Transfers windows haven’t been kind to Benfica recently and there were no exceptions this winter window with the departure of the influential Argentine Enzo Perez, who left the club to join rejuvenated Valencia in Spain for €25 million. The Portuguese League Player of the Year was joined by highly rated Portuguese youngster, Bernardo Silva on the way out of Lisbon as his loan deal with resurrected French side Monaco was made permanent for €15,75 million. On the other hand, there were some additions to the Benfica side, the more notable being Jonathan Rodríguez who joined the Portuguese giants on a two-year loan deal following controversies.
Jonathan Rodríguez [Loan]
Jonathan Rodríguez, the 21 years old Uruguayan attacker was confirmed a Benfica player on 29th January, alongside Elbio Álvarez, 20 years old midfielder, following an outbreak of controversies surrounding the attacker. There was news coming out of the risk of his personal problems, such as drinking, which effectively stalled the deal, eventually ending in a two-year loan rather than the reported permanent deal where he was expected to sign a contract lasting until 2020. Both Jonathan and Álvarez are still yet to feature for the side or make the bench since joining the team so recently but manager Jorge Jesus has confirmed that one has begun training with the first-team, most likely Jonathan.
As a result of the departure of Enzo Pérez, Jorge Jesus sealed a deal with German side Hertha Berlin in order to purchase their 19-year-old German midfielder, Hany Mukhtar. The young midfielder was a product of the Hertha academy and spent fourteen years at the club, moving up the ranks in the meantime, gaining 17 league appearances for Hertha in the process before signing for Benfica in a deal worth €500,000 where his contract will end in 2020. Much like the other two signings, Mukhtar has yet to feature for the first-team where he faces stern competition with the likes of Anderson Talisca, Pizzi, Bryan Cristante and Samaris but it is thought that the signing of the young German is one for the future and follow the footsteps of Enzo and Nemanja Matic to turn into a world-class midfielder.
Other reinforcements made in the window for Benfica appear to be nothing more than just building the Benfica B squad after all the departures with the confirmations of Flávio Silva and Carlos David, both 18, signing on a permanent deal with Carlos coming on a free whilst Silva’s fee being undisclosed. There was also the addition of 6ft3 Vitali Lystsov, a 19-year-old who has joined the club on loan until the end of the season but also comes with an option to buy.
After a year of rumors, Enzo Pérez finally finalised a deal to move to the Liga BBVA side, Valencia where he’d join Rodrigo Moreno and Andre Gomes who both officially signed for Valencia weeks earlier upon the confirmation of Peter Lim. It was no doubt that the departure of the Argentine caused some upset for Benfica followers as he was a main figure of the squad and often found himself dictating the play but the performances that followed quickly helped heal those pains and has helped to conclude that the show must go on and on the positive light, Benfica did do a fantastic bit of business selling the 29-year-old for €25million.
For an outsider, there’d be much confusion to why this deal caused so much upset for Benfica fans considering Bernardo had just played 10 minutes for the first-team but it was something deeper. It was a form of loss of identity for Benfica as the highly rated 20-year-old made his time at Monaco permanent following spending over a decade at his childhood club. Bernardo Silva was someone who was particularly highly regarded for many Portuguese followers and even brought comparisons with Portuguese and Benfica legend, Rui Costa. However, with the emergence of Rui Fonte and Goncalo Guedes, who have been performing fantastically for Benfica B, being promoted to the first-team, it is evident that Portuguese players are still getting the chances, additionally seen with Andre Almeida, bringing up the point that Bernardo Silva didn’t actually have a position to play in Jorge Jesus’ system therefore ultimately, the move away from Benfica was needed and again, the fee of €15,75million they received for a player who has hardly played first-team football prior to the loan at the time was good piece of business, but in the future it is very likely that his value will rise hugely.
Personally a deal of mine I almost celebrated. Franco Jara failed to break into the first-team for Benfica in his five years there which lead to several years spent loaned elsewhere. With just 29 games in the time at Benfica, scoring just 6 goals, Jorge Jesus willingly gave him a chance to prove himself in this years pre-season which proved to be the last straw after a handful of poor performances from the Argentine. Jara, now at Olympiakos, is still at an age where his peak is still yet to come and he’ll hope he’s able to spark it with the Greek champions.
Nelson joined Premier League side Swansea straight at the beginning of the January window with the absence of Wilfried Bony an obvious defect to the side with his trip to the African Cup of Nations and then agreeing a deal signing with Premier League champions, Manchester City. Nelson Oliveira has had a frustrating career thus far as he has failed to fall in favor of Jorge Jesus, being loaned in every season since being a first-team candidate. However, it is a deal many will look to be as a good opportunity for the 23-year-old striker as with the departure of Wilfried Bony, Nelson now just competes with French forward, Bafétimbi Gomis and has already featured for the Swans three times. On the other hand, there could be more to it as recently seen when Bernardo Silva was [shockingly] initially loaned to Monaco and never came back. We could face the same with Nelson.
Another Portuguese attacker out of favor is Bebé (Tiago) who hasn’t broken into the team since his arrival from Manchester United in the summer and will now spend the remainder of the season in Spain with Córdoba CF and has already featured in 4 of their league games since joining. It is a chance for Tiago to really prove himself as he is now getting game time against some of the best players in the world at the moment, which Benfica have expressed as a strategy utilising their link with Deportivo with Ivan Cavaleiro, Sidnei, Farina and now Helder Costa who was loaned out this window.
Other departures include Luis Felipe, whose arrival to Benfica was a shock in itself so it wasn’t much of a surprise when Benfica announced that they had let him go back to Brazil to play for Joinville for the remainder of the season. Additionally, Daniel Candeias is another to not have broken into the first-team since joining the side in the summer and the 26-year-old winger who, similarly to Filip Djuricic, transferred loan spells as he moved from FC Nürnberg in Germany to sunny Spain’s Granada CF. Rúben Pinto along with Fábio Cardoso both joined Paços de Ferreira on a loan until the end of the season, who were both impressive for Benfica B and now face the chance to impress in the top-tier. Similarly to these, Rui Fonte, who is becoming a quick favourite for Benfica fans after becoming top goalscorer in the second tier with Benfica B and being promoted to the main-team where he made his debut in the 4-0 win over Arouca in the league cup, has been loaned to Belenenses. 19-year-old Rochinha joined struggling Bolton in the English Championship in order to fight for some game time and lastly Yannick Djalo who was loaned out to Russian Mordovia Saransk upon his arrival back from his loan in the MLS with San Jose Earthquakes.
Dolly Menga, who only joined in summer, was transferred to Braga for an undisclosed fee after failing to impress Jorge Jesus and was demoted to Benfica B where he made 12 appearances. There were also four players that left the club as a breach of an end of contract deal as 22-year-old João Amorim joined Desportivo, Kike Pina, 17-year-old defender joining Malaga, Brazilian forward Michel joining Penafiel and Serginho joining second tier Académico de Viseu, with all players failing to get an appearance for the first-team.