Porto’s Casillas capture a coup after Danilo and Martinez moves
Porto, once again dark horses at 50/1 with Coral to win the Champions League, are often portrayed a selling club despite their status as dominant domestic Dragons.
The Atlantic port of Oporto is a route into Europe both literally and figuratively for top South American talent, and two perfect examples of this are the key players sold this summer; Brazil right back Danilo and Colombia frontman Jackson Martinez.
Julen Lopetegui is doing his level best from the Dragons dugout to reverse this trend, though. With help from Porto’s hierarchy, he has brought some bright talent across from Iberia from his native Spain.
Getting Real Madrid and Spain stopper Iker Casillas is surely the coup of the century, though. This Dragons deal more than compensates for all their recent losses, which we can realistically put down as inevitable.
In truth, it’s been the best part of a decade since Porto have possessed a goalkeeper of anything like Casillas’ standing. Vitor Baia, who found Barcelona a tough gig when brought from Portugal alongside old Dragons boss Bobby Robson as he moved to the Nou Camp in 1996, is lauded for his role in UEFA Cup and Champions League successes under Jose Mourinho.
Those achievements added to domestic dominance with Baia between the sticks notwithstanding, his trophy haul is dwarfed in scope, if not in size, by the Casillas honour roll at Real. Instead of one Champions League crown, the Spaniard has three, plus international honours at Euro and World Cup level.
Helton, who hails from Brazil, has done well to bridge the cap between Baia and St Iker but, at 37 and unable to ever really establish himself in the Samba Boys national set-up during his career, his days are numbered.
Instead, Casillas’ main competition, and that is all it is likely to be, at Porto could come from Turkish custodian Sinan Bolat, who spent last season on Galatasaray’s bench during a loan spell in his homeland.
In front of him, a back four containing centre half pairing Bruno Martins Indi and Diego Reyes, plus Alex Sandro and whoever replaces Danilo at right back, looks strong and solid.
Shielding the Dragons defence should be French anchorman Giannelli Imbula, who cost €20m but plugs a big cap left by Brazil destroyer Casemiro returning to parent club Real after an impressive loan spell.
Casillas is thus a key component of a six-man strong rearguard that allows a box-to-box midfielder in Hector Herrera or playmaker in Juan Quintero to support the front four.
Names to watch out for in attack include Cameroon striker Vincent Aboubakar, former Derby County loanee Alberto Bueno, Algeria international and 2014 African Footballer of the Year Yacine Brahimi, and Ricardo Quaresma, who once had a brief stint with Chelsea. Winger Cristian Tello continues his spell at Porto from Barcelona too.
All of this adds up to make the Dragons deadly adversaries on both domestic and European fronts. Lopetegui’s second season in charge of Porto should thus yield some silverware, and expect Casillas to play an important part in any success in what is a new venture.