The title race is ultra-competitive, we have no idea who is going down and European spots are still up for grabs – Liga NOS has been great this season and clubs will be doing everything they can to get an edge over one another via some mid-season transfer business.
PortuGOAL’s Tiago Estêvão runs the rule over a month of hectic comings and goings at every one of Portugal’s 18 top-flight teams.
So here I am again with a complete transfer update on all the teams, alongside some thoughts and ideas. Let’s take a look at what everyone has been up to.
Jorge Jesus’s side has been extremely active since the window opened. Ruben Ribeiro might be 30, but at only half-a-million proves a nifty investment in a player that has been in-form and that can fill in both from wide and behind the striker. He’ll also be motivated plenty to prove people wrong by finally signing his first big contract. The Lions also spent a rather large amount of money on a couple of talents for their midfield: both Wendell and Misic are centre-midfielders who will be adding to the depth charts until the end of the season, but who will only be thoroughly integrated in the team for 2018/19. Finally, in the latest chapter of the who-can-partner-up-with-Dost novel, Sporting signed Fredy Montero yet again. Quite odd taking into account that Jesus was the one to let go of the Colombian, but characteristics-wise it does make sense. The deal doesn’t seem too bad financially either despite his age, so it seems fine.
The outs were arguably even more positive for the club. Alan Ruiz was loaned out to Colón, who keep an option to buy the attacking midfielder for 7M€. If all goes well, Sporting will likely even end up profiting from this deal which would be great for them in view of how disappointing the player has been. The talented Iuri Medeiros finally got the chance to stay with the club after amazing seasons with Moreirense and Boavista, but just hasn’t managed to fit in at all. I’ve said this here before, but he looks completely devoid of confidence in the green-and-white shirt – much like he did in the pre-seasons before he eventually got loaned. Well, it’s happening again, this time to Genoa – it’ll be fun to watch him in Italy and, as loans go, this isn’t too bad at all for Sporting who will receive €1M for it.
Jonathan Silva fell off the squad, showing he simply doesn’t have the quality to even be back-up. Somehow, someway, Sporting sent him off to Roma while tripling their investment in the Argentine – great deal. As his replacement, the Lions picked up Lumor from Portimonense – he’s been good, not great, and I’m a bit concerned that Jesus might be signing for his impressive game against Sporting (a bit like what happened to Zeegelaar). Anyway, €2.5M for a high potential 21-year-old, should be fine: especially taking into account how much Silva was sold for, and since he’ll just be back-up to Coentrão.
It didn’t really make sense to buy Matheus Oliveira in the summer and, after not playing (as expected), he’s been loaned out to Vitória SC. Tobias Figueiredo got himself a move to Nottingham Forest: he was the team’s 4th CB option and wasn’t used much at all. The Championship is a fitting league for him and, while there’ll be a slight lack of depth in the position, if it comes down to it there won’t be that much of a difference between letting him fill in or giving that role to a player from the B team.
After a very quiet summer when it came to ins, FC Porto decided to invest for real as soon as January arrived. The two big ones were Majeed Waris and Paulinho, both arriving on loans with options to buy at the end of the season in an attempt to balance the team’s financial situation. Waris has been a solid if unspectacular goalscorer in Russia, Turkey and France. He’ll add an extra option up top. Paulinho, on the other hand, is a fantastic move – a midfielder who is very impressive from a technical standpoint, who is only 23 and can play as an “8”, “10” or from wide. A valuable asset for the rest of the season.
More recently the team also decided to recall Gonçalo Paciência from his loan at Vitória FC, which I have some trouble with. Gonçalo has been great for a poor team, scoring in the league and in both cups – with his performances in the League Cup final-four grabbing the attention of even the less focused. His return means he’ll be the team’s fourth choice striker and, while he could make a small contribution to FCP’s campaign, in the long run another six months in Setúbal would have benefited him more.
As the contracts from both Marcano and Reyes slowly wind down, the club is already trying to find solutions and went in for Osorio. Tondela’s centre-back has been impressive throughout 2017, both on and off the ball, on top of being able to fill in as a defensive midfielder. It’ll be interesting to watch where Conceição decides to employ the Venezuelan.
On the outs, Layun to Sevilla is the big one. A really good servant while at the club, he’s now been surpassed by Telles and Ricardo. They also let go of Rafa Soares on a free to Portimonense, which is a bit odd since there was perhaps gametime for him in this squad, even more so in the long run. FCP should still be fine for depth though: Ricardo can fill in on the left if need be, for the right there’s Maxi and young Dalot ready to come through. Young goalkeeper João Costa went after some gametime on loan at Gil Vicente in the second tier and Juan Quintero moved to River Plate after a loan in Colombia. The attacking midfielder was playing spectacularly in his home country but Conceição just couldn’t figure out how to fit him in, so the club ended up moving him to Argentina – River has the option to buy 50% of his pass for €3.5M, FCP bought it all for €10M. Finally, Walter and Bueno, whose contracts seem endless at this point, went out on loans.
