What will happen to the Portuguese Giants?
Just a few weeks ago, Portugal’s Primeira Liga overcame France’s Ligue 1 in the UEFA League Coefficient Rankings to become one of the vaunted Top 5 European Leagues. However, there’s questions about how long that can be expected to last. Given the trials and tribulations that SL Benfica, Portugal’s most successful club, has been enduring and has yet to go through, it’s unclear what the immediate future holds for As Águias.
SL Benfica is Portugal’s most popular club by far, with studies showing that 47% of citizens being fans of the club. In fact, their fanbase only trails behind German behemoths Bayern Munich in terms of total membership. However, the club has struggled recently, failing to win any of the last three league titles despite winning 37 of the 87 titles in Primeira Liga history. Basically, it’s like seeing the perennial favorites suffer defeat multiple years in a row with little end in sight.
The main issue is not on the field but off it, as a huge corruption scandal has potentially darkened the club’s future. According to The Guardian, the investigation is focusing on activity between 2011-2014, and has to do with siphoning off money into the pockets of the club’s hierarchy, mainly former president Luís Felipe Vieira. Another important part of the investigation centers on the fact that the club has made the most money off of selling players in the last decade (over €1 billion) while being intensely frugal (the club’s record signing was a comparatively miniscule €21 million). As a result, many members of Europe’s second largest fanbase by volume are upset, considering that they could afford to compete with Europe’s best and return to Champions League glory, something Benfica did twice in the early 60s.
Given all these problems, another concern in what will be the immediate future of the club. Will there be sanctions? Will the club be penalized somehow? As far as I’m concerned, I wouldn’t bet on the Primeira Liga harshly sanctioning its crown jewel, but I would pay close attention to what the club does going forward. Given that they’ve gotten in trouble for pooling millions upon millions of Euros, maybe the club will begin positioning themselves in the transfer market as a key destination for players with Champions League aspirations, which might make them a good team to bet on to win the Champions League in the years to come.