Posts Tagged ‘Lisboa’

Benfica Champions 2014-15

Benfica’s goalless draw with Vitória Guimarães on Sunday was enough to clinch the Liga NOS title for a second consecutive season with one match to spare. It was their 34th Portuguese League title, the most of any club. No club in the top 6 European leagues has more.

It also marked the first time since 1984 that As Águias won the title in back-to-back years. It seems like manager Jorge Jesus has finally accomplished what he was brought in to do and that is break FC Porto’s dominance in Portugal. At least for now.

Here are the 5 reasons Benfica won the Portuguese title this season.

Jorge Jesus’ Adjustments

Benfica lost several key players from last season’s championship-winning side. It is certainly not easy for any manager to integrate so many new players into the squad. Andreas Samaris, Talisca and Jonas proved to be adequate replacements.

When Enzo Perez left during the January transfer window, Jorge Jesus managed to find a replacement within the squad by converting Pizzi into a central midfielder. Although Lima and Jardel struggled at times during the season, Jesus stuck with them and was richly rewarded in the end.

Jonas

The Brazilian has to go down as one of the best signings of the season. It sounded like an odd signing at first. Jonas, a 30-year-old striker, out of contract at Valencia, who would never command a large payout for the Portuguese club.

Still, he proved to be exactly what the club needed. Jonas scored a goal in his first match with the club in October and has hardly stopped since then. With a match to spare, Jonas was second in the league with 18 markers in 26 matches.

Júlio César

He was once touted as one of the best goalkeepers in the world but Júlio César has had a rough go since leaving Inter Milan in 2012. He passed through Queens Park Rangers before ending up on-loan at Toronto FC in MLS. And there was the matter of the seven goals against Germany in the service of Brazil last summer.

Benfica, still reeling from the abrupt departure of Jan Oblak, decided to take a chance on the Brazilian. It proved to be another masterstroke. The now 34-year-old has made the most of his Portuguese adventure. He has earned an impressive 15 clean sheets.

Early European Exit

European competitions have always been a mixed blessing for Portuguese clubs. And like we saw this season, an early exit from competition could have a positive impact on a club’s domestic form. Benfica, once again failed to advance passed the group stage of the Champions League.

From the time the club played their last match in the Champions League in December, Benfica lost only two matches in the league the rest of the way. FC Porto and Sporting’s domestic form seemed to suffer as the season progressed, while Benfica only got stronger.

Head-to-Head Record Against Sporting and Porto

Benfica managed one victory and three draws against the other two members of Portugal’s ‘Big Three’ clubs. The club’s 2-0 victory at the Dragão in December was the difference in the end. It was the first time Benfica beat FC Porto away in the league in Jorge Jesus’ tenure as manager.

Jesus’ critics would argue that Benfica did not show up out to win the April 26th O Clássico against Porto, it really matters little in the end. Benfica put themselves in the position to dictate terms with their stellar league form. They proved themselves worthy champions.

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Sport Lisboa e Benfica/Isabel Cutileiro

Sport Lisboa e Benfica/Isabel Cutileiro

Benfica’s 2-0 defeat of Olhanense at the Estádio da Luz allowed the Lisbon club to clinch the Primeira Liga title with two matches to spare. They overcame the memory of last season’s epic collapse to win their first League title in four seasons and the 33rd in their long history.

It could end of being a historic year for the Portuguese club. The Eagles are still active in the Portuguese Cup, League Cup and the Europa League. Although, Juventus will be a major challenge in the semi-finals of the Europa League.

After a difficult start to the season which saw them drop points in three of their first six matches, Benfica dominated their opponents the rest of the way and were fully deserving of their title.

Here now are the 5 reasons Benfica won the Portuguese title this season.

Jan Oblak

The goalkeeper is usually the most unheralded member of any championship squad. But in this case, many Benfiquistas will look back at the moment Jan Oblak replaced an injured Artur in a December League match against Olhanense as the turning point of the season. The Slovenian has been solid ever since. And so have Benfica.

Benfica would win 15 out of the next 16 League matches with Oblak as the regular starter. The Slovenian goalkeeper conceded only three goals along the way. Artur was not necessarily at fault for the club’s early season struggles. However, the squad did play much better in front of Oblak.

