Bernardo Silva

A look at Benfica academy products with a big future… away from Lisbon

In January 2014 Benfica president Luís Filipe Vieira said: “My dream, which I share with all Benfica fans, is to have a first team ‘made in Benfica’.” He was part responding to criticism of the reluctance of coach Jorge Jesus to select Portuguese youth players in the senior side, and part justifying the heavy investment made in the club’s youth structure – which has yet to bear fruit.

To be more precise, it is yet to bear fruit for the Eagles. However, an array of exciting young talents are now beginning to make their mark in other teams, with André Gomes a regular for Valencia and Bernardo Silva also starting the last three games for Monaco, including one in the Champions League where he earned widespread praise after a highly promising display. Jonathan Mancini takes a detailed look at five youngsters who emerged from Benfica’s Caixa Futebol Campus academy.

 

 

 

André Gomes

André GomesAndré Gomes is a 21-year-old midfielder who featured regularly for Benfica’s first team in the final weeks of last season, before moving to Valencia in the summer. He is very strong physically, composed with the ball at his feet, he possesses a powerful shot, and he’s more than capable of playing long, incisive passes with pinpoint accuracy. His most noticeable quality, however, is his remarkable two-footedness. Gomes is naturally right-footed, but he is extremely comfortable using his “weaker” left foot to shoot, pass, and dribble effectively. Jorge Jesus generally utilised Gomes as both a box-to-box midfielder and as a defensive-midfielder in his preferred 4-4-2 formation, but he has also played as a holding midfielder in a 4-2-3-1, and as a more attack-minded midfielder in a 4-3-3.

Despite his obvious talent, André Gomes can be extremely frustrating to watch at times. While he is certainly capable of playing the killer “Hollywood” ball, Gomes does have the annoying tendency of trying to force these kinds of ambitious passes when a simpler, yet more effective possession-retaining pass would be the better option. Also, apart from his occasionally poor decision making, Gomes’ apparent lack of mobility and technical sharpness frequently lead him into giving the ball away carelessly in dangerous positions. In addition, he regularly makes late, clumsy challenges which have made him very prone to unnecessary yellow cards.

André Gomes has shown flashes of his brilliance (spectacular winner vs. Porto in the Taça de Portugal semi-final) but he still remains a very raw, unpolished talent. He cannot do much about his immobility, but he can certainly improve his technique and tactical discipline. Given his particular strengths and weaknesses, Gomes is probably best suited to playing as a holding midfielder alongside a more dynamic, industrious partner, but his ability to score from distance may tempt future coaches to utilise him in a more advanced, attack-minded role. The talent is undoubtedly there; he simply needs regular playing time at a high level in order to reach his potential – something he is now getting in La Liga.

 

 

Ivan Cavaleiro

Ivan CavaleiroIvan Cavaleiro is a 20-year-old winger who earned two caps for the Portuguese national team in 2014 after a series of impressive performances for Benfica last season. He is incredibly quick, excellent technically, strong in 1v1 situations, and links-up very well his team-mates. He was primarily used as a right winger under Jorge Jesus, but he is also equally comfortable playing on the left where he is slightly less direct. He has also grown accustomed to playing as a mobile forward in a 4-4-2 diamond for Portuguese U-21 team - where he has scored six goals in as many games. Furthermore, his ability to shoot and cross effectively with both feet makes him particularly difficult to defend against.

However, he could certainly improve his consistency and decision-making, especially in the final third. His defensive work-rate showed signs of improvement under the guidance of Jorge Jesus, but it still remains an area in which there is plenty of room for improvement.

Cavaleiro was loaned to Spanish club Deportivo La Coruna this season, immediately making a splash in the Portuguese press when he complained about the lack of opportunities for youth players to get into Benfica’s first team.

 

Bernardo Silva

Bernardo Silva

Nicknamed “O Messizinho do Seixal” Bernardo Silva, a 20-year-old attacking midfielder is, without doubt, the gem of the current crop of Benfica-made hugely promising young talents. Bernardo is a classic #10 who oozes class with every touch on the ball. He is technically brilliant, intelligent in possession, and his close control in tight spaces is absolutely superb. In terms of his positioning, Bernardo Silva will occasionally drift out wide to link up with his wingers, but he’s at his best when exploiting the pockets of space in between the lines. He has sporadically been utilised as both a wide forward and as an inverted winger in both a 4-3-3 and 4-2-3-1 respectively, but he lacks the pace and acceleration to excel on the flanks. He is best suited to playing in a more central role with the freedom to roam à la Iniesta.

