This time last year, Chancel Mbemba’s time with Porto was being described as a ‘nightmare’ – and rightly so.
Following his move to Portugal in July 2018, he went on to make just THREE league appearances (starting once) all season, being left out of the club’s matchday squad on 15 occasions across 2018/19.
An early injury in a pre-season warm up match didn’t get him off to a good start, but it was becoming increasingly clear Porto boss Sérgio Conceição didn’t fancy him.
To make matters worse, the defender was then exiled to Porto’s B team in the early months of 2019, being forced to train with their Academy at one stage – all while the first-team enjoyed Champions League clashes at AS Roma and Anfield.
His move to Porto – which seemed like a decent one at the time – was looking like a horrendous mistake, meaning another transfer seemed on the cards within 12 months of his arrival.
Surprisingly, he remained at Porto over the summer, but that decision has been justified based on his upturn in both form and opportunities across the 2019/20 campaign.
He had to bid his time on the bench in the opening few weeks of the new season, but the Congolese international – who’s now 25 – has started 9 of their last 12 league games, now features regularly in their Europa League campaign and has scored twice in the Taça de Portugal (the Portuguese cup)
Here’s a clip of him in action just a few weeks ago, with him doing this in stoppage time to help his side progress to the final of the Portuguese Cup:
Mbemba then played the full 90 minutes in the Taça de Portugal final, but saw his side lose out 1-0 to SC Braga.
That said, he’s now becoming a valued member of their side, with a Porto fan and host of ESCS FM Radio show “Final whistle” saying this about the former NUFC centre-back this week:
“At FC Porto, Chancel Mbemba is the classic case that a player can only demonstrate what is worth if he has opportunities consistently and playing the right position.
“The Congolese has put in great displays, both from a defensive and offensive perspective”
Many wondered if we’d live to regret his £7m move to Porto.
With his early struggles and our array of centre-backs in mind, I don’t think anyone is desperate to see him back at St James’ Park, but it’s good to see a well liked player with plenty potential turning things around at Porto.