By Chris Harris
If Porto could keep hold of their best players, they might be world-beaters by now.
Jose Mourinho led the Portuguese giants to the pinnacle of Europe in 2004 but the manager's departure for Chelsea sparked an exodus. Since that memorable night in Germany, Porto have lost a 'who's who' of top-class talent - Deco, Paulo Ferreira, Ricardo Carvalho, Maniche, Costinha, Benni McCarthy, Jose Bosingwa and Ricardo Quaresma.
The new generation is led by Lucho Gonzalez and, after a few fallow years in the Champions League, Porto kicked off this season's group stage in style with a 3-1 win against Fenerbahce. Now they head to Emirates Stadium looking for their first win on English soil.
Fernando Eurico is a reporter for Portuguese national radio station RTP - and a Red Member at Arsenal! Read on for his take on Porto's regeneration, the loss of Quaresma, Porto's tactics at the Emirates and his mixed emotions this evening.
“It has changed a lot. Clubs like FC Porto can not ensure their players stay for several years because the clubs are very poor in comparison to those in England. Porto needs to sell so the best players stay at Porto for two or three years at the most before moving on. Porto have changed a lot since the Mourinho time and now they are rebuilding the team because they lost three important players in Jose Boswinga [Chelsea], Ricardo Quaresma [Inter Milan] and Paulo Assuncao [Atletico Madrid]. At this moment Porto are changing, they are winning but they are not playing well. That is the Porto reality at the moment."
“Quaresma was the magician of the team so at this moment people are very disappointed because the other players in his position are just not the same. People are a little disappointed but it is very difficult to replace Quaresma so Porto need time to show people, the supporters, that only with time will Quaresma be forgotten.”
“Porto, for the last six years, have started very badly in the Champions League. Now it was different because they won against Fenerbahce. In the first 20 minutes Porto played well but after that, Fenerbahce caused a lot of problems. The result was very important for Porto because they came here in first place in the group so it is different for them. The mentality of the Portuguese team is stronger than in the past years.”
MAN OF THE MOMENT
“Lucho Gonzalez. He is the key man. He is very special. He is good at passing the ball and thinking the game. He is the maestro. If Lucho didn’t play here it was a catastrophe for FC Porto and he was injured and didn’t play in the last League game but he will come here. He is the main hope for the supporters.”
“I think Porto will be cautious because they know they don’t need to win like Arsenal do, a draw is a good result for FC Porto. Porto have a winner’s mentality so I think the players and coaches will start very cautiously. Porto are used to playing the game for the game; they usually play attacking football. It is the preferred system of Jesualdo Ferreira. They play 4-3-3 with three midfielders, three attackers and four defenders. It will be a normal Porto here.”
IMPRESSIONS OF ARSENAL
“They think it’s a strong team of course because every weekend we see Arsenal on the television. They have a young side but are not so experienced so people are hoping that Porto can finally beat an English side because they have never won on English soil in their history. They are hoping that they can win now because Arsenal are very consistent in the League and in the Champions League. Porto are also a young team, they have an average of 24 years. They have many international players like Arsenal but with more experience so they are hoping they can win finally."
“I feel very special for doing this but when the game starts for me it is my profession, it is my job that counts. I will not be looking for my team and for my country team, it will be just a game but it is difficult to feel so many things. You know it is funny for me because in Portugal all of my colleagues are from Porto or Sporting or Benfica, and they always report games and do not say anything. Now everybody is shouting at me about what they will do but I say I am a reporter so I will be reporting. After that if Arsenal win, I celebrate and if Arsenal lose I will cry. A draw is probably the best result for me, but I hope Arsenal win. It is my deepest feeling.”