Braga: The Team to Challenge the Portuguese Ascendency?

Published on 15 August 2023 at 14:55

Braga: The Team to Challenge the Portuguese Ascendency?

Another Portuguese season has kicked off but will there be a new winner of the Primeira Liga as Braga look to upset the hegemony of Portuguese football.


SC Braga has been considered the fourth club of Portugal since the 21st century. The club has come close on a number of occasions to winning the Primeira Liga, particularly last season. However, next season they may finally win their first title in their hope to break the hegemony that The Big Three have on Portuguese football, as the club looks to compete with the big-hitters for the foreseeable future.

Os Tres Grandes, or The Big Three


Since the foundation of the Primeira Liga in 1934, the league has been dominated by The Big Three. Excluding the league title wins for Belenenses (1945–46) and Boavista (2000–01), every league title has been lifted by either Benfica, Porto, or Sporting CP (Os Tres Grande). The Big Three have managed to maintain this control through their financial dominance; this has allowed them to create and maintain great scouting systems (in comparison to the rest of Portuguese clubs), buy the best talents, particularly from other Portuguese teams, and hire the best staff to improve their first team (an example being when Sporting CP bought their current manager Rúben Amorim from Braga in March 2020 for €10 million) and underage squads.

The Big Three will look to continue their dominance and will not easily want to give up their supremacy; however, all three have different aims for the upcoming season. Sporting CP will look to mount a challenge for the league to vastly improve upon their season last year; the club finished fourth in the league and had a disappointing collapse in the Champions’ League group stage before defeat in the Europa League quarter-final to Juventus. Porto will consider their last season an overall success considering they won every domestic cup and were narrowly defeated in the Champions League by eventual finalists Inter Milan; however, they will be incredibly determined to regain their title next year after finishing second last season by only two points. Whereas Benfica will look to win their 39th league title next season and improve upon their impressive but ultimately disappointing Champions League campaign.

Braga had a relatively impressive season last year, with a third-place finish and finishing runners-up in the Taça de Portugal. The club was in the hunt for the title until their comprehensive loss to Sporting CP in February. The club had improved considerably from the previous two seasons performances and was looking to continue this extensive improvement into next season and put together a more sustained title push, similar to their assault in 2009/10.

Braga and Their Financial Power

It was previously mentioned about the financial advantage that Os Tres Grande have over the rest of the league, yet this disadvantage may soon disappear for Braga.

Braga have managed to maintain their position as the fourth team in Portugal due to the finances they have received through consistent qualification for European competition and their impressive ability to nurture young talent before selling them for vast sums before reinvesting in more prodigies; huge recent sales include Vitinha, Trincão and David Carmo.

However, this need to sell players and then reinvest cleverly in youth to profit once again may now be over for Braga. This is due to the recent purchase (October 10th 2022) of 21.67% of the club by Qatar Sports Investment (majority owners of Paris Saint-Germain). This purchase of shares in Braga will allow Braga to now have more financial power, meaning they can keep their talented players contracted to the club, allowing for a challenge to The Big Three for more lucrative signings instead of being perceived as a stepping stone within Portuguese football.

The Qatar Sports Investment Group has begun its multi-ownership, similar to the Abu Dhabi United Group with the City Football Group. Braga will be optimistic to receive a similar development that clubs within the City Football Group have received, allowing them to break the hold of The Big Three in Portugal. Braga will look at the example of how far Girona has improved under their multi-ownership model, and as a consequence, they will expect to have similar growth. Braga may be fearful that it could simply become a feeder club for PSG, yet if managed correctly, even this could be successful, making Braga a vibrant club that allows world-class young talent to flourish while challenging for league titles.

Braga’s Squad and Potential Transfers

Braga were impressive going forward last season, resulting in them finishing as the second highest scorers in the Premiera Liga, while the club had the third most formidable defence in the league. This is impressive, yet the club needs to improve if they want to go that step further and claim their first league title.

Braga will look to ensure that vital players are kept at the club and that these players hit the same levels of performance again this season. Artur Jorge (Braga head coach) will look to Ricardo Horta to have the same impact going forward while expecting Abel Ruiz and Simon Banza to step up to replace the splendid output of the departee Iuri Medeiros. In defence, the players were vital for Jorge as they looked to build from the back, maintaining possession and waiting for an opportunity to launch an attack. Immense trust is placed in the central defenders and holding midfielder to be positive and confident on the ball. However, at times the Braga defence was exposed to counterattacks due to the vast space left in the full-back positions. Jorge may look to sign reinforcements throughout that defensive system that will ensure that space is not exposed.

Artur Jorge has seemingly looked to address their defensive fragility to counter-attacks with the signing of four defensive players this summer. The signatures of Vitor Carvalho, Adrián Marín and Rodrigo Zalazar have been identified as the individuals to strengthen this area. These defensive signings will be vital, yet the club should look to extend their attack, with a smart investment being M'Bala Nzola (Spezia Calcio), while Nico Melamed (R.C.D. Espanyol) would help freshen the creative ideas within the team.

Can Braga Realistically win the Premeira Liga in 2023–24?

Braga will prepare comprehensively during preseason to ensure they hit the ground running come the start of the season, as they know that a near-perfect campaign is required to claim the title. Benfica and Porto only lost three games last season, a standard that Braga must reach to finally win their first title. Braga know they are unique in their approach to football in Portugal, as they are more direct in attack than the other major clubs, yet methodical as they attempt to work it into the attacking positions. Braga have identified and reinforced the chinks in their armour, and this will give Jorge confidence that his approach can bring silverware next season.

The club will believe they can disrupt the established challengers for the title, but even if it doesn’t this year, the foundations have been laid from the previous year to now start mounting continuous assaults on the Premeira Liga.


Brendan Mc Gilligan

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