Following a fantastic breakthrough campaign for SL Benfica, Florentino Luís has sprung from youth football into the minds and mouths of football fans and journalists across the globe. Próxima Jornada looks closely at Florentino Luis and analyses his campaign thus far.
Part of the illustrious Portugal age group that are current European U17 champions and European U19 champion, Florentino is by no means a stranger for Benfica fans or fans of the Seleçao youth sides. However, it is his rapid acceleration into the first team that has attracted the attentions of the wider world.
The central midfielder began the season away from the Luz, instead he was plying his trade for the Benfica B team in the Ledman LigaPro (Portuguese second division). He racked up 21 appearances for the B team this season before something happened to the then-struggling Benfica in January. After 15 games, Benfica were languishing in 4th place, 7 points adrift of 1st place FC Porto, a criminal amount of points to be trailing behind by so early on in the season. Benfica had to find victories and make up ground on Porto, fast. Manager Rui Vitoría was sacked and the manager of Florentino’s Benfica B team, Bruno Lage, was given the nod first as caretaker manager of the senior side and 10 days later, was given the role on a permanent basis.
One of the first (and perhaps boldest) decisions Lage made, was to bring a 19-year-old B team central midfielder in Luís and implement him into the first team as one of the key components of this new look SL Benfica. Talk about fast tracked.
Benfica now sit atop of Liga NOS, having wrestled back the 7-point gap that once existed between themselves and the Dragons from Oporto and now have their own 2-point lead over their rivals.
Since being introduced by Lage to the squad, Florentino has gone on to feature 8 times so far in the league, starting and playing 90’ in his last 4 games and has also started 3 times in the UEFA Europa league. Benfica have won every single Liga match in which Florentino has played.
What type of player is he?
Florentino, who stands at 1.84 m (just over 6 foot), is a powerful and combative ball-winner. He has averaged 4 tackles per Liga match whilst only receiving 1 yellow card so far, which indicates as to the accuracy and timing of his tackles. He tends to play alongside Andreas Samaris in the centre of the park but is also able to play deeper as an out-and-out defensive midfielder. However, he is not just a powerhouse, he is as technically proficient with the ball as he is without it. He is a highly intelligent footballer who reads the game incredibly well, he often appears 1 step ahead of his opposing midfielders and due to this great reading of the game, he is often able to snuff out an attack often before it starts, this is epitomised by his average of 3.3 interceptions per game. At just 19 years of age, it is rare for a player to be trusted with such defensive responsibility at such a big club, but his terrific discipline and reading of the game mean he performs like a man well above his years. His short passing is another of his key strengths, when he dispossesses an opponent or intercepts a pass, he will often opt to play short 1-2’s in order to move further up the field, as opposed to hitting long balls up to the striker or wide midfielder. His short passing is accurate and simple (92% passing accuracy average), meaning he very rarely gives away cheap possession, something that can be catastrophic as a defensive midfielder if positioned deep in his own half.
Next season will be even bigger for Florentino if he remains at the Lisboa giants. He is currently contracted to 2023 with a reported release clause of 60 million euros. He is still relatively inexperienced at the top level so it would be in his best interests to remain where he is, challenging for titles both domestically and in Europe and playing regular football at the highest level. His development is definitely one to keep an eye on in the next couple of months and with his inclusion in Portugal’s U20 squad for the World Cup, announced just a few days ago, we will be able to see plenty of Florentino in action this summer.