The Eagles continue to acquire some of the world’s finest young talent before selling them on for huge profits and we take a look at their latest batch of profitable prospects
By Rupert Fryer
Much like Liga rivals Porto, Benfica have excelled in football’s modern marketplace. Adapting to their surroundings with success both on the pitch and the balance sheets, they too have learned to utilise the eternal pool of talent to be found in South America, with the club’s vast team of scouts endlessly combing the continent in search of the next Ramires, David Luiz or Angel Di Maria.
However the Eagles have proved themselves less inclined to limit their shopping trips to a single continent, having also found value closer to home. The likes of Axel Witsel and Javi Garcia were acquired from European neighbours before being flipped for huge profits and Ola John, Nemanja Matic and Rodrigo could well be set to follow in their footsteps.
Benfica’s transfer market dealings have generated profits of over €100 million since they last lifted the league title in 2010 and, unbeaten so far this campaign, they are well placed to wrestle the championship away from Porto. Jorge Jesus’ side sit four points clear at the top of Liga Sagres with just four matches remaining.
This summer the vultures will swoop once again, and so as O Glorioso go in search of their first major continental title in over half a century since Bela Guttmann’s infamous curse on the club, Goal.com takes a closer look at some of those who will be in the shop window come the end of the current campaign.
|NICOLAS GAITAN | FORWARD, 25
Acquired from Boca Juniors for around €8 million in 2010, his immediate success in Portugal came as no surprise to those who had been watching him dazzle La Bombonera crowd alongside Juan Roman Riquelme for two years. Able to operate on either flank or centrally as a playmaker, he boasts the ability to go either side when attacking defenders, has a keen eye for a pass and a fearsome left foot.
Those attributes were certainly on display when he starred in what will likely be his side’s goal of the season last week, twisting and turning to evade two Sporting defenders before playing a quick one-two and drifting over a perfect cross for Rodrigo Lima to volley home.
Manchester United have long been linked with a move for the Argentine, with some members of the English press reporting it as a done deal last year, but Benfica’s asking price of around €25 million may well have scared them off. The fee would do little to quash the interest of Anzhi, however, while Inter, Paris Saint-Germain and Monaco have also been linked with a move for the 25-year-old.
|EZEQUIEL GARAY | Defender, 26
Central defender Ezequiel Garay joined from Real Madrid after Benfica expressed an interested while negotiating the sale of Fabio Coentrao to los Blancos. The former Newell’s Old Boys defender had arrived at the Bernabeu from Racing Santander amid much fanfare in 2008, but saw his playing time in the Spanish capital restricted by injuries before failing to break into Jose Mourinho’s first team.
After three years, he needed a move, and has since recaptured the form he showed as a youngster, cementing a place in Alejandro’s Sabella’s Argentina side. He reads the game extremely well, happy to sweep up behind his colleagues, and is very comfortable passing out of defence, though injuries have perhaps cost him some of the pace he was once able to use to recover ground. He is used to playing alongside a tough partner so could fit in well alongside the likes of Nemanja Vidic at Manchester United.
The Red Devils have been heavily linked with a move for the 26-year-old, who recently joined the ranks of super agent Jorge Mendes, in what has been reported as a move to help force through a transfer to the Premier League champions. Barcelona and Chelsea are also said to taking a close look, while Real Madrid are believed to be considering brining him back as they prepare to offload Ricardo Carvalho and Raul Albiol this summer.
|NEMANJA MATIC| Midfielder, 24
The big Serbia international made to the move to Portugal as part of the mega-money deal that took Ramires to Chelsea after failing to break into the first team setup at Stamford Bridge and may well be on his way back to the Premier League this summer.
At well over six-foot, the 24-year-old is every bit the contemporary European midfielder, with the lung power and the brute strength to dominate the midfield battleground, equally willing to burst forward or drop deep during transitions. Relatively two-footed, he has often displayed a deft of touch when flicking through balls over the top of opposition defences, but has some work to do in order to make the most of his size in aerial battles.
Matic has really come of age this season, finding a consistency that he has perhaps lacked in the past, and has been widely tipped as not only Benfica’s Player of the Season, but as the finest performer in all of Portugal. Man Utd are said to be front-runners for his signature should he fly the Eagles’ nest and Juventus and Roma have also been linked with the Kosice man, though it will take a hefty bid to persuade the club to let him leave after recently penning a new deal that upped his release clause to €45 milion.
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