Category: Portugal



Everton have confirmed the departure of young Portuguese striker João Silva  to Bulgarian giants Levski Sofia on a 3-year deal. The move comes following two years at Goodison Park in which the 22-year-old failed to make any appearances for Everton.

Having joined the Toffees in 2010 from Portuguese second-tier club CD Aves, Silva was hailed as a “starlet” and compared to Pauleta, the country’s all-time scorer at international level. Inevitably, young Silva struggled to displace regular first-team forwards Louis Saha, Tim Cahill and Jermaine Beckford, and soon returned to his homeland with a loan move to UD Leiria.

Silva’s Everton career never took off

Back in Portugal, Silva looked more comfortable, averaging a goal every three games for Leiria and netting twice against national giants Benfica in a 3-3 draw on the last day of the 2010-11 season. The following summer he joined Vitória de Setúbal, scoring 3 goals in 16 league appearances before being recalled by Everton in January.

However, Silva still failed to make the breakthrough at Goodison, scoring two goals in six starts for the reserve team, and few fans will be surprised to see the Portugal under-21 international offloaded in a transfer that probably benefits both parties. What may have come as a surprise, though, is Silva’s move to Bulgaria, rather than back to his homeland, where his talents have already been proven.

Silva will join compatriots Nino Pinto, a defender, and fellow forward Cristovão Ramos at Levski Sofia, who finished third in last season’s Bulgarian PFG. João follows fellow reserve-team players Adam Forshaw, James Wallace, James McFadden and Marcus Hahnemann out of the exit door at Goodison, with Rangers forward Steven Naismith currently Moyes’ only summer signing.

Image: http://onossofuteb0l.blogspot.co.uk

 

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Porto have confirmed the signing of Colombian forward Jackson Martínez on a four-year deal, after paying Mexican side Jaguares £7 million for the frontman’s services.

Martínez joins the Portuguese champions following three goal-laden seasons at Chiapas-based Jaguares, even captaining the side in 2012 despite still only being 25-years-old. Having began his career in his home country with Independiente Medellín in 2004, Martínez impressed sufficiently to earn a move to Mexico in 2010, making his international bow for Colombia the year before.

4 goals in just 9 games in his first season in senior football, aged 18, showed Martínez’s potential, and although his strike rate dropped to a goal every four games in the following four campaigns, the forward netted an incredible 20 times in 25 games in 2009 to secure a move to Jaguares.

Martínez’s international and domestic success has led to bigger and better things

He maintained his strike rate in Mexico’s top flight, with his 28 goals in 58 fixtures for Jaguares – only founded in 2002 – making him the club’s second-top goalscorer of all time. Described by BBC South American football correspondent Tim Vickery as “an out-and-out goalscorer, a front-to-goal centre-forward who can finish off both feet, and with excellent spring that makes him a threat in the air”, Martínez boasts a frightening combination of speed and aerial ability – he is 6 feet tall – that makes him a real handful for opposition defences.

Although Porto are taking something of a gamble by investing in a forward that has never played European football before, they were not the only club chasing Martínez’s signature: Premier League giants Liverpool had been interested in the forward since March, with Martínez also thought to be on the radar of fellow English top-flight sides Fulham, Everton, Sunderland and Wigan.

However, Porto acted quickly, and were aided by the lack of a language barrier facing Martínez in Portugal compared to England. Jackson will join fellow Colombian James Rodríguez at the club, with Porto’s squad containing a total of 15 South Americans, including the side’s Brazilian captain Hulk.

Martínez’s lack of European experience – combined with the quality of the other attackers on Porto’s books – means that he may not start the 2012-13 Primeira Liga campaign in the club’s starting XI: competition for places is fierce, and Martínez is likely to be behind the aforementioned Hulk as well as Portugal international Silvestre Varela and experienced Austrian forward Marc Janko in Porto’s pecking order.

Although Jackson’s nationality and style of play have drawn comparisons with compatriot Falcao, Martínez has publicly disagreedwith the likening, saying “I hope people will not compare me with Falcao. I am a different type of player, but I promise that I will battle to get goals.”

Porto will certainly hope so – the club sold Falcao for £32 million last season, and, hoping to similarly profit should Martínez prove to be just as successful, the Northern giants have inserted a £31.7 million buy-out clause into their new player’s contract. A poor start in the Premier League next season and Liverpool may be left kicking themselves at what might have been.

Image: http://www.luuux.com

 


Spain booked their place in the Euro 2012 final  on Wednesday by shading a close semi-final against Iberian neighbours Portugal. Extra time and penalties were required to separate the two sides, with Spain’s eventual triumph meaning they have played their part in setting up a repeat of the Euro 2008 final, in which they beat Germany 1-0.

This game was the first competitive derby since Spain’s 1-0 win in the second round of the 2010 World Cup. David Villa had scored the decisive goal that day, and Spain could dearly have done with him last night as they struggled to a shoot-out win over a surprisingly positive Portuguese side.

The omens coming into the game were not looking good for Paulo Bento’s Portugal  – despite rarely stepping out of second gear, Spain had conceded just once in the tournament so far, and had easily overcome France in the quarter-final despite playing without a recognised striker for much of the game.

Seemingly recognising that this tie would be tougher than the France game, Spain boss Vicente Del Bosque started with Sevilla forward Alvaro Negredo –an unusual choice given the fact that Negredo has just 12 caps to his name.

