Thursday 15 of August was a day circled in red in many Benfiquistas’ calendars. Light would be made about the strange frenzy of players’ sales, the seeming financial crisis, the use of young talents from our academies – or rather, lack thereof-… Luis Filipe Vieira was going to reveal all in a ground-breaking interview and restore our faith in him and the club.
(Editor’s Note: 2 part Video of the interview available in the Video Section)
As we all tuned in to listen to his explanations, most of us were left dumbfounded by the candid answers provided by the Presidente regarding some serious issues affecting the health of the club. Indeed, it seems all too simplistic to invoke a player’s percentage of ownership to justify an exceptionally low sale price, or being “a good client of the bank” to explain why they are bleeding us to death.
The journalist cannot be faulted, as he did his job and asked excellent questions. LFV seemed however ready for them, and, sometimes with that arrogance characteristic of a man in power, made us look and sound like gullible fools at the mercy of newspapers. A financial crisis? Where did you get this idea from?! Half the team decimated? We can’t prevent them from going for their buy-out clause price. Lack of players issued from our schools? Hey guys, we are building another four grounds for the youths so your argument is non receivable.
OK. The only certainty at the end of this interview was that: 1- we need more socios and 2- more BTV subscribers. I am fine with that, as long as we are given 1- more say in the club’s big decisions and that 2- we are being respected when we ask for accountability. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather pay these “quotas” in my kids’ savings accounts if my voice isn’t heard!!
Here are a few subjects raised in the interview. Paragraphs starting and ending with quotation marks are my translation of his replies (be indulgent my friends).
“Benfica is not in liquidation. We will be borrowing more. Rest assured that Benfica doesn’t have any treasury issues. Benfica is the only club who has always complied with the financial system these past 14 years. Vitor Bento will continue financing Benfica. There is no bank who wouldn’t want a client who pays 200 million interests in 10 years… I would like to try to understand the intentions behind these headlines because there is no justification for it…”
I find absolutely incredible that, in the era of the Internet where almost everything is available to whom is willing to look for it, we are being asked to accept such a flimsy explanation. The problem of the BES is indeed a problem at the scale of the country. Europe finds itself in a recession, and the poorer southern countries (Greece, Spain, Italy and Portugal) have been affected greatly. Vieira’s business, which is also a source of indirect financing for the club, deals with the construction sector, sector which has been hit hard by the economic crisis. When Vieira took over a Benfica spoiled by Vale e Azevedo, the real estate and construction sectors were blooming. Only around 2006 did the housing bubble start with the devastating consequences on the rest of the economy. Some well-established banks went bankrupt in the US and Europe, whilst many others saw Moodys lower their ratings significantly.
It would have been nice to hear from LFV a bit more background on the whole situation, as well as him mentioning the affect Promovalor (his private company)is having on the higher guarantees asked by Novo Banco and the BES as regards to the club. Sadly, I believe this will never happen as the fans would start questioning whether he is still financially capable to take care of the club’s assets. One thing is for sure, he did mention that we will be borrowing more money, all while declaring that next year there will be another cut in players and staff’s salaries. These are very worrying news for the quality of a squad already in decline
“We were unlucky in 2013/2014 with Olympiacos, and the lies told about the goalkeeper… We only need to look at Real Madrid, a team worth 400 million euros, and there are things we just can’t compete against. We will always try to dream.”
Translation: Dear Benfiquistas, despite claiming to be the biggest club in the world, we do not have the capacity to compete in the Champions’ League. Fear not, we will still TRY to dream about it even if this is a lost cause! Thank goodness for the Europa League.
Benfica made in Benfica:
“Cavaleiro and André Gomes have played in the A team. Cancelo and Bernardo Silva were sent to grow in big clubs. They didn’t have space in the main team and couldn’t be sent to the B. These players have a contract with clause. Imagine getting an offer of 15 million euros for one of them. We are not bad businessmen and can’t ignore that fact.”
To recap, Ivan (forward/winger) and André (midfield), both Portuguese players, were loaned respectively to Deportivo and Valencia, two “great clubs” according to Vieira, whilst our scouting geniuses are fishing for a much needed forward (ding!) in the modest French club of Lorient. A Manel with a foreign name to replace a disillusioned Benfiquista. And if they are good enough, who knows, we may even cash in a good price, and therefore never see them wearing o Manto Sagrado.
“There were many games in a short period of time. Maybe it was positive because it allowed us to regain humbleness. We are back to last year, thinking from training sessions to the next. Last season is over. There are no titles to win during pre-season. We could even qualify it as a good campaign since it ended in euphoria.”
Is this a joke?! Pre-season isn’t worth much title wise, I will concede that. But it does serve to build a competitive team, trying different game systems, giving minutes to underused players and finding interesting combinations. The Supertaça game against Rio Ave has shown us that our pre-season was rather pointless, except for highlighting the squad’s lack of options. We essentially lined up a team with players from last season, with the exception of a couple of new hires. We were able to witness some bizarre tactical positioning and an amazing number of fruitless shots on target to end up in a 50/50 situation after 120 minutes. Euphoria? Not much, senhor Vieira.
“I say that Benfica belongs to the people. Benfica belongs to the socios. In my optic, this will never be an alternative. With me, the club will always belong to the Benfiquistas. I am not available for this type of discourse.”
At least we can be sure that the Emirates sponsorship deal is nothing more than that: a brand.
“Fourteen years ago, there was no mistica. This passion is now alive and we are a lot more humanised. People start to have this feeling of benfiquismo deeply rooted within.”
This was probably the most megalomaniac statement of the evening. I wonder what the older generations who have witnessed the team win two Champions League and numerous other trophies make of it. Vieira is trying to pose as the corner stone of a feeling and a passion that have been passed down from generation to generation since 1904. No, dear Mr Vieira, you cannot claim yours decades of emotions, tears, joys, disillusions, hopes and immense love for this club of the people. This legacy goes back much further than the years of your life, you arrogant (insert here word of your choice).
Other themes regarding the sale of players were discussed. There again, in order to clear himself from any blame, LFV makes it sound like there is no captain on board to prevent tantrum-y greedy players to leave before the end of their contract, after they have used Benfica as a ramp for international exposure. While this is true we can’t keep players whose buy-out clause has been paid, most of the sales this year have been made for a value less than said clause. Coupled with a strange game of loans, this proves that the club isn’t in the healthy state the President is trying to make us believe.
All in all, despite his clumsy attempt to cover up a grave crisis, I hope Luis Filipe Vieira remains our president for the near future. New elections at this point in time would be detrimental to an already fragile structure. I have hopes that he will be trying to work out a more viable financial option, away from the media and us and hopefully win our hearts again with more titles.