Over the years many of Europe’s top clubs have opted to sell their precocious young talents in big money transfers that seek to boost their club’s financial standing.
From Benfica to Sevilla, Southampton to Lyon, clubs such as these have all chosen the option to sell their star players in an attempt to benefit from the reinvestment and financial growth that comes from these lucrative deals. However, would these clubs have fared any better if they had held onto their talented youngsters? Who knows? All we can really say is that these teams could have had a very handsome line-up had they opted not to sell…
In this second part of Tito’s feature, it is the turn of Lyon and Porto to come under the microscope.
French Club Lyon have produced a flurry of world class talent over the years. Challenging for the Ligue 1 title in 2015 amongst others such as Marseille and Monaco, as well as securing automatic qualification to the 2015-16 Champions League, it could be said that this French outfit were on the rise. However a dismal display in the Champions league Group stage this year as well as a disappointing domestic campaign has left many Lyon fans asking questions. Perhaps if the club had decided against the sales of their future stars they could rekindle the magic of past seasons. Here is the starting XI that could have been…
GOALKEEPER: Hugo Lloris
Lloris is considered one of the best goalkeepers in the premier league for North London Club Tottenham, and was most definitely a huge loss for Olympique Lyonnais.
CENTRE BACK: Samuel Umtiti
A superb young defender linked with big clubs in the past, Samuel Umtiti is one of Lyon’s stars still on the books at the club.
CENTRE BACK: Edmilson
A solid defender who shone for Lyon before his move to Barcelona, Edmilson was the kind of big name the club could have done with keeping.
CENTRE BACK: Eric Abidal
This was another key player for Lyon and the French national team before becoming an even bigger name with his move to Barcelona.
DEFENSIVE MIDFIELD: Mahamadou Diarra
Before his big money transfer to the Bernabeu, Mahamadou Diarra first made a name for himself with Olympique Lyonnais.
MIDFIELD CENTRE: Michael Essien
Michael Essien is often considered one of the finest midfielders in the world for some time, and before his moves to Chelsea and Real Madrid, he started off at Lyon.
MIDFIELD CENTRE: Miralem Pjanic
A.S Roma’s star man in midfield nowadays as well as an expert free kick taker, the Bosnian has attracted interest from Premier League clubs such as Liverpool and Manchester United. Before all of this however, Pjanic served the French side for 3 seasons.
MIDFIELD CENTRE: Florent Malouda
Another former Chelsea star, Florent Malouda proved a great signing from Lyon as he looked like one of Europe’s top wingers in the mid to late noughties.
ATTACKING MIDFIELD RIGHT: Alexandre Lacazette
On his day this attacking midfield maestro is almost unstoppable, however a run of bad form for Lyon this season has stained a previously unblemished reputation. Still at the club, Alex Lacazette still has time to put it right.
ATTACKING MIDFIELD LEFT: Nabil Fekir
Another superb young midfielder to come through Lyon’s illustrious production line. Whilst still at the club, Fekir is attracting interest from some of Europe’s top clubs. Great things are to be expected of this young 22 year old.
CENTRE FORWARD: Karim Benzema
Without doubt the biggest success story to come out of Olympique Lyonnais, Karim Benzema has gone on to be a regular starter for Spanish giants Real Madrid. Although raised at the French club, Benzema quickly outgrew the shoes of the club that nurtured him. Now a certified Galactico at Real Madrid, Benzema has been prolific for the Spanish outfit for the past 7 years. However, although his skills on the pitch have obviously been sorely missed, his antics off it perhaps have been a sign that Lyon are better off without him. Sex tape scandals and blackmail charges have recently tarnished Benzema’s reputation to a degree, resulting in his exclusion from the French national team ahead of the 2016 European Championships which is to be hosted in France.
F.C Porto –
Porto has often been a team associated with a high level of consistency both domestically and in Europe, despite the exodus of many of their best players year in year out. Almost always a challenger for the Primeira Liga title and still a competitive side in the UEFA Champions League, it is remarkable to believe this is still the case with the number of quality players that have left the Estadio do Dragao in recent years. Quality scouting and shrewd reinvestments however have meant that Porto remain at the top of Portuguese football and also continue to be a threat in Europe’s premier club competition. Nevertheless perhaps Porto could have done with keeping a few of their talented stars. Here is the starting XI that could have been…
Now with Spanish side Sevilla, Beto was a superb keeper for Porto spending 3 years at the club between 2009-12.
CENTRE BACK: Nicolas Otamendi
Formerly with Valencia and now with Premier League side Manchester City, Nicolas Otamendi was an outstanding centre back for the dragons.
CENTRE BACK: Eliaquim Mangala
Like his compatriot Nicolas Otamendi, Mangala went onto sign for Manchester City after 3 successful seasons in Portugal.
CENTRE BACK: Pepe
Although considered by many to be brutish and overly aggressive, it must however be said that Pepe has gone onto great things after his spell at Porto. He has been a regular starter for Spanish giants Real Madrid and has gone onto win many titles with Los Blancos including the 2014 Champions League title.
DEFENSIVE MIDFIELD: Fernando
Fernando spent most of his career with Porto with whom he signed in 2007, going on to win 12 major titles before signing for Premier League club Manchester City.
MIDFIELD CENTRE: Joao Moutinho
One of the most talented players to come out of Porto, Joao Moutinho is a superb midfielder who served the Portuguese side well for 3 seasons. His career after Porto has been somewhat disappointing however, signing for French club A.S Monaco where he has won very little for such an excellent player.
MIDFIELD CENTRE: Fredy Guarin
Probably best known for his 40 yard wonder strike for Porto on 2011, Guarin is a versatile midfielder who spent 4 seasons with Porto and won 10 major titles with the club. He subsequently moved onto Italian side Inter Milan and has recently signed for Chinese side Shanghai Shenhua.
MIDFIELD CENTRE/ MIDFIELD RIGHT: Raul Meireles
Probably not the most glamourous player to come from the Porto production line, however Raul Meireles has enjoyed a good playing career with top clubs like Liverpool, Chelsea and now Turkish giants Fenerbahce.
ATTACKING MIDFIELD CENTRE: James Rodriguez
Without doubt the most successful star to emerge from the club, after his stint with Porto James Rodriguez would go onto sign for French Club A.S Monaco, before shining at the 2014 world cup and securing an 80 million euro transfer to Spanish Giants Real Madrid. James has continued to flourish at the Madrid club, and at only 24 years old, we expect there is a lot more to come from the young Columbian.
CENTRE FORWARD: Hulk
Before signing for Russian champions Zenit Saint Petersburg, Hulk spent several seasons in Portugal with Porto, winning 10 major titles. This powerhouse of a forward was missed when he decided to swap Portugal for Russia, however Porto would go on to sign a similar type of striker in Jackson Martinez.
CENTRE FORWARD: Radamel Falcao
A sensation during his time at Porto and Atletico Madrid, yet agonisingly disappointing during his time at Man United and his current team Chelsea, Falcao’s career has had its fair share of promising highs and shattering lows. With 41 goals in 51 appearances for the Dragons, and a further 52 goals in 68 appearances for Atletico Madrid, Falcao was on track to become arguably the best striker in the world at one point. However knee problems during his time at Monaco meant that his career would take a severe downturn, scoring only 4 goals in 26 appearances for Manchester United and only 1 goal in 9 for Chelsea. Perhaps Porto letting Falcao go wasn’t the worst decision in the world in hindsight, yet it cannot be denied he was immense during his 2 seasons in Portugal.
Words by Tito Simonelli
Image courtesy of ‘Edgar Jimenez’ via flickr.