Football Features

What happened next? Porto’s 10 biggest player sales (and the current gems who could join them)

By Mohamed Moallim

Published: 13:37, 23 June 2022

FC Porto are Portugal’s most decorated club this century.

Since the year 2000, Porto have won 12 league titles, while also collecting a Champions League title in 2004, as well as two Europa League crowns under famed coach Jose Mourinho and his protégé, André Villas-Boas.

This much success, it stands to reason, calls for some high-quality players. Over these past two decades, supporters of O Dragões have seen an awesome number of talents arrive, develop into genuine stars, and ultimately leaving for big money  elsewhere in Europe. The most recent example is talented midfielder Fabio Vieira, who just completed a move to Arsenal for a reported £34m.

Vieira’s transfer sits comfortably among Porto’s ten biggest sales, but any discussion regarding whether he’s been a success or not at the Emirates Stadium can only be initiated at the earliest in a year’s time.

So, with that being said, excluding him (for now), what happened to Porto’s nine other biggest departures as well as the man Vieira has dislodged from the old list?


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10. Pepe (£25m)

To: Real Madrid

Date: July 2007

Though he was born and raised in Brazil, it wasn’t until after moving to Portugal that Pepe played professional football. After a couple of seasons at Marítimo, the former Corinthians-AL youth player was acquired by FC Porto. The tough yet talented centre-back arrived shortly after Porto won the 2004 Champions League (their second-ever Champions League/European Cup), destined for Chelsea-bound Ricardo Carvalho’s place in the squad. Initially a backup, Pepe wasted little time in establishing himself as vital contributor. Those subsequent performances grabbed the attention of Real Madrid, who brought the supremely-gifted (if somewhat fond of the dark arts) centre-back to the Spanish capital in the summer of 2007. In 11 seasons in Madrid, Pepe won La Liga titles and the Champions League three times each. Then, in 2017, at the age of 39, he moved again, this time to Turkey, for two seasons with Beşiktaş, before returning to Estádio do Dragão in 2019, where he remains an influential figure.

9. Anderson (£26m)

To: Man Utd

Date: July 2007

In the summer of 2007, on the heels of their first Premier League title in four years, Manchester United went on something of a spending spree. Ahead of the 2007/08 campaign, the Red Devils signed Owen Hargreaves, rising Portuguese star Nani, and a talented young Brazilian who’d also been plying his trade in Portugal, Anderson. The former Grêmio academy graduate joining English football’s biggest club at 19 years of age, after a single season at Porto. At the time, he drew comparisons to Grêmio’s most famous son, Ronaldinho. Unfortunately the Porto Alegre-born midfielder wasn’t able to achieve such stardom under Sir Alex Ferguson, though, for more than half a decade, he was a dependable squad player.

In February 2015, having never fulfilled his potential and with his game falling off, Anderson returned to Brazil, to Porto Alegre-based Internacional, with whom he spent two seasons, plus a spell with Brazilian side Coritiba. In 2018 he made one last move, to Turkish side Adana Demirspor, with whom he spent two unremarkable seasons before hanging up his boots.


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8. Eliaquim Mangala (£32m)

To: Man City

Date: August 2014

Some of the world’s best defenders have passed through Porto. At one point in the last decade, it seemed Eliaquim Mangala would join them. However, his tenure at Manchester City on the heels of a big-money move wasn’t terribly successful. The Frenchman did accumulate 57 league appearances and win a Premier League winners medal, but fell out of favour with Pep Guardiola. He soon found himself on loan at Valencia and then Everton, before making a permanent move to Valencia. His second stint with Valencia lasted two seasons, after which he returned to France, with Saint-Étienne. This past season, his first with the club, Saint-Étienne were relegated to Ligue 2.

7. Hulk (£32m)

To: Zenit Saint Petersburg

Date: September 2012

Due to his own somewhat bodybuilder-esque physique – and a passing resemblance to bodybuilder-turned-actor Lou Ferrigno, who famously played a certain Marvel superhero – Givanildo Vieira de Sousa came to be known as ‘Hulk’. Hulk spent much of his early career (2005-08) with various teams in Japan’s J1 League before signing with Porto in the summer of 2008. Hulk became a a sensation at Porto, bagging 77 goals in 170 matches in all competitions, and turned heads throughout Europe. In the summer of 2012, Russian Premier League powerhouse Zenit Saint Petersburg pried him out of the Dragon’s lair with a big-money offer. Hulk would enjoy four successful campaigns in Russia, with 77 goals in 148 appearances, before becoming one of the first high-profile players to jump to the burgeoning Chinese Super League in 2016, with Shanghai SIPG. After five years in China that were almost exactly as prolific (77 goals in 145 appearances) as his four in Russia, the 49-time capped Brazilian international returned to Brazil and joined Atlético Mineiro, where he continues to ply his trade.

6. André Silva (£33.6m)

To: Milan

Date: July 2017

It’s well accepted that Sporting CP presides over the best youth academy system in Portugal. However, Porto aren’t exactly shabby when it comes to developing their own players – and André Silva is one of their notable successes from recent years. Following a decent breakthrough campaign in 2016/17, where he managed 21 goals across 44 matches in all competitions, Silva caught the eye of Italian giants AC Milan, who tipped the Portuguese striker as someone who could help them return to former glories. Unfortunately, it simply wasn’t to be, and Silva, after struggling in Milan, was loaned out to Sevilla – with whom he bagged a hat-trick on his La Liga debut, but otherwise scored just eight goals in 39 appearances – and Eintracht Frankfurt, with whom he signed permanently in the summer of 2020. After an awesome 2020/21 season in Frankfurt, in which he scored 29 goals in 34 appearances in all competitions, Silva moved on again but remained in Germany, signing a five-deal contract Bundesliga rivals RB Leipzig.