However, it was Portugal who dominated the opening exchanges  here, with Bento’s men enjoying the game’s first shots and corners as they surprised Spain with their high pressure and intensity, which denied Spain the time and space to employ their attractive, infamous passing game to full effect.

Inevitably, the Spaniards soon recovered to establish a measure of control over the game – Portugal were predictably unable to keep this intensity up for 90 minutes. Before 15 minutes had elapsed, both Alvaro Arbeloa and Andres Iniesta had fired over from the edge of the box, and Spain’s higher-tempo passing demonstrated a side keen to step up through the gears.

Portugal did well to limit Spain’s tiki-taka for much of the game

Portugal, unsurprisingly, attempted to utilize the speed of wingers Cristiano Ronaldo and Nani to trouble Spain’s defence, and on 15 minutes the two combined to almost devastating effect. Ronaldo’s searching cross from the left by-line was brilliantly plucked from Nani’s head by Iker Casillas, denying Portugal a sure goal.

Ironically, Spain’s closest effort of the first half came from an uncharacteristic long ball into Negredo, which was eventually worked to Iniesta, the Barcelona man’s curling effort narrowly clearing Rui Patricio’s crossbar.

Portugal almost took the lead themselves on the half-hour through Ronaldo’s low left-foot drive, and the Real Madrid man’s threat was shown by Sergio Ramos’ 40th-minute booking for a crude foul on the winger. The Spanish defence, not troubled unduly in any of their previous games, was now struggling to keep tabs on Portugal’s attack.

Half-time came and went without an improvement in Spain’s fortunes, and just eight minutes into the second half, Del Bosque withdrew the largely anonymous Negredo in favour of Cesc Fabregas, reverting to a bizarre, but trusted, strikerless formation.

Portugal continued to match their illustrious opponents, with burly forward Hugo Almeida wasting two decent openings, followed by a second Spain player, a clearly annoyed Sergio Busquets, being cautioned for dissent.  Indeed, Del Bosque again turned to the bench on the hour in an attempt to influence proceedings, replacing David Silva with Jesus Navas.

The change coincided with an upturn in Spanish fortunes: on 64 minutes Fabregas was upended by Joao Pereira on the edge of the box when set to go through on goal, and three minutes later, Xavi’s long-range effort into Rui Patricio’s midriff provided – unbelievably  – Spain’s first shot on target of the game.

However, it was Portugal who enjoyed the better chances in the final 20 minutes, a succession of narrowly-over Ronaldo free-kicks being followed by a brilliant break-away being let down by the same man’s uncharacteristically-rushed finish.

Predictably, the start of extra time – combined with the fact that seven of the 22 players were on yellow cards – led to a slump in tempo. 13 minutes into the additional 30, Spain worked – and missed – the best opportunity of the match. Great work by substitute Pedro gifted Iniesta, but the Barcelona midfielder’s side-foot shot was brilliantly saved by Rui Patricio.

Ramos cheekily lifts the ball over the prone Rui Patricio to emulate Andrea Pirlo’s spot-kick against England

The goalkeeper had kept his country in the tournament, but as it became apparent that the match was headed for penalties, he would need to produce further heroics if Portugal were to progress.

Spain’s Xabi Alonso stepped up to take the first spot-kick – in the same goal he had scored in against France – but saw his kick saved by Patricio. Portugal’s first effort, taken by Joao Moutinho, was almost a mirror image – the Porto man’s shot was similarly saved by Iker Casillas.

Successful penalties from Iniesta, Pepe, Gerard Pique and Nani followed, leaving the pressure on Spain’s Sergio Ramos to regain the lead for his country. A brilliantly cool Panenka-esque penalty rubbed salt into Portugal’s wounds, which were further deepened by Bruno Alves seeing his effort cannon off the bar straight afterwards. The defender had mistakenly stepped up for Portugal’s third effort only to be sent on a walk of shame back to the half-way line upon finding it was Nani’s turn instead, and was clearly full of nerves as he belatedly took his penalty.

Ron Man Team: Portugal’s star player was unable to lead his nation to the final

That miss meant that Fabregas had the chance to send his country to the final with Spain’s fifth spot-kick. Under huge pressure, an ice-cool Cesc told the ball to “make history” as he approached the penalty spot, and the ball duly obliged as the ex-Arsenal skipper sent Spain to their third successive major tournament final…via an agonizing bounce of the far post.

Having banked on the shoot-out coming down to the tenth kick, Ronaldo had positioned himself as Portugal’s fifth penalty-taker, and was clearly devastated not to have had a say in proceedings – although many felt Spain had just deserved the win over the 120 minutes, Ronaldo was seen to mutter “Injustica.. (injustice)” as Fabregas wheeled away in delight.

Portugal boss Paulo Bento later revealed that his side had planned for penalties, but in hindsight, both he and Ronaldo would have chosen the Real Madrid man for one of Portugal’s earlier efforts, rather than relying on the likes of Bruno Alves to keep them in the shoot-out.

Spain will face Italy (who somewhat surprisingly triumphed over Germany in the other semi-final) in the final on July 1, and despite a slow start here, they will still enter crowning showdown in Kiev with a great chance of winning their third tournament in a row.

Images: David Silva vs Coentrao & Bruno Alves – http://online.wsj.com; Sergio Ramos Panenka penalty – http://www.telegraph.co.uk/; Cristiano Ronaldo – www.thesun.co.uk