Bernardo, however, is not without his weaknesses. He isn’t the most powerful or athletic player on the pitch, so he is frequently out-muscled by more physically imposing players. Also, his over-reliance on his stronger left-foot can make him somewhat predictable in the final third, especially when he is isolated by the corner flag.

When playing for Benfica B, it was becoming quite obvious that Bernardo Silva was too good for the Portuguese second division, and the refusal by Jorge Jesus to give him first-team opportunities is perhaps the most glaring example of what the coach’s detractors say is a prejudice against home-grown talent. Silva’s early impact at Monaco only lends weight to that argument.

 

 

João Cancelo

João CanceloJoão Cancelo is a 20-year-old right-back who was widely regarded as one of the most talented players in Benfica’s B-team in 2013/14. He is an extremely attack-minded right-back who looks to bomb forward at every opportunity. He has outstanding pace, he loves to take on defenders, and his ability to cross the ball effectively with both feet is impressive.

Nevertheless, due to his attacking instincts, he is regularly caught way out of position when the opposition team regains possession. At times, Cancelo can be guilty of holding onto the ball for too long when a simple pass to one of his team-mates would suffice. It’s not uncommon to see him attempt to dribble past three or four defenders as if he were a young Cristiano Ronaldo. He is clearly confident in his own ability, but if he wants to succeed as a right-back, he needs to learn how to defend properly. If he can improve his decision-making, tactical discipline, and defensive ability, Benfica could have themselves a world-class attacking right-back in the making.

Cancelo joined André Gomes in moving to Valencia on loan this season, but is yet to break into Nuno Espírito Santo’s team.

 

 

Hélder Costa

Hélder CostaHélder Costa is a 20-year-old left-footed winger who has featured regularly for Benfica’s B-team. He is predominantly left-footed but he has frequently been utilsed on both wings in what is typically a 4-2-3-1 formation. His most obvious strength is his fantastic pace which he uses to great effect both with and without the ball. He is usually very direct with the ball at his feet, but his reluctance to use his weaker right-foot makes him a bit one-dimensional. In addition, like many young, inexperienced wingers, Costa could definitely work on his consistency, decision-making and end product.

He certainly isn’t ready to make the step up to the first team just yet, so expect to see him remain in the B-squad this season. Will he be the one to break through to Benfica’s first team? Only time will tell.

by Jonathan Mancini

Comments (9)

This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

The Portuguese competition the worst place for upcoming Portuguese talent.

joao/Holanda
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Great article first of all. I just cannot fathom why Jorge Jesus let Bernardo Silva go without at least giving him a run in the first team. For me he has the 'talent' to be world class. Does Monaco have an option to buy him? Part of me hopes...

Great article first of all. I just cannot fathom why Jorge Jesus let Bernardo Silva go without at least giving him a run in the first team. For me he has the 'talent' to be world class. Does Monaco have an option to buy him? Part of me hopes not but part of me also wants to see him doing well and he probably will not get chances at Benfica under Jorge Jesus. On another note, Leonardo Jardim is a Portuguese coach who clearly believes in Portuguese talent and has shown a willingness to give young up and coming stars a chance in the first team so hopefully he can continue doing well at Monaco (3 straight wins after a shaky start) and bring in more Portuguese players.

Attn: Jonathan Mancini
Sorry, I do not want to detract on what was a fantastic article but in response to your statement "Bernardo Silva also starting the last three games for Monaco, including one in the Champions League" Bernardo Silva came off the bench in the 57th minute in the Champions league game and replaced Ocampos so he has only started the last 2 games (both in the French league)

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Steve\Australia
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I agree Benfica don't give enough opportunities to young Portuguese talent, but this is not a trait exclusive to Benfica, it's the same at Porto too. I really think both clubs need to start giving more opportunities to young local talent, as it...

I agree Benfica don't give enough opportunities to young Portuguese talent, but this is not a trait exclusive to Benfica, it's the same at Porto too. I really think both clubs need to start giving more opportunities to young local talent, as it will clearly benefit the national team as well.

Of the 5 players mentioned, it seems Gomes is a gonner. Although he's only on loan at Valencia he is very unlikely to return to Benfica next season. The other 4 are gaining more experience abroad and in the B team and all 4 could be first teamers within the next couple of seasons. Cavaleiro's loan made sense to me because we had plenty of other options on the wings, and playing in the top league in Europe will be very useful experience for him.

