Is Porto’s money making model the best route to follow?

There are several ways to run a football club, from Ajax’s youth policy to PSG’s short term policy of wanting instant success through buying talent from across the world. Perhaps the best example we have seen over the last decade is that of FC Porto. They seem to make ridiculous amounts of money on players bought for small fees and still stay competitive at the same time. I mean, they have won eight domestic titles, two UEFA Cups and a Champions League in that time.

The club have become used to seeing their star players leave each summer for substantial fees with their reliance on their scouting system coming to the fore. They dependence on youth has paid massive dividends down the years. Porto are seen as a club who can let you showcase your talent, eventually catching the attention of the major clubs in Europe’s eyes. They believe in giving youngsters a chance, a policy which has gotten them 24 major and minor trophies since 2003 at a profit of near £400million. That is just unbelievable business. Let’s take a look at the transfers since 2003 which have caused the club to have such an unbelievable record in the transfer market and gain this reputation:

Ricardo Carvalho – Signed £0/ Sold £20million

Carvalho was signed for Porto’s youth team at the age of 17. He broke into the first team in 2001/02 and went on to play 115 times for the club winning 3 league titles, a UEFA Cup and a Champions League in the process. During the Champions League winning season, Carvalho was chased by several top clubs across Europe. In the end it was Roman Abramovich’s Chelsea who had just hired Jose Mourinho, Carvalho’s manager at Porto, who stumped up the cash to take him to Stamford Bridge.

Deco – Signed £100,000/ Sold £12.5million plus Ricardo Quaresma

Deco was arguably Porto’s most impressive player in the Champions League winning season. Signed after impressing on loan at Salgueiros the previous season, Deco went onto make 226 appearance for Porto and was a world class attacking midfielder who loved to score and make goals. He eventually switched to Barcelona for £12.5million plus Ricardo Quaresma after talks between him and his old manager Mourinho broke down.

Paulo Ferreira – Signed £0/ Sold £13.2million

Ferreira was signed by Porto from Vitoria de Setubal after impressing in the Portuguese domestic league. Mourinho transformed him into an attacking full back, having previously been a right midfielder. He had an exceptional two seasons at Porto, winning a treble in his first and a league and Champions League double in his second. He joined Carvalho and Mourinho at Chelsea at the start of the 2004/05 season.

Maniche – Signed £100,000/ Sold £12.5million

Maniche was another member of the Champions League winning squad who also played for Jose Mourinho at Chelsea. He was originally signed from rivals Benfica, making 124 appearances for Porto and making his name as a goal scoring midfielder in the process. Dynamo Moscow splashed out £12.5million for his services in 2005, giving Porto another massive profit.

Anderson – Signed £5.5million/ Sold £23.5million

Anderson was one of Porto’s more expensive transfers, signing as a 17-year-old from Gremio for £5.5million. His mother had to accompany him at the deal as FIFA prohibits European clubs signing South Americans who are under 18. He won a league title at Porto but only made 24 appearances for the club due to the fact he had a broken leg for a long period. However, Manchester United saw enough potential in the young Brazilian and paid £23.5million for his services in 2007.

Pepe – Signed £750,000 plus Tonel, Evandro and Antonielton Ferreira/ Sold £25million

After Mourinho left, Porto’s first signing was youngster Pepe in an extremely part exchange deal. He had a breakthrough season in 2005/06, helping the club win back to back domestic titles and being the leader in Co Adriaanse’s 3-4-3 formation, really coming of age. In 2007, Real Madrid came calling, seeing his clear potential and paid £25million for Pepe’s services. It was another huge profit for the Portuguese club.

Ricardo Quaresma – Signed £4million (playing rights evaluated in Deco deal)/ Sold £14.75million plus Pele

Often referred to as the ‘biggest waste of talent’ of the last decade, Ricardo Quaresma had his best spell of his career at Porto. The only thing bigger than Quaresma’s talent was his ego, which was his eventual downfall. He didn’t get on with then Barcelona manager Frank Rijkaard and Porto saw an opportunity to do some business, gaining his services as their key man Deco moved in the opposite direction. After 148 appearances in Portugal, he moved to Inter Milan for £14.75million plus young midfielder Pele (yes, Pele).

Jose Bosingwa – Signed £500,000/ Sold £16.3million

Bosingwa was a Mourinho signing when he purchased the then right midfielder from Boavista in 2003. Like Paulo Ferreira, Mourinho transformed him into a right back but he was used sparingly until the great manager left. He spent five seasons at Porto but it was to all end on a sour note when he crashed his jeep into a ditch. This causes fellow professional Sandro Luis to have his left foot amputated, Bosingwa was consequently suspended by the club and sold to Chelsea.

Lucho Gonzalez – Signed £5million/ Sold £15million

Lucho was signed from River Plate in 2005 and had a very impressive four years at the club, helping Porto win four consecutive league titles and having good runs in European competition too. He was a fan favourite at the club but when Marseille came calling in 2009 with a big money offer, Porto had to let him go much to the disappointment of the fans.