So, you know the Benfica side who lost so many players in the summer and really needed reinforcements after a first half of the season after dropping out of three competitions and struggling in the Liga? Yeah, they didn’t really get anyone, moving on to the outs. Jokes aside, they did find their best line-up (and form) around the time the window came along but depth in certain positions is still questionable to the point where I believe they would need to find add-ons elsewhere.
Rakip is an offensive-minded midfielder that signed for the club on a free after a productive season with Malmo. He was loaned out to Crystal Palace immediately and I guess Krovinovic’s injury that would opened up a spot in the squad for him happened just a tad too late for the deal to be cancelled. On the other hand, deciding to follow it up with Filipe Augusto’s loan makes little sense to me – the fans distrust the Brazilian as a defensive mid, but here I think he’s worth a shot as an ‘8’ (his position, yet a spot where he didn’t really play for the Eagles).
A couple of other loans were also aligned. Lisandro Lopez moved to Inter in a deal that can eventually become profitable for the club – Ruben Dias, Jardel and Luisão should be enough for the remainder of the league. Full-backs Hermes and Pedro Pereira didn’t get much of a chance and were moved, much like Cesar who spent the last six months on loan with Setúbal.
With Varela and Svilar settled as the team’s main two men in goal, Julio César said goodbye after years with the reds, as he signs for Flamengo – as many issues as SLB seem to have in goal, César isn’t really the solution, so the club might as well save on what they were paying him. Rui Vitória’s side also decided to cut Gabigol’s loan deal short as he didn’t convince the manager.
Having lost Fransérgio and Ricardo Ferreira to bad injuries a couple of months ago, Braga’s midfield and defence had clear holes to fill during the January transfer window. That’s exactly what they did, picking up centre-midfielder Ryller from Brazilian side Luverdense for only €250k in a deal that could prove very profitable. On the other hand, they sent Marko Bakic on loan to Belenenses and the quality of his start in Lisbon honestly makes me wonder why he wasn’t given a chance to be that Fransérgio replacement. The other arrival was of Andrej Lukic, a 23-year-old 1.94m tall CB, who looks pretty capable on the ball from the highlights I’ve seen. The €1M paid for him is looking mighty positive taking into account how much of a weakness have their CBs have been (especially in possession) in 17/18 since Ricardo’s injury.
Finally, on deadline they picked up someone they’ve been chasing for a long while: Diogo Figueiras. A peak-age, title-winning, right-back who has proved his worth in La Liga, Serie A and Greece, for €1.2M is fantastic. It also means that Abel is fully invested in Esgaio as a winger, so Diogo will fight (and likely take over the position) with Goiano.
In the other outs, Assis was logically loaned to Paços after not getting gametime all season due to not fitting in Abel’s system, while striker Crislan was loaned to Japan for the 2nd season in a row and André Moreira’s loan ended without much fuss.
Everything snowballed on the back of one sale for Rio Ave: 30-year-old Ruben Ribeiro finally got himself a big contract after a fantastic first half of 2017/18 and the club made half-a-million on the attacking midfielder. From that point on, 23-year-old Diego Lopes arrived to replace him, returning three years after leaving the club. Talented Angolan Gelson Dala came in on a loan deal from Sporting to offer a much-needed extra option up top: Guedes is having a good season but Dala brings a completely different skill-set which is helpful. This also meant Karamanos’s loan deal was cut short, as he lost the little space he had.
On top of that, an injury to 37-year-old Cássio means Cardoso’s side needed another man in goal and they managed to bring in Georgia international Makaridze who was nothing short of outstanding for Moreirense last season.
The most important move for Marítimo involved a player they already had, with key centre-back Zainadine signing a deal with the club after being on loan from Chinese outfit TJ Teda. Ruben Ferreira re-signed after spells with Chaves and Vitória SC, which will reinforce the left side of defence, while Tagueu is coming on loan from Cruzeiro to add a new attacking option despite his goalscoring record looking quite bleak.
And on the last day of the window, Daniel Ramos’s side made one final move as well. Correa, an Argentine number 10, signed from Velez in his home country. He really didn’t get enough minutes for them the last couple of seasons so it’s difficult to predict how he’ll do, but an injection of creativity in this side sure would be welcome. Heading the other way, Piqueti and Gildo will both be going out on loan to 2nd tier sides, while Swedish forward Lundberg never really got a chance and is back in his home country.
