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SL Benfica are a soccer club based in Lisbon, Portugal, who compete in the Primeira Liga - the top division of Portuguese soccer.
Benfica are the most successful club in the history of Portuguese soccer with 37 Portuguese top-flight titles. They have also twice won the European Cup - in 1960/61 and 1961/62.
Along with FC Porto and Sporting Lisbon, Benfica are one of Portuguese soccer's "big three". The trio have never been relegated and have won 84 of the 86 top-flight titles since the competition's inception.
Benfica play their home matches at the Estadio da Luz, which has a capacity of 64,642. They are nicknamed As Aguias (The Eagles) due to the eagle on their crest and Os Encarnados (The Reds) due to their home shirt colour.
Benfica were founded on February 28, 1904 as Sport Lisboa. They immediately enjoyed success, but they lost eight players to Sporting CP in 1907 due to them being unhappy with the dirt field on which Sport Lisboa played. This was the beginning of the rivalry between Benfica and Sporting Lisbon.
Benfica's wartime success
The Portuguese league came into existence in 1934. Benfica finished third in the first edition but then won the league title three times in a row from 1935/36. This feat was achieved under the guidance of Lippo Hertzka, the former Real Madrid coach.
Benfica's success continued throughout the 1940s and they won three more Primeira Liga (1941/42, 1942/43, and 1944/45) and four Taca de Portugal (1940, 1943, 1944, and 1949). Janos Biri, who was appointed head coach in 1939 after stints at FC Porto and Academico Porto, led Benfica to their first ever league and cup double in 1943.
The club's golden years
Benfica were Portuguese champions in 1949/50, 1954/55 and 1956/57. The 1950s saw them consolidate that with tremendous cup success, winning the Taca de Portugal six times in the decade.
This was the era of one of the greatest soccer players of all time, legendary striker Eusebio, who shone for Benfica from 1961 to 1975. The Mozambique-born Portugal international paved the way for the migration of great African footballers to Portugal, and Europe, in years to come.
Benfica won Primeira Liga titles in 14 out of 18 seasons between 1959/60 and 1976/77. The 1972/73 triumph under Jimmy Hagan saw them become the first Portuguese team to win the league without losing a single match, winning 28 and drawing two.
In 1980/81, Benfica became the first Portuguese team to complete a clean sweep of all of Portugal's domestic trophies, winning the Supertaca de Portugal, Primeira Liga and Taca de Portugal.
Back-to-back league titles followed under Sven-Goran Eriksson in 1982/83 and 1983/84. There were further Primeira Liga successes in 1986/87, 1988/89, 1990/91 and 1993/94. However, the club's overspending caught up with them and a difficult decade followed, although Benfica would ultimately return to the top of Portuguese soccer.
Benfica's European Cup double
Benfica's first European Cup success came in 1961. Having won the first five European Cup titles, Real Madrid were absent from the final for the first time, having lost to Barcelona in the first round. That same Barcelona side took on Benfica in the final at the Wankdorf Stadium in Bern, Switzerland.
Barcelona took a 21st-minute lead through Sandor Kocsis, but Benfica equalised 10 minutes later via Jose Aguas. An Antoni Ramallets own goal gave Benfica the lead shortly after and they doubled their advantage in the 55th minute courtesy of Mario Coluna. Barcelona pulled a goal back, but it proved nothing more than consolation as Benfica won 3-2.
In 1962, Real Madrid were back in the final to face Benfica at the Olympisch Stadion in Amsterdam. Unfortunately for Los Blancos, the Portuguese giants were in no mood to relinquish their newly-won crown. Aguas and Coluna were on target again, as was Domiciano Cavem. The scores were level at 3-3 following a Ferenc Puskas hat-trick, but Eusebio then clinched the prize with his brace and wrote his name into European football folklore.
A title drought and subsequent return to the top
Although they won the Taca de Portugal in 1995/96, Benfica endured a torrid time from 1994 to 2003. This was largely a result of reckless spending under Jorge de Brito's presidency, leaving them unable to pay taxes and salaries under Joao Vale e Azevedo.
In 2003/04, Benfica won the Taca de Portugal under the presidency of Luis Filipe Vieira, beating Jose Mourinho's Porto. However, Porto had the last laugh that season, winning not only the Primeira Liga, but also the UEFA Champions League.
After Mourinho's departure to Chelsea in 2004, Benfica at last got their hands on the league title again in 2004/05.
Benfica's biggest rivals
The rivalry with Sporting Lisbon has stood since Benfica lost eight players to them in 1907 - which has since evolved due to both clubs sharing the city of Lisbon. The rivalry with FC Porto is equally intense, having started with a friendly match in 1912.
Benfica, Sporting and Porto are Portugal's most successful clubs and thus are known as the 'Big Three' in the country - with Sporting trailing in terms of success behind Benfica and Porto.
As such, meetings between Benfica and Porto are known as 'O Classico' (The Classic).
As of June 2019, Benfica had more than 230,000 members, making them one of the best-supported clubs in the world in terms of membership. Club members, also known as 'socios', play a role in electing the Benfica president.
Benfica also boast the highest average attendances in Portugal, with more than 50,000 fans packing into Estadio da Luz on a regular basis.
Benfica have gained recognition for a successful financial strategy of developing and selling players. Most notable was the sale of Joao Felix to Atletico Madrid for a reported €126million in 2019.
In September 2019, Benfica claimed a net annual profit of €29.4million.