While this update will primarily focus on my club career with Benfica, I thought I’d post a little bit of information regarding the 2018 World Cup, located in Russia. Belgium ran out overall winners under the leadership of former Swansea, Wigan and Everton Manager Robert Martinez. A fantastic achievement for the young nation as they beat holders Germany 2-0 to lift the famous trophy. Portugal fell short in the second round having been drawn against Brazil, a disappointing 4-1 defeat for the European Champions.
Cameroon could be viewed as the overachievers of the tournament having reached the Quarter-Finals but ultimately fell 4-2 to beaten finalists Germany. England also enjoyed a successful tournament, by our standards anyway, having reached the semi-finals. Despite Portugal’s poor performance, manager Fernando Santos managed to keep his position at the helm, meaning I wouldn’t be in with a shout of taking the reigns, not yet anyway.
Back to Benfica…
Failure to retain the domestic treble last season has left a sour taste in my mouth. While the board are content with my position and my job is safe, I’m disappointed in my own ability in failing to lead my team to the heights they were at last season. Some of our key players were already looking for a way out of the club and I felt some arrivals would be needed to help reinforce the squad, it was always going to be a busy window.
A few big sales and a grand total of €71.5m were brought in through the sales of 6 players, with one leaving on a free transfer. While most of these players featured in my plans for the upcoming season, some of the players themselves were seeking moves away with the bigger clubs expressing interest. I wasn’t going to risk disrupting morale.
Bar the nightmare own goal he scored last season, Zeca was a player who performed at the highest level. The player arrived for €3.2m from Santos a year earlier and he quickly proved his worth with consistent performances down the left-side, but when Bayern came in with a €25m bid, it was a price we couldn’t reject, so he leaves the club for a healthy profit of €21.8m.
Orbelin Pineda is a player I was disappointed in losing, the Mexican played roughly 20 times for us last season and was a top performer when called upon but a breakdown in contract talks led to his departure. While I agree good players deserve a good contract, he was demanding €110,000 a week having been on only €25,000 before, I couldn’t justify quadrupling his wages and so he moves to Germany for a relatively small fee of €22.5m.
Roberto Rosales only arrived last season from Malaga for €6.5m and already he returns back to the same club for a loss of €1m, effectively it was a year long loan deal and he did the job he was brought in to do, covering for the injured Semedo, but with the return of our star full-back there is simply no room in the squad for Roberto.
Brazilian duo Julio César and Diego Lopes both leave the club with the former returning to Brazil to finish his career, Julio has been a great servant for us but having slipped down the pecking order we chose not to renew his contract. Lopes was in our B side and never really progressed as a player so he moves to Inter Milan for €8.5m.
Two players brought in early in my reign at Benfica are also leaving the club having failed to establish themselves in my team. Velázquez and Angulo have spent the last few seasons on-loan in other areas of Europe and having not impressed, they both leave for a combined fee of €10m.
The only other player to keep an eye on throughout the Summer is former Granada defender Samir who has been trying to force his way out of the club since our UEFA Champions League exit to Liverpool back in March. While I want him at the club, he may be worth getting rid off should he continue to whine and complain.
With a lot of money being generated and a few key players being sold we knew we needed to once again strengthen the team if we were to compete on all fronts.
€32.8m was spent on replacing the outgoing players, with 6 players being brought in to the club. No real overspends were committed and youth was once again the main focus as we looked to improve the stability of the club.
The first player brought in is Cédric Kouamé who joins from league rivals Maritimo for a minor fee of €56,000. The Ivorian has real potential to succeed and for a relatively risk free deal, I’m delighted to have him and keen to see how he gets on, likely for the B side.
Another player signed from a rival club, Leonel joins from relegated Nacional de Madeira for €1.4m, the Portuguese forward also has potential to succeed and we will be looking at getting the most out of him over the coming years. Another one we have to keep an eye on.
One position I feel we lacked quality in last season was the attacking midfield role. Pizzi was fantastic but Andre Horta looked out of his depth at times and failed to spot the defence splitting pass that we desperately needed. To address this problem, I’ve signed Abel Casquete from River Plate for €8.25m making him our second most expensive deal this Summer. He enjoyed a wonderful season in Argentina and has already impressed throughout pre-season with his vision and ability on the ball.
Alejandro Hernández joins from Mexican side Chivas for a fee of €17m, making him our second most expensive signing since arriving at Benfica and the most expensive of the window. The towering 6’7 defender has the ability to be a key figure in our squad alongside Palomeque and I’m interested to see how he settles into life in Lisbon. 11 heading is a bit of a worry but with a few years of development left in him I’m hoping we’ll be able to better his game in that department, I think he’ll prove to be worth every penny.
Léo Pelé joins from Brazilian side Fluminense for €4m, a player I’ve watched for many years Léo comes in to replace the outgoing Zeca as back-up for our prime full-back Jorge. While his CA and PA may not look fantastic, he has been very consistent in Brazil and I’m sure he’ll be capable of making the leap to Portuguese Football, a cheap deal and one I’m confident in.
The final deal to date, Miguel Mastriani joins from Spanish side Real Sociedad for €2.1m, while the Uruguayan is young, he has the ability to fit straight into our squad to fill the gap left by the departure of Pineda. The scouts did a really good job of finding Miguel and I can’t wait to utilisie him throughout the year.
Another good pre-season as we avoided defeat in all of our matches while only failing to win one. Fitness levels are good and the young boys performed very well as we rotated the squad throughout the matches.
Another trophy was picked up in the form of the Supertaca after we dismissed Porto 3-1 with relative ease. The trophy itself has become a routine part of our season and while I don’t believe in a need to cover it extensively, I’m delighted to have retained it in what I hope will be a more successful season than last.
An important change going into this season, new club Captain Julio Palomeque takes the #4 jersey previously worn by former Captain Luisao, who is now employed as a youth coach at the club. A big year for the 19 year old lies ahead! No pressure.
Thanks for reading!