The team from Porto really settled in for a solid campaign since Jorge Simão took over the club a couple of months into the season and they are yet to really make many changes. The only relevant move was Alex Gorrin’s transfer to Sepsi OSK in Romania – I was hoping to watch him upon his arrival from Australia’s A-League but he ended up with no league minutes whatsoever.
Luis Castro’s side hit their best run of form of the season at the same time as the transfer window rolled around – that combined with a large number of transfer signings that are only now gelling together, meant the team is yet to really do much business.
At least that was the case until deadline day, when they paid €500k for Leixões’ Stephen Eustáquio, probably the best signing of the entire month. I’ve watched Stephen for years now, since plying his trade for my hometown side Torreense in the 3rd tier. He has since moved to Leixões in the summer and been capped at U21 level. He’s a fantastic midfielder who is particularly good as a deep-lying midfielder who likes to have the ball and control the tempo of the game. Jefferson, Chaves’s defensive mid, is a classic ball-winner and just doesn’t fit Castro’s mold for the position at all. I guarantee you Eustáquio will be getting minutes – plus he can fill in further ahead as well.
Batatinha was yet to really get minutes so got moved on to Santa Clara in the second tier and Ruben Ferreira also returned to his home town in Madeira where he’ll play for Marítimo.
Vitória SC have been pretty inconsistent overall this season and have relied almost exclusively on their duo of wingers for goals. And while Raphinha and Heldon have been great, having a bigger threat between them up top would be massively helpful and that’s what they got in Welthon. The Brazilian Paços de Ferreira striker had teams like Nice and Sporting after him due to last season’s 11 goal + 5 assists campaign, but VSC ended up winning the race. He has netted 4 times in the league so far but has been injured for a while, and he will be an interesting addition upon his return.
Matheus Oliveira also signed from Sporting on a loan deal that will bring a more technical option to the Castle’s midfield – I’m personally hoping he’ll be used as a “8” much like in the latter part of last season when he impressed for Estoril (he likely will be since Hurtado will remain as the 10 for the foreseeable future).
In defence, Pedrão finally turned his deal into a permanent one after several very good seasons on loan and João Afonso returned after loans to Estoril and Cordoba. Vitória’s centre-back options are quite poor beyond the starting duo, so he’ll help.
Pepa has apparently found his home, as Tondela are having their first safe-standing season with the 37-year-old in charge. They took of their moves nice and early, picking up Ícaro and Sulley Muniru who were both without a club. Muniru has already been getting gametime and seems a helpful addition to a midfield area that was thin with injuries. Icaro is an experienced centre-back who will just be the fourth option for his position.
Osorio has been the team’s best player from centre-back and managed to get a move to Porto. With the Venezuelan going one way, Jorge Fernandes is coming the other – on loan from the azuis-e-brancos. Fernandes will fight with the Australian Ansell for a spot with Ricardo Costa in the heart of defence. Could we finally have a young Portuguese centre-back developing?
Wagner went from being a starter to a usual bench presence this season, so the Brazilian wanted out and moved to Thailand. Spaces opened up on the wing and Pepa’s side picked up Harramiz from Académica in the second tier and Juan Delgado, a Chilean on a loan from Spanish side Gimnastic. Murilo and Cardoso have been good, both starting from wide, but there really were few rotation options for them so these might make some impact.
Portimonense are grabbing more attention than any other recently promoted side in the last couple of seasons: they score goals, are generally fun to watch and have some bright talents that everyone is eager to sign. Their business has been revolving around these exactly, with Paulinho and Nakajima – their two best players – constantly the subject of transfer rumours. Paulinho moved to FC Porto on a loan with option to buy and has everything to impress up North. Nakajima signed a new deal with Portimonense after being on loan from FC Tokyo and will be staying with the club until the summer, where they can very well make a pretty penny on him.
In the mix of the Paulinho deal, FCP sent two loanees to Portimão where they can grow for the rest of the season. Fede Varela was having a fantastic season with their B team and should be the direct replacement for the Brazilian, while Galeno – who has debuted in the main FCP side – will give an extra boost to Vitor Oliveira’s front line, likely from the wing.
Uri Rosell did well on a loan from Sporting but is now being moved back to MLS, where the lions signed him from. On deadline day, starting left-back Lumor moved to Sporting in a deal that made Portimonense €2.5M. The Algarve side will also keep 20% of the player’s pass. A great deal for Oliveira’s side, who also went ahead and improved said position by getting Rafa Soares. Soares finished his deal with Porto, seems fit after an injury-haunted stint with Fulham, and will be a major boost to the side.
