Much is made about the financial prudence of Arsene Wenger, and rightly so. His eye for talent and refusal to pay over the odds either in transfer fees or wages has earned him respect, however grudging, even from those who have become increasingly critical of his management style. In addition, his insistence on good football also gives purists much to cheer on a regular basis. There are a number of clubs around Europe that use this template, as selling clubs, like Benfica and Udinese. The former let Javi Garcia go to Manchester City and Axel Witsel to Zenit St. Petersburg in the last couple of days, and Udinese recently sold Mauricio Isla and Kwadwo Asamoah to Juventus as well. It is a pattern that enables them to stay afloat financially, while maintaining the ability to do decently in their respective leagues at the same time.
However, no club has married success on the pitch and off it in the last decade like FC Porto. According to figures from transfermarkt.co.uk, they have made a profit of over 200 million Euros since the 2001/2002 season on transfers, but have also won 8 Portuguese Liga titles, the Europa Cup in 2003 and 2011, the European Cup in 2004, and the Intercontinental trophy in 2004. All this was combined with moving to a new stadium – Estadio do Dragao – which was built for Euro 2004 at a cost of over 75 million euros to the club.
Porto’s success is nearly entirely dependent on the early identification of promising players, and the eventual sale of those players for huge sums of money. A few examples will suffice. Pepe was signed from Maritimo for 1.76 million euros in the 2004/2005 season, and was sold to Real Madrid three seasons later for 26.4 million. Freddy Guarin arrived from St. Etienne for 880,000 pounds, but left to Inter Milan for nearly 10 million pounds. Hulk was sold for Zenit St Petersburg for 48 million pounds, after being signed for 16 million. Radamel Falcao, who has scored goal after goal since coming to Porto for just under 5 million pounds, departed to Athletico Madrid for 41 million pounds.
This kind of success is a result of good scouting and getting players from other Portuguese clubs. Porto’s continued presence in the Champions’ League, the guarantee of domestic titles and continental exposure provides a great platform for emerging talents to get recognition, not to mention the ease of getting a work permit, in addition to an EU passport for those fresh from South America.
It is also not possible without good coaches, and Porto have had a few good coaches in the last decade as well. Jose Mourinho – prior to his being proclaimed the Special One – won back to back league titles, the UEFA Cup and Champions’ League. Jesualdo Ferreira won league three titles in a row. Andre Villas-Boas won three titles in a year, as well as going unbeaten in the league in 2010-2011.
There are challenges with other sources of revenue, like gate receipts, TV money and shirt sponsorships, meaning that Porto must continue to qualify for and perform decently in the Champions’ League, while continuing their transfer market success. As they pocket another huge sum of money from the departure of yet another star, you won’t bet against them.