Squad Adjustments

Jorge Jesus has demonstrated an ability to alter his squad when needed this season. Guilherme Siqueira, Silvio, Ljubomir Fejsa, Lazar Marković and Miralem Sulejmani gave Jesus more options in key positions. In the event of injury or poor form, Jesus was always able to find a more than reliable replacement.

For example, Bruno Cortez proved unconvincing at left-back early in the season. With Silvio unavailable due to injury, Jesus had an excellent option in Guilherme Siqueira. Also, when last season’s Player of the Year Nemanja Matić moved on to the Premier League, his countryman Fejsa was more than able to fill the void.

Ezequiel Garay/Luisão

Benfica’s centre-back pairing was the spine that kept the club together this season. At 33-years-old, Luisão is probably having the best season he has ever had in Portugal. The Brazilian looked determined at the start of the season. He has scored some key goals in Europe as well.

Ezequiel Garay is also having an excellent season. The Argentine has scored six goals in the Portuguese League, a very impressive total for a centre-back. He is widely expected to move on to a bigger club this summer. Garay and Luisão have helped Benfica to the best defensive record in the league.

Squad Depth

As mentioned, Benfica’s summer signings gave manager Jorge Jesus better options. With the exception of Matić, the club did not lose any key players this season. Perhaps motivated by a three-year drought and the memory of last season’s collapse, the club spent heavily in the summer to boost their chances of winning the League.

Their great rivals, FC Porto lost several good players last summer. While, Sporting Lisbon has revived themselves through their famous academy. However, the long-awaited League title will have to wait another year. Benfica’s squad was so deep that Jorge Jesus could afford to rest many of his key players in the Europa League and Cup matches, and often still managed to get a good result.

Maturity and Experience

This year’s Benfica squad was not only deep but also determined and mature. Several players like Oscar Cardozo, Luisão, and Maxi Pereira were on the 2009-10 squad which was the last to win the title. Their maturity and expertise proved valuable this season. Perhaps the memory of last season’s collapse also served as extra motivation.

And with players like Ezequiel Garay, Nicolás Gaitán, and Rodrigo expected to move on this summer, finally winning a League title with the club is no doubt a relief. In the end, Benfica had the right combination of youth, talent and experience to come out on top. Manager Jorge Jesus may have silenced some doubters as well, at least until next season.

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William Carvalho has played a central role in Sporting Lisbon’s early season resurgence. The 21-year old has earned accolades because of his calm demeanour and strength in possession.

Carvalho has played in defensive midfield this season, supporting the back line as well as providing cover for Adrien Silva and Andre Martins to go forward and create opportunities. His excellent displays in pre-season earned him a starting role over Argentine Fito Rinaudo and many predict even greater things for him in the future.

A product of Sporting’s distinguished academy, Carvalho spent the previous camapign on loan in Belgium with Cercle Brugge. His manager at the club Foeke Booy has said that he could evolve into ‘a powerful box-to-box’ midfielder.

Former Sporting interim manager José Couceiro gave Carvalho his first invite to the senior club in 2011 and believes that he could be an option for Portugal as early as the next World Cup

“I think that William will be an option for the Mundial and it is always important for the Seleção to have options. Of course it is up to the manager to select the player or not, but he has already shown a tremendous amount of growth as a player. He has the character and attitude to continue to develop,” he said in a recent interview with A Bola.

In August, the young midfielder was included in Paulo Bento’s pre-squad ahead of a World Cup qualifying match against Northern Ireland and an international friendly against Brazil. Although he was left off the final squad, many believe that Carvalho has a very bright future with the Seleção.

Portugal has been without a ‘true’ defensive mdfielder for several years now. Paulo Bento has used former Sporting captain Miguel Veloso in the role since 2011 and he has performed it well, although the team has shown some defensive weaknesses during qualifying.

Carvalho signed an extension with Sporting in the summer that will see him under contract until June of 2018. The contract includes a release clause of €45million. He is represented by Pini Zahari.

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FEATURE: 7 Portuguese Players Who Could Break Out This Season, Part 1

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Benfica are reportedly close to finalizing a deal that will see talented Portuguese forward Pizzi move to the Portuguese capital, according to several media sources in Portugal.

