The great triumphs are gestated from the greatest hecatombs. May 15, 2018 was the blackest day in the history of Sporting de Portugal, an entity that boasts of its multisport vocation, but that suffers from football, a discipline in which in the last forty years it has barely won four leagues. The last one he won this Tuesday, behind closed doors, after his 25th consecutive victory and in a season in which he has not lost a single game. The celebrations were later marred in the streets of Lisbon by serious incidents, barricades, dozens of injured and detained and a society scandalized by the disobedience of the crowd in a country hit by the pandemic that, in theory, does not allow concentrations of more than ten people.
It will be three years since that May day in which the mob accessed, even more uncontrolled and damaging, the club’s training center in Alcochete, a mythical environment where one of the largest quarries in world football has germinated for 19 years. an academy that for a year has been named after Cristiano Ronaldo, the greatest exponent of a culture that the club sums up in its motto: “Effort, dedication, devotion and glory.”
Sporting is ashamed today, and it is possible that always, that a group of ultras invaded that football environment to attack technicians and footballers after a defeat that separated the team from places in the Champions League. The coup was so brutal that five days later the team lost the Cup final to Desportivo das Aves, the best footballers terminated their contract and President Bruno de Carvalho was dismissed by the partners and prosecuted, accused by the Prosecutor’s Office of having instigated the events. Justice acquitted him a year ago in a media trial that implicated 43 ultras and ended with some prison sentences.
Four months after the events, the club had a new president, Frederico Varandas, who until then was the head of the medical services. For months he felt he was on a volcano, between criticism, dismissal of coaches, hustle and bustle of middling footballers and always far from Porto and Benfica. Far was the last League, won in 2002, a year in which the Brazilian Jardel scored 42 goals in a team that mixed veterans (Rui Bento, Joao Pinto, the Brazilian André Cruz or the Irish Phil Babb) and newcomers because they were already important guys like Quaresma or Hugo Viana, barely 18 years old. The following year Cristiano joined the team. But since then the Leagues have been divided between Porto (11) and Benfica (9).
Precisely Hugo Viana, current sports director, marks the connection with that champion team. It was he who insisted that Varandas, halfway through last season, go to Braga and negotiate the hiring of his coach, a young man under scrutiny because it was disputed whether he had the necessary qualifications to practice as such. There was no agreement and he paid the termination clause for Ruben Amorim, 10 million euros. “It’s crazy to pay that for a coach,” said Luis Figo, one of the club’s glories. Then it was the third highest payment to sign a coach, after the 15 million from Chelsea to Porto for Villas-Boas and the 11 from Leicester to Celtic for Brendan Rodgers. Bayern have broken all records recently by paying just over € 25 million for Julian Nagelsmann to Leipzig.
Amorim had only been on the bench for two years and had a long past as a midfielder at Benfica. Criticism and amazement were mixed with the start of the pandemic. After her the team began to offer encouraging sensations. In the current championship he no longer offers doubts: no one has been able to beat him after 32 games. Benfica and Marítimo will try it in the two remaining games.
Sporting has been drawn around a rear of three centrals and the Spanish goal Adam. They have barely conceded fifteen goals so far this season. The Uruguayan Coates is the leader of the rear, where Feddal has settled, recovered after a few difficult months at Betis. Amorim has formed a deep team, with daggers on the flanks. On the right Pedro Porro has traveled enough kilometers for Luis Enrique’s radar to be activated, on the left an 18-year-old boy, Nuno Mendes, the flag of the new batch of Alcochete, walks. Tiago Tomás (18), Gonçalo Inacio (19), Jovane Cabral (22) and Daniel Bragança (21) have been important in this Sporting that gave the alternative even to a 16-year-old teenager, Dario Essugo.
On the sixth day, Sporting took the lead and no one got off the podium. Since September 2016 he has not led the championship, but in case there were doubts on the last day of the winter market he returned to Braga to sign for 16 million euros, the most expensive transfer in his history, to Paulinho, a center forward who scored the goal that defeated Boavista this Tuesday.
Despite everything, the monitoring of this day and the unleashed celebrations warn about the veneer of lack of control that persists three years later around a club that had endured such pressure that, as several analysts in the Portuguese media point out, it could have benefited him to play without an audience .