In PortuGOAL podcast 91 we ask how have Benfica managed to stay top of the Primeira Liga despite selling player after player, and how crucial is it for Porto to overtake their arch rivals before the finishing line. Looking further down the line, does Portuguese clubs' newfound reliance on youth players bode well for Sporting?

We also tackle a host of hot topics affecting Portuguese football right now: Cristiano Ronaldo, Mourinho's Chelsea, Nuno Espírito Santo's success at Valencia, Bernardo Silva's sale to Monaco. We end with the question: "Has Jorge Jesus got something against Portuguese players?"



Related: Appraisal of Primeira Liga at the halfway point

Related: Portugal half-term report - golden age coming to an end your social media marketing partner

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  • Guest - Andre/UK

    Nice discussion chaps! Yes Jorge Jesus certainly divides opinion like no other Portuguese coach at the moment. Certainly with me personally, there are clears things I like about him and others I'm not so keen on. I think there can be little doubt that he is a quality coach. Results speak for themselves and since he arrived at the club, Benfica have been transformed from a "giant of the past" that had really lost it's way, not only in Europe but even domestically, into a team that challenges for major honors every year. Don't forget that in 2012 and 2013 we lost the Liga titles by wafer thin margins, and were also very unlucky to lose both the last 2 EL finals (were the better team in both finals). If circumstances had been just slightly different in these last few seasons, we'd be talking about a seriously impressive collection of trophies.

    What is really remarkable is how every summer and every January the club loses it's biggest and most important players, and JJ has to build new teams, often from scratch like in this current season, and yet we have always remained competitive. This season there is little doubt that Porto have more depth in their squad than any other team in the Liga. If JJ manages to pull off defending our Liga title with a weaker squad than Porto, it will be total affirmation of his quality as a coach. He's also very good at developing players and adapting them to new positions. The likes of Coentrao, Matic and Enzo Perez (some of the very best players in the world in their positions) have JJ to thank more than any other coach for their development.

    However, I am not keen on JJ's obvious lack of faith in young Portuguese players. I will not go so far as to say he has "something against them", but he certainly seems to be unwilling to give them the same opportunities as players of other nationalities. I wonder if the likes of Cristante, Samaris, Ola John and Derley would have had the same opportunities in the first team this season, had they been Portuguese. As Vasco states, there's likely details and politics behind the scenes that are we are not fully aware of. Nevertheless I'm sure JJ must give the green lights to the club loaning out talented young local players like Bernardo Silva, Cavaleiro and Cancelo for example. I just wish the club gave more opportunities to the talented players being developed in the youth teams.

    Lastly regarding the point on competitiveness in the Liga and whether it's losing quality. I would disagree. I think there's always been a gulf in quality in the Portuguese Liga between the top 2 or 3 and the rest. It's nothing new. However in recent years we've seen the Liga become arguably more competitive. Braga challenged for the Liga title in 2010. Pacos finished in the CL spots 2 seasons back, while the likes of Estoril and Guimaraes have made impressive progress in the last few years. In other European countries such as Germany, Italy and Greece there is only one real title contender, at least in our Liga there are 2, lol! I actually believe the Portuguese Liga is more competitive and is in better overall shape now than it was a decade ago.

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  • Guest - Nathan

    Rated 5 out of 5 stars

    Great podcast guys....I think I agree with Tom on one point: if Portuguese teams are obligated to employ more Portuguese talent, Sporting is going to come out on top eventually. However, I think Vasco's point is that there are managerial discrepancies between Sporting and the other two top sides in Portugal that have had more of an impact on Sporting's lack of success in recent times. I'll put it this way: Sporting are one decent manager away from rekindling their winning tradition.

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  • Guest - Oscar

    Thanks for the podcast guys, appreciate the time and effort.

    I'm a benfica fan and the behaviour of Jorge Jesus and LP Vieira IMO has been towards Benfiquistas has been of utter contempt and I can't believe how easy Vasco has gone on them in the podcast. For the benfica hierarchy to continually tell the fans how Seixal is the future and then sell the best product with world class potential is disrespectful to fans. Don't lie to me tell me the truth I'm not an idiot I can handle the truth, but when I'm casting my vote I will not support someone who treats me like a fool and doesn't give me what I want out a club that I love.

