Mehdi Taremi and Rafa Silva sign off on a high - a retrospective of Benfica and Porto heroes

“Until the end of my life I will support FC Porto. From now on I’m another Super Dragão.” That was how an emotional Porto striker Mehdi Taremi reacted moments after scoring the stoppage-time winner in his final game for the Blue and Whites at the Estádio do Dragão on Sunday night.

Earlier in the evening, 300 kilometres south, another club hero, Rafa Silva, had a similarly triumphant final home game for Benfica. The speedster scored a brace and provided an assist as the Eagles thrashed Arouca 5-0 in the Portuguese capital.

Combined the two players made nearly 300 goal contributions for their respective teams (full stats below) and have carved a special place for themselves in the history of two of Portugal’s biggest clubs.

Tom Kundert pays tribute to two of the most brilliant footballers to have graced Portugal’s football pitches in recent years. 


The Persian poacher

Mehdi Taremi was 27 years old when he first ventured into European football having scored prolifically in his home country Iran, and Kuwait. No matter, the elegant striker was well in time to leave an indelible mark on the game and become a household name in his new continent.

A brilliant debut season at modest mid-table Portuguese club Rio Ave, for whom he notched 21 goals, was enough to persuade Porto to buy the tall marksman and he was an immediate hit playing under Sérgio Conceição.

In four seasons Taremi scored a remarkable 90 goals and provided 46 assists in 180 games in all competitions. Mainly a penalty-box predator, the softly-spoken forward had spectacular finishes in his locker too, as showcased in the Champions League quarter-final against Chelsea in 2020/21 when his incredible bicycle kick was voted goal of the season in the competition.

Although widely regarded as one of the best strikers to play in Portugal in the last five years, Taremi often courted controversy for his tendency to go to ground too easily in the penalty box. His diving antics were sometimes comical and elicited fierce criticism, but it is noticeable that he curbed that aspect of his game in latter seasons.

Nonetheless, Mehdi Taremi will be remembered mostly for his lethal finishing and huge contribution to Porto teams in a difficult era for the northerners. It should not be forgotten that the talent level of Taremi’s teammates was significantly below that which other great Porto goal-scorers of the recent past such as Radamel Falcao, Hulk and Jackson Martínez could benefit from.

Taremi’s goal total in a Porto shirt places him in 3rd place in the list of the club’s all-time foreign goal-scorers, behind Mário Jardel (138) and Jackson Martínez (92). The Iranian may yet catch the Colombian, needing to score two more goals in Porto’s final two games of the season (Braga away, Sporting in the Portuguese Cup final) to do so.

Highlights of Porto 2-1 Boavista, Mehdi Taremi’s final home game for Porto


Supersonic Silva

Rafa Silva has always been his own man. Unsmiling, unassuming, almost never giving interviews, Rafa is the archetypal example of a player who does his talking on the pitch. Just as well if he speaks like he plays football – nobody would get a word in edgeways!

If there is one word that describes Rafa’s game it is “speed”. Blessed with pure unadulterated pace, there have been few things more exhilarating to watch in recent years as Rafa picking up the ball somewhere near the halfway line and embarking on a supersonic dribble, leaving all adversaries trailing in his wake.

A regular in the Portugal squad for years until his surprise announcement to retire from the Seleção in 2022 (another example of Rafa doing it “his way”), he was unusual in that he was one of the few players who made it to the top of Portuguese football without having come through one of the academies of the country’s major clubs.

Born in Vila Franca de Xira on the outskirts of Lisbon, it would be in the north that Rafa first made his name, several outstanding seasons at Braga earning him a €17 million move back down to the Portuguese capital, to sign for Benfica. It was a record transfer fee between Portuguese clubs at the time. 

He was not an immediate success. Injury problems and fierce competition for places inhibited his output in the first two seasons at the Estádio da Luz, but in 2018/19 he at last exploded, scoring 21 goals as Bruno Lage’s Benfica overcame a 7-point deficit to overtake Porto and win the league in a thrilling title race. The front three of Rafa Silva, João Félix and Haris Seferovic caused havoc in opposition defences from north to south in Portugal.

From that season onwards Rafa was an automatic starter in Benfica’s team clocking up career stats to date of 95 goals and 67 assists at the Lisbon club. A move to the Middle East has been mooted, and it would be no surprise to see Rafa Silva continuing to thrive in the twilight of his career, especially considering he is currently enjoying the most prolific season of his career, hitting the net 22 times so far.

In an era when Portugal’s most talented players move abroad at an increasingly young age, Rafa will certainly go down as one of the most exciting and best footballers Portugal has produced who played the lion’s share of his career in his home country.

Highlights of Benfica 5-0 Arouca, Rafa Silva’s final home game for Benfica