Photo: SL Benfica/Isabel Cutileiro

Photo: SL Benfica/Isabel Cutileiro

There was once again no shortage of intriguing headlines in Portugal this season. For the first time in several years, the League title was a three-horse race for most of the season producing plenty of drama along the way.

Benfica came out on top in the end, winning their 33th Portuguese title. While city rivals Sporting Lisbon firmly re-established themselves as serious contenders after years of financial mismanagement and poor performances.

However, this season was not without its disappointments. FC Porto and Benfica both failed to emerge from the group stage of the Champions League. And Benfica’s inability to win a European competition continued when they lost to Sevilla in the Europa League final.

But despite their modest resources, Portuguese clubs continue to produce elite talent at a level not seen in any other European League of its size. The emergence of William Carvalho, and other young players further added to the perception that Portuguese football is as healthy as ever.

Here now are the top eight storylines from Portugal this season.

Benfica Overcome The Memory Of Last Season’s Collapse

The memory of Benfica’s 2012-13 season is one that Benfica supporters will work hard to forget. The club rebounded in the best possible way by having one of their best seasons in recent memory. Although the loss to Sevilla in the Europa League final was difficult to accept for some fans.

After a relatively poor start to the season, Jorge Jesus’ club were almost perfect from November onwards. The club also appears to have some excellent young players in Lazar Marković, Ivan Cavaleiro and Jan Oblak that could keep the team competitive for years to come.

Revival At Sporting Lisbon

Despite once again falling short of the League title, Sporting Lisbon appears to have put financial ruin and poor performances behind them for good. Os Leões have regained the respect of their fans after some tumultuous years and optimism is high.

How did they do it? By going back to what made the club great in the first place. Not able to spend big like Benfica and FC Porto, manager Leonardo Jardim embraced the club’s famous academy and the results improved. The club went from having three managers last season, to a runner-up position this season. And they are looking forward to Champions League football in 2014-15.

FC Porto Struggles

On a negative note, FC Porto had one of their worst seasons in the Pinto da Costa era. A new manager, too many new players, dysfunction and a lack of squad depth all played a part in a third place finish for the Dragões.

It was unfamiliar territory for the club. Consistency and success is what we have come to expect from Porto over the last two decades. But it would be foolish to assume that Porto’s position as Portugal’s dominate club is coming to an end. The last time they failed to win the Portuguese League in 2009-10, Porto bounced back with a treble winning season.

Marco Silva’s Estoril

The most pleasant surprise this season was Estoril Praia who finished in fourth position. The suburban Lisbon club returned to top flight only two years ago. They managed to match the best finish in their history this season.

Much of the praise must go to their young manager Marco Silva who clearly has a good eye for talent. The club lost several good players last season after finishing a better than expected fifth. This season Gonçalo Santos, Sebá, Evandro and others established themselves as quality players.

Champions League Failures

In fairness, both Benfica and Porto were drawn in to two very difficult groups for this season’s Champions League. However, in past seasons both clubs would find a way to advance to the round of 16. This year, they started poorly and were unable to recover.

Benfica finished tied with Greek club Olympiacos in points with 10, a total that would get most clubs into the round of 16. However, Benfica was unable to beat Olympiacos over two encounters. Porto managed only one win and four goals in six matches.

The Curse of Béla Guttmann Continues

After leading Benfica to their second European Cup victory in 1962, Hungarian manager Béla Guttmann asked for a pay raise and was denied. After resigning, he famously declared ‘Not in a hundred years from now will Benfica ever be European champion.’ The club has lost eight consecutive European finals since.

The latest came in the final of the Europa League against La Liga club Sevilla. Benfica came into the match as slight favourites but were missing a few key players due to suspensions. Despite getting the majority of chances, Benfica were unable to score and eventually lost to Sevilla on penalties.

Portugal’s Emerging Generation

It is no secret that the Primeira Liga is a breeding ground for many promising youngsters looking to develop their talent. But it was an exceptionally good year for emerging home grown talent. The accolades and praise for Sporting Lisbon midfielder William Carvalho are too numerous to name here.

However, Vitória Setúbal winger Ricardo Horta, Vitória Guimarães defender Paulo Oliveira, Nacional defender Miguel Rodrigues and Braga midfielder Rafa Silva are just some of the best revelations from this past season. Not to mention on-loan striker Bebé who scored an impressive 11 goals for Paços de Ferreira.

Ricardo Quaresma’s Return

Ricardo Quaresma is probably the most polarizing player Portugal has produced in a long while, if ever. He inspires delight and dislike in equal measure. But there is no doubt that his return to FC Porto in January was good for the competition.

The winger dazzled fans with his exceptional skill, once again inspiring many to wonder what could have been. Quaresma was particularly impressive in the Europa League matches against Napoli. He was unable to turn the tide for FC Porto as the Dragões finished a disappointing third. However, he did provide spectacle and thrills along the way.

Related Posts:

FEATURE: 5 Reasons Benfica Won The Portuguese League Title This Season

PLAYER PROFILE: Is Manchester United ‘Flop’ Bebé The Real Deal Afterall?

Scout Report – William Carvalho


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s