Benfica is the most successful club in Portugal. The Lisbon based club has won the league title 36 times which is eight more than the number of titles won by FC Porto in second place.
The club has also won two European Cups before the curse of Bela Guttmann struck them.
The Portuguese giants are renowned for their excellent academy which has produced players like Goncalo Guedes, Renato Sanches and Joao Cancelo in recent years.
In addition, they have an excellent scouting network, particularly in South America. Argentine international Angel Di Maria and Nicolas Gaitan, for example, were signed from Argentine Primera División clubs Rosario Central and Boca Juniors respectively before they left Benfica to play for other European giants.
Benfica have signed, groomed and sold numerous superstars over the years and we can name a fantastic starting XI of such stars currently plying their trade.
Goalkeeper - Jan Oblak (Atletico Madrid)
Very few goalkeepers would have kept Manchester City’s Ederson Moraes out of this XI but his competition is arguably the best goalkeeper in the world.
Jan Oblak transferred to Benfica in 2010 from his first professional club Olimpija Ljubljana. He spent his first three seasons at Benfica on loan before spending the 2013/14 season at the Lisbon club as the second choice goalkeeper.
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Midway through the season, he was given a starting role due to the poor form of Artur Moraes. He was stupendous in goal once he was given the chance and after just half a season, he transferred to Atletico Madrid.
The Slovenian shared keeping duties with Miguel Angel Moya in his first season with Atletico Madrid but became the undisputed number one from the 2015/16 season.
Oblak’s performance for Atletico Madrid has earned rave reviews and placed him among the best goalkeepers in the world. In 2017/18, he had the best save success rate (85.8%) of all goalkeepers in Europe’s Top 5 leagues.
Honourable mention - Ederson Moraes (Manchester City)
Fullbacks - Nelson Semedo (Barcelona) and Fabio Coentrao (Rio Ave)
The two full-backs in this XI left Benfica to join La Liga’s biggest clubs.
Nelson Semedo joined Benfica in 2012 from Sintrense. He spent his first season with the club on loan and the next two with the Benfica B team before being promoted to the first team for the 2015/16 season. Semedo played 18 games and nailed down a starting role by the end of the season.
The following season, he played 46 games and helped Benfica win the domestic double. He signed for Barcelona before the 2016/17 season to solve their right-back problems and he won the domestic double in his first season with the Catalan club as well.
While Semedo has quickly established himself at Barcelona, Fabio Coentrao couldn’t cement his place in the starting XI at Real Madrid in seven years.
Coentrao joined Benfica from Rio Ave in 2007 and he was at the club for four years. He played 98 games for the Lisbon club and also had three loan spells before joining Real Madrid in 2011.
The left-back joined as an understudy to Marcelo but he was never able to displace the Brazilian. He played 33 and 30 games respectively for Real Madrid in his first two seasons but injuries sidelined him thereafter.
He spent the 2015/16 season on loan at Monaco and the 2017/18 season on loan at Sporting. This summer, his contract with Real Madrid was terminated with mutual consent and he returned to his first club, Rio Ave.
Honourable mentions - João Cancelo (Juventus) and Maxi Pereira (Porto)
Centre-backs - David Luiz (Chelsea) and Victor Lindelöf (Manchester United)
David Luiz started his career in Europe with Benfica after joining them in 2011 from Vitoria. He played 132 games for the Lisbon club before joining Chelsea midway through the 2010/11 season.
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Luiz played a key role when Chelsea won the Champions League and FA Cup double in 2012. He left Chelsea in 2014 to join PSG and after two seasons with the Ligue 1 club, he returned to the Blues and starred in a Premier League winning season.
The Brazilian international has won numerous honours with Benfica, Chelsea and PSG.
Victor Lindelof joined Benfica when he was 16 and played for the club’s youth teams before becoming a first-team regular.
The Swede played 73 games for Benfica before leaving the club to join Manchester United in 2017. Lindelof hasn’t cemented his place in the Manchester United starting XI but he has so far played 36 games for the club in competitions.
The 24-year-old was part of the UEFA European Under-21 Championship in 2015 before going on to become a crucial member of the senior team.
Honourable mentions - Ezequiel Garay (Valencia) and Jose Fonte (Lille)
Midfield - Nemanja Matic (Manchester United), Renato Sanches (Bayern Munich) and Axel Witsel (Borussia Dortmund)
Nemanja Matic’s first club in one of Europe’s major leagues was Chelsea but he only played three games in his first Premier League stint before joining Benfica in 2011 as a part of David Luiz’s transfer to Chelsea.
At the time of his transfer, Matic was an attacking midfielder and it was at Benfica that he became a defensive midfielder. Matic shone in his new role at Benfica and played 99 games for the club before transferring back to Chelsea.
Back in the Premier League, Matic’s reputation grew and he was quickly regarded as one of the best defensive midfielders in the league. In 2017, he followed his former Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho to Manchester United.
Renato Sanches is a product of the Benfica academy and he played 35 games for the first team before making a €35 million move to Bayern Munich in 2016. During the same summer, he shone for Portugal at the Euro 2016 while also being named tournament’s young player of the year.
Sanches struggled to break into the star-studded Bayern team in his first season and went through a disastrous loan spell at Swansea City in 2017/18. However, back at Bayern, he regained his confidence under the Bavarian club’s new manager Niko Kovac.
Axel Witsel spent one season at Benfica after joining them in 2011 from Standard Liege. He became a fan favourite in his only season with the club and was on the radar of several clubs across Europe but he eventually signed for Russian club Zenit Saint Petersburg.
In 2017, the Belgian moved to Tianjin Quanjian before returning to Europe with Borussia Dortmund this summer.
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The 29-year-old has played 97 games for Belgium which makes him the second most capped player in the country’s history.
Honourable mentions - Ramires (Jiangsu Suning) and Javi Garcia (Real Betis)
Forwards - Bernardo Silva (Manchester City), Rodrigo Moreno (Valencia) and Angel Di Maria (PSG)
Bernardo Silva is also a product of the Benfica youth system but he only played three games for the senior team before moving to Monaco at a young age. Silva rose to fame with Monaco and in three seasons, he played 126 games scoring 25 goals while also playing a crucial role in winning the Ligue 1 in 2016/17.
The Portuguese international moved to Manchester City in 2017 and was part of the side that broke numerous records en route to winning the Premier League title.
Rodrigo Moreno came through Real Madrid’s academy but he couldn’t break into the first team and moved to Benfica in 2010. He spent his first season with Benfica on loan at Bolton Wanderers before going on to score 45 goals in 120 games for the Lisbon side.
He joined Valencia on loan in 2014 before making the move permanent the following season. The 27-year-old has scored 38 goals in 138 games for Valencia and has also broken into the Spain national team.
He was linked with a return to Real Madrid this summer but a move didn’t materialise. However, that move can still happen in the future.
The final player in this XI is Angel Di Maria. In 2007, he moved from Rosario Central to play for a European club and like many South American stars, Benfica was Di Maria’s first destination.
He played 124 games in Benfica colours before moving to Real Madrid in 2010. He was at Real Madrid for four seasons as a first team regular winning several trophies before moving to Manchester United and later to PSG.
The 30-year-old is still with PSG and has added to his trophy cabinet at the Parisian club.
At the international level, he has been a regular for Argentina with 20 goals in 97 games in the last 10 years.
Honourable mentions - Goncalo Guedes (Valencia), Nicolas Gaitan (Dalian Yifang), Lazar Markovic (Liverpool), Nolito (Sevilla) and Konstantinos Mitroglou (Marseille)