No sooner had Portimonense dried their relegation tears, an extraordinary league audit committee meeting breathed life into the hitherto bleak-looking future of the Algarveans by demoting Vitória de Setúbal and Aves to the third division for failing to comply with financial requirements.
As a result, Portimonense have been invited to remain in Portugal’s Liga NOS top tier while Cova da Piedade were the beneficiaries in the LigaPro second division.
Both Setúbal and Aves have appealed, but the general consensus is that the infractions are of such a serious nature that the decision will be confirmed. Should that turn out to be the case, this will be the third time that Portimonense have escaped the ‘noose’ following similar circumstances at the end of the 2003/4 and 2011/12 seasons.
Another important change announced following a general meeting of the league is that there will now be a play-off between the 16th-placed Liga NOS and third-placed LigaPro club at the end of each season effective immediately, permitting up to three teams access to the top tier on a regular basis.
Closer to home, Paulo Sérgio has all but confirmed that he will stay on as manager while it looks increasingly likely that former coach Vítor Oliveira will join him in the role of sports director.
Meanwhile, Setúbal manager Lito Vidigal, also once in charge of Portimonense, has already departed for Marítimo and former midfielder Eber Bessa could be on his way to the Algarve. Already confirmed are the signings of Brazilian pair Welinton Junior, a forward, and keeper Raphael Aflalo, both formerly of Aves. Possibly on the way out is Jackson Martinez, who is yet to decide whether to retire, play on or join boyhood club Independiente Medellín, as well as star players Willyan, Tabata, Lucas Fernandes and Gonda, all of whom have been shown interest from abroad – but all have prohibitive €40 million release clauses.
Portimonense will resume training next Tuesday, by which time it is hoped that their first division status will have been assured, and planning proper for the next campaign can begin.
By SKIP BANDELE