- Benfica have a business model of selling on stars for massive profit
- They have bought stars on the cheap and developed them in Lisbon
- Examples include Manchester City’s Ederson, Victor Lindelof and Luka Jovic
- They have also produced Joao Felix and Bernardo Silva from their academy
- Sportsmail puts together an XI of stars they have sold in the last decade
Benfica’s scouting system is the envy of Europe.
In the last decade the Portuguese champions have got into the habit of unearthing gems from European football’s backwaters and selling them on for massive profits.
Add to that an academy that has produced the likes of Atletico Madrid’s £113m new boy Joao Felix and Manchester City star Bernardo Silva and it’s a surprise that the Lisbon club have not achieved more success in continental competition.
They have, however, raked in around £500m from players sale since 2011 and a composite team of those players would take some beating.
Here, Sportsmail runs through an XI the stars that Benfica have held on their books…
There is arguably no finer example of Benfica’s excellent scouting system than the fact that they were able to pick up Ederson from fellow Portuguese outfit Rio Ave in 2015 for a paltry six-figure sum and sell him to Manchester City just two years later for a whopping £35m. Has established himself as one of the world’s best keepers but only just gets the nod ahead of another in that category: Jan Oblak.
Ederson makes a save from Porto’s Yacine Brahimi during an O Classico clash in April 2017
Followed the well-trodden path from Benfica to Barcelona for an initial £26m in 2017 having established himself as one of Europe’s best young full backs in his season-and-a-half in the Benfica first-team. Had been picked up from Portuguese third-tier side Sintrense as a teenager in 2012.
There is a clear pattern emerging here. Lindelof was another picked up for a modest fee from a small club before being sold on for big money to a European giant. Lindelof took three years to establish himself as a first-team regular in Lisbon after his move from Vasteras in his Swedish homeland in 2011 but Manchester United were soon interested and he completed a £40m move to Old Trafford in 2017.
Victor Lindelof rides the challenge of Sporting’s Ezequiel Schelotto in a 2017 Lisbon derby
Capable of the sublime and the ridiculous, the Brazilian defender has been one of the faces of European and world football in the last decade – and it was at Benfica where he made his name. Luiz, now 32, made his first move to Chelsea for £22m in January 2011 after four increasingly impressive seasons at Benfica. He had moved to Portugal from Brazilian minnows Vitoria.
The inimitable David Luiz emerged at Benfica before enjoying two spells at Chelsea
A right back by trade, we crow-barred Cancelo in at left back to allow for him and Semedo in the same side. Still in the early part of his career, Cancelo has emerged as one of the best full backs in Europe with his rampaging displays. Came through the Benfica academy before joining Valencia for £13m in 2015 after an initial loan.
Joao Cancelo in his Benfica days in July 2014 (left) and playing for Juventus this summer (right)
Few players can have had a more varied career-path than Belgium’s midfield lynchpin Witsel, who has played in Liege, Lisbon, St Petersburg, Tianjin and now Dortmund. He only spent a year at Benfica but, as is their wont, they turned over a huge profit on him when they sold him to Zenit for £35m in 2012.
Axel Witsel (left) spent just a season in Lisbon but they turned in a tidy profit for his signature
Matic is the embodiment of what Benfica can do to a player’s career. He arrived as a raw but unfulfilled talent from Chelsea in 2011 as part of the deal that took Luiz to Stamford Bridge. He then left, back to Chelsea, three years later for £21m, having blossomed into one of Europe’s finest holding midfielders. The Blues effectively paid Benfica £21m to send Matic on a three-year loan. Not bad business at all.
Nemanja Matic blossomed at Benfica when he moved as part of the deal taking Luiz to Chelsea
Silva has emerged as one of the best attacking midfielders in Europe with Manchester City and Monaco over the past few seasons, but incredibly he only played three times for Benfica having come through their academy. They did pocket £14m for his sale to the French side in 2015 though.
Bernardo Silva played just three times for Benfica (left) but is as a key man for Man City (right)
If Benfica experienced the rare feeling of being short-changed with Bernardo’s emergence, then they must be incredibly pleased with themselves for netting £113m for the sale of Joao Felix to Atletico Madrid this summer. Even if, as expected, he becomes one of the world’s best players, that’s an incredible fee for a player with just 43 first-team appearances – and one who arch rivals Porto let go for nothing.
Joao Felix recently joined Atletico Madrid (right) after a stellar season for Benfica (left)
Angel di Maria
Completing a scarily good trio behind the frontman is Argentinian winger Di Maria, who Benfica sold to Real Madrid for £32m in 2010. Benfica took a punt on him as a promising winger playing for Rosario Central in his homeland, and like so many before and after him he used the club as a springboard to major success.
Angel di Maria emerged at Benfica before joining Real Madrid, Manchester United and PSG
Real Madrid’s new £53m recruit is a rare example of Benfica missing out on a major profit for a player, but is more proof of their ability to unearth gems from minor leagues around the world. Jovic failed to score in four matches for Benfica having been signed from Red Star Belgrade in 2016, and he was sent out to Eintracht Frankfurt on loan. The Bundesliga club exercised to make the deal permanent for just £6m in April this year before cashing in this summer.
Luka Jovic struggled to make an impact in Lisbon but has just joined Real Madrid for £53m
TOTAL COST: £344m
Jan Oblak (Atletico Madrid, £14m), Fabio Coentrao (Real Madrid, £26m), Ramires(Chelsea, £19m), Renato Sanches (Bayern Munich, £31m), Goncalo Guedes (PSG, £26m), Rodrigo (Valencia, £26m), Raul Jimenez (Wolves, £30m)
If you thought we’d scratched together an XI then think again! Oblak, one of the world’s best keepers, only makes the bench as do a host of top class players. The combined cost of the bench and the XI together is a staggering £490m.