Benfica: How the Portuguese side would look if they kept their best players, including Raul Jimenez, Angel Di Maria, and Jan Oblak
Wolverhampton Wanderers announced the club-record signing of Raul Jimenez on Thursday, who had initially joined on a year-long deal from Benfica last summer.
He is Wolves’ top scorer with 15 goals, which has helped send the club to seventh in the Premier League, as well as firing them into Sunday’s FA Cup semi-final against Watford.
A Mexico international, Jimenez spent three years with Benfica, scoring 22 times in 101 games after joining from Atletico Madrid in 2015.
The Portuguese giants are renowned for their excellent academy which has produced players like Goncalo Guedes and Renato Sanches in recent years, while they have also had a number of top-class South American players such as Angel Di Maria and David Luiz pass through their club on the way to superstardom.
Over the years, Benfica have sold many of their players who have gone onto become world-class, achieving much success in other leagues and had they kept hold, they would have had a pretty formidable starting XI.
But what would it look like? Find out below.
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Goalkeeper – Jan Oblak
Oblak moved to Benfica from Olimpija Ljubljana in 2010 at the age of 17. Several loan spells followed and it would be three years until he finally got the chance to impress.
A series of mistakes from first-choice Artur prompted Oblak’s inclusion into the first-team in 2013/14 and impressive spell in the side saw him named goalkeeper of the year.
He then moved on to Atletico Madrid in 2014 and is now considered one of the best in the world.
In 2017/18, he had the best save success rate (85.8%) of keepers in Europe’s top five leagues and in November 2018, he kept his 100th clean sheet for Atletico, a feat which he achieved in just 178 games.
Right-back – Nelson Semedo
After coming through the ranks at third division side Sintrense, the full-back was signed by Benfica and after a loan spell and two-and-a-half years with the club’s B team he was in the first XI.
Once there he impressed enough for Barcelona to swoop for his services in 2017 and while his debut campaign at the Camp Nou wasn’t a smash hit, he’s now adapted and is an asset to the Blaugrana.
Left-back – Joao Cancelo
A full-back capable of playing on both flanks isn’t as common as it used to be but they’re highly sought after when they’re as good as Cancelo.
The Portugal ace is now having a fine time of it at Juventus after spell at Valencia and Inter Milan and it’s understandable when he’s playing with compatriot Cristiano Ronaldo in a team who seem set to win the Serie A title.
He only made one appearance for Benfica’s senior side but was a regular with their B squad for two campaigns.
Centre-back – Victor Lindelof
Now at Manchester United, the Sweden international joined the Portuguese club at 16 and spent a year in their youth team, before making the step up. After an extended period in the B team, Lindelof made 73 appearances for the first-team and this earned him a move to the Premier League and after initially struggling in England, he has been a consistent performer this season.
Centre-back – David Luiz
The shaggy-haired Brazilian played 132 times for Benfica after initially joining the club on loan from Vitoria in 2007.
He would remain with the club until January 2011, when he would move on to Chelsea.
In his first spell at Stamford Bridge, Luiz helped the Blues to win the Champions League, FA Cup and Europa League. Paris Saint-Germain came calling and he left for two and-a-half years, but rejoined Chelsea once more in 2016.
Midfield – Nemanja Matic
After only playing three times in his first stint at Chelsea, the towering midfielder moved to Benfica, where he played for three seasons, winning the league title and Portuguese League Cup.
Like Luiz, Matic returned to Chelsea and was integral to their success under Jose Mourinho. He remains in the Premier League with Manchester United although his form is now showing some signs of decline.
Midfield – Renato Sanches
A product of the Benfica academy, Sanches went on to play 35 games for the first team, before being snapped up by Bayern Munich and in turn became the first Portuguese player to ever sign for them.
The club loaned him out to Swansea in 2017 and he endured a nightmare spell in the Premier League, with injuries and poor performances denting his reputation.
He has since returned to form with Bayern and is enjoying a sustained run in the team.
Midfield – Axel Witsel
As is common among several players on this list, Witsel spent just one season at Benfica after joining them in 2011 from Standard Liege.
He became a fan favourite in that short period and later joined Russian club Zenit Saint Petersburg, and then Chinese side Tianjin Quanjin.
The Belgian, who is his country’s second most capped player on 97, has returned to Europe and is plying his trade with Borussia Dortmund.
Right winger – Bernardo Silva
Amazing to think that Silva only played three times for the first-team, before going on to make his name with Monaco.
Once in Ligue 1 he helped Leonardo Jardim’s men to win Ligue 1 in 2016/17.
The skilful midfielder is now an integral part of Manchester City’s dominant side and won the Premier League title in his first season at the Etihad.
Left winger – Angel Di Maria
In three seasons, Di Maria played 124 games in the colours of Benfica before moving to Real Madrid in 2010.
A first-team regular at Los Blancos, he memorably scored in the 2014 Champions League final and then signed for Manchester United, but failed to settle in England, despite a promising start.
Now with PSG, he remains a regular with Argentina too.
Striker – Raul Jimenez
After a less than impressive spell at Atletico Madrid upon his arrival in Europe, Jimenez moved to Benfica where in all competitions he was competent, yet not prolific, forward, netting 31 goals in 120 matches.
At Wolves he has flourished further, scoring 12 times in the Premier League, which is no mean feat in a debut season for a promoted club.
Now his permanent deal is done he could well continue to thrive under Nuno Espirito Santo.
Source: SportsLatest TS