Javi Garcia’s departure to Manchester City has opened up a hole in Benfica’s midfield. Garcia had made that position his own over the three seasons he spent at the club, amassing well over 100 appearances in all competitions. He had established himself as one of the club’s most important players, and his presence will surely be missed. With the transfer occurring very close to the end of the transfer window, Benfica coach Jorge Jesus has not had enough time to search for a suitable replacement. Because of this, Jesus must draw from some of the team’s (very talented) Portuguese youngsters. Andre Gomes and Andre Almeida are the two most likely to be chosen to fill this void.
Andre Almeida is a name that many who follow the Portugal game will be familiar with. Almeida began his career at Belenenses, initially playing for the U-19 team, before making his senior team debut just after he turned 18. Belenenses have long been known to have nurtured some of the most talented Portuguese of recent years. Some notable graduates include Rolando, Ruben Amorim, Bruno Pereirinha, and Goncalo Brandao. Almeida’s influence on the field increased, as he established himself as one of the club, and the league’s, greatest prospects. He soon became a regular for the Portugal U-21 team, where has has amassed over a dozen appearances. These performances caught the eye of Liga Zon Sagres giants Benfica, and club purchased the midfielder on a free transfer, immediately sending him on loan to Leiria. A successful loan period was ended midway through the season after he was recalled by his parent club. Back at Benfica, made three substitute appearances, both as a right-back and in the holding midfield position. This season, he began on the B team, but has already made the move back up to the main team. After the departure of Javi Garcia, Andre Almeida looks to play second-fiddle to either Nemanja Matic at defensive midfield, or to Maxi Pereira at right-back.
Andre Gomes first came to prominence this summer after impressive performances for the Portugal Under-19 team at the U-19 European Championships. Portugal was unlucky enough to have the two finalists in their group, but performed well nevertheless. Gomes earned plaudits for his play in the group, most notably scoring against Spain and Greece, the two finalists. As a result, the then-18 year old was called to play for Benfica’s B team in the Liga Orangina. Having previously played for Benfica’s youth teams, the move to the Liga Orangina would certainly be a huge one. The midfielder made an instant impact, however. On the opening day, he scored a wonderful long-range shot in the dying minutes to salvage a draw against Braga’s B team. Not too long after, Gomes had established himself as one of the team’s most important players. Now, with Benfica’s midfield stretched thin, Jorge Jesus has promoted him to the senior team. He has already debuted for the club in their 1-1 friendly draw with Real Betis.
Jorge Jesus has a decision to make: Andre Almeida or Andre Gomes. Both are players for the future, yet Andre Almeida is more polished and experienced at the moment. It will be interesting to see who gets the nod, and I predict that Andre Almeida will be utilized mainly as a right-back, and Andre Gomes as a holding midfielder.