Back in the 80s I had a soft spot for Porto. Their 2-1 1987 European Cup final win over Bayern Munich, coming from behind in the last 15 minutes and scoring with a back-heel, against a vastly better resourced opponent, was something Celtic fans could relate to.
A decade later I followed Porto’s tribulations as they tried to recapture those heights in the Champions League with a new team. They remained an engaging team but when it came to the big clubs there was always one who would wipe the floor with them. Manchester United scored four without reply in the 1997 quarter finals. The following season Real Madrid hit six over two games without conceding as Porto exited at the group stage.
It was a group stage exit the next season, before Bayern Munich took them in the 2000 quarter final. Then what looked like a significant reversal as they failed to qualify for Europe’s top tournament, settling for Uefa Cup football instead in season 2000-01. They eliminated Celtic from the group stage in 2001-02 but were taken home and away by Real Madrid in the last sixteen.
All this time they were fine-tuning player development and recruitment strategy; buying marginally better players and selling for ever-increasing money. Real Madrid may have wiped the floor with them but Porto’s business model was fine-tuned by 2002. Real won their last European trophy that season but the gap with Porto was closed in an instant.
Celtic are less than two years into their current strategy and we’re miles ahead of where we should be. It will be extremely difficult to match this season’s on-field achievements next season, but the stage you exit the Champions League is only one yardstick available. It took Porto years of slow and meandering progress to learn what it took to reach the highest level. This is our task.
On Friday 1 March the Lisbon Lions will be at the Kerrydale Suite providing commentary and answering questions on their magnificent European Cup final win in 1967. This has never happened in 46 years since that game, to say it is a unique opportunity fails to tell the whole story.
The event is part of our 125 4 125 campaign – central to reinvigorating the charitable spirit which is part of the club we love. It will be a family occasions, tickets are available at £10 for adults and £5 for children. The night has been organised by several fans working in conjunction with the people at Celtic Charity, so please do your best to support this great occasion. Individual tickets or tables are available, details here.
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