This summer may well see another exodus of talent from the Dragao, with some of the continent’s big boys already weighing up offers
By Rupert Fryer
Porto are the success story of football’s modern era of globalisation, utilising their position in what is one of Europe’s lesser leagues to become the ultimate middle man. Their extensive network of scouts leave no rock unturned in the pursuit of the next Deco or Radamel Falcao. On paper, their ploy is simple: get them in early, get as much out of them as you can, and then flip them to one of the continent’s bigger boys who are interested only in the finished article.
Last season the club netted around €65 million shipping the likes of Alvaro Pereira, Hulk and Fredy Guarin, all of whom were acquired for comparatively modest fees. This summer that trend will probably continue, and so as the 2004 Champions League winners prepare to take on Malaga on Tuesday, Goal.com takes a closer look at some of those who will be in the shop window come the end of the current campaign.
Bear in mind, the percentage chance of each player below leaving is likely to increase closer to June.
|JACKSON MARTINEZ | STRIKER, 26
One-time Liverpool target Martinez was brought in from Mexican club Jaguares this past summer and immediately hit the ground running, celebrating his debut with a last minute winner against Academica in the Portuguese Super Cup. The Colombia international now leads the Primeira Liga scoring charts with 20 goals, seven more than second-placed Oscar Cardozo, and has already attracted huge interest from abroad.
Operating as a lone striker, he has shown his ability to lead the line since arriving in Porto and has improved with his back to goal. He has certainly displayed his knack of finding space in the penalty area, and can finish equally well both with his feet and his head. His general approach play is something he still may need to work on, however, especially if he is to cement a place in the Colombia setup alongside another Porto success story, Falcao.
Both Barcelona and Real Madrid have been linked with a move for the 26-year-old but Atletico Madrid are the front-runners for his signature come the summer as they seek to replace Falcao, though it won’t be easy to negotiate Porto down from his €40m buy-out clause.
|JAMES RODRIGUEZ | Attacking Midfielder, 21
James (that’s pronounced ‘Ham-ez’ – something of which he’ll be quick to remind you should you make the mistake of uttering an Anglophone elocution) arrived from Banfield after starring as a 17-year-old in Julio Falcioni’s 2009 Argentine Apertura-winning side.
The 21-year-old has already shown huge progress since landing in Portugal and has become an integral part of his national team following the appointment of Jose Pekerman, leading to former Colombia great Carlos Valderrama to name the Porto star as his natural successor for los Cafeteros.
Originally a left winger, he has matured into a central playmaker, where he has flourished with a new found freedom for Colombia, and can also operate from the right, cutting inside to utilise a left foot every bit as powerful as it is intricate.
And Porto may be ready to cash-in, having recently purchased 35% of his registration back from a third party investor. Manchester United have long been linked with a move for Rodriguez but won’t be doing business at his buy-out clause of €45m, especially following the signing of Wilfred Zaha.
|JOAO MOUTINHO | Midfielder, 26
The Portugal international’s career looked to be on its way to stalling before he swapped Lisbon for Porto almost three years ago, but he quickly realised his potential under former coach Andres Villas-Boas, becoming the fulcrum of the 2011 treble winning side.
Having risen through the ranks of Sporting as more of a traditional No.10, he has since developed into a box-to-box midfielder and has been the driving force behind Porto’s recent success, adding a tenacity to a range of passing that has seen him rack up an impressive number of assists at the Dragao.
The 26-year-old very nearly reunited with his former coach in north London this season, but the deal that would take him to Tottenham collapsed following an objection from a third-part investor and a last minute increase on the fee demanded by his current club.
Spurs remain very interested in the midfielder, however, and Champions League qualification for the Premier League club will likely see them reignite their interest this summer.
|NICOLAS OTAMENDI | Defender, 25
The Argentine was hung out to dry when Diego Maradona took him to the World Cup and deployed him out of position at right-back in 2010, but he has since recovered from that disappointment to establish himself as one the finest central defenders outside of Europe’s better-known leagues.
The 25-year-old is yet to break into Alejandro Sabella’s Argentina set-up, despite the dearth of options in the position available to the Albiceleste, and a move to one of the continent’s more visible clubs may help in that regard.
He has grown both physically and tactically since leaving Velez Sarsfield following his trip to South Africa. Strong both on the ground and in the air, his reading of the game has significantly improved, though he may be disappointed he has not been as productive as he would like in front of goal from set pieces.
There has been reported interest from Anzhi in recent months, though a move to Russia would do little to help him get back into the national setup prior to the World Cup in 2014.
|FERNANDO | Defensive Midfielder, 25
The Brazilian midfielder handed in a transfer request last year amidst reported interest from a number of Italian clubs, but his €30m price tag quickly served to scare off all interested parties.
The combative defensive midfielder was picked up from Vila Nova in Goias as a youngster way back in 2007 and the last couple of years has seen Porto’s faith rewarded as the 25-year-old has progressed into a stalwart at the base of their midfield.
Strong and athletic, he offers tremendous protection to his back four and will once again turn the heads of some of Europe’s big boys this summer, though the Portuguese giants are unlikely to budge on his asking price, which should ensure he sticks around for at least another season.
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