Football website O Jogo is now reporting that Pizzi’s current club Atlético Madrid will retain 50% of his rights if he does in fact leave for Benfica. Unconfirmed reports have the 23-year old signing a 5 year deal with Os Águias.

Pizzi began playing football with his hometown club Bragança before moving to Sporting Braga in 2007. After a successful loan spell with Atlético Madrid in 2011-12, the La Liga side signed him to a permanent deal.

Pizzi played this past season with Deportivo La Coruña scoring eight goals and notching another 7 assists in 35 matches for the La Liga club. One of his highlights from last season was scoring on a brilliant free kick against FC Barcelona in October.

He has also received one cap with Portugal, playing in a November 2012 friendly against Gabon where he scored on a penalty.

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Benfica have officially signed midfielder Luis Fariña to a five-year deal. The 22-year old, who is known for his pace is a product of the Racing Club de Avellaneda academy, graduating to the senior side in 2009/2010

In an official statement on Benfica’s website, the club describes Fariña as a ‘attacking midfielder who prefers to play on the left side of attack.’

“Quick, Luis Fariña likes to have the ball in his possession, while he still likes to score goals, he prefers to create opportunities for his teammates.”

Fariña spoke to Benfica TV on Wednesday night, expressing his excitement at joining the club.

“I know that Benfica is a very big club, and that means a lot to me because I know that they just do not sign any player. I am very proud to wear the jersey. I know that it is a big responsibility to be part of this club but at the same time its great to have so many supporters,” Fariña said.

“It is a club that has won everything in Portugal, and many other titles. I am very happy to wear the jersey and I hope that the history of the club will continue to grow and that I could win titles with Benfica.”

Photo: Wikipedia Commons/Albumen

Photo: Wikipedia Commons/Albumen

After weeks of speculation, Sporting Lisbon finally confirmed on Tuesday that Colombian striker Fredy Montero will join the club for this upcoming season.

The 25-year old officially signed a one-year loan deal with the Portuguese club with an option for a permanent deal at the end of the season. The player’s rights are owned by Major League Soccer club Seattle Sounders FC.

Montero, however has spent part of this year on loan at Colombian club Millonarios where he scored 5 goals in 16 matches.

The Colombian was unveiled to the public at the Estádio José Alvalade on Tuesday night where he expressed his excitement at finally getting the opportunity to play in Europe.

“I am very happy and proud to come to one of the best clubs in Portugal. I hope I could start to train with my teammates soon and help the club win games,” Montero said.

“I am a player that likes to score goals. As a forward, I like to be close to the ball, but I also like to create goals for my teammates as well.”

Montero was reminded of the success of fellow Colombian strikers Radamel Falcao and Jackson Martinez in Portugal over recent years. He quickly dismissed any comparisons but added that the two players do provide an extra motivation to succeed.

“I hope I could have the same success. They have demonstrated how good they are but my future is with Sporting. I hope I could leave a good impression here. They [Falcao and Martinez] have already made history here, for me my history begins today,” Montero added.

“I am going to try to demonstrate my talent as a player and reach the heights that Sporting has become accustomed to. We all have ambition but the most important thing is to create a strong group, play at a high level, capable of reaching the top.”

GIL VICENTE - SPORTING    ( 2012/2013 )

Portuguese winger Bruma is looking to have his contract with Sporting Lisbon declared null and void so he could transfer to a different club. The 18-year old and his agent Catió Baldé have been frustrated by the slow pace of a contract extension with the club, and are looking to have his latest contract declared invalid by a court.

Bruma is said to have signed a contract with the Portuguese club in 2011 that reportedly has him under contract until 2014 with a buyout clause of €30million. His lawyer Bebiano Gomes is hoping that his client will be considered a free agent and therefore move freely to any club he chooses.

Gomes told Portuguese television station TVI this week, “At this moment, his mind is completely set at leaving Sporting.”

The 20-year-old winger who has been courted by many of Europe’s biggest clubs told Portuguese football website A Bola that he is disappointed with the situation.

“I profoundly regret how this process has played its self out. I did everything to stay at Sporting and I made it clear to my representatives that I wanted to reach an agreement,” Bruma said. “Throughout this time, Sporting has made little effort to re-sign me.”

