It was long before my reign at the Estadio da Luz that have Benfica been at the forefront of player development and with the opening of the Caixa Futebol Campus in 2006, they have gone a step further to create an exceptional environment for youngsters to flourish.
Before starting the network save with Dave, I wanted to read up about their transfer policies and base my transfer philosophy loosely around it. The club has approximately £350m of debt, due to mismanagement of the club from top to bottom, so their tag as a ‘selling club’ will stay with us for some time but Benfica don’t just buy cheap and sell high, they have a reputation for development. The club has a clear pathway for players, who graduate through the youth sides before joining the B team who play in the second tier of Portuguese football. Benfica’s moto is ‘Develop to Win’ and it has clearly worked as they currently lead the table of national youth championships won since the Caixa Futebol Campus opened.
When you’re producing talent at the rate Benfica does it doesn’t take long for the powerhouses of European football to take notice. The conveyor belt of talent has generated more than £230m in the last three years from selling assets that have come through the ranks:
The academy graduates are often joined by an extensive list of young recruits that have been scouted and often signed for a fraction of their market value, take Alex Grimaldo as an example, Grimaldo was signed for £1.5m from Barcelona who we would later go on to sell to PSG for £38m.
Knowing what I know now, I wanted my recruitment philosophy to look something like this:
- Scout the best young talent from around the world
- Sign players for the U23’s who can be promoted to the B team and then move into the first team.
- Don’t be scared to buy players for the first team when necessary
- Sell high or when the time is right
Last week I posted a Twitter Moment announcing my first eleven to start the 2020/21 season, this eleven contained four graduates of our academy, Rúben Dias, Gedson Fernandes, João Félix & Lincoln (Lincoln spent one season in the B team). The reality is that my squad contains a far greater number of graduates and I’ve added plenty of potential to the squad as well.
We’re in a good position for the next few years with Rulli & Oddyseas in their prime which is good news for Benfica as I’ve not managed to find a quality young goalkeeper who is good value in the market. The only prospect across the group is Mile Svilar.
Is there anything better than a Brazilian full-back? Well I have two in the first team, Dodo who was recently signed from Shakhtar & Klebinho who was signed as a youngster from Flamengo. Our academy prospect is Rafael Brito who is currently out on loan at Estoril, our scouts rate him highly and I’m looking forward to him joining the first team in the not to distant future.
I have some serious talent coming through in this position and with Ruben Dias showing the youngsters that making the first team is possible we’re certainly set for a good few years with Svetozar Markovic, José Fernando Ramírez, Sarwar Ali & Diogo Barateiro.
Another Brazilian full-back fills in at reserve to Olaza. Renan Lodi came in from Atletico Paranaense & is developing into an incredible attacking full-back, we’ve already fielded offers from France for him, but luckily he wasn’t interested and was happy to continue his development in Portugal. In the development ranks we have a young Belgian named Allan Boyer who was found playing for Belgium’s U21’s. It took a deal that could be worth £9m to secure him but I think he’ll be playing B team football next season and making his way into the first team in the near future.
We start ramping up the quality as we move into the attacking areas. Jota is going to be the natural successor to Jadon Sancho when he inevitably gets sold to one of the European giants and is another academy graduate. I rejected a number of offers for Sancho during the summer window as I thought the deals weren’t strong enough, he was unhappy, but we don’t just sell for the sake of selling! Dennis Man had some first team activity last season, mainly playing as an Inside Forward, but a season loan to Sociedad will hopefully see him get some more game times and aid his development. Coming through the ranks are Maolida & Fernandes who both look like having some decent potential.
Gedson Fernandes and Joao Felix are my starting midfield pair, but there’s some real competition coming through. Sandro Tonali is fast becoming a household name in Football Manager, he’s a fantastic playmaker with all the right ingredients to step into the first team. Victor Bobsin is another player that has popped up on scout reports on other saves & when his report came through at Benfica I signed him as a future backup to Tonali. Preciado & Lourenco are getting game time in the B-team and I’ve given them some time in the cups as well and I’m hoping both these players will become great investments in seasons to come. I am struggling to find a direct replacement for Gedson though, he’s a real talent and despite my best efforts I’m yet to find his successor.
What a horrible position to be in, I’ve got an abundance of talent in the wide areas and I’m actually struggling to give them all game time, Dani Olmo is ready to start games and Marin has played with the first team many times and has scored some important goals. Embalo & Santos are emerging as great academy prospects and will be integrated into the first team squad in the next couple of seasons.
Martinez & Lincoln could be my starting forwards for the next 10 years, but it doesn’t stop me being prepared for their departure. Josh Sargent is already starting cup games and has scored 4 goals in 3 games, Andrejj Fintic is scoring goals in the B team & Peglow has gone out on loan to get some much needed game time. Dario Diogo has come through our academy and is looking promising, next season he’ll move into the B team to get real league football and I’ll be monitoring his progress closely.
When I started writing this post I came to notice that across the 4 squads I have 155 players and that scares the life out of me as I’ve always run my squads lean but with a replacement ready. I don’t recall ever being in a position where I have a second replacement for a position, let alone a third! But the way the club is, the way they survive is purely through selling the playing staff and I’ve continued that tradition. Since taking over at Benfica I’ve sold the following players that have had some involvement in the lower ranks of the club:
As you can see the investments pay off and although I’ve reinvested a lot of the money to strengthen for the future I believe that my spending will decrease now I’ve stocked up.
Thanks for reading, I know this post is a little image heavy but I wanted to showcase the talent we’ve got coming through. This network save has been brilliant and both Dave and I don’t envisage it coming to an end any time soon.
If you’ve got any questions about any of the players or how they finances stack up feel free to ask!
Until next time.