Since Rui Vitória has been appointed the new coach at SL Benfica, fans have been wondering as to what kind of changes Vitória will be implementing at the helm. Which players will he chose from this great multitude, and which formation will work? With such hopeful signings as Taarabt, Carcela, Murillo, and the departures of Artur, Maxi and possibly a few others before September, Vitoria has his work cut out for him. A good indication as to where this 2015/16 SLB is headed will be showcased during this month’s International Champions Cup as Benfica are set to square off against such talented oppositions as Paris Saint-Germaine, Fiorentina, New York Red Bulls, and Monterrey of Mexico for the prestigious Eusebio Cup.
There are many players who are returning from loan spells and will be available for these pre-season matches. One of the many names is Nélson Oliveira the 24-year old Barcelos born striker who was deemed at one point to be not only the future striker for Benfica but the long awaited future striker of Portugal. Portugal arguably has not had a proper striker since the days of Pauleta and Nuno Gomes.
The Success Of Nélson Oliveira or better yet his shinning moments were often credited in his youth when he represented Portugal at the under 17, under 19, and under 20 and 21 levels. During the 2011 FIFA Under-20 World Cup, Oliveira played in the final as Portugal lost to Brazil in penalty kicks. He was named Man Of The Match on two occasions and won the 2011 Silver Ball Award scoring four goals in that tournament. In less then one year Oliveira was called up to Portugal’s 23 Man roaster for the UEFA Euro 2012 after bowing out to Spain during the semi-finals in penalty kicks. After the tournament there were rumours of Nélson Oliveira joining the likes of Chelsea and Manchester United on a 20 million € transfer fee. These deals obviously never went through and although there may of been some interest Oliveira continued his career at Benfica.
Prior to Euro 2012, Oliveira spent most of the 2011/12 season at Benfica on the bench. He started a total of 2 games but managed to make 12 appearances in the league. At the time there was not much room for the young Portuguese striker as Jorge Jesus had such talent up front as Saviola, Rodrigo, Bruno César, Nolito and a guy named Óscar Cardozo who would be the Portuguese League’s top goal scorer with 20 goals (tied with SC Braga’s Lima) At this point the frustration started settling in as Nélson lacked opportunities at Benfica. Before the start of the 2012/13 season Oliveira was transferred on a season long loan to Deportivo de La Coruña in Spain’s La Liga. This deal generated 600,000 € for Benfica and brought him playing with fellow, former and future team mates Silvio, Pizzi, and Luisinho. During his loan spell Oliveira started twice and was substitued 28 times scoring 4 goals including a home opener that season against Osasuna.
At the end of the 2012/13 season Nelson’s dad Adelio, began making comments towards Benfica and Jorge Jesus choice of squad. Although both Father and Son were venting their frustrations this would not help Nelson’s oportunities at Benfica for the up and coming season. Just shortly after returning from Spain and before Benfica would head down south to the Algarve to face Penãrol, Levante and Nice, Oliveira was back on a plane heading to France on a season long loan to Stade Rennes. Oliveira was featured in 30 Ligue 1 matches starting 18. He would end up being one of the most talked about players in Ligue 1 that year scoring 8 goals. This deal generated Benfica 1 million € and gave Rennes an opportunity to buy Oliveira. They did not exercise that right and by the end of the season Oliveira was back at the Luz awaiting Paulo Bento’s decision as to whom would make the initial 30 man roaster for the 2014 Portugal World Cup Team. Bento had stated previously that he was “reluctant” to call Oliveira to the squad even though he may of had a better season then Eder (SC Braga) or an injury prone Helder Postiga (Lazio). Portugal would exit out of the 2014 World Cup early by not advancing from the group stages and Oliveira was awaiting his future at Benfica.
Benfica won 6 of their 8 games during the 2014/15 pre-season. We saw Nélson Oliveira included in Benfica’s pre-season. Although he did not play much, he was subbed on in 46th minute during a match against Swiss side FC Sion in which Oliveira was able to create a few opportunities on net. The season began and Benfica did not loan out Oliveira but perhaps should of as he spent most of the first half of the season on the bench. Such players as Tallisca, Jonas, and Lima made for a promising first half of the season. Oliveira was once again feeling the burn as he sat on the sidelines and was only dressed for 3 of 14 games. He played no minutes for half of a season at Benfica but was finally given another oportunity as he joined Swansea in the EPL. Wilfred Bony had left for the month of January to play in the Africa Cup Of Nations so Oliveira was able to gain a spot on he team. Oliveira played 10 matches at Swansea City and scored his only goal against Newcastle a game in which The Swans would win 3-2.
Swansea City finished 8th in the EPL and SL Benfica would become “Bicampeão” for the first time in 31 years. Oliveira was unable to contribute to Benfica’s success but he is now back at the Luz ready for what awaits him in the 2015/16 season. After an impressive run with the team Jorge Jesus has left after 6 seasons and he is now replaced by a familiar face Rui Vitoria. For Oliveira, Vitoria may be his last chance to make a name for himself at Benfica. Vitoria had coached Oliveira during his 2010/11 season loan at Paços De Ferreira. They had also crossed paths when Oliveira had just arrived in the Benfica Youth system at age 15 and Vitória was coaching his final season at the Benfica Juniors.
Looking back was there some truth to Oliveira and Son’s comments towards Benfica and Jorge Jesus? Did Jorge Jesus have a personal vendetta against Oliveira? or perhaps JJ simply felt that there was no room for him at the club. Also, at the time Oliveira was trying to get spots over Rodrigo, Cardozo, and others who JJ felt were better forwards then Oliveira. As for lack of opportunities other then the first half of last season, Oliveira has consistently been given loan opportunities since he progressed from junior to senior at Benfica. Hopefully Oliveira and his dad realize now that those comments that they made in the media did more harm then good for Nélson Oliveira and his career at Benfica.
Oliveira (almost) 24 seems to be more mature these days. Him and Sr. Adélio are lashing out less at Benfica in the media. Rui Vitória has mentioned that he will be giving opportunities for Portuguese youth in the new season. Nélson is looking forward to the up and coming season and although he does not know what the future holds for him Benfica, he is willing to work hard to earn a spot representing his boyhood team. Nélson Oliveira is on contract with Benfica until June 2018 and is represented by Gestifute (Jorge Mendes)