“I want to avoid any sort of controversy with Sporting, and its fans as well. I am a professional and I will continue my career.”

In a bizarre case this week, elements of the supporters group Juventude Leonina (Young Lions) reportedly attempted to kidnap Bruma at the hotel he was staying at.

There were also some unconfirmed reports that league rivals FC Porto were trying to sign the player who is still technically under contract with Sporting, which would be against league rules and subject to major penalties.

Bruma burst on the scene last season with Sporting Lisbon in February. A natural winger, Bruma’s skill on the ball and impressive scoring ability has led to comparisons with Cristiano Ronaldo. He also scored five goals in four matches at the recent U-20 World Cup for Portugal.

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Benfica have officially signed Argentine central defender Lisandro López from Arsenal de Sarandi. The deal is for five years and will reportedly include a €35million buyout clause.

The 23-year-old told Benfica TV that former Benfiquista midfielder Pablo Aimar played a role in him choosing the Lisbon club.

“Pablo Aimar and I have spoken several times and he has said that Lisbon is very beautiful and that Benfica is a magical club. He advised me to take advantage of the opportunity to work with so many Argentinian players who could help me adapt easily,” Lopez said.

“I have played with Arsenal de Sarandí since I was 20 years old, playing in over 100 matches and gaining a good amount of experience. It helped me transfer to one of the best clubs in Europe.”

It is believed that Lopez was brought in to potentially replace countryman Ezequiel Garay who has been widely linked to a move to Manchester United. Club captain Luisão is also 32 years of age and is expected to fade.

Benfica have also signed central defenders Steven Vitória and Stefan Mitrović this summer.

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TRANSFER WINDOW: Benfica Officially Sign Serbian Central Defender Stefan Mitrović

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Benfica presented Stefan Mitrović to the media on Tuesday in an official news conference at the Estádio da Luz. The 23-year-old Serbian has signed a new five-year contract with the Portuguese club.

Mitrović will come at a transfer fee of €1,2million, according to the Portuguese football website O Jogo. He is expected to join Benfica’s B squad immediately, with the possibility of contending for a starting position in the near future.

He spent last season with Belgian club K.V. Kortrijk, where he scored three goals in 28 matches in all competitions for the club.

Mitrović spoke about the growing number of Serbian players at Benfica and how that influenced his decision to join the Lisbon club. “I was glad to see so many Serbian players join Benfica because I think they will bring a new energy to the club. I hope we can win trophies together next season.”

“It is a big step forward in my career and I am very proud to represent Benfica next season,” Mitrović added.

“I am going to give everything to Benfica. On the field I will give it all. I hope to play in many matches and contribute towards winning many titles.”

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Benfica officially announced the signing of Portuguese-Canadian defender Steven Vitória to a four-year deal on Sunday. The 26-year-old Vitória spent the last three seasons with Estoril. He comes to Benfica on a free transfer.

Standing at 1,95m, Vitória is known for his size, strength in marking, and ability to score goals, particularly on penalties. He scored 11 goals in 27 matches for Estoril this year, 8 were from the spot.

Vitória is also known for taking excellent free-kicks, which is extremely rare for a defender. He scored a terrific goal against FC Porto in a Taca da Liga match in December 2012.

The Toronto-born Vitória began playing football with the Woodbridge Strikers. In 2005, he moved to FC Porto’s youth academy. In 2007, he represented Portugal at the U-20 World Cup held in Canada.

Vitória would soon find it hard to graduate to FC Porto’s senior club and was loaned to Tourizense, Olhanense and Covilhã. In 2010 he signed with Lisbon suburban club Estoril, which was at the time languishing in the second division of Portuguese football.

In 2012, Estoril were promoted to the top division and many clubs took notice of Vitória. He was a major part in the club finishing an impressive fifth in their first season back in the first division.

Vitória told Benfica TV on Sunday that he remembers listening to broadcasts of Benfica matches on his father’s radio in Toronto while growing up.

“Joining Benfica is a dream come true. I have reached the biggest club in Portuguese football and I want to win it all,” he said. “This is the first day in the rest of my life. I come to help the club win.”

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