The classic Lisbon side are really using January as an interesting turning point for their season, with a managerial switch from Domingos Paciência to Silas – given his first opportunity in management after a long playing career – and quite a few transfers, including three quality loanees.
An injury to goalkeeper Muriel lead to the signing of the talented André Moreira from Atletico Madrid. In midfield, Bakic – who Braga had signed after a good season with Belenenses a couple years ago – has been loaned to the club again and is already proving very worth it with a couple of impressive starts. Finally, Nathan came over from Chelsea as an option for the wings. He had an okay season with Vitesse and should have enough quality to be useful in a position where Roni’s loan ended, and he’s started well with a goal against Benfica.
Silas’s men closed the transfer window by picking up Yazalde and Licá on loan, after their Rio Ave and Granada deals, respectively, ended. Neither of them has basically any minutes this season and it’s tough to measure what they can give to the side. The objective is clear though: trying to find new sources for goals since none of their strikers have more than a goal each. It is also worth mentioning that midfielder André Sousa is now being played in a much deeper role under Silas – a role that I believe suits him and could revive him to the point of him being almost a signing himself.
Full-backs Mica Pinto and João Diogo moved to the Netherlands and Romania respectively looking for gametime, while Juanto went back to Spain after an unspectacular spell, and Miguel Rosa departed after 8 years at the club.
PAÇOS DE FERREIRA
A less than great start meant the club panicked a bit and replaced Vasco Seabra with Petit. The latter didn’t fit the club’s usual managerial mould and things didn’t improve at all. This all led to a third manager being appointed in João Henriques, who did very well with Leixões in the second tier and who is now taking advantage of the transfer window to shape the team as he pleases.
In midfield especially, there’s been a lot of change, with experienced Portuguese international Ruben Micael coming in from China and Rafael Assis coming on loan from Braga. These should work as the team’s playmaker and ball-winning midfielder respectively, from this moment on. Barnes Osei is also back from loan as an extra wide option.
With midfield space shortening, Mateus Silva went the other way and was loaned to Nacional – the second-tier side also received Medeiros on loan from Paços, a Brazilian winger whose gametime was cut from loads to none this year. Australian CB McGowan looked an interesting option in the summer but after little gametime has been loaned to Gwangwon in Korea for the sake of pre-World-Cup time on the pitch – I would honestly expect him to be a mainstay on the team by now.
Finally, the big one. After holding onto his services in the summer despite interest from Nice and Sporting, Paços have now finally sold Welthon to Vitória SC for an undisclosed fee. No striker was brought in, so the reliable Bruno Moreira seems to be the chosen goalscorer from this point onwards. After signing Rabiola on a free contract, they’ll have an extra back up for the position.
Despite being one of the teams with most defeats in the league, Feirense are having a relatively safe mid-table season with a win here and there keeping them afloat. There hasn’t been much happening when it comes to transfers, with Karamanos coming in on loan from Olympiakos again after netting 6 times for the club last season. João Silva is having a solid season though, so the Greek is coming to be a 2nd option and perhaps even helping the side switch to a front-two at times. It’s an understandable move, in view of how little the other forwards at the club have done.
Alphonse didn’t impress, so Manta’s side loaned him back to Gil Vicente where he came from, but the big one out only came in the 31st. Nigerian international Etebo, who I’ve been highlighting for a while, moved to Las Palmas on a loan with an option to buy. He isn’t flawless but is for sure the highest ceiling player in the squad, I’m excited to see what he can do in Spain. Edson and Hugo Seco will be the starting wingers from this point onwards.
Sérgio Vieira has been able to stabilize the squad somewhat since his arrival and is now tailoring the team slightly. After spending a couple of years managing in Brazil, he’s brought in two players who he kept an eye on over there. Edno is a 34-year-old who has scored goals in Brazil, Mexico, Japan and Poland over his long career – he’ll have to do it here as well, given that each the other two strikers have just two goals each and will likely be benched for him. Matheus Reis came in as well, a 22-year-old on loan from São Paulo who will likely be the team’s second left-back option for the remainder of the season – Ruben Lima has been a solid starter so far. Finally, they also signed Boubacar Fofana, a strong defensive midfielder who was free and has played for Nacional in the past.
On their way out, a couple of wingers went on loan to the second tier due to a lack of usage (Maciel and Ohemeng) and Makaridze moved to Rio Ave. The goalkeeper was fantastic last season but for some reason or another wasn’t used this season, and any profit made there by the club is welcome, I suppose.
