SL Benfica, based in the city of Lisbon, Portugal have made a name for themselves by scouting, recruiting and then selling some of the most elite talents in world football.
Only last summer, Joao Felix left the Eagles to join Atletico Madrid in a deal worth €126 million, becoming the latest talent from their production line to be shipped off to one of the European giants.
Over the years, Benfica have garnered the reputation of a feeder club – they’ve produced some world-beaters, and also their astute scouting network enables them to keep the team competitive year after year, despite losing their most prized assets.
Felix is the latest example of that, but before him, many renowned players polished their skills wearing the famous red jersey of Benfica.
Here is how Benfica could possibly have lined up had they not sold their star players:
Jan Oblak (Goalkeeper)
Benfica signed Jan Oblak from a small Slovenian club called Olimpija Ljubljana in 2010. In his four-year spell with the Eagles, the 27-year-old spent the majority of his time out on loan, but he continued to impress for each of those teams.
Atletico Madrid came calling for Oblak’s services in 2014. They paid €16 million to the Portuguese club, and currently, he’s valued at around €120 million, which speaks volumes about his progress. It wouldn’t be an understatement to call Oblak one of the best goalkeepers in the world right now.
Nelson Semedo (Right-back)
Nelson Semedo began his career at Sintrese, before making the switch to Benfica. He would go on to rise through the ranks and became a mainstay in the first team, winning two consecutive Primeira Liga titles.
In July 2017, Barcelona offered €30.5 million in exchange for the Portuguese full-back, and since then he has played 111 matches for the Blaugrana, scoring once and setting up 10 more.
David Luiz (Centre-back)
The Brazilian defender spent four years with the Eagles, until 2011, before moving to Chelsea for €25 million, as Benfica made a huge profit on David Luiz, given they had initially signed him for just €1.5 million.
After spells at Chelsea and Paris Saint-Germain, the 33-year-old is currently on the books at Arsenal, for whom he has made 35 appearances in total.
Victor Lindelof (Centre-back)
Another homegrown talent, Victor Lindelof joined Benfica’s youth team in 2012 and continued to impress for them. Soon, he became an integral part of the first team as well, attracting interest from major European giants.
Manchester United eventually won the race to sign Lindelof in 2017 for €35m and since then he has been everpresent for the Red Devils, making more than a century of appearances for them.
Joao Cancelo (Left-back)
A versatile full-back who is adept at playing on either side of the defence, Joao Cancelo has a decorated CV, having represented the likes of Benfica, Valencia, Inter Milan, Juventus, and lastly, Manchester City, whom he joined last summer.
Despite his obvious talent, the 26-year-old has made just 24 appearances this season, and he is reported to be eager for another move.
Angel Di Maria (Right-winger)
The Reds signed Angel Di Maria from Argentinian outfit Rosario Central in 2007, but after just three seasons, Real Madrid came calling. Benfica who had initially signed the player for just €8 million sold him for three times that figure in 2010.
After spells at Real Madrid and Manchester United, the 32-year-old is currently plying his trade for Paris Saint-Germain, for whom Di Maria has made 217 appearances, scoring 70 goals till date, while also providing 80 assists.
Axel Witsel (Central-midfielder)
The Belgian midfielder was on the books of Standard Liege before Benfica signed him in 2011, but after just one season with the Eagles, Axel Witsel moved to Zenit Saint Petersburg.
After four years in Russia, the 31-year-old joined Chinese Super League outfit Tianjin Quanjian, although just one year later he returned to Europe with Borussia Dortmund, and has been going strong since.
Bernardo Silva (Central-midfielder)
The diminutive playmaker rose through Benfica’s ranks and made his senior bow in 2013, but he was sent out on loan to Monaco to gain some experience. Silva impressed his new side so much that they ended up signing him permanently.
He helped Monaco end PSG’s dominance in the Ligue1, but soon Manchester City came calling and it was too good a chance to turn down. Since then, Silva has amassed 144 appearances for City. He has set up 33 goals while finding the back of the net 29 times himself.
Joao Felix (Left-winger)
The Portuguese sensation was another homegrown talent who impressed so much in his first season with the senior team, that Atletico didn’t flinch once before paying his massive release clause.
Since moving to the Spanish capital, Joao Felix has struggled a bit, but the 20-year-old has shown plenty of signs that he will come good, after adapting properly to a new league.
Raul Jimenez (Striker)
Surprisingly, Benfica signed Raul Jimenez from Atletico Madrid, and not the other way around, in the year 2015, for a fee of approximately €10 million. Although after three seasons in Portugal, he was sent out on loan to Wolverhampton Wanderers in 2018.
The Mexican forward impressed the Premier League outfit so much that they splashed €38 million to make his move permanent, making him their record signing in 2019. Since then, Jimenez has impressed one and all, and he’s been linked with Real Madrid as well as Barcelona.
Luka Jovic (Striker)
The Real Madrid forward began his career with Red Star Belgrade, but soon he was snapped up by Benfica in 2016.
After just one year though, the Eagles loaned him out to Eintracht Frankfurt, and it was a crucial step for Luka Jovic who became a lethal forward while in the Bundesliga.
After scoring 27 goals in 2018-19 season, the Serbian caught the eye of Zinedine Zidane and Los Blancos, who spent €60 million to rope him in, part of which eventually went to the Portuguese club as well.
Here is how Benfica could have lined up had they not sold their star players:
All stats courtesy: Transfermarkt.co.in