The unique nature of Porto’s 2004 Champions League success
In recent times the Champions League had been dominated by a relatively small pool of teams. These have come from only a few countries. It hasn’t always been like this. Historically, teams from across the continent have done well in Europe’s premier competition. The likes of Porto have had a proud record in European competition but the last time they won the Champions League was in 2004. The triumph was masterminded by Jose Mourinho, who was at the start of his managerial career.
Have they declined since then?
Football has changed a lot since the 2003/2004 season so it’s a difficult question. Ultimately they have struggled to compete with the very best in Europe in recent seasons and they can often struggle to get out of their group on occasions. If you are betting on the Champions League outright winner during the current campaign, you will see that bookmakers and punters alike haven’t expected much of Porto.
As we have already pointed out, teams from outside of England and Spain have struggled to get a real foothold on the competition since 2010. Only Bayern Munich with their two titles in 2013 and 2020 have offered meaningful competition to English and Spanish clubs. This is often something reflected in Champions League tips from football experts. Most saw Manchester City as one of the favourites to win the competition.
Celebrating at Old Trafford
The main game credited as the catalyst for Porto and Mourinho’s success was a last-16 tie at Old Trafford. United wasn’t in the best form at the time and had recently lost defender Rio Ferdinand to a suspension. They would have still expected to beat the Portuguese side comfortably. A battling performance from Porto saw them take a 2-1 first-leg lead to Old Trafford. In the end, a dramatic late goal sealed it for Porto and Mourinho celebrated like he had won the competition. He was of course doing that a few months later. They comfortably beat AS Monaco to claim their second European Cup.
The following season, he was up against United again. Only this time, he was in charge of Chelsea. It was the start of a very successful period for Mourinho. He achieved great things with Chelsea before moving to Inter Milan where he won the Champions League again in 2010.
Can Porto succeed in the new Champions League era?
Many would argue that it’s hard to see them having that kind of success in the Champions League again. A problem for Porto and similar teams is keeping hold of their best players. The team of 2003/2004 featured some amazing players who would soon be plying their trade at some of the world’s biggest clubs. Carvalho and Deco moved to Chelsea and Barcelona within a few weeks of that season finishing.
They could take some inspiration from Ajax. The Dutch side has competed well in recent seasons and they were close to qualifying for the 2019 Champions League final. They have proven that you don’t necessarily need huge investment to perform well in Europe.