The Journeyman | Saving Sporting: Part 22 – Season 5 Reflection

With a fifth successive Primeira Liga title looking pretty in the trophy cabinet at Estadio José Alvalade Século XXI (catchy stadium name) it’s time to look back on the campaign that marked half a decade with Sporting Lisbon.

This success does raise the question “have we already Saved Sporting?” And honestly, I think we have. I didn’t expect things to be quite as easy as they have been in Portugal and thought Porto and Benfica would be much better than us. I’ve even thought about calling it a day after five seasons.

However, there is one task that could see us etch our names in Portuguese history if we were to complete an unprecedented six successive titles next season. Plus, of course, there’s the Champions League, which seems well beyond us for now.

Sporting’s top performers

One of the things that I do love about this save is that our top three players (Braganca, Fernandes, Meneses) are all homegrown Sporting Lisbon academy products.

Unsurprisingly, our main man Daniel Braganca was once again the top performer at the club. He broke the Primeira Liga record with an average rating of 7.78 having played in all 34 matches. In the last three seasons he’s averaged 7.73, 7.72 and 7.78 – not bad at all! He also scored 11 league goals, his highest tally yet, and racked up 13 assists, which he also achieved 2021/22.

Joelson Fernandes topped our goalscoring charts with 20 goals in all competitions. Concerningly, he only got 2 assists all season compared to 7 the previous campaign. Philip Cohen scored 16, Goncalo Meneses got 13, Braganca got 12 and, impressively, centre-back Dario Jansen scored 10!

Creativity-wise, Meneses led the way with an impressive 21 assists, which broke the record of 19 set by Marcos Acuna in the opening season. I suspect he laid on the vast amount of Fernandes’ goals. Braganca was next on 16 assists then a big gap back to his fellow central midfielders Christian Bismarck on 7 and Daniel Demaj on 6. Full-backs Daniel Fernandes and Nuno Mendes both got 4 assists.

Braganca was of course our top rated player with 7.69 from 45 matches but Meneses also impressed with 7.47 from 42 matches. They were some way ahead of the centre-back pairing (which in itself, is interesting) of Quaresma and Jansen on 7.29 and 7.28. One interesting observation was young holding midfielder Dino Valek averaging 7.20 over 29 matches.

End of season awards

Unsurprisingly, Braganca again won our fans’ player of the season award with 66% of the vote, ahead of Meneses (22%) and Quaresma (8%). He was also named as young player of the season – it’s easy to forget he’s still only 24! And he won goal of the season with one of his long-range free-kicks at Gil Vicente – but surely Meneses’ overhead should have won this award.

Meneses took home the award for most assists in Primeira Liga, with his 17 well clear of Braganca’s 13 and FC Porto’s Efrain Alvarez on 10. While J Fernandes was joint-top scorer in the league with 17, tied with Benfica’s Duvan Zapata. Cohen was third with 14 league goals.

A look around Europe

La Liga was typically tight with Real Madrid reclaiming the title from their city rivals with 94 points, 2 clear of Atletico and 3 ahead of Barcelona. Real’s Kylian Mbappe top scored with 29 goals at an average rating of 8.02.

And it was even tighter in England, where Liverpool also amassed 94 points to finish 1 point clear of Manchester City and retain their title. Randomly, City’s Troy Parrott, who’d joined for £119 million in the summer, was the league’s top scorer with 18 goals.

Juventus secured a 13th successive title, PSG won Ligue 1 with 98 points and Bayern won the Bundesliga at a canter, 15 points clear of Dortmund. However, Philip Baumeister at Leverkusen was the top scorer with 22 goals, and he looks awesome.

Bayern, our European conquerers, also won the Champions League, defeating Spurs 2-0 in the final. Strangely, Arsenal’s Joshua Zirkzee was the tournament’s top scorer with 11 goals in 11 games despite only scoring 9 in 33 in the league.

Manchester United won the Europa League for the second time in four years with a 4-1 win over AC Milan.

Financial concerns

I’d noticed a concerning drop in our finances over the last few months of the season, falling from around £380 million in January down to £318 million in June. Then, in our commercial round-up I noticed our incomes had also decreased. I’ve dug through our finances and can’t for the life of me work out how the club has thrown away £70 million – and that gives me another warning sign about the longevity of this save.

I think we’ve essentially achieved all we can do with Sporting: won five leagues, both cup competitions, the super cup, and reached the semi-finals of the Champions League. Obviously I’d like to win the Champions League but doubt it’s possible with this club.

But I think I want to try to win a 6th title next season and then see where that leaves us. I have other leagues turned on so I could look abroad and evolve the save into a Journeyman type. But, we’ll see how we get on next season first.

Join us next time as we look to build towards a fifth defence of Primeira Liga – and there are several exciting youngsters coming in!

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