    The honest truth is that Seixal has overtaken Alcochete as the premier academy in Portugal, you need only look at the youth NTs to see what a fantastic job Seixal is doing in producing fabulous players, it not to say Sporting has regressed it's just that Benfica has upped the ante to a level that all of us will see the benefit of in the national team very soon. But we let Marcos Lopes go at the age of 15 for 1 million Euros, Bernardo Silva at 20 for 15 million, I can guarantee you that we will not be the major financial winner out of these players. If Goncalo Guedes leaves benfica without being an undisputed starter I'm not sure ill be watching benfica play anymore.

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  • Oscar, Vasco does indeed take it easy on JJ, and so does Tom. I do not say this critically because I respect these 2 fellows a great deal, but I think it's because they have both come to appreciate JJ's high-octane attacking sides, such as the title-winners of 2010 and last season's Europa League runners-up. In terms of footballing knowledge, insight and objectivity, Tom has my utmost respect. This site has always been fair to not only all of the tres grandes but also shone the light on the smaller teams of the liga. In terms of tactics, Vasco has the talent to be part of Mourinho's coaching staff. I cannot praise these 2 fellows enough.

    But.... and this is a big but, this year's Benfica has not been impressive on the pitch. All but maybe 3 games have been down to grinding out results. JJ has proven to be the least effective Champions League manager of this century for any of the big 3. He has also proven to choke at the worst possible times. That said, I do agree he is the best at developing talent, and has been, up until this season, fearless in his quest for beautiful attacking.

    Also, everyone talks about all the sales they have made and criticize LFV without looking at all of the variables. I agree that selling Bernardo was stupid. Beyond stupid really. But JJ is the reason for this, not LFV. The President has given JJ countless number of highly-rated Portuguese talent. Andre Gomes, Bernardo Silva, Ivan Cavaleiro, Joao Cancelo, Miguel Vitor, Luisinho, Hugo Vieira, Pizzi, Nelson Oliveira (although, is he really that highly rated anymore?), Bebe, Miguel Rosa, among others. JJ has been the one who decides who he wants and who he doesn't want, and what he proves every year, without fail, is if you give him a choice between a Portuguese player and a foreigner (Argentine, Greek, even a guy from Antartica), he will always choose the foreigner.

    Also, I want to point out that while Benfica has sold a lot of the big boys this year, they have done so after retaining a lot of starts for many many seasons. Look at Enzo, Gaitan, Salvio, Rodrigo, Luisao, Garay, Maxi Pereira, Matic, Cardozo and Lima. These guys were all long-term and several are still there. Every club, including the big fish of Madrid and Barcelona have to sell players eventually. It was only a matter of time. Finally, it's not like LFV has not given JJ some quality reinforcements. In 204-15, LFV has contracted 20, that's right, count them, 20 players. Guys like Samaris, Cristante, Talisca, Jonas, Julio Cesar, Derley, Eliseu, and Mukhtar, most of whom are internationals.

    In short, as a Portista, I cannot claim my club are the flag bearers of Portuguese player development, because they are sadly far from it. But the outrage people have at LFV for selling Seixal's products should be pointed at JJ, who has proven to be a decent coach, but more importantly for the Lisbon club, a great developer of talent, who if he wanted to, could be the key in developing raw Portuguese talent. Instead, he'd rather develop players from Botswana, Greenland and Atlantis.

    Good podcast as always fellas.

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  • Great stuff as always. Benfica is top because both Sporting and Porto's managers took too long to settle and get their teams performing. In my opinion if Leonardo Jardim had stayed with Sporting, Sporting would be top right now. I had hoped that switching coaches for Sporting wouldn't disturb the squad but obviously it did. JJ is a good manager but he's not great, he's just benefited from being there the longest and being in a situation he knows all too well and he has that command of his teams. In my view this Benfica team isn't better but worse than the ones before and I thought Sporting and Porto should've capitalized on that because both teams have stayed just as good if not gotten even better with more depth and reinforcements. The two managers of the other clubs haven't given JJ enough competition simply.

