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Porto, Europe's best-run club
by Paul Kennedy, May 18th, 2011 8:44PM

TAGS:  europa league, portugal, soccer business


[EUROPA LEAGUE] Porto may be Europe's most best-run club. Playing this season in Portugal's Superliga and the Europa League, the high-scoring Dragons don't generate lots of attention. But they won the Superliga without losing a game and by a record margin of 21 points and captured the Europa League with a 1-0 win over fellow Portuguese club Braga on Wednesday. On top of that, high-scoring Porto continues to be one of the most successful clubs on the international transfer market.

Porto has made a profit of more than $300 million on transfers in the last nine years.

The primary targets on this year's team are Colombian Radamel Falcao, whose goal against Braga gave him a record 17 in the Europa League this season, and Brazilian Hulk, whom Porto found in Japan and who has attracted the interest of Manchester City and AC Milan.

Falcao and Hulk have combined for 68 goals this season on a team that has averaged 2.5 goals a game.

Despite the club's record of selling players at huge profits -- among the players it has sold are Jose Bosingwa (Chelsea), Pepe (Real Madrid), Anderson (Man. United), Lucho Gonzalez and Lisandro Lopez (both Lyon) -- Porto president Pinto da Costa won't part with Falcao or Hulk easily.

Falcao says he wants to stay at Porto despite the interest from many of Europe's top clubs.

"I am just thinking about enjoying this right now and Porto wants me a lot. The truth is I want to be at Porto and enjoy it," Falcao said. "Both sides seem to be available and we will see about that [new contract] during the next year. Of course, one day I might play in other leagues, of course there are expectations, but now I want to enjoy this and take Porto to the Champions League next year."

Porto recently signed Hulk to a five-year contract and paid Uruguayan club Atletico Rentistas $19 million for 40 percent of Rentistas' interest in Hulk, giving the Oporto club an 85 percent interest in Hulk.

Porto has taken advantage of Portugal's loose labor laws and connections with South American-based super agents to import South Americans on favorable terms.

Porto's players won't be the only targets. After becoming the youngest coach to win a UEFA title,  33-year-old coach Andre Villas-Boas has the makings of another Jose Mourinho.

Villas-Boas began coaching at the age of 16 when he bumped into the late Bobby Robson, then the Porto coach, in the garage of the apartment complex in which they both lived and asked the Englishman if he could join the Porto staff.

Villas-Boas later worked under Mourinho when the "Special One" led Porto to the 2004 UEFA Champions League title and also at Chelsea and Inter Milan.

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