Man City and Porto are engaged in a bizarre row, but how did it start?

When two clubs go to war: Porto slammed Manchester City, criticised Fernandinho for ‘lacking class’ and hit out at Bernardo Silva’s ‘racism’… but why the bad blood between the two teams? Sportsmail examines a VERY bizarre new rivalry

  • Manchester City and FC Porto were involved in a bizarre row this week  
  • The Portuguese club heavily criticised the Premier League side in a newsletter
  • Porto said City lacked ‘class’ after playing them in the Champions League
  • Their 529-word rant blasted Pep Guardiola and his players over their behaviour
  • City have since hit back and said it ‘wholly rejects’ the ‘ill-judged’ criticism 
  • Sportsmail answers all the key questions over the row and what has been said 

One of the most bizarre rows between clubs broke out this week after Porto took aim at Manchester City in a newsletter to their fans following their 0-0 draw with Pep Guardiola’s men in midweek. 

In a baffling 529-word rant, the Portuguese side slammed City players and Guardiola for their behaviour during the game while celebrating their qualification to the Champions League knockouts after finishing as runner ups behind them in Group C. 

Their decision to take this dramatic step of public criticism has more than raised a few eyebrows, and has resulted in City hitting back after their surprising words.

But where did this verbal spat come from and why is there an ill-feeling between the two sides? Sportsmail answers the key questions of this strange squabble. 

A bizarre rivalry is unfurling between Porto and Man City after their fiesty clash this week 

How did it all start?

Well everything seemed fairly innocuous to begin with. You don’t expect too many fireworks after a 0-0 stalemate – especially in a game that earned both sides qualification to the knockouts. Everyone should be happy, right?

Not quite. Porto had to settle for second place in the group in a game that City will claim they likely should have won. It took Guardiola’s men a while to get going but Raheem Sterling had a shot cleared off the line just before half time.

Porto were happy to sit deep and hit City on the counter attack, with Sterling and Ferran Torres both going close after the interval – and they thought they had nicked it when Gabriel Jesus bundled home in the 80th minute, only to be judged as offside in the build up. 

City boss Pep Guardiola took aim at Porto’s defensive set-up after both sides drew 0-0

He said Porto had ‘eight players in the box’ after frustrating them at the Estadio do Dragao

Both sides settled for a point, but tension immediately started to bubble under the surface. Midfielder Fernandinho was the first to wade in – far from impressed with the opposition’s conduct. 

‘It was a complicated game against a team with a unique style of playing,’ he said. ‘They put pressure on the referees, they fall from all fouls and it seems they need to call the ambulance.’  

Meanwhile, Guardiola, was critical of Porto’s defensive tactics under manager Sergio Conceicao as they held on for a point.

Porto coach Sergio Conceicao said he would be ‘sad’ if he failed to win with Pep’s budget

‘We attacked, we played a good game, but FC Porto had a lot of people behind. In this game, we had opportunities and did not score.

‘They almost always had eight players in the area. Marega and Corona, they were also far behind.’ 

When asked for his thoughts on Guardiola’s comments, Conceicao simply replied: ”If I had his budget, his players, and still couldn’t get a win, I’d be sad too.’ 

What did Porto say? 

They had a lot to say. The day after the game the club sent out a publication to their supporters which seemed like a run-of-the-mill summary of the game, until you get to the second paragraph.

It starts by commending the team after they were confirmed as ‘one of the 16 best teams in Europe with a game to spare’, before adding that they had won a point ‘against the most expensive squad in the world’.

From there it turns very sour indeed – reminding fans of Conceicao’s cutting words about Guardiola’s failure to win, before taking their criticism even further. 

Porto released a 529-word newsletter the following day criticising Guardiola and Man City

They also took exception to midfielder Fernandinho and claimed he should have been sent off

‘The Manchester City coach and players – who also struggled to cope with the result – should even be grateful for the luck they had with refereeing again,’ it read, claiming that their side should have had a penalty for Ederson’s foul on Otavaio while slamming Fernandinho, who should’ve seen red in their eyes. 

