To accomplish one quadruple had never been done, to accomplish two quadruples was just insane to think about. Porto did this. What do you mean you don’t remember this happening?
That’s because this all happened on Football Manager 2018.
The Portuguese Premier League isn’t the hardest league in the world and is usually the cut off point for how you’d define a ‘Top European League’, you often see statistics that are out of ‘Europe’s top five leagues’ with Portugal, Netherlands and Russia just missing on this.
However, to conquer Portugal and Europe is rare. Benfica had done so to some success in the sixties and Porto had twice: in 1988 and 2004. This was different. This was a tactical masterclass the likes of which Europe hadn’t seen in a long time. It evolved the thinking on roles over positions and shape.
Some still debate whether the Porto team of 2065 to 2067 was a 5-2-3 or a 3-4-3 or a 3-4-2-1.
Let’s start from the back. Tiago Goncalves, Mario Arach and Daniel Abacherli. Three defensive minded central defenders put there as a rigid last line of defence. Whilst not thought of as the best in Europe at the time, they all complimented each other. The team was greater than the sum of its parts.
Jonathan Sandroni and Jeremie Dupont, two players who normally would have been utilised in a flat back four found themselves down the flanks. They weren’t wing-backs but they definitely weren’t full-backs. They hugged the touchline and supplied the wide forwards of Sebastian Ochoa and Kieran Hughes who were definitely more versatile than the out and out poacher that was Boniek.
Whilst all remaining central, Ochoa and Hughes would be more inclined to act as the glue that stuck the wide men and two midfielders together.
Tiago was your typical nuisance in the centre of the pitch. A box to box midfielder in the ilk of a Frank Lampard without contributing all that much in the way of goals. In fact, in the 2065/66 season, the regular front three notched 101 goals between them, whilst the other seven outfield regulars netted 17. That’s not even counting the 74 from the reserve strikers who were utilised more so in the Taca de Portugal and League Cup and from the bench.
Alongside Tiago was Hector Gonzalez. Gonzalez was the anchor man in the midfield. He never strayed too far from the centre circle, mopping up any danger and releasing Tiago, Dupont and Sandroni to begin attacks. The heavily structured team were an opposition’s nightmare. It wasn’t a case of the unknown that submitted opposition, it was a case of you knew what was going to hurt you, you just didn’t know when.
In the two quadruple seasons, Porto dropped ten points in the league. Gil Vicente and Braga held them to draws at their grounds whilst Estoril pipped them 1-0 away in the first season and the second season’s only dropped points came in a 1-0 defeat to Benfica.
Meanwhile, the modern European powerhouses of Leipzig and PSG were dismantling with unnerving ease in the finals of the Champions League in 2067 and 2068. In fact, such was Porto’s defensive rigidity, they conceded 6 goals in 14 knockout games.
A well oiled machine with a highly structured set up and every man doing his job to the best of his ability.