I try to keep these season review posts pretty short, focusing on our ultimate goal of winning the Champions League and then briefly go through the rest of the results. I gave us a 10% chance of winning the Champions League ahead of this season, which reflected my feeling that we both lacked the depth and quality to become serious title contenders.
Just like last season this was another tough group for us and we looked set for a third place finish ahead of the group stage. However, we managed to perform above expectations with four wins and a single loss (away to Real Madrid 0-3) making us finish top of the group. We repair the poor performance from last season and have a knockout stage to look forward to! 10% chance of winning? Make it 11!
One game really stood out, for obvious reasons! We traveled to Moscow with the hopes of coming home with three points and we certainly did it! After only nine minutes the win was pretty much in the bag after an early brace from Gedson Fernandes. We played spectacular football and just kept scoring from that point, even though the Lokomotiv defenders didn’t put up too much of a fight. Lokomotiv defender Carriço‘s rating of 2.3 is one of the lowest I’ve ever seen, which might be natural considering that he was involved in most of our eleven goals.
Roma was pretty much a dream draw for us compared to the other teams. Quite an unusual but pleasant feeling to go into the first knockout round as favorites and we managed to live up to the expectations. Two solid performances later and we’re through to the quarter final!
We continued to impress at home against giants Liverpool in the first quarter final leg, and hopes began to rise of a potential historic win. These hopes were however mercilessly crushed at Anfield. Liverpool won 4-1 and this season’s Champions League adventure ends at the quarter final stage. I’m quite impressed with us going this far with our young team, but we still feel quite far off being real contenders for the win.
An utter disappointment. We finished 2nd in the Portuguese Premier League behind fierce rivals FC Porto, but well ahead of newly promoted comeback team Sporting. At least we’ll play Champions League football again next season.
The B squad won the 2nd division with a huge 16 point gap down to 2nd placed Gil Vicente who won promotion together with Estoril.
The U19s failed once again to conquer FC Porto in the U19 first division, but got a bit of revenge by winning the U23 Premier League.
So, no new Golden Generation like last year, but one player emerging as possibly “one of the best players of his generation” sounds really promising! I’ve been disappointed countless times, but when you see this it usually means that there is one player of 4.5-5 star potential in there! Let’s look at the actual youth candidates to see what quality there is.
Yes, a five star talent! But that’s pretty much it. A bit of a disappointment unless Diogo Sousa, our five star talent, turns out to be a true world-beater. Let’s look at him to see if we still feel disappointed…
He looks like the real deal! The holy defensive trinity of Heading-Marking-Tackling is where he shines technically, making him a natural central defender. With both nice mentals and physicals to go along with that he might be a future giant in our central defense!
After a brief look at the future, we’ll focus a bit on what’s happening with the squad at the moment.
The end of the line – Goodbye to the 99s!
The first golden Benfica generation for many years, the 99s, were destined for glory. They still are, but sadly not at Benfica. Ahead of this season Premier League giants had already snatched João Felix, Jota and Francisco Trincão from us, leaving big holes in the squad due to our restriction of only signing U18 players.
This means that not many of the Golden 99s remained with the club to celebrate their 22nd birthday. Trincão left for Liverpool earlier in the season. Nuno Santos and Godfried Frimpong left the club for pocket change at age 22. Surprisingly our remaining A squad players didn’t garner enough interest to be sold, which meant that high profile youngsters Joveljic, Gedson Fernandes, Mile Svilar and Alexander Isak were mercilessly moved to the U23 squad. Hopefully we’ll be able to sell them in the next transfer window!
While our oldest players didn’t appeal to the European top clubs, one of our younger players did. Liverpool tried to steal one of our youngest stars, Raúl Ferreira. Since he didn’t have a professional contract we would only have received a €1.5M compensation fee, but we managed to get him to stay by signing a (rather expensive) professional contract. I think it’s worth it since I really want to keep the best players that come in through our own youth intake. There is something really special about these guys in my opinion.
I’ve had my requests of a stadium expansion rejected over and over again. We fill the stadium when we play in the Champions League and in the games against FC Porto and Sporting, but not in the rest of the domestic cup and league games, so I could understand the reasoning behind not wanting to spend a lot of money on a rebuild. On the other hand we have a very stable financial situation and could certainly afford a rebuild. A bigger stadium would also increase our revenues even more and show the rest of the world that we’re becoming a force to be reckoned with. Then, out of the blue at the end of the season the board announce massive expansion plans, raising the capacity with 16000 seats to a total capacity of 73532! I’m both excited and surprised. It will be interesting to see how often (or even if) we fill our new capacity!
With 3 seasons of our challenge to win the Champions League done we need to step it up. We are closing in on the Big dogs, but we are still quite far away from the European top. In the next episode we’ll look at the preparations ahead of our 4th season.
Thanks for reading another excellent post by Mikaelinho. You can follow him on Twitter here:
- Twitter: @mikaelinhofm