"Do you mean Marín and Cerezo?"
During my time at University, one history class focused on the circumstances and motivations that can precipitate a fundamental strategic shift during wartime. One of the most famous examples was Italy's decision to enter the First World War on the side of the Triple Entente rather than the Triple Alliance, with which she had been nominally allied since 1882. A detailed explanation of Italy's reasons for doing so is probably of little interest to you, but they can be distilled down to a simple declaration that eventually, the belief that they stood to gain more by siding with Britain and France outgrew the belief in and desire for neutrality. Entering the war wasn't worth it for Prime Minister Antonio Salandra and Minister for Foreign Affairs Sidney Solinno, until it was.
Whilst the machinations of wartime diplomacy bear little practical resemblance to the modern transfer market, the theoretical similarities are readily apparent. Observe: Radamel Falcao wasn't interested in leaving Porto for Atlético Madrid, until he was. Agreeing to part with their most prized asset made little sense for Porto, until it did. See?
As I wrote for SB Nation recently, the Portuguese game has, over the last twelve months, crowbarred its way back into football's collective global consciousness. Porto thrilled the masses with their swashbuckling attacking style last season, lifting a domestic and European quadruple, and prompting much debate as to their long-term potential.
But in a league where even the pre-eminent clubs receive less television rights money per season than whichever hapless outfit happens to prop up the Premier League come May, the dual principles of sustainable growth and responsible spending (recently codified in the form of UEFA's Financial Fair Play regulations) are if not quite followed to the letter, then at least an ever-present consideration during the unfettered orgy of rumour, speculation and cash-waving that is the modern transfer window.
Of course, the strategy described succinctly as "buy low, sell high" by the peerless Swiss Ramble, with its reliance on the continued unearthing of talent and Champions League qualification, is not exactly the footballing economic equivalent of reinforced concrete. But Porto's consistently successful balancing of the books shows no sign of abating.
In an excellent article published earlier this week, Maisfutebol outlined the Dragon's unprecedented outlay on playing staff since January of this year. The figures are worth reproducing in full - not least because of the considerable bang Porto received for their buck.
Hulk: €13,500,000 (for 40% of his registration, raising ownership stake to 85%)
Alex Sandro: €9,600,000
Eliaquim Mangala: €6,500,000
Steven Defour: €6,000,000
João Moutinho: €4,000,000 (re-purchase of 22.5% ownership stake sold in 2010, raising stake to 85%)
Juan Manuel Iturbe: €2,500,000
James Rodríguez: €2,250,000 (re-purchase of 30% ownership stake sold in 2010, raising stake to 65%)
For a total spend of €62,250,000 (or if you prefer, 1.8 Andy Carrolls - couldn't resist), Porto have: ensured an increased future profit on three of their most bankable assets; added depth across an already outstanding squad; and recruited potential replacements for those aforementioned assets. But outgoings only present half the picture.
Since January, the departures of André Villas-Boas (to Chelsea, for his €15,000,000 release clause), Falcao (to Atlético, for an initial fee of €40,000,000 but also including a potential €7,000,000 in performance-related bonuses), and talented but marginalised midfielder Rúben Micael (also to Atlético, for a single upfront payment of €5,000,000) have raised a total of €60,000,000. Even if one allows for the as-yet unverified but likely existence of a small 'formation' fee due to Falcao's previous employers River Plate, the transfer window will close with Porto's net spend from January-September standing at a guaranteed €2,250,000, and certainly no more than €5,000,000 (I am currently seeking clarification on the exact amount, if any, owed to River).
Of course, the club could yet find themselves €4,750,000 in profit, should Falcao manage to pass, as it were, the unspecified performance targets stipulated in the agreement with Atlético. A brief examination of the Colombian's performances since joining Porto in June 2009 suggests that the club's bean-counters are unlikely to need their red pens any time soon. In seventy-nine starts, plus eight appearances from the substitute's bench, Falcao netted seventy-two times for the Dragons, averaging a goal every 94.9 minutes. That rapacious strike rate arguably cements his place amongst the greatest goalscorers ever to grace the Liga - Peyroteo, Eusébio, Nené, Gomes, Jardel.
Whatever the metric one employs to analyse Falcao's value, the result remains the same. But perhaps the most appropriate to modern football's nakedly capitalistic parlance is the size of the profit that Porto have made on the 25 year-old. Just over two years ago, River Plate were paid €3,930,000 for 60% of his registration (the remaining 40% was acquired via a secondary transaction, with the playing rights of Mário Bolatti used as payment - 5% was then transferred to an unnamed third party). Now, Atlético Madrid could potentially shell out €47,000,000 for that same 95% - for those of you at the back, that's a profit of €43,070,000.
Irrespective of the relative lack of security underpinning Porto's economic model, the acquisition, utilisation (he lifted seven trophies during his twenty-six months at the Dragão) and eventual sale of Falcao is a staggeringly successful bit of business - for want of a better phrase.
But of course, this is no isolated incident, rather it is the latest outcome of a long-established player trading model. Since 2008, Bruno Alves (€22,000,000); Raúl Meireles (€13,000,000); Aly Cissokho (€15,000,000); Lucho González (an initial €18,000,000 potentially rising to €24,000,000); Lisandro López (an initial €24,000,000 potentially rising to €28,000,000); José Bosingwa (€20,500,000) and Ricardo Quaresma (€18,600,000 plus Pelé) have departed from the Dragão, bringing in a total of between €131,100,000 - €141,100,000. Of course, there have been failures - Bolatti, Prediguer and Valeri all spring to mind - but those are exceptions that fail to disprove the rule.
In terms of pure player trading, few, if any, clubs compare to Porto in terms of success, particularly over the last decade. President Pinto da Costa has been, is, and will remain a controversial figure in Portugal, for (valid) reasons too involved to discuss in the remainder of this post, but even his most vociferous opponents would struggle to deny him the credit he deserves for overseeing the transformation of Porto from the Liga's third power to the institution which has lifted seventeen of the last twenty-five titles; and one which - despite the deep and traumatic economic downturn that continues to affect Portugal - remains in rude financial health.
At the press conference hastily arranged to announce the appointment of Vítor Pereira as successor to André Villas-Boas, da Costa informed the assembled hacks that he had begun to lay the groundwork for Pereira's arrival "about a month" before the departure of his former head coach - a departure which was widely perceived as coming out of the blue, if you'll forgive the pun. The bombast to truth ratio of his statement can be debated, but the signing of Kléber from Atlético Mineiro was an explicit acknowledgement of the fact that Falcao would inevitably be sold at some point in the future. The 21 year-old has impressed on loan at Marítimo over the last two seasons, and appeared destined for the Dragão as long ago as September 2010, when an ugly dispute saw him remain in Brazil whilst all concerned engaged in a vituperative and ultimately inconsequential dispute over his immediate destination.
Falcao's agreement to put pen to paper on a contract extension, which tied him to Porto until 2015 and increased his release clause to - surprise surprise - €45,000,000, back in mid-July can, with the benefit of hindsight, be viewed through the same prism, particularly when the name of Jorge Mendes crops up. The sudden addition of any player to the omnipotent agent's client list generally only means one thing, whether that thing arrives in the short, medium or long term. A Bola wrote last week of Falcao and Mendes "going to war", and unlike Salandra and Solinno, Gestifute doesn't do deliberation.
In the end, then, there was a certain inevitability about the whole affair; from Falcao's declaration that "my parents raised me to be honest...", to Enrique Cerezo's nudge nudge wink wink denials to Renascença, to the announcement itself - timed in order to ensure maximum exposure. Like the man once sung, same as it ever was.