Arsenal experienced yet another disappointing season without silverware this term after yet another bout of summer sales but they only need to look at the success maintained at FC Porto for inspiration.
It’s well documented and oftentimes overplayed in the media that the Gunners have become a ‘feeder club’ by way of their own transfer policy.
The sales of Robin van Persie and Alex Song last summer only added fuel to the fire for discontents in their fan base who believe the club’s board and majority shareholder prioritize profit over success on the pitch.
The previous season’s sales of Cesc Fabregas, Samir Nasri, and Gael Clichy left to Barcelona and Manchester City respectively only compounded fears that the club had slipped off its perch as one of the top clubs not only in England but on the continent.
Regardless of the shackling of the manager’s hands due to the new stadium build and previous sponsorship deals which coincided almost exactly with their subsequent trophy drought, Gunners fans are desperate to see changes this summer with Arsene Wenger reportedly having a £70 million kitty to play with.
Meanwhile, the likes of Champions League finalists Borussia Dortmund have been operating in much the same way in the Bundesliga – they have adopted much the same socialist model in their spending habits.
But, whilst the success of Dortmund is one thing, Arsenal could do well to take a leaf out of FC Porto’s book. The Portuguese champions have sold off their best assets season after season and still managed to win titles both domestically and on the continent.
Porto have in the past 5 years kick-started the careers of some of the best players in the world.
The likes of Radamel Falcao, Hulk, Raul Meireles, James Rodriguez, Lucho Gonzalez, Lisandro Lopez, Aly Cissokho, Bruno Alves, and Fredy Gaurin have all been sold in the same period they have won three domestic league titles, three Super Cup titles, and the Europa League title.
To put that into context, they sold Falcao to Athletico Madrid for €40 million last summer – he had been their top scorer for several season much like Robin van Persie had been for Arsenal but his replacement this term Jackson Martinez cost just $11 million and managed to score 31 goals in his debut season.
This summer they are set to sell Joao Moutinho and James Rodriguez to AS Monaco in a double-deal worth a reported £60 million. They signed 21-year-old Rodriguez for just €5 million in 2010 and Moutinho from Sporting for a reasonable €11 million. They have effectively made four-odd million in profit on the pair.
Whilst, in this country, Arsenal would be criticized for that kind of sale, in Portugal they are proud of their policy – the reason being that they do not fear for their future; they know they will have adequate replacements in before next term.
"We are used to seeing this from Porto in the last 10 years or so: excellence in elevating players' quality," Portuguese League boss Mario Figueiredo told Reuters.
"Porto have really won international prestige with the passing of the years and created a very strong structure," former Porto coach Andre-Villas Boas said in December.
"It is the most organised club I've seen."
“Our board really knows what it is doing," Porto keeper Fabiano said this week.
"Rodriguez and Moutinho left but Porto will be strong next season, ready to dispute the championship and be champions."
That’s right, they are proud of their policy on selling players – because it works. They exploit the South American market so well and they are, as the quotes imply, very well organized in terms of their youth academy and development programs. They plan for the future better than most of the biggest clubs in Europe.
"We have become a stepping stone for talent from several South American countries, not just from Brazil but also Colombia and Argentina," Figueiredo said, finally.
Whilst clubs in England like Arsenal would be unlikely to get the same work permits for South American talent, there is still plenty they can learn from the structure in place at Porto.
There is no shame in selling star players to make huge profits – that’s just intelligent business – what Arsenal must ensure is that if they are going to sell a Van Persie or a Fabregas or Nasri that they have an adequate replacement waiting in the wings or lined up to come in. That is the key FC Porto’s sustained success.
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