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The taming of the Lion

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Sporting Lisbon are 10 points off the pace after only 8 games in the Portuguese Superliga trailing the seemingly unstoppable force of Benfica. Benfica's strength, which shall be explored in this blog in the coming days, is of course one part of the situation but Sporting seem to be in a gradual state of decline since their last league title in 2002. That team was built around the colossus that was Mario Jardel who managed to bang in 42 goals in 30 league appearances and scooped up the golden boot for his troubles. However, Sporting create enough talent through their youth system to consistently challenge effectively for the title every season as well as improve on their record of 2 titles in the last 27 years.

Over the last 15 years Sporting have produced players of genuine world class that have been sold to foreign clubs for good money. Luis Figo, Simao Sabrosa, Ricardo Quaresma, Hugo Viana and Nani have been nurtured by the Sporting Academy's loving arms and sold for a combined total of €80 million. Some still remain in the form of Joao Moutinho and Miguel Veloso (who incidentally is nowhere near as good as he is in FM 2009, but talented nonetheless) so where is the crisis?

Apart from the general decline of the Portuguese league dating back to the early nineties Sporting suffers from the nuisance that is debt, estimated to be in the region of €200 million, which means that Sporting can only use 20% of their transfer income. Ironically this debt was only a third of what it was in 1995, and apart from the hefty income generated through sales, Sporting have benefited from Champions League revenue, the astronomical rise of TV revenue, increased merchandise sales and very, very frugal transfer spending with Rodrigo Tello representing their record signing for a grandiose fee of €7 million. Fingers have been pointed at their management which is suspected of dipping their fingers in the financial coffers (something rather acceptable throughout Portuguese football clubs).

Sporting's current manager, Paulo Bento, has ditched the team's traditional use of width, which had effectively made use of the quality wingers being churned out of their academy, and put his faith in a diamond formation. Consequently they have found it harder to unlock defences with less being created for their leading front man Liedson. Where they should have been picking up 3 points they are ending up with one as happened against Vitoria Guimaraes on Tuesday. The signing of Matias (Matigol) Fernandez was seen as the creative spark of the diamond but he is yet to settle in and perform to his potential.

Sporting's squad needs serious investment and this can't happen while they are burdened with such astronomical debts. The other two signings this season were Caicedo on loan from Manchester City and the 32 year old Angulo on a free transfer, hardly mouthwatering prospects. It has become a selling club that cannot replace the talent they sell with a much maligned manager trying to adapt to the squad available to him rather than a genuine title contender. Nurturing young talent is the key, but its not enough when grubby paws are bogarting funds from the kitty.

posted by Niles


Blogger Todge83 said...

very good article buddy, only 2 things to say

1) how did u forget Cristiano!!! u even put Hugo Viana in there!

2) its not rather acceptable hence its never been proven, oh wait it has once, Vale e Azvedo and he got locked up for 7 years and ran away to Engand :P

30 October 2009 at 16:00  

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