Football Features

Bela Guttmann curse: What happened to Benfica’s losing Europa League finalists of 2013 and 2014?

By Muhammad Butt

Published: 18:07, 29 July 2021

Despite winning consecutive European Cups in 1962 and 1963, Benfica didn’t want to give Bela Guttmann a raise.

The manager had signed Eusebio and led Benfica to the very top of the European game, but it seems that the Portuguese side didn’t feel like rewarding that monetarily. Upon leaving the club Guttmann is said to have cursed them, saying: “not in a hundred years from now will Benfica ever be European champions!”

Now, considering Guttmann himself had one more spell at the club you’d imagine this to be pure nonsense. And yet since Guttmann left (the first time) Benfica have lost seven European finals. First in 1963, 1965 and 1968 with much of the team Guttmann assembled, then later 1988, 1990 and most recently in 2013 and 2014.

Those two most recent defeats were consecutive losses in the Europa League, first to Chelsea and then to Sevilla. They are notable for the very “cursed” nature of defeat (last-second winner for Chelsea, penalty shootout win for Sevilla) and also for the enormous quality contained in the Benfica side – but where are those Benfica players now? We’ve come up with a combined XI of both Benfica sides and had a look at where they currently are in the world.

Starters:

Jan Oblak

Age: 28
Position: Goalkeeper
Benfica appearances: 26
Finals played in: 2014
Current club: Atlético Madrid

Jan Oblak came in for Artur midway through 2013/14 due to the latter’s poor form and was such a colossal presence in goal for Benfica that they conceded just four goals in nine knockout games, keeping six clean sheets including in the final itself. This was enough to grab Atlético Madrid’s attention, and seven years later he’s still in Spain’s capital performing miracles in goal and most recently helping the club to the La Liga title.

Maxi Pereira

Age: 37
Position: Right-back
Benfica appearances: 329
Finals played in: 2014
Current club: CA Peñarol

Maxi Pereira missed the 2013 final through suspension but was back to face Sevilla. Unfortunately he could do nothing to stop Benfica falling to defeat. He left them in 2015 to join rivals Porto and helped the Dragons beat Benfica to the Portuguese title in 2018. Pereira recently returned to action after an 18-month hiatus, joining Peñarol in his native Uruguay.

Luisao

Age: 40
Position: Centre-back
Benfica appearances: 522
Finals played in: 2013, 2014
Retired in: 2019

Benfica’s defensive titan and captain, the Brazilian was already a Benfica legend when the two finals rolled around. He got dumped to the turf by Fernando Torres for Chelsea’s opener in 2013 but put in a much better performance in 2014, helping to keep a clean sheet and scoring his penalty in the shootout. Played in for five further seasons in Benfica red before retiring.

Ezequiel Garay

Age: 34
Position: Centre-back
Benfica appearances: 136
Finals played in: 2013, 2014
Retired in: 2021

Ezequiel Garay was often linked with Manchester United but for some reason, the move never materialised. This was to Benfica’s gain as Garay was a dominant force in the middle of defence for the Reds although, like Luisao, debased himself with his so-called defending on Chelsea’s opening goal in 2013. Garay left Valencia in 2020 and called time on his career earlier this year.

Lorenzo Melgarejo

Age: 30
Position: Left-back
Benfica appearances: 40
Finals played in: 2013
Current club: Racing Club

Melgarejo was a young Paraguayan left-back in 2013 that was rumoured to be joining Liverpool after his impressive season helped the Lisbon club reach the Europa League final. That never happened but he did join Kuban Krasnodar; currently playing for Racing Club in Argentina.

Nemanja Matic

Age: 32
Position: Defensive midfielder
Benfica appearances: 98
Finals played in: 2013
Current club: Manchester United

Matic was a huge part of the Benfica midfield that was so formidable in 2013 against former club Chelsea. Alas Benfica couldn’t win that final and as they were making their way back there in 2014, Matic was allowed to return to Chelsea. The Serbian is currently providing back-up at Manchester United as they continue to grow under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

André Gomes

Age: 28
Position: Defensive midfielder
Benfica appearances: 41
Finals played in: 2013 (unused sub), 2014
Current club: Everton

André Gomes was Benfica’s wonderboy and after being an unused sub in 2013, he started in 2014 and played well. Since then he joined Valencia, got a big move to Barcelona where his mental health stopped him from performing up to his standard. Now playing for Everton but despite recovering from a horrible injury, he’s struggled to rediscover his best form.

