FC Porto: How the dragons became one of Europe's top clubs
Once upon a time, Benfica and Eusébio ruled over Portuguese football. It was in the 1960s that the Lisbon club won back-to-back European cups (in 1961 and 1962), while the national team celebrated a third-placed finish at the 1966 World Cup in England. Eusébio, who just a year before was crowned European footballer of the year, was awarded the golden boot for his goal-scoring exploits during the tournament. But this success didn't last forever; Portuguese football would have to wait another 20 years before it witnessed further success on the international stage. FC Porto, long viewed as the seafaring nation's third club behind Benfica and Sporting Lisbon and relatively unknown internationally, were crowned European Cup winners in 1987. In doing so, they established themselves as a top international club and a breeding ground for young talent - a status they maintain to this day.
Three years prior to this, the Portuguese side first made a name for themselves on the European stage when they upset the odds to reach the final of the 1984 Cup Winners' Cup (ultimately losing 2-1 to Juventus). In the European Championships held that same year, nine members of the Portuguese side that were unfortunate to go out to hosts and eventual winners France at the semi-final stage played their club football for Porto.
Madjer's unforgettable back-heel goal
But let's go back to 1987. The venue is Vienna's Prater Stadium. Bayern Munich are the opponents, decked out in blue shorts - just like Brazil. There was a reason for this. Bayern could never seem to win away to Kaiserslautern, so manager Uli Hoeneß thought he'd try a new approach: at Kaiserslautern's Betzenberg ground, he sent his team out ''dressed like Brazil'' - light-blue shorts, yellow jerseys. It seemed to do the trick, as Bayern came away with a 1-0 win. So when the club marked their return to the final stage of Europe's top club competition after an eleven year absence, the Bavarians thought the blue shorts, this time worn in combination with the classic red Bayern jersey, might prove to be their lucky charm once more. This wasn't how it turned out. Despite Bayern looking like the side most likely to prevail, it was the FC Porto team managed by Artur Jorge who were ultimately crowned champions.
On a brisk May evening, the team led by captain and record appearance holder João Pinto didn't allow themselves to be discouraged after going a goal down before the break. With 78 minutes on the clock and the dream of European glory fading away, the Algerian Rabah Madjer came to the rescue with a deft back-heel finish to level the score at one goal apiece. This was the same Rabah Madjer who had played a key role in Algeria's sensational 2-1 win over Germany in the 1982 World Cup. In French footballing parlance, ''Madjer'' is now used as a synonym for ''talonnade'' - a back-heel that is. Just two minutes later, the second Porto goal was scored by Juary - a Brazilian, ironically enough. Bayern were stunned and unable to strike back in what remained of the match. It was Porto whose name would be engraved on the trophy for time immemorial.
Two time Intercontinental Cup winners
FC do Porto, to give it its full name, was founded back in 1893 by no-one other than a port wine merchant. António Nicolau de Almeida, who was just 20 years old at the time, had fallen in love with the game of football during a trip to England. But despite his initial enthusiasm, it took a while for the club to get going. Revitalisation efforts undertaken by José Monteiro da Costa, who was named the first president of the club in 1906, helped establish FC Porto as a real presence across several sporting disciplines. He chose blue and white as the club colours, reflecting the Portuguese national flag at the time.
In 1934/35, a Portuguese national league was organised for the first time, and it was FC Porto who would claim the maiden title. Porto can now claim to have won 28 league titles - trumped only by Benfica, with 36. Many coaches from overseas have left their mark on the history of the club and its playing philosophy, such as the Brazilian Dorival Knippel (''Yustric''), the Hungarian Béla Guttmann, the Yugoslavian Tomislav Ivić or indeed the Englishman Bobby Robson. The club's most successful era was kick-started by a then unknown young Portuguese manager by the name of José Mourinho. He led the Blue & Whites to a 3-2 UEFA Cup win over Celtic in 2003 and a year later, his team ran out comprehensive 3-0 winners over AS Monaco in the Champions League final held in Gelsenkirchen - the club's second triumph in Europe's elite club competition. In both 1987 and 2004, the club would also be crowned champions of the Intercontinental Cup.
A good eye for talented attacking players
It was also in 2004 that the club left its old ground ''Das Antas'' - which used to see crowds of up to 95,000 in the 1980s - and moved just up the road to the newly-built Euro 2004 venue the ''Estádio do Dragão'' - the ''Dragon Stadium'' - named in reference to the club's nickname. But Mourinho would never prowl the sideline of this new home, as he left immediately after the Champions League triumph to join oligarch Roman Abramovič's project at Chelsea. He took the defensive leaders Ricardo Carvalho and Paulo Ferreira along with him, while midfield maestro Deco moved to Barcelona that same summer.
Since 2004, Porto have only failed to qualify for the Champions League on one occasion, and it was in this very season (2010/11) that they won their second Europa League. Head coach André Villas-Boas, who at just 33 years of age was being hailed as the ''new Mourinho'', led the Dragons to a 1-0 triumph over fellow Portuguese outfit Sporting Braga. The winning goal in the final was scored by Radamel Falcao, who was awarded the tournament's golden boot for his impressive tally of 17 goals. His striking partnership with the Brazilian Givanildo Vieira de Souza (''Hulk'') served as proof of the excellent reputation the club's scouting department has when it comes to unearthing talented attacking players. Porto was also the place where the Columbians Jackson Martinez and James Rodriguez first made a name for themselves, but, as was the case with Villas-Boas, they were ultimately unable to resist the temptation posed by a big-money move to clubs with more spending power. They stand in the tradition of former top players at the club such as Mário Jardel, Fernando Gomes and Derlei.
Porto are currently managed by Sérgio Conceição, who as a player famously scored a hat-trick against Germany in Euro 2000. The club find themselves in a neck-and-neck title race with Benfica. The side reached the last eight of the Champions League but, as in the previous season, were knocked out by Liverpool - no disgrace at this moment in time. All in all, it's fair to say that FC Porto - based both on current and historical achievements - deserve their place among the pantheon of top European clubs.
Youth League, Semi-final
TSG 1899 Hoffenheim - FC Porto
Friday 26 April, Centre sportif de Colovray Nyon
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