In the recent past, the world of football has witnessed billionaires with no connection to football taking over clubs, crazy amount of money dished out on players barely out of their teen years. While on the other end of the spectrum, clubs, once giants of the game have been declared bankrupt and as a result have been demoted to the respective lowest professional leagues. Amidst all these, a club named FC Porto has quietly gone about churning up profits after profits from their transfer activities and at the same time, have ensured their football on the pitch has also resulted in an influx of trophies. The club truly is a case study for clubs all over on how to go about and prosper in the business that is called football.
The football-business model they follow is simple enough. Scout young talent – sign them at throw away prices – develop them – sell them off at gigantic amounts. It all seems like a piece of cake on paper. But it has a lot of intricacies involved, pressure points which necessarily will not always work in their favour.
Their scouting system is perhaps the backbone of their system. Their scouts don’t just need to watch for the right talent, they need to do it fast enough to catch the fish before other clubs join in the hunt. The scouts have to work with the youth team coaches to identify the areas where the club doesn’t already have developing players, so that the incoming players will get enough opportunities to develop. The club has a very well developed scouting mechanism in place in South America, the region from where the club gets a majority of its imports. They have also strengthened their African scouting system in the recent past.
The club’s youth system also plays a crucial part. The youth is where the imports are developed and nurtured into first team candidates. The club also the has philosophy of giving young players enough chance to play and train with the first team every so often so that the players continue to grow. And the club’s trump card has been letting young talents going out on loan deals, often to clubs playing in the highest leagues of the countries and also within Portugal’s Primeira Liga.
The steady leadership also plays an important role. Jorge Nuno Pinto da Costa has been the chairman of the club since 1982. And the continuity he has provided has been a factor in Porto’s growth over the years.
But perhaps the key element of the whole model has been that they have been able to sustain their outstanding performances on the football pitch. Many a times, clubs sell their key playing assets when a big money offer comes in, but then the team struggles to cope with the loss of the key players and their performances drop. FC Porto have almost each season sold a key member of their squad along with the peripheral players, but having done so, they had back-up plans to ensure that the trophy cabinet keeps on shining with new trophies.
From the 2002-03 season FC Porto have won the Portuguese Primeira Liga in all but two seasons. Add to that 5 Taca de Portugal i.e. Portugal Cup wins and and 7 Portuguese Super Cup trophies, means that the club is winning almost two trophies per year. Some critics might say the league they play in is not the strongest. Agreed, but the fact that they have a UEFA CUP, a Champions League and a Europa League to their name in the same period means they have shined on the European front too.
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Statistics may deceive but it is quite evident from the above figures, supplemented with all those trophies, that how successful the FC Porto policy has been. By selling Joao Moutinho and James Rodriguez to AS Monaco for €70 million, this year will also turn out quite profitable and will give quite a large margin of profit to bring new talents into the club. Interestingly it seems the policy works not only in case of players but also in case of managers. The departures of Jose Mourinho and Andre Villas Boas has brought in another €15 million as compensation.
FC Porto discovers raw talents, nurtures them, make them marketable and sells them at huge profits, in the process getting the best out of them and remains competitive. Whereas other clubs following the same model have to concentrate is at the last part – remaining competitive. That is the edge FC Porto has. If not for it, the fans would have revolted if time and again the club would have sold its best assets for the lure of financial profit.
Porto is not the only club which follows the scout and sell way of football management. Other big names include Benfica, Ajax, to an extent Udinese. Maybe even Borussia Dortmund are following this policy. But even they have got to agree, on the basis on the number of trophies earned, the profitable figures and the pedigree the club has established in the recent past – FC Porto are the best in the business.
[Due to fluctuations in the exchange rate, it is difficult to be 100% accurate with the financial figures. Therefore some of the financial details within this article cannot be guaranteed as accurate.]
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