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5. Radamel Falcao (£34.7m)

To: Atlético Madrid

Date: August 2011

Porto and Atlético Madrid each have an impressive knack for replacing one prolific striker with another. Fittingly, in 2011, Spain’s third-biggest club sent quite a bit of dough to Porto to secure Radamel Falcao’s signature. ‘El Tigre’ had been relentless in Portugal’s top division, with 41 goals in 51 appearances. He carried that form to the other side of the Iberian Peninsula, producing an equally devastating haul of 52 goals across 68 matches in La Liga. This earned him another move, this time to Ligue 1, where he joined Monaco. Though he’s perhaps best remembered for loan spells with Manchester United and Chelsea where he flattered to deceive, he has been fairly prolific in his time in the principality, with 80 goals in 143 appearances in all competitions. It must be said that Falcao has unfortunately never been quite the same following a serious knee injury he suffered in the months before the 2014 World Cup. After helping Monaco win their most recent league title, Falcao spent three seasons in Turkey with Galatasaray, before returning to Spain in 2021, with Rayo Vallecano.

4. Fabio Silva (£35.6m)

To: Wolves

Date: September 2020

One major challenge for club’s outside Europe’s ‘big five’ leagues is keeping hold of their young players who aren’t quite ready to fly the nest. Fábio Silva had barely had a cup of coffee with Porto before Wolves made the 18-year-old striker their most expensive-ever acquisition. Understandably, the £35.6m fee was simply too great for Porto to refuse. Unfortunately for Silva and Wolves, however, is that the youngster has yet to nail down a significant role with the club, with just four goals in 54 league appearances since his 2020 move.

3. Luis Diaz (£37.5m)

To: Liverpool

Date: January 2022

As you may have noticed, Portugal-to-England is a fairly common route for footballers. Before Fabio Vieira’s just-completed move to north London, the most recent high-profile Premier League arrival from Porto was Luis Diaz, who signed with Liverpool this past winter. Though Diaz could have ended up at Tottenham, his impressive performances in Champions League meetings for Porto against Liverpool, combined with the pull of joining Jurgen Klopp’s side sealed his move to Merseyside. To say the Colombian forward has hit the ground running following his January 2022 move would be an understatement, Diaz ended the second half of the 2021/22 season with six goals and five assists in 26 appearances, and helped to hoist both domestic cups. In light of Sadio Mane’s departure to Germany, it’s likely that Diaz will become a regular starter for Liverpool.


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2. James Rodríguez (£38.5m)

To: Monaco

Date: July 2013

The destination after Porto is predominantly to a top-five competition. In some cases, Porto is a stepping stone. Those executing this approach often arrive from South America, which, given Portugal’s warm climate, similarities in lifestyle and culture, almost non-existent regulation on work permits for foreign players, and the presence of third-party ownership deals makes a good bit of sense.

Colombian playmaker James Rodríguez, who’d been at Argentine side Banfield before moving to Europe in 2010 is one of the great success stories of this model. Over three years in Portugal, Rodríguez turned in a slew of impressive showings, scoring 32 goals in 107 appearances, and helping Porto to three Primeira Liga titles and a treble of sorts in 2010/11 when, in addition to the league, Porto also won the Taça de Portugal and the Europa League.

As a result, in the summer of 2013, Monaco came calling, ready to break the bank, with an offer of €45 million, which made him the second most expensive transfer in Portuguese history. He spent a single season in Monte Carlo – and took the world by storm at the 2014 World Cup finals in Brazil – before moving again, this time to Real Madrid, for a reported £63 million. Though he scored 36 goals in 111 appearances in his first three seasons in Madrid, the move ultimately ended in disappointment. He spent two seasons on loan with Bayern Munich before joining Everton – and former boss Carlo Ancelotti – on a permanent basis in 2020. After a disappointing season at Goodison Park, James has moved again, and can now be found at Qatari side Al-Rayyan.

1. Eder Militao (£42.7m)

To: Real Madrid

Date: July 2019

Succeeding at Real Madrid depends on many factors. As we’ve seen before, those who come with lofty expectations but start slowly can still become a club legends – see Modric, Luka. Starting alongside the now-four-time Champions League-winning Croatian in the most recent final was central defender – and the largest transfer in Porto’s history – Eder Militao. Signed in 2019 as a foundational piece of the next great Blancos defense, Militao initially played sparingly, with just 41 appearances over his first two seasons. However, with the departures of both club talisman Sergio Ramos and his superstar centre back partnewr, Raphaël Varane, in the summer 2021 transfer window, Militao forced to step up. And step up the 24-year-old Brazilian did!  In 2021/22, Militao made 50 appearances in all competitions for Real Madrid, who comfortably won La Liga and captured a record fourteenth Champions League trophy.

Which current Porto breakthrough acts could earn big transfers?

Vitinha

Exiting his boyhood club is not a new feeling for Vitinha, who spent the 2020/21 campaign at Wolves – where he made 19 league appearances – before returning home. In his comeback season the central midfielder featured on 47 occasions, registering four goals and creating five more. This hasn’t gone unnoticed, as the likes of West Ham, Manchester United and Paris Saint-Germain are keeping tabs on the talented 22-year-old.

Evanilson

As we’ve touched upon, Porto are really good at recruiting strikers. And Evanilson could be next in line. The 22-year-old Brazilian – who netted 14 goals in 30 league outings last season – looks a safe bet to be Porto’s first-choice marksman for as long as he remains at the club. Given that he’s got a contract which secures his services (and the cost of his wages) until June 2025, a move to a more moneyed club – Manchester United are reportedly interested – may not be too far off. And when it comes, there’s a good chance that Evanison secured his own spot in the top ten.

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