Sporting face Moutinho sale backlash

Remember when Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard was on the verge of moving to Chelsea in 2005? Despite having been a Liverpool supporter his whole life, Gerrard admitted he considered it because he thought his club was some way off winning the Premiership title.

If such move would have gone through, the Blues would have signed one of the most complete midfielders in the world while Liverpool would probably have lost relevance in the title picture.

Perhaps now you can understand why João Moutinho moving to FC Porto is sending shockwaves through Portuguese football. In an unexpected move, the Dragons announced the signing of Sporting captain Moutinho – of whom Porto supremo Pinto da Costa had long expressed his admiration - for €10M plus young centre-back Nuno André Coelho, the biggest transfer between Portuguese clubs.

No matter what people from either side of the fence say, this a pivotal moment that will define one way or another both clubs’ 2010/11 season. But let’s try to put things in perspective and assess the move from three points of view: Porto, Sporting and Moutinho.


With this move, it seems clear they are about to sell Raul Meireles. The industrious midfielder enjoyed a poor domestic season, but was one of the best players for the Selecção at the World Cup which is why Porto are more than willing to do business.

In Moutinho, they get a player four years his junior who happens to have more potential and versatility. It is quite a big investment in Portuguese football terms, but the fact they were so willing to do the deal signals how highly they think of him.


The player had stagnated at Sporting. Their youngest captain at the tender age of 20 and with more than 200 games for the Lions, Moutinho is yet to really fulfil the potential which saw Sporting reject bids of upwards of €15M for his services from the likes of Everton in recent years.

He may have renewed his contract after this interest from England and beyond, but his influence waned and he didn’t seem as happy playing for the club and the relationship with the other players and the board appeared to have worsened.

The last straw was probably his omission from Carlos Queiroz’s World Cup squad and knowing he wouldn’t play Champions League football in the 2010/2010 season, he decided it was time to seek a move away from the club. FC Porto is a good fit for him and he has the tools to become an even finer player.

As for the question “Should he have looked elsewhere?”, the answer is not a straight forward one. A die-hard Sporting fan would liken his act to betrayal of biblical proportions, but a more rational observer would suggest few teams would offer him what Porto do. It is perhaps a question that needs to be reassessed in the future...


President Bettencourt and some of the people at the club are already pressing the ‘damage control button’ and downplaying the sale of Moutinho. Make no mistake: it is a blow and it is a big one.

The supporters could understand selling an unsettled player to a foreign club, but to sell him to one of their fiercest rivals – even if both clubs have done business in the past – is an admission of inferiority. They’ve just lost their club captain and one of their youth academy’s poster boys, and while publicly they say ‘Good riddance’, deep down they know they’ll miss him.

Yes, they’re getting €10M and promising centre-back Nuno André Coelho who was highly regarded at Porto, but still one has to think how they’re planning to rebuild their squad.  Bettencourt and Costinha may well be prepared for the backlash of this deal, because Moutinho will most likely be a success at Porto. More to read...

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