The Brazilian, they said was ‘a clear example that football money counts a lot, but it doesn’t buy class or notion’. This was a doubled-edged insult, aimed at the club and its spending habits – the third mention of the topic already.

City were left alone for a few more paragraphs while Porto boasted of how it had now qualified 16 times for the knockouts out of a possible 25 – far more than any of its Portuguese rivals Benfica or Sporting Lisbon. 

Bernardo Silva was accused of racism as they referenced a social media post he made last year

Last November, Silva was fined £50,000 & banned for a game for a tweet to Benjamin Mendy as he compared his team-mate to the character on a packet of Conguitos

But they were quickly back on the assault again – this time hitting out at TV broadcasters in Portugal for criticising the team and singling one out for offering a shirt to an opponent of ours who is known internationally for having been convicted of racism’ – referring to Bernardo Silva.

The Portuguese star, who started his career with Porto’s bitter rivals Benfica, last year compared team-mate Benjamin Mendy to the character on a packet of Conguitos – a chocolate brand in Spain and Portugal. He was fined £50,000 and banned for one match by an FA panel, who acknowledged that he did not mean to cause offence.

It was a striking end to an explosive rant, one that would have left City furious without racism accusations.

How did Manchester City respond?

The fact they offered any kind of retort speaks volumes. It is not in the best interest of clubs to be seen giving the time of day to outbursts such as these, and City are renowned for keeping tight-lipped on most matters. 

So their response was highly unusual and highlights the tensions between the two clubs. City clearly felt Porto had crossed the line and that something had to be said.

In a briefer and more measured statement, City hit back at the ‘ill-judged’ criticism that had been scattered around the team.

‘This is not the first time that Porto have reacted badly in circumstances like this. 

Manchester City rarely make public statements and their retort highlighted the tensions 

They refuted Porto’s criticisms pointed out how they had denied racist behaviour of Porto’s fans towards Mario Balotelli (C) and Yaya Toure in 2012

‘On this occasion it is the ill-judged and targeted criticism of some of our individual players and indeed our manager, which we wholly reject.’

City were quick to address Porto’s words about Silva, pointing out that the club had dismissed claims of racist behaviour from their fans when the two teams met in 2012. The Primeira Liga outfit were fined by UEFA after abuse was directed towards Mario Balotelli and Yaya Toure. 

‘In 2012, the last season we encountered them, it was the denial by the club of clear racist behaviour of their fans for which they were investigated and fined,’ the statement added. 

‘In this context, this latest outburst is almost as surprising as it is disappointing.’

Where did this spat come from?

It seems to go back to that meeting with Porto eight years ago in a Europa League Round of 32. City came away with a 2-1 win in Portugal, but the game was marred by racist taunts aimed at Balotelli and Toure.

At the time, then-Porto boss Vitor Pereira played down the reports and claimed it was ‘probably a misunderstanding’.  

‘I did not notice anything,’ he said after the game. ‘It was probably a misunderstanding which will be clarified by the due authorities. We don’t usually have racism-related problems in Portuguese stadiums.’

In the end, Porto were fined £18,000 by UEFA after City had reported monkey chants, particularly towards Balotelli after he was substituted during the game.

In the return leg of their Europa League tie, Porto made their own complaints that City fans had made ‘improper’ chants towards their forward Hulk (centre)

But in the return leg at the Etihad, which City won 4-0, Porto lodged a complaint of their own, claiming that the home supporters had made ‘improper’ chants towards forward Hulk. These were dismissed by UEFA. 

‘This kind of behaviour may be normal in England, but we want to eradicate it from football,’ said club director Rui Cerqueira.

City fans have long held resentment towards the Champions League – regularly booing the anthem before games – and Porto’s minimal fine for the incident is thought to have contributed to that. 

The feelings of frustration from City’s side were hardly helped when the club were fined £27,000 – less than Porto – in the following round for simply coming out for half time one minute late against Sporting Lisbon.

What about Guardiola and Conceicao? 

There’s bad blood historically, and you might not know that both men came up against each other as players in Serie A. 

