Pizzi: stunning start to the season makes the Benfica midfielder the early standout performer in the Primeira Liga
Pizzi's immense early season form has been difficult to believe, and has seen him earn well-deserved acclaim across the nation, while also being sufficient to earn him an illustrious call-up to the Portugal national team.
Pizzi, who has been at the Lisbon club since 2013, has only played for the Seleção 11 times in his career, but after the start he's made to the campaign, he can certainly expect to be called upon by Fernando Santos many more times in the coming years.
Indeed, the 28-year old - who turns 29 next month - has some ridiculous numbers to back up his incredible performances, having already racked up a truly unbelievable 6 goals and 3 assists in just 8 matches across both the Primeira Liga and the Champions League, averaging a league goal or assist every 56 minutes. Mind-boggling stats that truly illustrate how outstanding he has been this season and the incredible partnership he has forged with young starlet Gedson Fernandes in the centre of midfield.
One of his most outstanding displays came against Guimarães in the first league game of the season, where he pulled off a stunning first half hattrick, his first a gloriously well placed left-footed finish into the bottom corner from just inside the box, the next a right-footed strike where he crashed the ball into the roof of the net after a darting run into the box, and his third and final strike again coming from the edge of the box, this time a curling right-footed effort past the keeper.
He followed that up with another goal in the very next league game, this time against Boavista, where he rocketed a low strike into the bottom left corner, very much proving that his new goalscoring prowess is far more than luck.
But it's not just his finishing that has been a sight to behold - with his other two goals this season coming against PAOK in the Champions League - but also his incredible passing prowess. His confidence and composure to control the ball, take on the opposition defence and pick out his man with a forward, offensive pass has been a huge factor in Benfica's very solid start to the season, with both his crossing ability and his vision to play a delicate threaded through-ball to carve open the defence regularly on show early on in the campaign.
Indeed, against Nacional just two weeks ago, his attacking-minded passing was instrumental in Benfica cruising to a 4-0 victory, playing a significant role in Benfica's second goal by playing the ball out wide to Ferreyra who launched the ball into the box for Salvio to header home, while also assisting the third and fourth.
His first assist came after a delightful pinged ball into the box from deep which simply fell to the feet of the on-running Grimaldo, while the second was probably even better, where he played a glorious long distance through ball from the half way line to meet the exceptional run of Rafa, who lobbed the keeper and rounded off an exceptional goal - and game - for Benfica.
He further showed his assisting ability in Champions League, taking a delightful corner which was met by the head of Jardel that was crucial in helping Benfica get back in the tie against PAOK and served as the foundation to help them advance to the group stage. He also bagged the assist for Portugal's only goal against Croatia, whipping the ball into the box which Pepe got onto the end of and converted.
Pizzi's stunning campaign doesn't come as a huge surprise though. Two seasons ago, for example, Pizzi was crucial in Benfica winning their fourth league title in a row, getting an incredible 10 goals and 9 assists in the Primeira Liga, and shows that this is more than a one-off season.
Even last campaign, which was a very disappointing one for Benfica, was far from unsatisfactory for Pizzi on a personal level, still finding 6 league goals and 7 assists, although his overall influence was diminished in comparison to the season earlier. It is therefore exceptional to see Pizzi once again performing to such a high standard - and even surpassing his heroics of two seasons ago. He will surely play a significant role in anything Benfica achieve this campaign.