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The Europa League holders are in dire need of a new hitman and their success in the remainder of 2011-12 may depend on their actions in the last days of the January market

ANALYSIS
By Luis Mira | Portuguese Football Editor

The final days of the January transfer window are now upon us and this has been an usually quiet month in Portugal. From the country's "big three", only one of them, Sporting CP, has signed new players. Elsewhere, Porto rejoice at finally being able to count on Danilo, whose services they had already secured in the summer, but further changes could still happen in coach Vitor Pereira's squad before Wednesday.

Juventus have reportedly pulled the plug on a deal for Fredy Guarin after signing Sevilla's Martin Caceres, but the Colombian midfielder remains linked with Serie A, as Inter have expressed an interest, according to the player's agent. Porto are already looking for a midfield replacement for Guarin, but their transfer focus should rely on a different area of the field.

After all, Vitor Pereira has been left with just one pure striker in the squad for all competitions after Walter was loaned out to Cruzeiro earlier in the month. The former Internacional star had shown some promising signs, but personal problems related to the premature birth of his daughter and his excessive weight ended up pushing him out of the coach's options. The 22-year-old has vowed to come back fitter than ever at the end of the year, when his loan spell ends, but in the meantime Porto are struggling in the attacking department.

ATTACKING PRODUCTIVITY IN 2011-12
Player

Kleber
Hulk
Varela
J. Rodriguez
Djalma
Iturbe
Walter
Games

24
24
22
20
13
5
8
Goals

7
12
3
9
2
0
6
The fact is that, in recent years, every time that a striker left the Estadio do Dragao, another one came in their place. After Benni McCarthy signed for Blackburn, Porto landed Lisandro Lopez, and when the Argentine chose to further his career at Olympique Lyonnais, Radamel Falcao was brought in. But when the Colombian joined Atletico Madrid last summer, the Porto hierarchy stood by, despite having received a cheque for €40 million.

The Portuguese club's hopes then relied on 21-year-old Kleber, who was signed in a €2.3m deal after impressing while on loan at Maritimo between 2009 and 2011. Deploying a young and inexperienced player as your lone striker is always a huge gamble, especially if you are talking about a club with serious ambitions, not just domestically, but also abroad. And Porto are now paying the price of their disastrous squad planning for 2011-12.

After half a season at Porto, Kleber has scored seven goals in 24 competitive appearances, 16 of which came as a starter. By this time last season, Falcao had already netted 18 times, with the exact same players providing support in attack. Kleber has already become a fans' target after his failure to find the back of the net in the last seven matches. Vitor Pereira has played down the case, insisting that the Brazilian youngster needs to be supported by the Estadio do Dragao faithful, but, at the same time, the coach does not have any viable alternatives: Hulk has at times been deployed as a striker, but the powerful attacker brings so much more to the fare when he plays on the wings. And the same can be said about every other attacker in the squad.

In the last few weeks, Internacional's Leandro Damiao, Jaguares' Jackson Martinez and Racing Club's Teofilo Gutierrez have all been associated with a move to the Portuguese champions. Porto's interest in the Colombian pair is understandable, after Falcao, James Rodriguez and Fredy Guarin all became major hits in the last couple of years. Damiao, who has also been linked with Paris Saint-Germain, is the biggest name of the trio, but his hefty price-tag puts Porto off the race, after they spent over €42 million in signings during the summer. Os Dragoes are unwilling to break the bank to reinforce their attack and should not spend more than €6m on a new player, which also raises serious doubts about their ability to land either Martinez or Gutierrez.


January signings rarely prove to be successful, but Porto are in dire need of a new goal-poacher, or they risk watching their season derailed even more

All the alarm bells have rung at the Estadio do Dragao in recent weeks: the club have crashed out of the Champions League after finishing third in what appeared to be a relatively easy group and must now make amends in the Europa League, which they won last season. At the same time, they find themselves two points behind league leaders Benfica just one month before they travel to the Estadio da Luz. January signings rarely prove to be successful, but Porto are in dire need of a new goal-poacher, or they risk watching their season derailed even more.

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