On Saturday afternoon, SL Benfica and Santos FC took to the field to contest a friendly in São Paulo, Brazil. The fixture was a testimonial match to honour retired full-back Leonardo Lourenço Bastos, otherwise known as Léo. The 41-year old, who is now retired, spent most of his career playing for Benfica and Santos.

Leo played over 250 games for Santos during his first spell at the club, between 2000 and 2005. At the age of 30, the Brazilian signed for Benfica on a three-year contract, for an undisclosed fee. He made his Benfica debut on September 18th 2005, as the Eagles soared to a 4-0 home victory over União de Leiria.

During his first season in Lisbon, Léo was a regular in the Benfica side that reached the quarter-finals of the 2005/06 UEFA Champions League, a run which was halted by a defeat to the eventual champions, Barcelona. He failed to win any major trophies during his time with the Encarnados, but was widely considered to be the best left-back in the Primeira Liga.

In January 2009, Léo decided to return home to Brazil, having lost his place to a young David Luiz (pictured below). He rejoined Santos, who he represented until his retirement in 2014. By the time he hung up his boots, he was tenth on their all-time appearance list, having won more silverware with the club than anyone else in the post-Pelé era.

Saturday's game was not all about Léo, however. It also commemorated the 100th anniversary of Santos' stadium, the Estádio Vila Belmiro. Last but not least, it was a celebration of the career of retired midfielder Giovanni Silva de Oliveira - better known as Giovanni - who starred for Santos, Barcelona and Olympiacos during the late 1990s.

Besides Léo, Benfica and Santos have some shared history. Jonas, Jardel, Victor Andrade and Lima have all represented both clubs in the past decade. In 1962, Santos and Benfica met in the two-legged Intercontinental Cup Final. Santos had Pelé in their ranks, while Benfica had Eusébio. Santos were victorious in both legs, beating Benfica 3-2 in Brazil and 5-2 in Portugal. 

On Saturday, Benfica were missing nine first-team players due to the international break, and an additional six through injury. During the game, the Eagles utilised every player in their 18-man squad, with the exception of goalkeeper Julio César. Rui Vitória gave opportunities to seven youngsters from Benfica B: Rúben Dias, Yuri Ribeiro, Alan Benítez, Dálcio, José Gomes, Luka Jović and Diogo Gonçalves. 

Eduardo Salvio opened the scoring for Benfica with a penalty kick, just 35 seconds into the second half, after José Gomes was tripped in the box. Gomes later won a second penalty, which he took himself, but missed. In the 88th minute, Santos levelled the game with a goal from Argentinean centre-back Fabián Noguera. Ederson will be disappointed that he failed to keep it out.

Léo completed five minutes for Benfica at the end of the first half, and did the same for Santos in the second, before speaking at the post-match press conference.

"(These) are the two clubs of my life. I have a lot of respect and gratitude. I returned to Benfica with the [Santos] President when I knew that Benfica would be present at (this) celebration of the [Estádio] Vila Belmiro."

"I have to thank the club for having been present, the President Luís Filipe Vieira, and all of the Benfica supporters and staff, that always treated me well."

Benfica captain Luisão remarked: "Although this match was a celebration, both teams wanted to be victorious."

Benfica starting XI: Ederson, André Almeida, Luisão, Lisandro, Eliseu, Celis, Danilo, Salvio, Carrillo, Cervi, Jović

 

Category: