Stars of the future: A closer look at the players emerging from Benfica's academy
Benfica have a generation of rising stars currently emerging from their prestigious youth academy. Here, we take a look at some of the most promising prospects Benfica have to offer.
Undoubtedly the most senior player on this list, Dias, now 21, was shuttled through the Portugal youth levels to the senior national side, only playing a measly 4 matches for the U21 team, in part due to the lack of depth Portugal have in the centreback department, while his ability also spoke for itself.
Despite only making his senior Benfica debut midway through last season, he has now racked up an impressive 65 matches for the Lisbon club in total, showing how instrumental Dias has been to Benfica's defence in recent years.
It's therefore no wonder that clubs from across Europe - from Lyon to Chelsea and Juventus to Manchester United - are being linked with the 7-time Portugal international.
What an outstanding few months it has been for Felix. His potential has been clear for all to see for at several years now - and that's despite him having only just turned 19 in November.
Since making his debut at the start of the season, he has scored an outstanding 6 goals and chipped in with 3 assists in just 12 league matches, a phenomenal return from his attacking midfield/second striker position that he has been occupying for Benfica.
And with 22 senior games to his name across all competitions already, he has been rewarded with a lucrative long-term contract that saw his release clause increased to an astronomical 120 million euros - a value Benfica are particularly keen increasing even further with the biggest clubs in Europe desperate to get their hands on the youngster.
The teenager has a truly magnificent future ahead of him - and may be the next Portuguese Ballon d'Or winner after Cristiano Ronaldo.
Like João Felix, Gedson also burst onto the senior stage at the start of this campaign, and has dazzled with his tenacity and work rate in central midfield, even if he hasn't been featuring of late.
His talent may not be quite as obvious and 'in your face' as more attacking players such as João Felix and João Filipe who have more license and freedom to express themselves, but he's a very accomplished midfielder that can both attack and defend with confidence, operating as a very technically gifted box to box player. He too can have a very bright future.
Still only 20 years of age, Fernando Santos has already given Gedson his first couple of appearances for the Portugal national team.
João Filipe (Jota)
Perhaps Benfica are afraid to use him, safe in the knowledge that as soon as he plays even a dozen games, clubs around Europe will begin to swarm like hungry sharks preparing to steal the very best from the lesser clubs on the continental stage.
For as much promise as João Felix has demonstrate in his outings for Benfica do far, João Filipe, commonly known as Jota, has as much, if not more, talent than his young compatriot.
His efforts at the U17 and U19 European championships serve as clear indication that this boy is going to the vet top with his truly impeccable dribbling. His composure on the ball blended with his tenacity, confidence and sheer desire to go out and express himself make him one of the most talented Portuguese players ever witnessed for his youth level.
Personally, for me he's the player I'm most excited about seeing progress to the senior stage - and I truly hope we get to see him play alongside João Felix for Benfica a few times before one them inevitably moves on for tens of millions of pounds.
Ferro, like Ruben Dias, is another 21-year old centreback who came through Benfica's youth academy. However, unlike his compatriot, Ferro has never played a league game for the senior team, let alone for his country, and he has a way to go to catch up.
In fact, Ferro only made his debut for Benfica earlier this week when he came on for the injured Jardel for the final 52 minutes of Benfica's Portuguese Cup clash with Sporting. He may well end up getting a longer spell in the team if he impresses this weekend in Jardel's absence.
The defensive midfielder has been promoted to the senior squad in recent times - and it’s no surprise that Benfica fans up and down the country are excited to see another one of their own perform on the main stage.
Luis has yet to play a single game for Benfica. But aged 19, he has plenty of time ahead of him to complete his progression to the senior side. And, with Andreas Samaris’ contract due to run out at the end of the season and Alfa Semedo out on loan, he may not have much longer to wait to make his debut for his boyhood club.
Last season, when aged just 16, Embalo was fully expected to be heading to RB Leipzig - for a whopping 20 million euros. While his potential is astronomical, 20 million for a player that was still unproven and had a long way to go to live up to his lofty ambitions seemed an offer that Benfica really couldn’t refuse. But at the last minute, the deal fell through, much to the delight of many fans across the globe.
Astonishingly, the youngster is still only 17 years old, and played for the Portugal U17s on 27 occasions, scoring a sensational 16 goals in the process. He remains some way off making a debut for the Benfica senior side, but for most Benfica supporters, he’s worth the wait.
Ze Gomes is another name that may even be familar to many fans from outside Portugal, a player that has been billed to be the next big striker to come out of Portugal, although he’s yet to progress to the senior side.
It’s not a major issue of course. Gomes is still only 19 years of age - turning 20 in April - and could still make the transition to Benfica’s main team, but he hasn’t set the world alight in the Portuguese second tier. When you then look at Rafael Leao at Lille, who is playing regularly for the Ligue 1 side - and currently scoring for fun - while also only being aged 19, it becomes a little more disappointing that Gomes has yet to live up to the hype.
However, he’s another player to keep an eye on over the next couple of seasons, which will no doubt be a crucial period in his young career.