Our fourth campaign as Sporting Lisbon manager had plenty of drama, including a board intervention that had me questioning my position at the club. However, it soon became our best season so far in the save.
A fourth consecutive Primeira Liga title was backed up by winning both the Taca de Liga and the Taca de Portugal. And we made it all the way through to the Champions League semi-finals, only narrowly losing 3-2 on aggregate to Real Madrid.
Top Sporting performers
The star of the season is a very tight call between two players, club captain Daniel Braganca and young striker Philip Cohen.
Braganca – who I’ve only just realised is only 5’7″ – has had another magnificent season, racking up 19 assists and 15 goals in 48 appearances. He had an average rating of 7.62 and was comfortably the best player in Primeira Liga with 7.72 in 29 matches. Braganca also smashed the club record of 9 Player of the Match awards with 13.
While Cohen has broken the cub record for most goals in a season, scoring 29 times in 52 matches and finishing as the league’s top scorer with 19 goals. He also had our second-highest average rating of 7.28 – substantially behind Braganca’s incredible effort. So personally, I’d argue Braganca was more influential, but Cohen’s progress has been phenomenal.
Another key player has been academy product right winger Goncalo Meneses, who chipped in with an impressive 14 goals and 13 assists in 47 games – not far off his ridiculous debut season of 14 goals and 18 assists. While fellow young academy product winger Joelson Fernandes came up with 13 goals and a slightly disappointing 7 assists in 50 matches.
Credit also has to go to Luís Maximiano, who kept 27 clean sheets in 42 appearances and 19 in the league. In fact, in his time for playing for us, Maximiano has only conceded 49 goals in 113 league games! And that form finally earned him his first call-up to the Portugal squad for their summer internationals.
Only one of our regular squad players didn’t score a goal this season, that being left-back Nuno Mendes who was goalless in 55 matches for us despite scoring on his Portugal debut! That said, he’s developed into an excellent player following the departure of Cristian Borja. On the other flank, Daniel Fernandes – the third of the Fernandes trio – chipped in with 7 assists, the joint third highest in the squad, in his first season as starting right-back.
One interesting stat I’ve noted is that only four of the squad scored more than 5 goals, which may be a little bit of a concern.
Here’s how the entire squad looked in terms of ability rating come the end of the season.
And there’s plenty more to come when you look at the exciting potential coming through the ranks on top of those already in the first-team.
According to my coaches, the most exciting prospect is young goalkeeper Betinho, who was the star player of our latest youth intake. While the 4th player on the list Thabo Khune, who played well out on loan this season, was the star of the previous year’s intake. In fact, none of the top four potential talents at the club are yet in the first-team. We also had 16 players called up for the Euro Under 21s, which says a lot about the young talent at the club.
And, in case you’re wondering, our first-choice team and tactics look a bit like this:
End of season awards
Unsurprisingly, Braganca won the fans’ player of the season with 76% of their vote, followed by Cohen (10%) and Meneses (9%). He also won goal of the season and young player of the season. While signing of the season was young Brazilian goalkeeper Milton, who signed for just £13.25k and kept 8 clean sheets in 17 appearances.
The midfielder will be in need of a new mantelpiece to make room for the Portuguese Player of the Year and Young Player of the Year, which he also won last year. I won the Portuguese Manager of the Year award for the fourth season in a row.
Interestingly, Rodrigo Fernandes has our best completion with 93% but didn’t make our team of the season – with Dino Valek named ahead of him.
A look around Europe
There was an exciting title battle in La Liga as Atletico Madrid won the league on 92 points, just 2 clear of city rivals Real and 3 ahead of Barcelona – who were 20 clear of 4th placed Sevilla.
Liverpool dominated the Premier League, finishing on 97 points a huge 13 clear of 2nd place Chelsea – which makes our achievement of beating them in the Champions League look even more impressive. Manchester City somehow only finished 6th despite spending a ridiculous £774 million in the last two seasons and £1 billion over the last three. I think they might need a better manager… and, they’re also chasing Braganca and Jovane Cabral. Newcastle and Norwich both got promoted back to the big time with 111 points.
Juventus won their 12th successive Serie A with 99 points, 17 clear of 2nd place Inter. While PSG reclaimed their Ligue 1 crown with a 101 point haul, 7 clear of previous champions Lyon. And Bayern Munich regained their Bundesliga title after Dortmund had won it the previous two seasons.
Our conquerors Real Madrid wrapped up the Champions League with a 2-1 win over Liverpool in the Final. Kylian Mbappé opened the scoring, a Liverpool player confusingly called Everton equalised, and Madrid won it with an 89th minute goal by Achraf Hakimi. Arsenal won the Europa League by the same scoreline over Celtic, who I’m surprised made it that far.
We finished the season with our finances in rude health at more than £300 million, having started with just £8 million in the bank four years ago.
Join us next time as we prepare the squad for an attempt at a fifth successive Primeira Liga title, which has only ever happened once in Portugal.