Eighty-nine minutes. That was all it took for FC Porto’s summer signing Jackson Martinez to show just what he was capable of. Making his competitive debut in the 2012 Portuguese Super Cup, Martinez struck the only goal of the game late on to sink Academica Coimbra – and he has barely stopped scoring since.
Currently the leading marksmen in the Portuguese league, with ten goals in 11 games, the Colombian front-man has also found the net three times in the UEFA Champions League group phase. Already a firm favourite among the fans of Os Dragões, a faithful accustomed to seeing many of the game’s modern greats tread the turf of the Estadio do Dragao, they will have plenty more to celebrate should Martinez continue in this vein.
When Martinez first touched down at Porto, it was in the midst of supporters’ turmoil at the prospect of losing Hulk, arguably the club’s main man in recent seasons. And those fears were realised when the Brazilian attacker made a big-money switch to Zenit St. Petersburg, a move that immediately placed a greater goalscoring burden on the new man’s shoulders.
Fourteen goals in 18 competitive games thus far would suggest said burden is not weighing too heavily on Martinez. Thoroughly justifying his purchase from Mexican outfit Jaguares, the striker is busy fulfilling his childhood dream of establishing himself as a pro and breaking into the Colombia side, having already appeared in three qualifiers for the 2014 FIFA World cup Brazil™. As an added bonus, he is also proving a worthy successor to some of the huge talents that Porto have previously plucked from around Planet Football.
A launch pad for global stars
Hulk himself is one of the best examples of Porto’s ability to unearth hidden gems. The muscle-bound forward was plying his trade in Japan’s second tier at Tokyo Verdy when snapped up by Os Dragões in 2008/09, and it was not long before he began catching the eye thanks to his technical quality and physical prowess.
Hulk even went on to wear the captain’s armband with Os Portistas and it was his displays in the blue-and-white shirt that earned him his first call-ups to the Brazil senior squad. Indeed, the left-footed powerhouse was part of the Seleção that took silver at the Men’s Olympic Football Tournament London 2012, while he also made a number of friendly appearances in the fabled yellow jersey during his time at Porto.
Come 2009/10, with Hulk’s flame already burning bright, yet another future superstar arrived at the Estadio do Dragao. Radamel Falcao had already shone on the South American scene, but it was Porto he chose to make the leap to the European game – a decision which resulted in two unforgettable campaigns.
The highlight of El Tigre’s goal-laden spell for the Dragons came in victory in the 2010/11 UEFA Europa League, when he finished the competition’s top scorer and even struck the winner in the final. The following season, after his switch to Atletico Madrid, he repeated the feat by winning the tournament, top-scoring and netting in the decider of UEFA’s second biggest club competition.
In a relatively short space of time Falcao, currently in the running for the 2012 FIFA Puskás Award and the leading man in a Colombia side lying third in South American qualifying for Brazil 2014, had helped Porto fans forget the loss of yet another quality striker who made his name for Os Dragões.
Tireless Argentinian front-runner Lisandro Lopez swapped Racing Club for Porto in 2005/06 and swiftly won over the supporters thanks to his never-say-die attitude and nose for goal. Versatile as well as committed, his performances would lead to French giants Lyon spending big to secure his signature four seasons later.
A magician and a goal machine
The football world abounds with tales of great talents that have slipped through clubs’ fingers and Deco’s story is certainly one of those. Back in 1997, the midfield schemer left Corinthians Alagoano for Portugal, where he joined Lisbon giants Benfica. Denied an opportunity to prove his worth at the Estadio da Luz, Deco was first loaned to Alverca and then spent a short spell at Salgueiros.
It was there that, midway through the 1998/99 campaign, Porto swooped for the gifted playmaker, who went on to become one of the club’s all-time greatest players. Subsequently helping Os Portistas to victory in a host of domestic competitions, as well as the UEFA Cup and UEFA Champions League, O Mágico had found the perfect springboard towards superstardom.
Awarded Portuguese nationality, the Brazilian-born midfielder shone at UEFA EURO 2004 and the 2006 FIFA World Cup with A Seleção das Quinas. His Porto adventure came to an end in 2004 and Deco went on to show all his class – and win another Champions League crown – at Barcelona, before switches to Chelsea and back to Brazil with Fluminense.
Another player who came close to joining Benfica before going on to become a Porto legend was Mario Jardel. In his four seasons at the club he broke a series of goalscoring records, hitting the astonishing figure of 168 goals in 175 competitive games.
Super Mário thus ensured his place as one of Os Dragões’ finest goalgetters though, much to their supporters’ delight, the prolific front-men have simply kept on coming. And as the latest man in this illustrious line, despite all the pressure that entails, Jackson Martinez looks more than capable of keeping the goals flowing at the Estadio do Dragao.