It’s not news to anybody that Vitória have had some defensive issues, so they’re approaching the market to try and fix those. With a clear lack of centre-backs available, to which Cesar’s exit (end of loan) contributed, Couceiro’s side went ahead and picked up two very decent ones. Yohan Tavares was part of the Europa League Estoril teams under Marco Silva – he was signed to compete for a starting spot after a stint in Thailand. The other man coming for the position is Nuno Reis – a Sporting academy graduate and Portugal youth international who has since played for Metz and been a secondary option for Panathinaikos. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if they took over together for the second half of the season.
The big move related to the club was Gonçalo Paciência’s loan being cut short as he went back to Porto after impressing as the team’s top scorer. VFC only won six games this season, he scored in five of them. They’ll take a large hit but at least Porto sent them a replacement: André Pereira has been doing well in the second tier and is now given a chance here on a loan. Edinho will also get a few more minutes than in the first half of the season.
Wallyson Mallman is an addition in midfield that will contribute to settling the troubled relationship between VFC and Sporting (who are sending him on loan) on top of being a useful option. He hasn’t played 1000’ + in one season since 2014/15 so I’m not sure what to expect anymore.
Two extra transfers arrived late on, with centre-midfielders Emrah Bassan – on a free from Galatasaray – and winger Thomas Rodriguez – on loan from Genoa – coming in. The first is quite an unusual move that can go either way, the latter is going to fill in a position that really was in need of reinforcements. On his way out is Vasco Costa, to Famalicão in the second tier. The forward has shown flashes of quality but needs to play.
It seems like the further down the table you are, the more moves you make. Since Ivo Vieira took over the team has improved but is yet to move out of the relegation zone. Estoril are undergoing a pretty insane player turnover for a mid-season transfer window, with the usual access to Brazilian contacts.
Starting from the back, Renan Ribeiro signed on a free from São Paulo and took over the goal from Moreira basically as soon as he touched down in Portugal. Dankler was loaned to Lens in France in the summer but has been called back due to a centre-back injury crisis at the club. At left-back, Joel and Abner have also been plagued by injuries so Ailton – who was sold to Stuttgart for a €1M this summer – came in from the Bundesliga outfit on loan. I’m a big fan of his and, while its unfortunate that he didn’t get gametime in Germany, he’ll get it here until the end of the season. Slightly further forward Gonçalo is returning to the club as well, the defensive midfielder is back after years in Croatia and a spell with Aves. He’ll have to battle for a spot in the eleven but at the bare minimum will offer cover in a team where injuries keep showing up.
Finally, the attack has really been reinforced with a couple of highly rated young Brazilian creators who can ply their trade from wide or behind the striker. Ewandro Costa on loan from Udinese – who Estoril seem to be building a solid relationship with after the Lucas Evangelista deal – after playing an hour of Serie A football over a season-and-a-half and Matheus Sávio, who has actually had some gametime with Flamengo recently and is coming on loan from the Rio de Janeiro club. Excited to watch both of them.
The trio of Luis Ribeiro, Tocantis and Wesley was loaned out to clubs who needed them more. Out of these, the latter was the one with the most time on the pitch this season but it was during a brief adaptation at right-back through necessity.
Aves have had by far the weirdest transfer window of any club in the league, specifically when it comes to the players brought in. After a summer of almost complete turnover in the squad, the team started slowly as they need time to gel, which shouldn’t be much of a shock when you realise that they kept literally two players from the team that got promoted last season. Disregarding that factor, the board got impatient and switched managers from Soares to Vidigal, who improved the team. Now, after a less than great run of results, another switch happened with the perennially-unsuccessful-yet-perennially-employed José Mota hired.
Anyway, back to transfers. Artur Moraes, the former Brazil international goalkeeper who was very successful with both Braga and Benfica, was signed at 37-years-old to compete with 42-year-old Quim and 34-year-old Adriano. Not quite sure what’s the purpose of a club like this having three renowned goalkeepers of around the same quality to fight for just one spot. The other man coming in was Fernando Tissone, centre-midfielder who has clocked in over 17k minutes between Serie A, La Liga and European competitions. An unexpected addition arriving from Karpaty in Ukraine, but if fit he should do well.
There has been a parting of the ways with a couple of players who weren’t getting minutes anymore, with Gonçalo to Estoril and Washington to Greece. Both arrived in the summer and didn’t assert themselves as starters. Benfica also decided to cut Salvador Agra’s loan short and move him on to Granada in Spain. He has a lot of minutes with Aves but really hasn’t done well enough and needs a change. His spot will be covered by Benfica loanee Hamdou Elhouni, a talented but very raw winger who spent the first half of the league on loan at Chaves.
By Tiago Estêvão