Benfica has been quietly going about its business of identifying, acquiring & nurturing top talents and selling them on to Europe's wealthiest clubs for massive profits.
The Lisbon club has shown an accumulative net income from sales figure north of €472m between the 2015-16 season and the present day, with numerous high-profile names having made their start at Estádio da Luz.
The most notable recent examples are of course 2019 Golden Boy winner João Félix and Man City's new defensive star Rúben Dias.
💶 Net income from transfers— Futaa.com (@Futaacom) January 13, 2021
🗓 2015-16 >> 2020-21
🇵🇹 Benfica - €472.5m
🇳🇱 Ajax - €300.1m
🇵🇹 Porto - €255.7m
🇦🇹 RB Salzburg - €251.0m
🇵🇹 Sporting Lisbon - €238.8m
💼 Great business being done at Estádio da Luz with the sale of João Félix alone bringing in €127m. pic.twitter.com/MqB5yLTm17
The eye-watering figure of €127m that Benfica fetched when Felix transferred to Atlético Madrid in 2019 is by far the biggest fee that the club has recouped, but they've really excelled in moving on high volumes of players for more moderate figures. The sale of Dias to Man City at the start of 2020-21 represented pure profit after the commanding centre-back came through the youth ranks. Dias has been a key pillar in Man City's Premier League title win this term and he only turns 24 today.
💰 Benfica's major sales: 2015-16 to 2020-21
- 🇵🇹 Joao Félix ✈️ Atlético Madrid - €127m
- 🇵🇹 Rúben Dias ✈️ Man City - €68m
- 🇧🇷 Ederson ✈️ Man City - €40m
- 🇲🇽 Raúl Jiménez ✈️ Wolves - €38m
- 🇵🇹 Nélson Semedo ✈️ Barcelona - €35.7m
- 🇸🇪 Victor Lindelöf ✈️ Man United - €35m
- 🇵🇹 Renato Sanches ✈️ Bayern - €35m
- 🇪🇸 Rodrigo ✈️ Valencia - €30m
- 🇵🇹 Gonçalo Guedes ✈️ PSG - €30m
- 🇦🇷 Nico Gaitán ✈️ Atlético Madrid - €25m
- 🇪🇸 Raúl de Tomás ✈️ Espanyol - €22.5m
- 🇷🇸 Luka Jović ✈️ Frankfurt - €22.3m
- 🇵🇹 André Gomes ✈️ Valencia - €20m
The Benfica board was also sanctioning large-profit player sales prior to 2015-16. Belgian midfielder Axel Witsel arrived at the club in 2011 for €10m from Standard Liege and was sold to Zenit St Petersburg for €40m a year later after making just 52 appearances. That represents a 300% profit. Witsel now represents Borussia Dortmund via Tianjin Quanjian in China and he's represented the Belgian Red Devils 110 times.
💶 Major Benfica sales prior to 2015-16:
- 🇧🇪 Axel Witsel ✈️ Zenit - €40m
- 🇦🇷 Ángel Di María ✈️ Real Madrid - €33m
- 🇵🇹 Fábio Coentrão ✈️ Real Madrid - €30m
- 🇷🇸 Nemanja Matić ✈️ Chelsea - €25m
- 🇧🇷 David Luiz ✈️ Chelsea - €25m
- 🇷🇸 Lazar Markovic ✈️ Liverpool - €25m
- 🇦🇷 Enzo Pérez ✈️ Valencia - €25m
- 🇧🇷 Ramires ✈️ Chelsea - €22m
- 🇪🇸 Javi García ✈️ Man City - €20.2m
- 🇵🇹 Simão ✈️ Atlético Madrid - €20m
Three of the five clubs with the healthiest net income from transfers figures in recent times are Portuguese. Whether or not that is a coincidence remains open to interpretation, but it's apparent that the reigning European Champions have representative clubs which know how to operate at a profit despite the heavy financial restraints that they face.
Current star striker Darwin Núñez, the 21-year-old Uruguayan, arrived from Almería in a €24m deal last year. Perhaps his signing, alongside that of talented Germany international Julian Weigl, signals a potentially subtle switch in strategy. Benfica is ready to flex its muscles in the transfer market and recruit its own core of talented youngsters.
Benfica simply doesn't possess the resources of top clubs in England, Spain, Italy, Germany and even France, but they've worked out a model that keeps them afloat at the top table of European football.
Benfica has had to swallow their price this season with city rivals Sporting recently crowned champions of Portugal, and the sides meet this Saturday with third-placed Benfica still with an outside shot of finishing second.
Of course, it will also be fascinating to monitor Portugal's defence of their European crown this year, with both of Benfica's most expensive sales involving Portuguese players.
Keep an eye on Benfica's talent factory because it's here to stay.
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