    And I believe Sporting will get better as we have continually been doing gradually over the last three years. There was a blip (drop off in performance) from Marco Silva finding his feet as the manager of the club but he's appeared to have gotten in the groove and is working well now and showing his quality. The point about Sporting's former players getting better when they move on isn't to do with the fact that they aren't getting trained as well as they could be compared to if they went to a better club in one of the top three leagues. That point has too many other factors such as players simply maturing and getting stronger wiser better with more football maturity and intelligence which should come as you get older. The players didn't stay long in Sporting anyway to really compare to say if they had stayed if they would've turned out just as good or not. Yes the previous management was too unstable to really provide a stable platform for the players to grow as best they could maybe, compared to in a better foreign club. However in this current time the club has a stable good environment and these players are getting better gradually. They have stepped up into the national team one by one and are becoming better and bigger players. Yes William did have a little stagnating phase early on in the season but he's gotten back to his best recently and at 22 he will continue to get better. Adrien has continually gotten better, so has Cedric, as well as Joao Mario. Rui Patricio has also gotten better as the years go on. Apart from them only Andre Martins has slipped down the pecking order but that is simply because Joao Mario is a better player. Long story short players do not need to leave Sporting to get better developed. Eventually when the time is right and the price is right and its a good fit for both club and player some players will be sold, and inevitably they should go on to get better as they grow.

    I respect Benfica's academy and yes in the total number of youth players representing the youth national teams Benfica has a bit more players than Sporting, but that to me isn't an indicator of how good an academy is, or which is better. Quality over quantity is the key. Benfica has always had many Portuguese youth but they do not in fact have such a stable structured path to transition into the first team and that will be so for as long as JJ is there. Sending players abroad to foreign coaches and teams isn't really any sure sign of progress, as things can change quickly and many managers of teams in other countries dont have any real reason to favor Portuguese. Right now Sporting's Portuguese are playing consistently and are in good form and at a good high level and are in the full senior national team, and more should be on the way with Paulo Oliveira and Tobias Figuerido I expect to be there soon. Quality over quantity.

    Yes Marcos Lopes is a real gem and he most likely will be a success. Bernardo Silva is also a gem and should also be a success, but that is not to say that all Benfica's youth products have the mental strength and self drive to make the best of themselves abroad. It would surely be better for them to establish themselves and build their strength at home first before then perhaps going on to better things. JJ won't allow that though, and my opinion of JJ is that he is probably disgruntled from not making it as such a top professional player himself and so in turn he has some grudge that no other young Portuguese player must make it big either lol.

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  • Hello again fellas. I wanted to comment a bit more in depth about this podcast, which was again, outstanding. Aside from all the JJ love, which I disagree with (2 titles, 6 years with the best team in 5 of those 6 seasons + Champions League failure is NOT domination by any stretch lads), I also want to comment on the idea of financial clout and your criticisms of the Liga.

    I think you guys are tops when it comes to football analysisnin general and tops in commentary about the liga, but you both exhibit one of the most charactersitic Portuguese traits: everything foreign is always better.

    It's a common problem. Whenever I have visited my family and friends in Portugal, when I meet someone new they are fascinated by my "foreignness" and wonder why in the hell I would visit Portugal. Rather than appreciate and value what lies within the country, there is a constant over-valuing of the outside.

    I see it now whenever I tune in to RTP or SIC, everyone throwing a "timing" here, a "performance" there and a "look" in for good measure. Portuguese is a beautiful language and has its own descriptive words, why the need for interspersing English?

    I'll tell you why, it's because of this over appreciation of what is foreign and under appreciation of what is domestic. The Liga has been consistently improving in quality, and as you both point out correctly, the level of coaching talent is now amongst the best. But it is important that we Portuguese place value on our own product and this is also true of football.

    All clubs around the world are feeling the financial squeeze. Anyone who thinks Chelsea, Madrid and Man U are operating on some level of financial health are not in touch with reality. All 3 of these clubs are billions, let me repeat, BILLIONS of dollars in dept. The only reason banks keep giving them money is because they pay good interest through marketing their brands.

    Porto, Benfica and Sporting have money, though they are less willing and less able to leverage their incomes for loans. Still, to these are the only clubs selling off their stars paints an incomplete picture. The reality is, the days of Jorge Costa, Steven Gerrard, John Terry, Leo Messi are over. This is due to the system as well since players listen to their agents and are all too willing to chase a bigger payday and new opportunity.

    As always, really appreciate these podcasts, and Tom nice zinger at the end about Vasco and Sporting. I just think we all need to value the top quality product that is the Super Liga. You can pop a game on at random and enjoy entertaining football and that is, in my opinion, something to celebrate.


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