/18’s rock-bottom finish, accumulating no points at all in Manchester United’s group.

In addition to having his name muddied by numerous allegations into corruption, after 17 years in charge of the club, Vieira is, without a doubt, going through his least boastful spell in the red half of Lisbon. This brings us to his new, more aggressive approach ahead of the new season, as well as October’s pending election, in which Vieira really has gone for the jugular.

The first port of call has been Jorge Jesus – a name very familiar to the club for the best and worst reasons. A three-time league champion in six years, the Eagles played some of their best football under the 66-year-old, but his tenure at the club ended on a real sour note, trading the red of Benfica for the green of cross-city rivals Sporting in the summer of 2015.

Then came the signings of Everton Cebolinha from Grêmio, adding to the capture of Corinthians’ Pedrinho, Vertonghen’s free transfer, a successful move for Germany Under-21 international Gian-Luca Waldschmidt and record-transfer Darwin Nuñez, arriving from Spanish second tier side Almeria.

Image

With a bill north of €80 million and moves for Flamengo pair Gerson and Bruno Henrique, as well as Olympiakos centre-half Rubén Semedo still tabbed up, the message coming from Benfica was clear. This wasn’t a club simply after domestic success, but one seeking redemption on a European stage, befitting of the money invested in both players and manager.

But as the Red & Whites stretched their finances to the limit, they seemed to have overlooked one very pertinent fact about Champions League football – they were yet to qualify.

In Tuesday’s one-legged play-off, PAOK Salonika handed Benfica the most brutal reminder of that, knocking them out in a 2-1 victory sealed by their ex-player, Andrija Zivkovic, who was allowed to head for Greece on a free transfer just this month.

With it, the Serbian winger, a handsome earner during his time in Lisbon, wiped €40 million from Benfica’s coffers, upon eventual qualification for the centrepiece of European club football – a staggering 35% of the club’s annual revenue. By contrast, should the Eagles qualify for the Europa League and win the tournament, they’d only earn up to €26 million.

The elimination arrives with immediate consequences as the club battles to avoid the trail left by Sporting and Porto and landing themselves in hot water with UEFA’s Financial Fair Play regulations.

Benfica may well need to sell a player or two for sizeable fees which, with super-agent Jorge Mendes in the contacts book, may not seem like such an impossible task, but it doesn’t bode well for a squad Jesus, reportedly, still believes to be incomplete, nor will it sit well with the fans hopeful of seeing some of the club’s brightest prospects out on the pitch, rather than on the transfer market.

The Eagles have been here before with Jesus, as well as Mendes, letting go of the likes of Bernardo Silva, Ivan Cavaleiro, Helder Costa and João Cancelo, all curiously for €15 million to AS Monaco and Valencia, both well-connected to the portuguese agent. Today, Florentino Luis and Ferro may well be the next to walk the plank.

Financial troubles will do Vieira no wonders too going into an election. Not only is the prospect of no European football a blow to fans, eager to see their star-studded team in action at the very top, but the recklessness of it, laid bare by Tuesday’s elimination, is sure to erase some form of trust in the top man from sections of the support.

That may not be enough to dethrone the current incumbent just yet, still a favourite going into the elections, but the worries over an ambitious project, that seems to be over before its even begun, shall persist.

Atalanta: Serie A, Catenaccio and the new life of the party

As one of the greatest footballing nations to ever do it, it’s difficult to detach the Italian game from the notorious ‘Catenaccio’ system that for so long dictated the frameworks from which many in the Serie A abided by.

Even throughout the heydays of showman-like figures, such as Roberto Baggio and Ronaldo Nazário, the artistry behind defending, mastered by sons of the tri-coloured nation like Paolo Maldini, Alessandro Nesta and the Baresi brothers, has never been lost. In fact, in the eyes of many, it’s always been the main currency of “calcio”.

Deep into the 90s era, 22 clean sheets from a possible 34 enabled Fabio Capello’s AC Milan side, also en route to UEFA Champions League success, to clinch the 1993/94 league title, despite scoring just 36 league goals all season. To many, this was simply the culture, laid out by ‘Catenaccio’.

Claudio Villa Archive : News Photo

The term ‘Catenaccio’, meaning “door bolt,” owes its origins to Swiss football, but it wasn’t until the 1960s, under Helenio Herrera’s command of Internazionale, that the style of play projected itself to stardom.

Herrera’s influence was felt in the fashion capital in more ways than one, from the winning mentality invoked in his players, to strict guidelines on dieting and social life, but it was definitely the discipline and unification beaming from Inter’s 5-3-2, complete with a sweeper, that was catching all the attention as they ruled supreme in the European Cup in 1964 and 1965.

The system has been replicated many times before, right through to José Mourinho’s 2010 treble-winning outfit, also with the Nerazzurri, so we can certainly thank Herrera for the defensively-geared, chess-like feel often tagged to Italian football.

