According to a FIFA report released last month on the occasion of the tenth anniversary of the Transfer Matching System (TMS), the platform created to record player transfers, Portuguese clubs have a positive transfer balance of around 2.5 Billions of Euro’s.
Between 2011 and 2020, around 15% of the most expensive transfers in the world came from the Portuguese league, which this season has three teams in the Champions League for the first time since 2017, but has not had a winner since Porto. triumphed under JosÃ©. Mourinho in 2004.
“The sums involved in these transfers can be explained by Portugal’s role as a bridge between South America and the major European championships,” LoÃ¯c Ravenel, researcher at the CIES Football Observatory, told AFP.
The FIFA report says the route from Brazil to Portugal has been the most traveled in the world over the past ten years for players transferred between clubs, with 1,550 players arriving in Europe via Portugal, a country of barely 10 million inhabitants.
The example of the Brazilian international Eder Militao, bought in 2018 by Porto from Sao Paolo for seven million euros and sold, less than a year later, to Real Madrid for 50 million, clearly demonstrates to what extent these transactions can be lucrative.
At the center of it all are Portuguese agents, who have become “extremely influential” due to their “detailed knowledge of their markets in South America, Portugal and the big European leagues,” says Ravenel.
Mendes, perhaps the most powerful football agent in the world, has a reputation for earning huge sums of money to lubricate deals between Portugal and Europe‘s elite clubs.
Between 2011 and 2020, Portuguese agents made 320 million euros in transfers, placing Portugal fourth among countries in the world for intermediation fees.
“The presence of agents is increasing in Portugal,” said Emanuel Medeiros, founder of the Global Alliance for Integrity in Sport (SIGA), who is concerned about their growing influence on players who are sometimes “still amateurs and minors. “.
And yet, while the three big Portuguese clubs – Sporting Lisbon, Benfica and Porto, in that order – occupy the top three places for the profits made on the transfers, the economic model does not seem to benefit neither their sporting ambitions nor their needs. financial.
“It’s a league of debt because budgets are based entirely on player transfers and if the expected sales do not come in, the losses are immediate,” says Ravenel.
The drop in income caused by the Covid-19 pandemic saw Benfica suffer its first financial losses last season since 2012/13 while the accounts of Sporting, which has not won the title since 2002, are also in the red .
Porto are expected to report profits after several years under the constraints of financial fair play.
“In Portugal, there is no centralization of television and commercial rights, which would bring other sources of income and a better balance in the league,” explains Medeiros.
“For Portugal to be more competitive, its clubs should be able to keep some of their players, but the difference in wealth has grown so much in recent years, especially compared to teams like Manchester City or Paris Saint-Germain, l ‘The gap is now huge,’ added Ravenel.