Lisandro Lopez – Signed £2million/ Sold £20million

Lisandro moved alongside Lucho from River plate in 2005 in which turned out to be one of the best pieces of business in the club’s history. Coincidentally, they also left the club at the same time as each other. Lisandro also won those four titles at the club, making 143 appearances and scoring an impressive 63 goals. He was sold to Lyon to replace Karim Benzema at ten times the amount they purchased him for.

Aly Cissokho – Signed £200,000/ Sold £12million

Porto signed Cissokho in 2009 for a small fee of £200,000 after he impressed for Vitoria de Setubal. He won a league and cup double in his six months at Porto and impressed during their run in the Champions League that season, catching the eye of AC Milan and Lyon in the process. Milan had agreed a deal to take Cissokho to the San Siro but it fell through due to a medical. A month later, Lyon matched Milan’s bid and purchased Cissokho. Porto made an impressive £11.8million profit on him in six months.

Raul Meireles – Signed £0/ Sold £11.5million

Meireles was signed at the same time as Pepe, the season after Mourinho left and had an extremely impressive six years at the club. He made 191 appearances for Porto, scoring 19 and assisting 30 goals. He won three league titles and two cups for the club until Liverpool came calling in 2010, paying £11.5million for his services.

Bruno Alves – Signed £0/ Sold £18million

Alves was a graduate of Porto’s academy and after three loan spells including two at AEK Athens, broke into their first team in 2005. He formed a solid partnership alongside Pepe, making a name for himself at the same time. He also won four consecutive league titles at the club and signed for Zenit St Petersburg in 2010 for £18million, where he remains to this day.

Radamel Falcao – Signed £3million plus Mario Bolatti/ Sold £33million

Falcao had an incredible goalscoring record in his two season at Porto after signing from River Plate in 2009 to replace the outgoing Lisandro. Falcao won a league title and a Europa League at the club, scoring an incredible 72 goals in 87 appearances. He set a new goalscoring record in the Europa League of 17 goals in a single tournament in 2010/11 too. He made his name as one of the deadliest strikers in Europe and in 2011 Atletico Madrid splashed out over £30million on him.

Fredy Guarin – Signed £1million/ Sold £9million

Guarin signed from St Etienne for an undisclosed fee which is thought to be around £1million, he only broke into the Porto first team after Raul Meireles’ departure in 2010. He made a total of 110 appearances for them in four seasons, scoring a solid 21 goals from midfield. Inter Milan initially signed Guarin on loan but made the deal permanent in 2012 for a fee of around £9million.

Hulk – Signed £15million (over three years)/ Sold £39.5million

The most eye-catching sale of the lot was the most recent when Zenit purchased the charismatic Brazilian for an almighty £39.5million in the summer of 2012. He is known as Hulk due to his likeness to a comic book character and initially started his career in Japan until Porto’s scouts spotted him. Hulk scored 78 goals for Porto in 169 appearances, forging a magnificent partnership with Falcao for a couple of years.


There are Porto’s major transfer profits over the last ten years and they are mightily impressive. Added to the players, they have been able to make a profit on their managers too. Chelsea have paid compensation for two of their managers in the last twenty years, They paid £1.7million in compensation for Jose Mourinho in 2004 and a hefty £13.3million for treble winning manager Andre Villas Boas who had an undeafeated season at the club. ‘AVB’ as he is known in England was of course sacked by Chelsea after just nine months in charge which makes this deal all the more remarkable.

In the current crop of players there are sure to be some high profile sales in the next summer and years to come. For example, James Rodriguez was signed for £4million in 2010 and has been linked with moves all across Europe including Manchester United who are reportedly willing to pay £30million for him. Joao Moutinho, who almost moved to Tottenham Hotspur for £25million last summer, was signed for £8.5million in 2010. They could make another hefty profit on him. Jackson Martinez was signed for £8million this summer and has had an extremely impressive first season at Porto, expect him to be moved on one day for a massive profit too. Other players who fall into the same bracket include young Belgian Steven Defour, French defender Eliaquim Mangala, Brazilian winger Kelvin and Brazilian full backs Danilo and Alex Sandro.

Porto’s model is clear, they need to constantly find, develop and produce top class players who can produce profit and at the same time keep them competing on all fronts. They have had some bad deals, like the sales of Luis Fabiano and Diego for £2.5million and £5million respectively. That is to be expected, it would be impossible to perfect every single deal. Porto’s model has proved extremely successful but it heavily relies on its scouting system in South America and its own youth system in order to make a profit. One day it is very possible it will come unstuck but the club’s record in the last decade speaks for itself. The fact it has sales of £400million on players and 24 trophies is a truly incredible record for a club with the most unique model in the history of the sport.

What are your thoughts on FC Porto? Is this model sustainable for a long period of time? Do you want YOUR club to be run like them? Let me know!

Tim Simon