SL Benfica’s terrific display at home against Galatasaray was important for a number of reasons, firstly it was the Lisbon sides first ever victory in Turkey.
It was the perfect way to put their Champions League exit behind them, but perhaps most importantly, the match was significant because it highlighted just how bright the future of Portuguese football really is.
Out of the starting 11, 6 players were made in the famed Benfica academy in Seixal. Those six being; Rúben Dias, Gedson Fernandes, João Felix, Ferro, Florentino Luís and Yuri Ribeiro.
There may have been frowns in response to Bruno Lage’s decision to show such faith in these 6 youngsters, considering the task, facing Turkish giants Galatasaray in their own ground, was not an easy one. However, it was Lage who had the last laugh with his Benfica side performing terrifically, the starting XI was not one made out of sheer courage, but one compiled by a manager with immense trust, faith and belief in the youth players he has at his disposal.
Rúben Dias, has become a key player for Benfica this season, he is one of the first names on the Lisbon side’s team sheet, at just 21 years of age. The 6 ft 1 right footed defender looks to be the answer to the Seleção’s central defender problem, the natural replacement for the ageing Portuguese defence.
Portugal’s squad for the 2018 World Cup highlighted an issue, the lack of youth within the defensive ranks. Santos opted to take:
- Jose Fonte (35)
- Pepe (35)
- Bruno Alves (37)
- Rúben Dias (21)
Dias was by far the youngest and most inexperienced out of those choices, however he has matured and developed a lot since then and with time still between now and the next international tournament, Dias looks certainly set for a name on the teamsheet in Euro 2020.
Gedson Fernandes, the 20 year-old central midfielder has gained comparisons to Renato Sanches, looks just as comfortable further forward in an attacking midfield role or out on the left, as well as in his natural role in the centre of the park, gives Benfica a classy option in midfield.
João Felix is a player who needs no introduction, at just 19 years of age he has already attracted the attention of many elite level clubs around Europe. A player who is most comfortable playing as a second-striker, has shown not only his technical ability this season but his incredible footballing maturity for a player at such a young age.
At the time of writing Felix has 7 goals and 4 assists in just 13 Liga NOS matches, and astounding ratio of 92 minutes per goal involvement.
It is certain that Benfica are at the moment, producing and harnessing the best Portuguese talent and if Bruno Lage continues in this vein, these players will get the chances they deserve, which is terrific news not only for Benfica supporters, but also for supporters of the Portuguese national side. The Seixal academy is seemingly producing much needed talent for all the right positions for the Seleçao.
One thing is for certain, the future of Portuguese football looks very, very bright.