Sporting Lisbon on the abyss: lions fight for survival

Mismanagement, a populist president and ultra-attacks pushed Sporting to the brink of ruin. Now the youth club of Cristiano Ronaldo is germinating new hope.

Lisbon – For years, Sporting Lisbon was regarded as the flagship of Portuguese football. As a club where Luis Figo and Cristiano Ronaldo learned to play football, the Portuguese earned themselves the reputation of a European talent factory. But now the lions are threatening to sink into chaos. The blame is attributed above all to a man who is known as the “Donald Trump” of Portuguese football.

When Benfica Lisbon receives its city rival Sporting at the Estadio da Luz this Saturday, Portugal’s capital will once again be paralysed by the derby. It is not only a traditional, but also a top duel, because both teams together with FC Porto have dominated the sporting events in the Primeira League for decades.

But Benfica and Sporting are now worlds apart. While the Eagles (Benfica) won four of the last five championships, the Lions won their 22nd and last titles 16 years ago. In addition, Sporting experienced months of chaos, ultra-attacks, star dismissals and kicks. In short: proud Sporting fights for survival.

Jose Peseiro Honours

Nacional

  • Portuguese Second Division: 1999–00
  • AF Madeira Cup: 2001–02

Sporting

  • UEFA Cup: Runner-up 2004–05

Braga

  • Taça da Liga: 2012–13

Al Ahly

  • Egyptian Premier League: 2015–16

Porto

  • Taça de Portugal: Runner-up 2015–16

UEFA Cup prime slots

No more salaries in November?

Also in economic terms. “It’s possible that the club won’t be able to pay the players’ salaries in November,” warned Jose Maria Ricciardi recently. The 63-year-old entrepreneur and banker, whose great uncle Jose Alvalade co-founded the club in 1906 and gave his name to the club stadium, is one of the seven candidates in the presidential election scheduled for 8 September. His words remained unchallenged because they are probably accurate. Two of the club’s three accounts have already been seized because of debts of at least 40 million euros to suppliers and other unknown liabilities to the Treasury and Social Security, according to recent media reports.

The problems of the “green-whites” are by no means only of a financial nature. After several years of confusion, the situation dramatically deteriorated on May 15 of this year. At that time, numerous masked hooligans entered the dressing room at the training ground in Alcochete near Lisbon after a series of poor results. Armed with sticks and belts, they beat several players and coaches. “We all feared for our lives,” wrote national goalkeeper Rui Patricio in a letter.

According to the prevailing opinion, the club “owes” the fact that it could come to this point to the then club boss Bruno de Carvalho. The 46-year-old entrepreneur had criticised the professionals unusually harshly in the spring after the Aus Sportings in the quarter-finals of the Europa League against Atletico Madrid and even suspended 19 players. De Carvalho lifted the internal suspension after a short time, but continued his harsh public criticism after losing points in the league. In doing so, he “motivated” the hooligans to attack, the media said.

The Donald Trump of Portugal

The former club president Jose Roquette, the US newspaper “Politico”, the British newspaper “The Independent” and many others agree: “De Carvalho is the Donald Trump of Portuguese football”. Like the US president, the entrepreneur, who was elected Sporting Boss in 2013 and confirmed in office in 2017, is criticised as a “populist” who does not shy away from speeches and actions.

On 23 June, the “Presidente” was prematurely voted out of office at an extraordinary general meeting of almost 15,000 club members with more than 70 percent of the votes and replaced by interim president Jose Sousa Cintra. However, the club is still suffering from the consequences of the mismanagement and the actions of De Carvalho. After the hooligan attack, coach Jorge Jesus and several professionals terminated their contracts. Prime Slots offers a great range of games.

In the meantime, however, hope arose quietly. The new coach Jose Peseiro, who reached the UEFA Cup final with Sporting in 2005, seems to have formed a solid team around the European Champion Nani (31), who returned after many years. According to a report in the specialist newspaper “Record“, Brazilian ex-star Roberto Carlos will be signing as head of sports in the next few days. “Sporting is opening a new page and I think it’s going to be very good,” Fernandes is convinced.