Rodrigo

Age: 30
Position: Wing-forward
Benfica appearances: 119
Finals played in: 2013, 2014
Current club: Leeds

Rodrigo was a former Real Madrid academy product that Benfica signed from Bolton. No, really. Still, Benfica rehabilitated the young Spaniard immensely and he was a starter in both of their final defeats. Alright he didn’t shine, missing some great chances against Chelsea and a penalty in the shootout against Sevilla, but he had proven he was quality. Returned to the Premier League last summer, joining Marcelo Bielsa’s energetic Leeds side.

Nico Gaitan

Age: 33
Position: Attacking midfielder
Benfica appearances: 253
Finals played in: 2013, 2014
Current club: Braga

Nico Gaitan was linked with Manchester United more than any other player in history (probably) but never joined them. A mesmeric attacking midfielder he was key to Benfica’s two Europa League runs although was powerless in the finals. After a brief spell in Lille, Gaitan turned out for Braga last season but appears to be without a club once again.

Eduardo Salvio

Age: 31
Position: Wing-forward
Benfica appearances: 266
Finals played in: 2013
Current club: Boca Juniors

Benfica’s flying winger had flopped at Atlético Madrid but was so impressive for Benfica in their run to the 2013 final. Injury decimated him the following season, however, and his rehabilitation kind of stopped there. Left Benfica for Boca Juniors in 2019, where he remains.

Oscar Cardozo

Age: 38
Position: Striker
Benfica appearances: 288
Finals played in: 2013, 2014
Current club: Libertad

Benfica’s giant striker was on the verge of greatness in 2013 and scored a thumping penalty against Chelsea in the final. That was his 33rd goal of the season but he ruined any chance of a big summer move by shoving Jorge Jesus after being subbed off in the Portuguese Cup final. Punishment for that as well as an injury disrupted his 2013/14 and he was only a sub in 2014 but somehow managed to make things worse, coming off the bench to miss a penalty in the shootout. He left the club after that and following some brief stops in Turkey and Greece is back home in Paraguay.

Subs: 

Artur

Age: 40
Position: Goalkeeper
Benfica appearances: 144
Finals played in: 2013
Retired in: 2018

Artur was Benfica’s no. 1 in 2013 and although he played well he was embarrassed on both Chelsea goals. He lost his spot to Jan Oblak in the following season but once Oblak left, Artur returned. He retired in 2018 after a few spells at other clubs, including Chapecoense after their tragic plane crash.

Enzo Perez

Age: 35
Position: Midfielder
Benfica appearances: 117
Finals played in: 2013
Current club: River Plate

Perez started in the 2013 final and was an impressive bundle of energy but was suspended for 2014. Like a few of his Benfica teammates, he ended up at Valencia. He’s currently playing for River Plate back in his native Argentina.

Pablo Aimar

Age: 41
Position: Attacking midfielder
Benfica appearances: 179
Finals played in: 2013 (unused sub)
Retired in: 2018

Pablo Aimar is a legend of football. After all, how many people can say they are Lionel Messi’s idol? Injuries prevented him from dominating at Benfica as he would have liked and he was only an unused sub in 2013. He didn’t end up back at Valencia (though he played for them some years before) but played for a couple more clubs before retiring in 2018. Aimar is now the Argentina U-17 coach.

Lima

Age: 38
Position: Striker
Benfica appearances: 145
Finals played in: 2013, 2014
Retired in: 2019

Lima was a relentless and ridiculous goalscorer for Benfica, who signed him from Braga. He was a sub in 2013 but started in 2014 (and scored in the shootout). The Brazilian managed 70 goals in 144 games for Benfica before leaving for Al Ahli in 2015. He retired in 2019 after a series of injury problems.