Last Wednesday, SL Benfica and Millonarios FC, a football club based in Bogotá, Colombia, signed a 'cooperation protocol' that they claim is designed to promote the success of both teams. Carla Pereira explains all.
As part of the deal, Benfica will provide Millonarios with marketing and administrative assistance to grow their brand within Colombia, and Millonarios will be a fruitful training ground for the young players that Benfica need to remain competitive in Portuguese and continental competition.
Formed in 1946, Millionarios are a major force in Colombian football. They play at a 36,000 seater stadium, and have won the Colombian Premier League 14 times, most recently in 2012. They have also won the Colombian Cup on three occasions, and have reached the semi-finals of both the Copa Libertadores and the Copa Sudamericana on multiple occasions. Legendary forward Alfredo di Stéfano (pictured below) played over one hundred games for Millionarios between 1949 and 1953. They are currently sixth in their domestic league, four points behind the leaders, Atlético Nacional.
Benfica President Luís Filipe Vieira stated that the partnership is important to both clubs.
“We trust in Millonarios as the most important brand in Colombia, and we want Colombian players to play and win at the club, and afterwards start off on an international trajectory.”
Vice-President Nuno Gaioso Ribeiro added that Benfica will bring “all the innovation, all the technology... not only (in) sports, but (in) commercial marketing management (and) television rights, helping them to accelerate the process of being a more competitive club… as well as developing Colombian talent in the European market.”
Millonarios should doubly gain, as Colombia’s youthful talent will be drawn to a club that can promise their best and brightest a chance to play for one of Europe’s top teams on an international stage.
Their Director General, António Carraça, confirmed this, saying:
"This project includes the training and exchange of players and coaches, as well as games between the two clubs."
"It will be a great challenge, for which it will be necessary to have vision and commitment."
Millonarios’ President, Enrique Camacho, further expanded upon the exclusive agreement, stating that the teams would collaborate by "exchanging players from the first team and lower teams, training coaches, and introducing new game methodologies, and new mechanisms to control and monitor the players." He added that there would be friendlies between the two clubs "on a regular basis."
Benfica has invested heavily in its ability to find, train and launch young talent, the most recent example being the sale of Renato Sanches to Bayern Munich for €35 million. Tapping into a burgeoning market like Colombia will go a long way towards realising the goals Luís Filipe Vieira set for himself and Benfica in his recent re-election campaign.
Indeed, part of his manifesto was to expand Benfica outward and take measures to solidify the club as a major player in the international market. Hence, Benfiquistas can be pleased that Vieira is delivering on his promises so soon.
Benfica and Millonarios hope to play a friendly game next year, but nothing has been scheduled at the present time.