Having finished 2nd in the league, lifting the Supertaca, the Taca da Liga and being knocked out in the semi-finals of the Taca de Portugal we knew much work was ahead if we were to dominate domestically as a Footballing side. Our main problem last season was the lack of goals in the final-third which led us to draw far too many goals, ultimately costing us too many points as we struggled to a second place finish.
To help with the issue of reinforcing the side, I made some transfers throughout the season which really helped our cause. The first decision of course, was to sell the players I didn’t think were good enough to help generate some funds.
A lot of sales were made throughout the course of the season. Andre Carrillo left the club due to the large number of options available in his position, he was ultimately sacrificed to pave way for the younger players, despite only being 24 years old himself.
Julian Weigl only arrived in the last transfer window and was somebody that I largely hoped on keeping. But Arsenal came calling and a bid of €22.5m seemed too good to turn down for a player who was seemingly looking for a way out anyway.
Fejsa, Marcal, Djuricic and Eliseu all left the club in search of first-team football. Although they’re all very talented players, they simply don’t fit the bill here at Benfica and so they move on to greener pastures.
Alex Grimaldo is probably the only other player worth talking about. Although he’s a superb full-back, his temperament was poor and he began to disrupt morale in the changing room with his constant whining. Roma submitted a bid I thought to be acceptable and so he leaves the club for €4m.
The rest of the players were cut from the squad as they weren’t good enough. I’m not even going to justify Jonas‘ move as he really sank the dagger in my back. I played him a lot and treated him to the best of my ability but he seemed anything but confident in my ability, and so he moves to Italian stragglers Udinese. In total, little over €68m was raised.
But with this many outgoing players, surely there had to be replacements? Well, yes of course.
Marcal, Eliseu and Grimaldo’s departures left us with no suitable left-sided fullbacks at the club and so Brazilian duo Zeca and Jorge come in for a combined fee of €12.45m to add strength in that area of the pitch. Little above them on the pitch will be Portuguese winger Raphael Guerreiro who joins from Borussia Dortmund for a club record fee of €11.5m, a suitable back-up for Goncalo Guedes and a player I very much admire.
Samir and Noguera come in to add even more strength to our back-line while fellow south Americans Jonathan Calleri and Duvan Zapata look to strengthen our forward line in an attempt to fire us to domestic and European glory.
Alphonse Areola and Walter Tosetto are two Goalkeepers I have brought in as I look to give competition to the number one spot currently occupied by former Inter Milan shot-stopper Julio Cesar, Areola joins on a seasonal loan while Tosetto looks to work as more of an understudy until Cesar hangs his gloves up for the final time.
Finally, Benfica icon Renato Sanches returns to Lisbon on a season-long loan deal from German giants Bayern Munich. His home-grown status and passion for the club are exactly what we’re looking for as we look to strengthen the spine of the team. Around €62m was spent on bringing all of these players in.
So how did the season go with all of these acquisitions?
I believe this picture somewhat sums things up. We managed to go the entire 34 games unbeaten in the league while also remaining unbeaten in the cups. An entirely unbeaten domestic season for a club who looked to struggle so much last season.
We ended up winning the league by only 10 points despite not losing a single game with Sporting Lisbon finishing in 2nd. The 2 defeats suffered by Sporting were both home and away ties against ourselves while Porto seemed to be much poorer throughout the entirety of the campaign. This is a feat I’ve never achieved before and I’m absolutely over the moon with how it has turned out. Onwards and upwards from here!
Here is the confirmation of our dominance in the domestic cup competitions, back to back Taca de Liga victories means we’ve now played 10 games in that competition without being defeated. A surprising result against Sporting Lisbon meant that we faced Segunda side Portimonense in the Final, although the quality of Salvio is what split the teams on the day. A domestic treble in my second season, incredible stuff.
We also endured a successful campaign in the UEFA Champions League where we managed to one-up last years campaign by reaching the semi-finals before being swept aside by English side Arsenal who eventually went on to lift the famous trophy. The highlight of the tournament for me was the thrilling 3-2 win against Manchester United at Old Trafford as well as being put to the test at home in a game which finished with the same result. A superb run, we exceeded all expectations.
Although we’ve already won everything possible, I’m still looking for us to consistently produce this feat while challenging in the European competitions. The job at Benfica is far from over, so don’t be fooled!