The Minister tells all and leaves Sporting seeking a new strategy

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Costinha last week rocked Portuguese football - and in particular, Sporting - when he gave a candid, tell-all interview to Sport TV. The now former Director of Football was anything but coy as the interviewer asked question after question about the current state of the club.

Topics ranged from the Liédson sale to the arrival of José Couceiro, and in his very own straightforward ‘take-no-prisoners’ style, Costinha told just about everything.

Speaking of the deal which saw Liedson move to Corinthians, Costinha revealed he did not know who had taken the decision to ratify the deal and dubbed the piece of business ‘shameful’ and ‘ruinous’ as the club didn’t find a replacement.

He also claimed the club failed to bring in veteran forward David Trezeguet in the summer for a sum of €100k, apparently forgetting the former Juventus striker’s wife is exactly from Alicante, the city where his current club – Hércules – is based. 

Costinha was somewhat more diplomatic about José Couceiro, the general manager also brought by Bettencourt, but he admitted his power naturally decreased with Couceiro’s arrival, while stating the former Porto and Lithuania manager would solve exactly the same as he did – nothing.

Such strong - some would even say brutal – words would make club officials uncomfortable enough to sack “The Minister” the following day and create yet another problem within the club.

A well-documented yet unspoken problem

Perhaps Sporting’s major problem with the interview is that most of its content is true: even if the Liédson deal was a good one in business terms – Sporting failed to sign a replacement and now have to cope with just Helder Postiga and Carlos Saleiro.

Their ability to attract new players should also be questioned after Atlético Mineiro’s president laughed off Sporting’s ‘ridiculous’ bid for Kléber and Marítimo winger Djalma shunned the opportunity to join the Lions, opting instead to move Porto even though he’d probably have a better chance of first team football at Estádio José Alvalade.

Most of all, any Sporting supporter would agree that looking at the league table at the present is a painful experience. They trail Benfica by 12 points and FC Porto by 23 and have just drawn 2-2 at Olhanense this weekend.

But what is perhaps more troubling is that there’s no bright light at the end of the tunnel. Bettencourt proved to be a very poor president, but is it certain the next person in charge be the any better? Some candidates already promised millions to acquire new players, but more than pipe dreams and fairy tales, Sporting need an actual strategy to get back on track.

For a club that now seems poorer than ever, the decision to shut down the footballing production line that churned out the likes of Quaresma, Ronaldo, Nani and Moutinho seems even stranger and it is one policy the next Sporting supremo should review.

Using an expression that has been used quite often in this tough economic environment, Sporting are ‘too big to fail’ in the context of Portuguese football, but like Benfica in the 90s, they .

For the good of the club and the league as a whole – as a strong Sporting bring out the best in Benfica and Porto – let’s hope they’re able to climb out of the hole they have dug for themselves.

Will “The Minister” return?

Just like Sporting’s 20010/2011 campaign, Costinha’s debut as football director will be hardly remembered. He was hailed as the right man to work closely with the coach, the players and the president but his legacy at the club is little more than a couple of mediocre signings.

While Costinha may have enjoyed good relationship with the players and Paulo Sérgio, he was unable to deliver the results set in February 2010 upon his arrival. Was he given the tools to succeed?  We may never know that, but somehow the Portugeezer doesn’t think it will be the last time we see “The Minister” around. His suits have ‘I’ll be back’ written all over...