Conceicao was a midfielder at Inter Milan between 2001 and 2003, while Pep turned out for Brescia and Roma across the same time period. 

But after being put on the same touchline for Manchester City’s first group stage game against them at the Etihad this season, which the Citizens won 1-0, there was already a feeling of animosity from Guardiola’s words post-match.

Guardiola and Conceicao, who faced each other as players, had heated words in City’s first game against Porto in October

Just like the away game, he took aim at Conceicao’s defensive set-up and accused him of ‘copying’ Leicester’s counter-attacking philosophy after they had thrashed them 5-2 the month beforehand.  

‘I’m happy with all the game, we knew how tough it would be. Alongside Benfica, they are the best team in Portugal. They played so defensively with five at the back, we had to be patient. 

‘Maybe they saw the Leicester 5-2 and tried to copy and paste.’

Conceicao accused the Spaniard of ‘unpleasant behaviour’ and ‘ugly words’ towards Portugal

There had been more ill-feeling between the pair throughout the game, and Guardiola headed straight down the tunnel at full time instead of shaking Conceicao’s hand. 

The Portuguese boss accused his opposite number of ‘extremely unpleasant behaviour’ and that he had been ‘speaking about our country using ugly words’.

He also claimed Guardiola enjoyed ‘pressuring referees’ and said his coaching staff were made to look like ‘angels’ compared to the Spaniard’s bench.

‘I’ve got a lot to learn from Pep Guardiola in the way he pressures referees, talks to opposition players and the opposition dugout. We were angels compared to the other dugout.’ 


This is usual news at this time of year, but it still deserves all the prominence: FC Porto qualified for the round of 16 of the Champions League and is officially one of the 16 best teams in Europe. We did it with a group game to spare, thanks to a 0-0 draw against Manchester City at the Estadio do Dragao.

Sergio Conceicao said that he ‘wanted the victory’, but acknowledged that he was also ‘satisfied with the draw’. In the end, a point against the most expensive squad in the world was all that FC Porto needed to achieve one of their goals. The coach praised the ‘organisation’ and ‘merit’ of the team and also commented on Pep Guardiola’s bad disposition after the meeting: ‘I would also be upset if I couldn’t win with the team he has and the budget he has’ .

In fact, the Manchester City coach and players – who also struggled to cope with the result – should even be grateful for the luck they had with refereeing again. After the scandals of the game in England, this time a penalty was missed for Ederson’s more than evident foul on Otavio. In addition there should have been a red card given to Fernandinho, who despite being 35 is a clear example that football money counts a lot, but it doesn’t buy class or notion.’ 

Goalkeeper Marchesin spoke of the positives post match and stressed that he was ‘happy for the team’. Diogo Leite, Uribe and Evanilson also underlined the success of qualifying guaranteed that the group does not want to stop here. Now they will ‘work towards more goals in the Champions League’, said the Brazilian striker.

FC Porto’s success in the most difficult football competition in the world is far from new, but it cannot be diminished or trivialised. Yesterday was the 16th time Porto have qualified out of 24 group stages – a record that is more than double of other Portuguese teams: Benfica five times, Boavista once, Sporting Lisbon another.

If we look only at the most recent past, this is FC Porto’s third qualification in three appearances with Conceicao as coach. It is their fourth in the last four Champions League appearances, fifth in the last six. These numbers are unparalleled in Portuguese football and place FC Porto at a level far above the others. It is one thing to participate in European competitions, another thing to be a European club. In Portugal there is only one.

If there were any doubts, the disdain with which an important part of the Lisbon press treats FC Porto is in itself a testament to our success, which is always so uncomfortable. Although yesterday’s game was tied, a television channel managed to find a way to say that the national champions were ‘beaten’. And hours before the meeting, another station decided to launch a hobby (or a provocation?) by offering a shirt to an opponent of ours who is known internationally for having been convicted of racism. At night, they had to be confronted with the reality that they do not like. It wasn’t just Pep Guardiola and Fernandinho who were unwell…

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