Portimonense will return to league action this Saturday evening following a three-week international and Cup break with this season’s ‘surprise’ team Famalicão – third in the table following seven wins, three draws and just one defeat to Porto – providing the opposition. But who exactly is this club virtually unknown outside Portugal’s borders?
Vila Nova de Famalicão, a mid-sized town in the Braga district, started its football life in 1931 and has enjoyed a history not very much different to that of their Algarve hosts. The early 1990s provided the most successful spell to date with four seasons spent in the top division, but subsequent relegation sparked a nosedive ending in the country’s fifth tier.
A slow recovery culminated in promotion from the second division last summer, the club having been acquired by Israeli multi-billionaire Idan Ofer and his Quantum Pacific shipping and mining conglomerate, which also holds a 32% share in Atlético Madrid, at the beginning of the 2018/19 season.
Since then the involvement of ‘super-agent’ Jorge Mendes has brought in a whole raft of on-loan players from Atlético, Valencia, Stoke, Wolves, Porto, Benfica and Braga as well as the appointment of current manager João Pedro Sousa, previously long-time assistant to Marco Silva at Sporting, Hull, Watford and Everton.
In view of these latest developments, Famalicão’s present standing cannot therefore be termed a miracle, and Portimonense will be hard-pushed to achieve a much-needed positive result this weekend.
In other news, manager António Folha has cleared his list of injuries with only Hackman remaining unavailable, while a further four players returned from international duty at the beginning of the week. One player who has not featured so far this season despite appearing on 58 occasions previously, Wellington, looks destined to leave the Algarve following a very public spat on social media highlighting his plight.
By Skip Bandele