Óscar Cardozo has left SL Benfica for Trabzonspor AŞ after seven fine seasons; UEFA.com's Pedro Marques looks back on the striker's most memorable Eagles moments.
"Beware, he is dangerous, he is Óscar 'Tacuara' Cardozo". The song devoted by SL Benfica supporters to their number seven since 2007/08 will not be heard this season at the Estádio Sport Lisboa e Benfica, after the 31-year-old Paraguayan forward moved to UEFA Europa League contenders Trabzonspor AŞ.
Cardozo made his debut for Benfica in August 2007, against FC København in the UEFA Champions League third qualifying round. It took him about a month to open his account as a Benfica player, scoring twice at CD Nacional in early September. And from then on, he became synonymous with goals at the club.
In seven seasons at the Lisbon outfit he scored 172 goals in 295 games – 112 goals in 175 games in the Liga – and became the best foreign goalscorer in Benfica's history (the ninth overall). He was twice the Liga top goalscorer (2009/10 and 2011/12) and claimed two Portuguese championships, one Portuguese cup and five League Cups. His final goal for Benfica came last April, from the penalty spot, against Rio Ave FC.
He also made his mark for Benfica in Europe. He scored 11 goals in the UEFA Champions League and 19 in the UEFA Cup and UEFA Europa League, including a competition-leading nine in 2009/10. Only Eusébio scored more goals for Benfica – or for any other Portuguese team – in UEFA club competitions.
"I didn't expect to score this many goals, nor break so many records," he said to Benfica TV before leaving. "I am proud to be part of the history of this great club. You will be in my heart forever.
"I surpassed my expectations, I scored a lot of goals and I won several trophies. My only regret is not winning the Europa League, but we got to the final twice, which is something many would like to achieve."
As for his best moments at the club, he highlights last season: "We won three trophies; it was a year that I will never forget." Here are some other moments from Cardozo that the Benfica supporters certainly will not forget either:
The first goal:
CD Nacional 0-3 Benfica, Liga, 2 September 2007
Cardozo scored his first goals for Benfica in his fifth competitive game for the club. Against Nacional, he opened the scoring after making the most of an error from the opposition goalkeeper and then settled the game from the penalty spot. The Paraguayan would finish that season with 13 goals in the Liga, but the best was yet to come.
The first hat-trick:
Benfica 8-1 Vitória FC, Liga, 31 August 2009
Despite having scored 39 goals in his first two seasons at Benfica, Cardozo had to wait until the third season to score his first hat-trick for the club. With a team that boasted players like Javí García, Ramires, Fábio Coentrão and Ángel Dí María, the Eagles were playing some impressive attacking football, with Cardozo always making his presence felt up front.
Against Setúbal he made it 3-0 from the penalty spot midway through the first half and then scored two more goals in the second half, but he preferred to praise the group. "All the team played very well," he noted. It was the beginning of a season to remember for him, in which he would score 38 goals in 47 games in all competitions.
The first championship:
Benfica 2-1 Rio Ave FC, Liga, 9 May 2010
Despite good performances from Benfica all through the season, they could not clinch the title before the final day. The Lisbon outfit needed at least a draw to secure their first Portuguese championship since 2005 and, inevitably, Cardozo was the one to settle the nerves.
He opened the scoring after only three minutes of play. The visitors managed to level things up but Cardozo found the back of the net again, finishing the season as the Liga top scorer for the first time for the eventual champions.
Benfica 4-1 CS Marítimo, Liga, 5 December 2012
Benfica were making their supporters dream again in 2012/13 – even though the season would end in disappointment – and Cardozo was making the headlines once more.
With his second hat-trick in a week, after scoring three goals against rival Sporting Clube de Portugal five days earlier, the forward reached the 100-goal mark for the club. By then he was already Benfica's all-time best foreign goalscorer, surpassing Swedish striker Mats Magnusson.
A European night to remember:
Benfica 3-1 Fenerbahçe SK, UEFA Europa League semi-final second leg, 2 May 2013
Benfica had lost 1-0 in Turkey in the first leg and, in Lisbon, a penalty from Fenerbahçe forward Dirk Kuyt cancelled out an early goal from Nicólas Gaitán, meaning that Benfica needed two more goals to reach the final in Amsterdam. So, once more, Cardozo came to the rescue.
He put Benfica back in front on the night with a trademark left-foot shot, before sealing the aggregate triumph midway through the second half. Benfica would eventually lose in the final against Chelsea FC, but nothing could take that amazing European night away from Cardozo.
Three goals in 33 minutes:
Benfica 4-3 Sporting Clube de Portugual (aet), Portuguese Cup round of 32, 9 November 2013
Lisbon rivals Sporting were always one of Cardozo’s favourite preys. And it was against the Lions that the Paraguayan had his last great night with the Eagles. He had already scored a hat-trick against the Lisbon club in the previous season and repeated the feat early in the 2013/14 treble-winning campaign.
After opening the scoing from a free-kick with 12 minutes gone, he would score two more goals late in the first half – the second of which was an amazing left-foot half-volley – thus becoming the first player ever to score two hat-tricks in the 'Eternal Derby'. In total, he scored 13 goals against Sporting.