The reasons for Benfica’s second consecutive third place in I Liga “are being given little by little”, assumes former footballer and coach Hélder Cristóvão, anticipating “another risky season” with the arrival of Roger Schmidt.
“The somewhat gray performances and the many athletes associated with the club greatly justify the failure of this season. A lot of things have gone wrong and, given the news that is coming out, the president Rui Costa wants to hit the table. By changing everything or a lot of things, like about 50% of the squad, it will be another season at risk,” said the former ‘eagles’ defender (1992-1996 and 2002-2004), who guided the B team (2013-2018). Lusa agency.
Benfica, the scepter record holder, with 37, closed the podium of the 2021/22 edition of the I Liga with 74 points, 17 behind national champions FC Porto, and 11 points for second-placed Sporting , “buffer” the worst record since 2005/06 (in championships disputed with 18 clubs).
“The squad was too big, something old and I think it was badly chosen. There were two players per position, but the first option was not always much stronger than the second. For example, there were a lot of doubts on the right wing and that was to prove that Gilberto was more consistent than Valentino Lazaro and Diogo Gonçalves”, he illustrated.
Hélder Cristóvão, 51, hailed the performances of Alejandro Grimaldo, Rafa, Gonçalo Ramos and Darwin Núñez, the competition’s top scorer, with 26 goals, however detecting Adel Taarabt’s “loss of consistency” in the midfield pair field with Julian Weigl.
“I think Odysseas Vlachodimos is not a Benfica keeper. You need someone who plays further and starts building safely, but I have to admit he had a great season. Central defenders Nicolás Otamendi and Jan Vertonghen had a lot of difficulty adapting to the championship and high bouldering,” he added.
Nélson Veríssimo’s ‘tactical metamorphosis’ between ‘4-4-2’ and ‘4-2-3-1’ systems ‘didn’t help’, as did the line of three centre-backs adopted by predecessor Jorge Jesus , with “many things that were lost or never won throughout the season”.
“When you fire a coach, it’s because everyone has failed. Not only the coach leaves, but also the structure. Assuming the entry of new managers and the attempt to shorten the people who will join the main team , with more solid ideas , there is recognition by all that, structurally, Benfica has not done well”, he assessed.
Hélder Cristóvão repairs a “very short” quality of play of the “incarnates”, even if they applied a “different strategy” “very well” at “specific moments” on the way to the quarter-finals of the Champions League, without fear “of being dominated rather than dominating and playing on a low and transient block”.
“Now that model doesn’t work for the league. Also, changing the chip from game to game is expensive and the team took a long time to come up with that answer and the Champions League on what was the goal, even though they always said it was the championship,” he recalls.
Jorge Jesus and Nélson Veríssimo, each with two home defeats in I Liga and another in ‘Champions’, contributed to a record unmatched since the inauguration of the new Estádio da Luz, in 2003, even equaling the Lisbon record set in 1996/ 97.
“Roger Schmidt is Rui Costa’s bet. Although he comes from a different school, it can be positive for Portuguese football. We cannot forget that Thomas Tuchel and Jürgen Klopp are currently one of the best coaches of the world. Roger Schmidt drinks a little from this school and we have to comfort him. Once the coach is chosen, I am 100% with him and I believe in the ideas he can bring to Benfica.” declared.
Winner of a championship and three Portuguese Cups, Hélder Cristóvão raises “several questions” about the entry of the 55-year-old German coach, who is at the end of his contract with Dutch PSV Eindhoven and has a principle of agreement with the ‘eagles’ ‘.
“Will the coach have time? I believe so, because there is a two-year contract and the president has been hired. Then, will the “court” of Luz give him time to implement his ideas? but there are many changes. and it will be a very complicated season. Which competition will give the most relevance? In a workforce under construction, you can never talk about attacking them all at the same time”, he warned.
The ex-Portuguese international predicts a “dizzying Benfica, with possession and playing more than 70% in the opposing midfield” after the second consecutive season without titles, to which the defeats against FC Porto contributed, in ‘eighth’ in the Portuguese Cup, and Sporting in the League Cup final, while the youngsters won an unprecedented UEFA Youth League.
“Often, [apostar na formação] it’s a necessity. I believe that in my time there was a three-year or four-year plan that provided a space for young people, but they have to conquer it. This title, which I speak from experience Benfica has pursued for many years, is very important for the club and the country, but it will not determine who will move up and stay in the first team. It goes through the preparation of the player when he gets there,” he said.