Sporting CP: Why international stars are walking out at the Portuguese club

Lisbon-based giants plunged into crisis with several international stars demanding their contracts at the club are rescinded. But what is behind the chaos?


REUTERS/Pedro Nunes

Few clubs suffered such a traumatic ending to the campaign as Sporting CP. 

In April, they were eliminated from the Europa League and the blew their chances of appearing in next season’s Champions League late on. 

At least there was the Portuguese Cup final still to come against minnows Aves who had never won a major trophy in their history. When they lost that too, things began to boil over.

Fan attacks

The dissatisfaction among the club’s support base was growing mutinous and, last month, days ahead of the cup final, a group of 50 or so stormed the club’s training base to attack members of the first-team squad.

At least one player was injured – Dutch international striker Bas Dost sustained cuts to the head – as the changing room was trashed by the rampaging group who ran riot on club premises. More than 20 suspects were arrested following the incident.

REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin

Police detained more than 20 suspects in the hours following the incident, which sent shockwaves throughout the country. 

This was no doubt a hugely traumatic incident for all the players involved and several have cited this as the fundamental reasoning behind their desire to leave.

Presidential chaos

Club president Bruno De Carvalho is a hugely outspoken figure in Portuguese football, often stirring controversy wherever he goes. 

He frequently criticises the players in public and it was no different after the Europa League defeat to Atletico Madrid when De Carvalho called into the question the attitude and application of his squad.

His comments, which also went viral on social media, are said to have left many of its targets feeling isolated and their bond with the club was broken. 

REUTERS/Pedro Nunes

The first-team squad released a joint statement calling on their president to show leadership, rather than acting as cheerleader for any potential mob.

The president’s remarks may or may not have acted as a catalyst for the fan attacks, but many players feel their relationship with both the club and its fans are broken. 

There have been calls for De Carvalho to step down or risk losing various stars on free transfers, yet a man with such a stubborn reputation is unlikely to do so.

Players leaving on a free

Larger than life boss Jorge Jesus last week left Sporting and signed with Saudi club Al-Hilal, in anticipation of the club seemingly falling apart at the seams.

Long-standing first-team goalkeeper Rui Patricio and winger Daniel Podence both requested to have their contracts cancelled prior to the departure of Jesus. 

Patricio has a reported transfer value of €20 million and had been linked strongly to both Napoli and Wolves, while Podence had been said to be attracting interest from Spain.

However, four more stars have now joined the list of players wanting to be released as free agents: Portugal international stars William Carvalho, Gelson Martins and Bruno Fernandes along with Netherlands striker Dost, a reported transfer target for Sevilla.

Conservative estimates would place their combined market value of the six players at €130 million and there is now a sense that more players will ask to leave the club permanently. 

It is an almighty mess at the Lions with no sign of calm on the horizon.

Listen to the RealSport football writers discuss Portugal in Kremlins in the Basement: RealSport’s daily World Cup podcast.

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