Some clubs would object to being referred to as a “selling club”, but FC Porto have found a way to embrace their reputation by unearthing talent before offloading players for premium transfer fees.
Over the years, the Portuguese giants have made a habit of finding talent and moving them on to some of Europe’s biggest clubs. That is in large part down to their impressive scouting network in South America, combined with their long-standing tradition of giving opportunities to players from the club’s academy.
They are not the only Portuguese club to engage in flogging their players for inflated fees — Benfica sold Darwin Nunez to Liverpool this summer for a hefty £85m including add-ons. And like their league rivals, Porto have made a fortune from this practice, with some star performers making their names at the Estadio do Dragao.
One can only wonder where Porto might be now had they had elected to keep the talent they sold on, with a starting XI worth £270m in transfer fees for good measure. In 1996, the club decided to cash in on experienced stopper Vitor Baia, who joined Barcelona in a £6m deal and their current stopper, Diogo Costa, could easily surpass that fee if sold in the future.
Their defensive talents have also been important in earning the club a lucrative payday. Ricardo Carvalho was one of the first Portuguese players to join Jose Mourinho ’s revolution at Chelsea in a £20m deal and the centre-back proved to be a shrewd signing, winning three Premier League titles in his six years in west London.
It was at Real Madrid where he joined Pepe. The Brazilian-born defender has gone on to become one of the most recognisable defensive players since the turn of the century due to his aggressive style of play. He was offloaded for £30m to Madrid in 2007, a record fee at the time for a centre-back, and after a long spell in Spain and a brief stint in Turkey, he is still playing at the ripe age of 39 in the Porto backline.
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The sale of Danilo was example of how profitable Porto could make their operation from discovering Brazilian talent. The full-back arrived in an £11m deal from Santos in 2012 and was sold on for nearly three times that fee to Real Madrid in 2015, joining Los Blancos in a £27m transfer. Likewise, Alex Sandro cost just £8m from Deportivo Maldonado and was sold for a £16m profit a year later.
The long line of midfielders that have been plucked from Porto stretches could stretch as long as the fishery town’s coastline. But it would be foolish to overlook Deco’s impact, another of the Brazilian-born clan to represent Portugal at international level, who broke the mould by joining Barcelona for £13m plus Ricardo Quaresma in 2004.
Given that the deal was brokered 18 years ago, one could expect something near double that fee in modern football. He went on to prove himself as one of Europe’s top playmakers at the Camp Nou before moving on to Chelsea.
Likewise, James Rodriguez earned Porto a massive windfall in 2013 when his performances earned him a £40m switch to big-spending AS Monaco — the second-highest transfer fee in Portuguese history at the time.
One of the rare exceptions is how Ruben Neves ended up joining Wolves in 2017 for just £16m. The midfielder was 19 at the time and tracked by every big club in Europe, so for the talented teenager to join Championship outfit Wolves at the time raised more than a few eyebrows. However, it soon emerged that super agent Jorge Mendes had developed closer links with the Midlands outfit, beginning the trend of Portuguese players moving to Molineux.
And in attack is arguably where Porto have been most blessed. Hulk, a bulldozing forward with a rocket of a left foot, earned the club a record £51m sale when he decided to move to Russia to link up with Zenit St Petersburg.
But the Brazilian’s impressive record came nowhere close to matching Radamel Falcao, who had caught the eye of the world 11 years ago.
The Colombian frontman enjoyed two incredible seasons in Portugal, scoring 72 goals in 87 appearances, having been signed for just £3m from River Plate. In the summer of 2011, Atletico Madrid paid a whopping £34m to sign ‘El Tigre’ from the Portuguese club, representing a sizeable profit on a player who had developed into one of the world’s most prolific strikers.
Sadly, a knee injury stunted his progress and forgettable loans at Manchester United and Chelsea hardly did him any favours.
And following in his compatriot’s footsteps is the name of everyone’s lips at Anfield, the increasingly popular Luis Diaz.
Plucked from the Colombian side Atletico Junior for just £5.5m, Diaz played a key role in three years at the club, scoring 41 goals in 125 games for Porto. But when Liverpool showed their interest in January, there was only going to be one outcome as the 25-year-old sealed his move to Merseyside for £49m.
And while it represents one of Porto’s highest-ever sales, it is unlikely to be the last as the Portuguese champions continue to make millions off their array of talented footballers.