The other 2 loans i was surprised with though, Bernardo Silva being a number 10, a position we don't have many options in, and Cancelo too, I thought this would be his breakthrough year at the club with Maxi needing to get rested occasionally and Andre Almeida also needed as cover at DM. Anyway both should get much more experienced this season playing abroad and hopefully both along with Cavaleiro return next summer as more polished players. This would also benefit the Selecao as I can see all three involved in the national team within the next few years.

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Andre/UK
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Potential problems with the Benfica first team:
On another note Benfica has started extremely well in the league but long term I feel that Benfica has quite a lot of defensive weaknesses namely centre back and then at left back. Ultimately this...

Potential problems with the Benfica first team:
On another note Benfica has started extremely well in the league but long term I feel that Benfica has quite a lot of defensive weaknesses namely centre back and then at left back. Ultimately this could cost Benfica in the big games to come and ultimately cost them from winning the league. I know people might not agree and immediately argue that Eliseu has so far been brilliant and that might be true but lets not forget he has played most of his career as a winger. I remember he had a horrible game for the National team a few years back and against lowly Moreirense he was watching the ball instead of the player and allowed the slow moving Moreirense player to sneak in behind him and head the ball into the goal. If Eliseu were to get injured then I can only assume that Andre Almeida is the only player in the first team who could remotely play that position and even hes more a right back/defensive midfielder. More worryingly for me is Benfica's lack of cover at centre back. Luisao is solid despite his age but I think he will need to be rested at key moments as I am not sure he can last a full season. Jardel on the other hand is well a real warrior but he lacks technique, passing ability and generally makes poor decisions at big moments. He is a tough tackling, hard working player with a never say die attitude so against smaller teams he is quite good but against Porto, Sporting and the Champions league opposition he will probably be exposed quite badly. Additionally the only backup options at centre back is Steven Vittoria who has probably lost his confidence and form due to the fact he's hardly played a game since moving to Benfica after being one of the best centre backs in the league at Estoril and then there is the Argentine Lisandro Lopez who has actual played for the Argentine national team and is coming off a decent season on loan at Getafe in Spain.

My thoughts:
Jardel is not a long term solution but can be rotated in when a starter needs a rest, so to start with, at home against weaker teams Lisandro Lopez should be starting or getting some game time. If he does well then start him in the big games
I also think it might not be a bad idea to try Samaris at centre back and move Andre Almeida to Defensive midfield and then Fejsa when he is back from injury. I do not think he has played that role before but due to the lack of quality in that position I think it might be worth trying
As for left back Eliseu has done an outstanding job but if he is caught out later against a stronger teams then possibly Ruben Amorim could play in that role once he is back from injury of course

Would be great to see what others think of these changes?

Steve

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Steve\Australia
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I do think that LFV is living up to his promise of having Benfica do it's part in developing Portuguese talent. In terms of them seeing playing time on the main team, of the players highlighted above only Gomes could be a starter but I don't even...

I do think that LFV is living up to his promise of having Benfica do it's part in developing Portuguese talent. In terms of them seeing playing time on the main team, of the players highlighted above only Gomes could be a starter but I don't even count him as a Benfica player any more. He was sold with Rodrigo to that investment fund which mainly to get around the UEFA FFP rules to allow Valencia to indirectly control a few players without it hitting their books.

Of the other players, Silva shows the most potential and him playing first team action in France is amazing experience for him. Benfica lost way too many players but unfortunately for Silva, the club had zero interest in selling Enzo for all the right reasons. Enzo is such a key part of our team at the moment that it would decrease Silva's potential playing time and wasting is talent on the B-team would do no good for him. I think we'll have a hard time holding on to Enzo after this season which will give Silva an amazing chance to join the main team. In looking at Nico and Salvio, I would say Cavaleiro & Costa will also have a hard time seeing first team action for the same reasons as Silva.

At the end of the day, it's club first. Get the best talent at the right price to fight for titles. At the same time Benfica are doing a good job at adding good prospects for the Portuguese national team. I hope these kids do find their way to the main team but worst case, I just hope they eventually find a way to get playing time so they can build a case to join the national team in the future. If the big 3 plus the odd player from the other clubs can keep showing promise, we'll have talent to pick from for future national teams.

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Mario Mota
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Steve/Australia: you make some good points regarding our defensive issues and I mostly agree. I too think Jardel is decent in the Liga against teams we expect to beat, but is a clear weak point against stronger teams. He was exposed ruthlessly by...

