The Florentino Luís Conundrum

Florentino Luís’ life at Benfica is proving to be increasingly difficult following a successful 2018/19 season under Bruno Lage. His freezing out by Lage has left many fans and journalists alike, confused and curious.

Luís came through As Águias’ youth system, joining the Lisbon outfit in 2010 at the age of 11. He eventually signed his first professional contract in 2015 and slowly secured a place in the Benfica second team before receiving the first-team call-up in February 2019, immediately establishing himself in the starting XI.

Last season alone, the midfielder exceeded Lage’s expectations and enjoyed a great breakthrough season, taking part in a thumping 841 minutes, getting on the scoresheet once in Benfica’s comfortable 4-0 home win against Moreirense. A real destroyer in his first debut season, with no other midfielder in the Primeira Liga attempting more tackles per 90′ than the teenager (4.5) and only one could better his tackles won per 90′ (2.78), as well as first for interceptions per 90′ (3.43). If that wasn’t enough, Benfica’s victories reached a total of 91% in the 11 games Luís featured, consisting of one draw. The statistics reiterate the youngster’s talent, proving why he is so highly rated.

2019/20 season:

The man nicknamed ‘The Octopus’ was a starter at the beginning of the season, but injury shattered the youngster’s hopes of replicating another great season. Luís missed many matches due to contracting a knee injury, although selected for a few games since his return from injury, he has played a lesser role for the Portuguese outfit. Unfortunately, his exhibitions post-injury haven’t been convincing for Lage, who left the number 61 out of the squad for the first time in December, for the trip to Porto to face Boavista.

In ten matches, the under-21 international travelled with his teammates on four occasions. Two of those out of the Championship, against Vitória de Setúbal for the Cup, which he was included in the starting XI, playing all 90 minutes, however their home game with Rio Ave was marked with him being relegated to the bench. The same occurred in the two Liga games with Vitória Guimarães and Sporting CP, this time he was seen watching from the stands. In comparison to the 56.3% he was used in the 2018/19 campaign, this term, the statistic falls under 40%. 

What problems has the injury bought to the midfielder?

His injury, a tear to his meniscus in Benfica’s away win over Braga, led him to be absent for almost two months, missing out on four league games (Gil Vicente, Moreirense, Vitória Guimarães and Vitória Setúbal), three Champions League duels (Zenit and Leipzig), as well as international duty with the Portugal under-21 team.

His place as a starter came even further under risk with German midfielder, Julian Weigl signing from Borussia Dortmund in January, assuming Luís’ post and as a result has had 835 minutes under his belt thus far, fulfilling 77.3% of possible minutes. His return after injury was marked by Benfica’s 4-0 win over Cova da Piedade in the Portuguese Cup back in late October, he came off the bench to engage in the last 20. Subsequently, he was reintegrated in the XI for the league clash against CD Santa Clara, though he was substituted for Carlos Vinicíus at the break. While Benfica was still disputing the Champions League later last year, Luis participated in some European action against Lyon in Group G, completing 90 minutes for each tie respectively.

Since his return to injury in late October, he has only featured in seven games this season, accumulating a total of 574 minutes. This term, he had been featuring on and off, though, to the surprise of many, the first time he wasn’t chosen to travel with the squad despite being fit to play came in December when Lage opted to not integrate him within the squad. The same then occurred in January for their league clash against Paços de Ferreira, a clear cue that the youngster is facing a difficult situation to retrieve his once unbroken starting position. Most recently since he has been on the bench, Lage’s men have drawn three games in a row to Moreirense, Setúbal and Portimonense.

Clubs around Europe have awoken regarding the athlete’s current situation – Milan rumoured to be one of the clubs most keen to sign him. Brazilian Lucas Paqueta, whom the Italian side contracted the previous year, has been made aware he is out of Stefano Pioli’s plans for the next campaign and therefore could involve Paqueta in the deal to obtain Luis. The Portuguese giants though are known to nurture their young talents such as the excellent Rúben Dias, Gedson Fernandes who is currently on loan at Tottenham Hotspur and former player, João Félix whom Atlético Madrid’s broke their club-record transfer fee to sign. It’s what Filipe Vieira and Co do best, protect their finances through maximising potential fees. The renewal of the midfielder’s contract had a strategic thought behind it to ensure the Águias would receive maximum value when one of Europe’s elite came knocking on the door. With that being said, according to various Portuguese outlets, it is understood that the Lisbon outfit would be willing to negotiate a loan deal that would be valid for 18 months with an option to buy, similarly to Fernandes’ agreement at Spurs. 

It is worth mentioning that the Portuguese international recently extended his contract and is tied to the club until 2024, equalling Gedson Fernandes and Joao Felix in the club’s highest release clause of £109.7 million, a figure that highlights just how highly rated he is. With the skilful qualities he possesses for his age, it shouldn’t be long until he embarks on a new adventure. He is continually attracting the attention of Europe’s most powerful sides, and it seems like a new interest seems to emerge every day with the likes of Manchester United, AC Milan, Lazio, Leeds United, Bayer Leverkusen and Real Betis all closely observing the player’s move.

By Bruna Reis (@BrunaSportsJour)

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