As any good follower of the Serie A will tell you, however, long gone are the days of militantly occupying the 18-yard-box, fighting tooth and nail for a 1-0 à la Milan and preying on the slightest lapse in concentration that every great Mourinho side has been able to capitalise on. The game is free, more frenetic and, contrary to popular belief, replenished with goals and attacking play.

But even the adopted father of the ‘Catenaccio,’ the late Herrera, never distanced himself from football’s true currency – goals – stating that whoever followed on with the system and neglected the attacking facets to the game simply wasn’t applying it correctly.

History backed the Spanish manager up. At the ‘Grande Inter,’ as they were coined, it was Armando Picchi’s anticipation and passing range from the sweeper position that gave the Italian giants the stability and platform to progress up the pitch via the flanks, through their full-backs. From left-back, in 1965/66, Giacinto Facchetti hit ten goals in the league – a record for many a year for a defender.

Lines of comparison can be drawn with this season’s iteration of Atalanta, with Robin Gosens, also from left-back, raking in nine Serie A goals at the time of writing, decorating his statistics further with an additional eight assists.

However, Atalanta are way more than a stone throw away from being your average ‘Catenaccio’ side, despite still favouring a variation of the five-at-the-back look. They’re a long way away from being the antithesis of that too – your more methodical, ball-hogging outfit that reigned supreme in the 2010 era.

Juventus v Atalanta BC - Serie A : News Photo

For the mind behind the radicalisation of the two go-tos, the journey started at Serie C side Crotone, that Gian Piero Gasperini would soon turn into a Serie B side. The big introduction for the Italian manager came at Genoa, however, pulling more promotion tricks, this time up to the top flight, before securing Rossoblu’s highest ever league finish with 5th in the table.

Mourinho himself was full of praise for the ex-Palermo and Pescara player at the time, peaking Inter’s attention once the job vacancy opened up in June 2011. But life soured for Gasperini and his oft-criticised attacking 3-4-3 formation, landing him on the managerial causality list after just five games in command of the Guiseppe Meazza outfit.

The short-lived adventure led him to Palermo, replacing Giuseppe Sannino, coming across Paulo Dybala and current Atalanta star Josip Iličić for the first time. Sicily would play an even wilder part in Gasperini’s story, losing his job in February 2013 before being rehired just 20 days later. Then he was sacked again, after just two weeks and replaced by his predecessor Sannino, of all people.

Thankfully, for his own sanity, Atalanta were on hand to offer Gasperini a steadier project to sink his teeth into, with the Italian repaying the Bergamo outfit with a top four finish early doors.

From the get-go Gasperini captured hearts with his side’s urgent ways and man-made superiority on the pitch, geared towards reaching the opposition’s goal as quickly and cleanly as possible. Along the years, the goals have come en masse, none more so than the 93 already hit in the Serie A, this season, after 33 games, turning Atalanta from midtable regulars into one of the most adored quantities to watch on the continental sphere.

At Atalanta, the defending starts from the front with a high line in support, rather than the deep blocks of the past. Via a willing worker up top, flanked by more creative inside forwards, the wing-backs push right up the pitch too, staying on top of fellow full-backs to cut lateral options.

The front three take the back three centre backs in the press, or split to form a front two in the event of facing a back four, with the spare attacker complicating matters further back to mark out the defensive midfielder.

Similar intricacies are found within the back three, spread out high to man-mark a traditional three-pronged attack, or, in the case of coming up against a two-striker formation, enabling the central centre-back to push on further and track a more advanced playmaker.

From marauding centre backs to inverted creatives, Gasperini places the responsibility of inventiveness on those at the base of the squad and the three leading the attack, leaving the wing-backs and central midfielders to carry Atalanta physically.

Industry is favoured in the centre, opting for more energetic and combative players like Marten de Roon and Remo Freuler to lead by example. More refined figures, such as Alejandro Gomez and Ruslan Malinovskiy, then aid the build-up in occasional retreats from the attacking third, meanwhile the likes of Iličić pop up in pockets to other a more direct route between lines.

The wing-backs follow the central midfielders’ lead, bombing up and down and keeping as wide as possible to open new passing routes, stretch opposition defences and unlock backlines with the reception of quick switches of play. As a consequence,  ‘La Dea’ are often able to outnumber defences on the break in a devastating manner, with wing-backs, in particular Gosens, popping up frequently at the back-post to contribute with goals.

Atalanta BC v Brescia Calcio - Serie A : News Photo

Atalanta aren’t alone in their approach – Lazio have followed the model very closely and, with the third-best attack, rivalled the staggering amount of goals hit by Gasperini’s side, meanwhile 8th-placed Sassuolo have attracted praise for their like-minded progressive approach.

But for all the plaudits, the pragmatic half of the footballing world will always point towards the true barometer of success – trophies. This Atalanta side, ultimately going against Catenaccio’s rich heritage so valiantly, doesn’t have any. The league, despite a fine push, should be Juventus’ to lose with a seven-point-advantage over Atalanta and five games to spare. The Champions League is also anyone’s to pick up, but even as quarter-finalists, they’re far from favourites. Nor should they be, coming from humble beginnings.

