When Rui Vitoria was presented as manager this past summer one of the main objectives both he and Luis Filipe Veiria stressed was the development of youth players. For many fans this was something that had been sorry lacking under Jorge Jesus and so we remained cautiously optimistic about what that future looked like. It would not take long to see as almost immediately players like Nelson Semedo and Gonçalo Guedes were thrown into the mix, setting a precedent that they would be integral to the team. Even Victor Andrade had a small stint, though many were confused why as he had not featured during pre season, yet he scored a valuable goal.
The 2015-16 season has brought many changes to Benfica. Beginning with a new manager and several new players, there have been both good and bad moments along the way. The lows are definitely the losses the team has encountered, including the three against Sporting and the one to Porto. The team has also seen a number of injuries especially those to Luisao, Nelson Semedo, and the long term absence of Salvio. Gaitan has also suffered a few injuries in the past few weeks which has lead to several games having a very uncreative touch to the team. Yet despite all of the hardships, including the doubt of many (myself included) of Rui Vitoria, the team currently stands in second place on 37 points, just 4 behind Sporting. Which, a few months ago, seems like an unlikely place to be.
Signing Bryan Cristante was exciting for many fans. Although quite a few of us had no idea who this young was, the reactions from those who were fans of AC Milan made it seem as if we had gotten a deal of a lifetime. AC Milan fans were quite upset that a bright prospect had chose to leave, in hopes of being able to play far more often then Milan were able to give him at the time.
The first thought many of us had when Jorge Jesus joined Sporting was, "the first official game between the two will be the Supertaça" and we all began to lick our lips in anticipation. Leading up to the game, much being said on the side of our rivals, with various comments clearly meant to play mind games as well as to antagonize Benfica. Benfica, for the most part, avoided responding and focused on the game at hand which is a breath of fresh air to have a coach who chooses not to respond to said idiocy.
Going into the game, the lineup was a bit of a surprise. No Luisao meant that Lisandro Lopez would get the start, as well as several surprising inclusions. Julio Cesar started in goal, with Nelson Semedo, Jardel, Lisandro Lopez, and Silvio were across the back. Fejsa and Samaris occupied the defensive midfield role with Talisca, Gaitan, and Ola John playing the wingers and forward and Jonas was alone as the sole striker. On the bench would see Ederson, Andrea Almeida, Eliseu, Gonçalo Guedes, Pizzi, Jonathan Rodriguez, and new boy Mitroglou.
As pre-season winds down for Benfica and the new season approaches, it is time to take a look back at what Rui Vitoria has done in his first month in charge of Benfica, especially with the International Champions Cup. Overall, it has been a positive experience, in my own opinion. We do not know when exactly he was officially contacted by Benfica, but chances are he probably did not expect to spend his summer in America with Benfica, so some of the bad can still be ironed out before the season begins. Yes, Benfica did lose three games and won only one, on penalties, but the overall performances by Benfica were not bad and showed us fans what can be possible with the right starting eleven.
So it begins….the end of Jorge Jesus’ reign at Benfica. The past few days have been a whirlwind, with the news breaking yesterday that Jesus would join Sporting. The rumors have persisted for a few weeks, but many including myself, dismissed them as nothing but rumored headlines to sell papers. Many of us believed he might leave at the end of the season, to perhaps go abroad and try that out as a one last hurrah. We all could have welcomed that and even supported it. To see a coach we all cared about go and do something beyond Benfica.
While many look back at the season in terms of games won or lost, I’m using this opportunity to look at the progress of players. Individual games are important, no doubt, such as both Porto games, Braga, Pacos, Sporting, etc. Yet looking at the season for me, means looking at this team not only as a whole but also at players singularly to realize their contribution and for some, their improvement over the course of the past eleven months. Some have been solid rocks while others have wavered over whether or not they should be bench warmers or potentially even sold in January. Whatever their situation, this is a post that will look at them case by case and to give performance ratings for each. This will also not include all players, as many did not play enough for me to really given an evaluation, so it is the usual starting eleven with a few others added in.
Warning: This is super long. I really do apologize for that.
This had been a post in the making for sometime, mostly coming from various conversations and discussions between myself and also from others. It is about the language barriers and language differences that exist within Benfica. I want to preface this by using a disclaimer that this is just my own opinion and take on the situation and is not an attack on anyone else for having a difference of opinion. It is instead meant to be a conversation starter and for myself, to try and understand the situation.
In my last post I stated I knew no Portuguese in the beginning and even today, my Portuguese is still limited. Being a full time university student means I don't always have the time to study the language as well as I'd like but I do read news and watch as much tv as I can. With that stated, I don't think I'm less of a fan for not always understand the language. That's why in fact there are places that post news not only in English but as well as various other languages. They know not everyone speaks Portuguese. As fans, we are often cut slack for not knowing the languages of the teams we support. People are impressed if one does understand, often highlighted by the fact that learning a new language is hard and Portuguese is no exception. I'm good at school, but I can tell you learning languages is not my strong point. For some it is much easier and a more natural process and for those like myself, it is a long journey to fully grasp another language.
Seven years ago, I met my best friend, who ironically enough is a Porto fan but despite that, it was through our friendship, I was introduced to the world of Portuguese football. Now seven years and six seasons later, I consider myself a bonafide Benfiquista, although at times I definitely know I have much to learn about the club, the fans, and the culture. What I do know and what I'm confident about, is my love for the club, for my fellow fans, and for the friends I've made. This isn't just about me, it is about my relationship with the club, and how I view the club. This is why I will stick with them and why I have felt the connected, thousands of miles away. As I began to watch Benfica in the 2009-10, I found myself becoming more and more interested in them, from the history to the culture, to the various players that were there as well as in the past. I began to understand why people supported the team. Players like David Luiz, Pablo Aimar, Angel Di Maria, and Saviola helped to cement my love for this team, who were so fantastic and showed what a a united team is capable of, and what it means to be a family in football. Even through the three seasons after, while Porto dominated and Benfica stumbled, I never once thought that I would just stop watching and find a new team. I had already felt so connected to this team that not winning became upsetting because I knew this team was capable of so much more. Winning again the past two season felt so right and so perfect as this team, even though the player changes, reminded me of why I had started watching in 2009.
An American living in Los Angeles, focused mainly on Sport Lisboa e Benfica as well as Portuguese players abroad. Documenting opinions and news about Benfica.