Reports surfaced this week that Benfica turned down Chelsea’s 17-million pound bid for defender David Luiz. The reign of Mourinho at Stamford Bridge was marked by several acquisitions from the Portuguese Primeira Liga (most of them at the back): Bosignwa, Ferreira, Carvalho, Deco, Hilario, Maniche, Nuno Marais, Tiago. So you’d be forgiven for thinking Lord Valdemorta was still in charge.
The Brazilian Luiz has been a rock for the Lisbon club. He’s also only 23… that’s fetus years for a central defender. It may not come as a surprise then that Benfica has valued their young investment at a whopping 35 million pounds.
The asking price may be for the benefit of the prying eyes and deep pockets of Chelski and Manchester al-Citeh, but it may also speak towards a new attitude at Benfica.
The all-time league champions have been forced to watch as a Northern power — Porto — has grown to dominate Portuguese soccer, winning 13 of the last 20 domestic titles as well as a couple of European titles. Shades of Liverpool acquiesing to Manchester United over the exact same time frame.
But unlike Liverpool, Benfica has been re-born, winning last year’s title and pipping both Porto and hated derby rivals, Sporting, for a Champions League spot. Now they are keen to hang onto that new pride.
Except things haven’t been that great lately. Benfica are chasing Porto in the league, sitting eight points behind them. It didn’t help that The Dragons humiliated Benfica in November, hobbling them with a 5-0 pounding that may haunt the Eagles if goal difference comes into play. They have also dropped into the Europa League, which means there could still be an extra showdown with big bad Porto.
Benfica is a young team. During their last league game, they fielded eight players under the age of 25; three were defenders and a fourth was a defensive midfielder. They are also very heavily South American. Again, the last league game featured eight from the continent, including veterans Javier Saviola and Pablo Aimar, as well as World Cup standouts like Paraguay’s Oscar Cardoza and Uruguay’s Maxi Pereira. In fact, I picked Pereira as well as LB/LW Fabio Coentrao for my World Cup Starting XI.
I think it’s great that Benfica have popped such an exorbitant tag on Luiz. Before the age of television rights, Benfica were a force who could compete with the Real Madrids and Chelseas. Sure, Luiz’ sale would generate some incredible cash for the team. But maybe they know that Abramovich is losing interest in his English hobby… and that Manchester City is having trouble dumping salaries.
Or maybe they are just being a little bit selfish and petty. Good for them.