That raises harsh questions, not just for Atalanta, but any side that places an attractive brand of football before lasting results. In 20-30 years, just how many will remember the heroics of Gasperini, Gomez et al. if their efforts aren’t complete with a trophy?

Maybe not everyone, but the people of Bergamo, marvelling at every minute of their side’s ventures as the most-talked about Serie A side, now a Champions League outfit too, will.

Their new-found fame, considered as everyone’s second favourite team, is a source of great pride to those who’ve been there every step of the way in the Gasperini era. Within it lies beauty, liberated from the viral obsession of winning trophies. It promotes the love for the game, powered by enjoyment, which should, and hopefully always will be the true essence of the game as long as team’s like Atalanta are around.

Made in Alcochete: Sporting’s new generation

When the subject of revered footballing academies comes about, the list of clubs standing proudly beside opportunity and tradition is a lengthy one. However, in peak 2020, only one team has the honour to declare itself as the creators of not one, but two Ballon d’Or winners.

That club is, of course, Lisbon-based Sporting, home to the professional careers of both Portugal legend Luis Figo and his international number seven successor, Cristiano Ronaldo.

For the Lions, as they’re frequently referred to on Portuguese shores, Ronaldo and Figo’s footballing success is merely the icing on the cake, with their influence across the domestic scene broadening beyond the projection of the famed wingers.

On Portugal’s proudest day as a footballing nation, within a 23-man squad that celebrated unprecedented success versus France in the Euro 2016 final, 11 players owed their footballing education to the Sporting academy, Alcochete. By contrast, the second highest tally amassed was Benfica’s with just three names in Fernando Santos’ squad.

It is, without a doubt, a great source of pride for the green half of Lisbon, but one that’s often come at the expense of titles – the true blood that flows through the club. As a consequence, Sporting have chopped and changed leadership and approaches a handful of times, ranging from being on the verge of complete bankruptcy to being on the cusp of landing a league title that has evaded them since 2002.

Now under the fresh presidential tenure of Frederico Varandas, the former head physio of the club is already on his fourth permanent managerial change in little less than two seasons of football, squeezing in two additional periods of interim management from hopeful Under-23 managers.

But as the old saying goes, or a variation of it, “you’re only as good as your last play,” and the Sporting president and his entourage appear to have produced an interesting one.

Despite not holding the relevant coaching badges, Sporting were attracted to Rúben Amorim, himself new to the managerial surroundings at Sporting de Braga after taking over in January 2020.

Amorim won the Taca Da Liga Final in January with Braga before moving to Sporting in March
Photo Credit: A Bola

Amorim cracked the top three bingo with wins against FC Porto, Benfica and Sporting, including a League Cup final win to add to his resumé, that was promptly absorbed by Sporting in March of this year, forking out a staggering €10 million on the switch for the inexperienced manager.

By fluke or design, results are slowly beginning to pay off for the Lions, currently flying high in the form charts since the appointment. With it, Amorim has laid out an expansive 3-4-3 formation for Sporting to abide by and, to the delight of the fans, that’s included more opportunities for young prospects, otherwise buried behind expensive and ineffective signings.

Through the investment made in Amorim, yet to lose in his career as a Primeira Liga manager, Sporting now hope to recoup the funds with high quality performances and, eventually, healthy sales, as the realities of a Portuguese club demands.

Despite symbolising youth production in Portugal, the art of ‘Moneyballing’ has been lost on the green & whites, paling in comparison to their rivals in sales, with both Porto’s and Benfica’s academies, as some may argue, surpassing what was once the go-to place for every young hopeful.

Sporting’s current crop offers hope of a fighting comeback, however. 18-year-old Eduardo Quaresma has slotted in seamlessly to Amorim’s back three, with the defender’s technical & physical capabilities to drive the ball forwards from the back already alerting the interest of bigger clubs.

Sporting CP x Gil Vicente FC - Primeira Liga : News Photo

Jovane Cabral, previously hidden behind high-earners such as Jesé Rodriguez and Yannick Bolasie, both no longer at the club, has thrived in the half spaces with top-quality efforts previously only seen flying off the feet of Manchester United man Bruno Fernandes.

Joelson Fernandes is another, a typically tricky winger that’s comfortable on both flanks, who looks a real menace cutting in, especially with the additionally-young Nuno Mendes on the overlap from left-wing-back.

Behind them there’s Tiago Tomás, Matheus Nunes, Chico Lamba, Gonçalo Inácio, João Daniel, Bruno Tavares and many more who make it seem as though Sporting have stumbled across a golden generation all of a sudden.

Whether they have or not, time and opportunity will tell and Amorim, slowly constructing a poster-boy image out in Portugal, appears to have that in spades.