The 2013/14 campaign will live long in the memory for SL Benfica as they completed an unprecedented treble, with only a penalty shoot-out defeat by Sevilla FC in the UEFA Europa League final denying the Eagles a clean sweep of trophies.
Success, though, can come at a cost, with several of Benfica's prized assets being cherry-picked by Europe's biggest spenders. "Benfica are paying for their success," coach Jorge Jesus conceded. "People saw the quality of our players due to their achievements over the past two seasons. The teams who are financially stronger than us naturally start to look at our players."
The starting XI that Jesus so often trusted has been pulled apart over the summer, with left-back Guilherme Siqueira moving to Club Atlético de Madrid alongside goalkeeper Jan Oblak – a revelation last year. FC Zenit lured Argentina centre-back Ezequiel Garay, meanwhile, and Liverpool FC snared exciting winger Lazar Marković. The exodus continued with the departures of Spanish striker Rodrigo and midfielder André Gomes, both to Valencia CF.
Jesus has moved swiftly to reinforce his squad, acquiring no fewer than nine players. The blend consists of Portuguese Liga talent and experienced professionals such as Málaga CF forward Eliseu. A raft of youngsters have also arrived from within Europe and Brazil as gambles are taken.
"Our aim is to bring in players that are not particularly well-known, with a few exceptions. We are forced to take that risk," said Jesus. Pre-season defeats by Sporting Clube de Portugal and Olympique de Marseille may be suggestive of difficult times ahead, but Jesus, who has won seven domestic trophies with Benfica, has everything in hand.
"Obviously, this is not the Benfica team yet. With several new faces we will be able to build a team in accordance with this great club." Judging by the Portuguese coach's track record, supporters of the Lisbon outfit have little to worry about.
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