Steve/Australia: you make some good points regarding our defensive issues and I mostly agree. I too think Jardel is decent in the Liga against teams we expect to beat, but is a clear weak point against stronger teams. He was exposed ruthlessly by Zenit last week in the CL for example. I really can't see why JJ hasn't tried out Lisandro Lopez yet. Although I've hardly seen him play, I can only really expect him to be an upgrade on Jardel. The fact that he was in Argentina's preliminary WC squad (and they reached the final, don't forget!) surely means he has quality. I also don't understand why Vitoria has hardly seen any playing time since joining the team last season. I think he's also better overall than Jardel, 2 seasons back with Estoril he was one of the very top CBs in the Liga.

Agree also with the left back issue. Eliseu is great coming forward and has already shown he's a goal threat too, but he is a little shaky defensively. We also have Benito as a LB option, but I think he's too inexperienced for the first team just yet. Therefore I'm hoping Silvio shakes off his injury soon because he's the best option defensively for left back, and can also cover the right back position. To mention again, I'm surprised Cancelo was loaned out. Maxi is in his 30's now and can't play every game, while our lack of options for DM means Almeida is also covering for that position (at least until Fejsa returns)...thus Cancelo would have been a useful rotation option for Max this seasoni.

On the plus side, hopefully Julio Cesar will be a big improvement on Artur, and with a more dependable keeper behind them, defences usually gain in confidence and look stronger. We shall see, this new look team was always going to need some time to gel, but the fact that we've made a good start in the Liga is a definite bonus at this point.

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Andre/UK
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Nice work Jon excellent article.. great read...

Orlando
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João Cancelo, played this week for Valencia, and he was outstanding. i have seen Bernardo Silva, play 2games for Monaco, and he played well in 1 game, but was very good in the other game.
André Gomes is a player who reminded me of a young Tiago...

João Cancelo, played this week for Valencia, and he was outstanding. i have seen Bernardo Silva, play 2games for Monaco, and he played well in 1 game, but was very good in the other game.
André Gomes is a player who reminded me of a young Tiago Silva, now with Atlletico Madrid. Jose Mourinho once said that Tiago could be one of the worlds best MF if he just had a little more Pace.
Ivan Cavaleiro, reminds me of Simao Sabrosa, fast, very good finisher, and like Simao, loose the ball to often in 1 on 1 situations. I don't agree with the [strong in 1v1 situations} assessment.
i can't say it enough, Shame on Benfica, and Porto most games are lucky if they start more then 1 Portuguese player.
I'm a Fc sporting fan, but i have always enjoyed watching Benfica, and Porto, until the last 4 or 5 years. we have become a nation that developed other Country's players…..just look at the world cup. While our nation struggled other team were playing great with players that were developed in our league. Di maria, Ramos, Jackson, Rojo, Slimani, Gaitan, Otamendi, Hulk, Witsel, Maxi, Ramires, Nemanja Matic, Diago Costa, David Luiz, Herrera, Danilo, Quintero, and so many more. Im not saying that we have to have 11 Portuguese players on the field, but 1 or 2 is a disgrace to our national sport. Just me

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Jose/Can
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@Andre/UK

Very good point about Silvio as towards the end of the season last year (before the injury) he was one of the best and consistent players for Benfica. The question mark for me on Silvio is when he is fit (I'm guessing towards the...

@Andre/UK

Very good point about Silvio as towards the end of the season last year (before the injury) he was one of the best and consistent players for Benfica. The question mark for me on Silvio is when he is fit (I'm guessing towards the latter part of the season) can he come straight into the side and immediately hit the form he was in before the injury. It is a big if and not having a solid pre-season can really work against some players. Last year at the start of the season he made some basic defensive errors (poor clearances, ball watching on occasions etc.) but drastically improved as he played more games and the season wore on.

I didn't see much of Bonito so I cannot really comment but he no doubt has potential.

Third party ownership changes:
It seems that Bruno De Carvalho's brave stance in the Marcos Rojo transfer saga might have kick started a revolution. It has been reported that FIFA have acted to ban third party ownership and are already putting measures in place to slowly phase this out of Football. Currently Spain, Portugal and South America have the most players in their league with third party ownership.

Conclusions:
Not sure what this means long term to be honest. This might mean less players arrive in Portugal and Spain for that matter from South America and subsequently Portuguese clubs are forced into using their own home grown assets more. Time will tell I guess but I personally think Portugal will remain a favoured first stop for South Americans because;


One last Benfica player worthy of mention:
17 year old Benfica starlet Goncalo Guedes has already played 7 games and scored 3 goals for the B team this year. It is very early to start getting excited as he could obviously still drop off in form or have a mid season slump but even so at 17 he is showing incredible maturity and talent. If he continues this form then he is sure to start to attract attention.

Steve

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steve/australia
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