The Portuguese Primeira Liga does not generate enough revenue for its clubs to compete with the ‘big boys’ of Europe. Despite this, however, 27-times Primeira Liga winners FC Porto regularly compete in the highest reaches of European football and produce a seemingly inexhaustible supply of talented players. So what’s their secret?

Portugal’s three major clubs are Sporting Lisbon, Benfica and FC Porto – three big fish in a relatively small pond. Of these, FC Porto is the most intriguing, consistently ‘punching above their weight’ in the Champions League year-on-year.

The Portuguese market is one in which many domestic clubs struggle financially. The only realistic way for Porto to keep up with Europe’s elite is to sell the players that they develop. In that way, they can just about find enough money to fund a wage bill that will allow them to be competitive.

To give you some idea of the disparity, Arsenal receive more money from TV rights playing in the English Premier League than the whole of the 16 Portuguese clubs combined.

Qualification for Champions League therefore becomes imperative, and reaching the knockout stages can be the difference between making a loss and the ability to break even, subject to player sales.

Porto are forced to reinvent themselves every season, with no player being irreplaceable. When Carvalho left for England, Pepe was brought in; when Real Madrid moved for him, Bruno Alves was his replacement, and so it goes on. It’s an ‘adapt or die’ scenario.

The club’s rigidly-held principles are:

  • Scout, scout and scout, using their world-class network.
  • Buy cheap – acquire players in their teens/early 20s.
  • Develop talent, benefit from this enhancement over a couple of seasons and sell when the ‘big boys’ come knocking.
  • Sell any player, when another club offers more than he is worth.
  • Replace your best players even before you sell them.
  • Help players to relocate.

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