FC Porto are a unique club in the current European football landscape: they are probably the only regular feature in the Champions League knockout stages not coming from one of Europe’s biggest leagues or financed by a millionaire. They have also won a Champions League and two UEFA Cups/Europa Leagues in the past decade against all odds. Their success is all the more surprising considering they are constantly forced to sell their best players (and managers) due to how weak the Portuguese market is in comparison with that of Europe’s biggest leagues. The Portuguese league simply doesn’t generate enough revenue for its clubs to compete on equal footing with teams from England, Spain, Italy, Germany or even France.

Guarin, one of Porto’s low buys and high sells.

But then, how can Porto have such continued success? It all starts and ends with arguably the best scouting network in all of football. Porto buy cheap, talented yet relatively unknown players, they develop into world beaters, help the club for a few years and are sold by astronomical sums to one of the Europe’s economical powerhouses ai??i?? rinse and repeat and you have Porto’s entire market strategy in a nutshell. Falcao has just been the last in a long list of star players moving from Porto to one of Europe’s biggest leagues, a list that includes the likes of Deco, Ricardo Carvalho, Paulo Ferreira, and Anderson, among others. With such a strategy, any casting error might have terrible repercussions for the club, but they just keep hitting the jackpot and getting adequate replacements for cheap prices every time they lose one of their key players, the most recent case being Jackson Martinez picking up where Falcao had left off.

Porto basically lay the blueprint for any big club from a small league/market to have consistent success at the highest level, but it’s a blueprint that requires an extraordinary amount of competence to reproduce. If it had only happened one time, it could be deemed luck, but so often have Porto managed to implement their model to perfection that you really have to admire their competence. When their closest rivals, namely Benfica and Sporting (who also have to sell players to be sustainable), sell their stars they are visibly affected, while for Porto the transition is absolutely seamless more often than not. The same applies to managers: after all it was Porto who first got JosAi?? Mourinho and AndrAi?? Vilas-Boas in the European spotlight and now they’re two of most the prominent managers in Europe.

Over the past decade, Porto have won 25 trophies, while racking up over 400 million in sales, highlighting the most unique model out of any European club, allowing great success while remaining financially responsible. While there might be doubts over how long such a model can be sustainable ai??i?? and it certainly will take continued full professionalism and great competence in every department of the club, from finance to scouting ai??i?? so far its success is undeniable and really the only case of a club from a small market having continued success in European competitions over the past decade. Behind all this, of course, is the club’s president Pinto da Costa, who has been the leader of the club for 30 years now and put the entire structure in place. Porto are the perfect example of how rigor and superior organization can overcome a lack of huge monetary resources in football; they are never billed as candidates in European competitions, but year after year they mix it up in the knockout stages and they do so without spending much money on transfers at all, at least compared to the company they’re in.

In a football world where money dictates more and more, Porto are a breath of fresh air, living within their means and punching well above their weight year after year in Europe. Porto are in many ways a big fish in a small pond; the Portuguese League generates an annual TV revenue of 50 million to split between its clubs, while a club like Arsenal alone earns more than that annually, just to put it in perspective how much of an uphill battle it is for Porto to mix it up deep in the Champions League. With another off season, a new challenge arises to Porto’s market strategy, with JoA?o Moutinho and James Rodriguez having to be replaced after being lured by Monaco’s millions. Few would be surprised if the effects of their departures were barely noticed and Porto made another run towards the quarterfinals of the Champions League this season. That is after all what they’ve been doing for more than a decade now.

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