36 years, 1 month, 10 days (and counting) marks the longest streak of a chairman directing a football club. Jorge Nuno Pinto da Costa, currently 81 years old, is still at date the president in front of F.C. Porto, one of the main symbols of Portuguese football and one of the historical clubs of Europe. Two years ago, on 13th of January of 2017, Pinto da Costa broke the record of another historical club president, Santiago Bernabeu, who directed Real Madrid, during which the Spanish team won 6 European Cups.
Now, 2019, Jorge Nuno keeps breaking his own records and defying the odds of longevity, winning the club elections year after year, without facing any opposition. His success and the trust that the fans deposit on his leadership might be explained by the fact that he is also the chairman who won most titles for a club. His reign isn’t free of controversies, corruption scandals and a couple of litigious divorces, but every Porto supporter knows that the club owes him gratitude for making the club become, not only a feared force inside national borders but also a recognizable international insignia, able to compete with the European giants.
With a life dedicated to his passion for the city where he was born, Jorge Nuno first attended a game of F.C. Porto when his uncle paid him tickets to watch the clash against Sporting de Braga and the young lad, just 8 years old at the time, never again forgot that atmosphere. He started working as a banker when he was just 19 years old. It was at that young age that he decided that he would conciliate his work at the bank, with his passion for football and for his city club F.C. Porto. At the time, Porto had already won a few national titles but was still seen as an underdog on the race between the Lisbon rivals Benfica and Sporting.
At 20 years old he starts working for Porto’s division on field hockey and later he becomes the leader of that club section. In 1969, he is invited to be part of the team of the elected president Afonso Magalhães, his first time on the team’s board. However, 4 years later he refuses to continue and leaves his position. It would take until 1976 for Pinto da Costa to change his mind.
During a friendly chat with his pals, some of them fans of the other team in the city of Porto, Boavista F.C., he is mocked for letting his club allowing a player named Albertino, to sign for Boavista instead of F.C. Porto, even though the deal was practically settled with the later. It was at this moment that Jorge Nuno was quoted as saying: “Large days have hundred years”. This popular Portuguese expression, who many years later would be the title of his biography, means that it takes patience and time to execute a task.
Here was when Pinto da Costa started to trace his plan, which involved a subtle backstabbing revenge on their rivals Boavista. Talking with the president at the time Americo de Sá, Pinto da Costa accepted to be part of the board again as the chief of football department and before the elections, he convinces Boavista’s coach, Pedroto, a former Porto player and coach to return to the club.
Pedroto was a highly rated manager at the time, having won three Portuguese Cups, two with Porto and one with Boavista and achieving two second places in the league. In his first season back at the club he immediately ends a period of 19 years where F.C. Porto couldn’t win a national league.
Then, after a series of troubled moments for Porto, caused partially by the political backlashes of the late ’70s in Portugal, both Pinto da Costa and Pedroto leave the club. It was only on 1981, when a group of supporters comes together demanding Jorge Nuno to run for the presidency, that he becomes actual the head of the team, being elected on 17th of April of 1982 and bringing Pedroto back.
The presidency and the start of Porto golden age
Pinto da Costa era in Porto started in 1982 and since then the titles have been accumulating in Porto’s museum, not only in football but in other sports such as field hockey and handball for example. His model of organization, managing player deals personally and investing in South American and African markets, allow Porto to bring players truly overlooked by most big teams in Europe, but with a great talent and growth margin.
In 1984, the football team of Porto achieves for the first time a European final, the now extinct Cup of Cups, but they are defeated by Juventus. It was not the time yet, but three years later, under coach Artur Jorge, the Portuguese northern team defeats the Germans of Bayern Munich in Vienna, conquering the European Cup of Champions (now Champions League), winning 2-1, with a cheeky backheel goal by Algerian striker Rabah Madjer.
In the same year, Porto becomes the first Portuguese team to win both the UEFA SuperCup, 1-0 against Ajax, and the Intercontinental Cup, now known as Club World Cup, overthrowing 2-1 the Uruguayans of Peñarol in Tokyo, with another goal in extra time from Madjer.
Then Porto fairytale continues through the ’90s, establishing its dominance with five league titles in a row between 1994 and 1999, being the only Portuguese team until now to have achieved such a record. Later, in the beginning of the current century, after some underwhelming seasons, Porto invites a quite unknown manager to bring back their heat: some guy named José Mourinho.
Hired to midtable team União de Leiria by Pinto da Costa himself, Mourinho brought back the glory for Porto, winning the UEFA Cup on his first season, 3-2 on extra time against Celtic Glasgow. In the following season, Mourinho takes it a step further, conquering the Champions League (3-0) against Monaco.
Besides “discovering” Mourinho, Pinto da Costa and his scouting team might be also coined to have found some amazing underrated football talents. Just to name a few: former Chelsea centre-back Ricardo Carvalho, Deco, James Rodriguez, Radamel Falcão, Hulk and many others.
On his behalf, Jorge Nuno Pinto da Costa resume in Porto accumulates 1287 titles in several sporting sections, 58 of which just in football. From those 58, it’s worth mentioning 7 international titles for the “Dragons” and 21 national league titles. While the future is uncertain and Porto fans are doubtful of what will happen once their beloved chairman leaves or passes away, you can be sure that while he keeps breathing, his heart will still be blue, and Porto won’t stop to be a dominant force.