Semedo and Sanches

Despite Benfica’s patchy form on the pitch, there was good news from the boardroom last week as Nico Gaitán, Nélson Semedo and Renato Sanches committed their futures to the club. Gaitán’s new contract ties him to Benfica until 2019, and includes a minimum fee release clause of €45 million. Semedo and Sanches have both renewed until 2021. Semedo’s release fee is €60 million, while Sanches’ has been set at €80 million.

Right-back Nélson Semedo, 22, made a blistering start to the season, showing both composure and attacking intent after emerging as Rui Vitória’s preferred replacement for the departed Maxi Pereira. He made his debut for Fernando Santos’ Portugal in October, and is currently recovering from the right knee injury that he sustained on international duty.

“It is recognition of my work, I have been developing and it is one more vote of confidence that Benfica are placing in me. When I return (from injury), I will want to justify it. Thanks to God I am here today and now I will try to make the most of these moments.”

Central midfielder Renato Sanches, 18, has also broken into the first-team this season. His opportunities have come with Ljubomir Fejsa injuried, Andreas Samaris suspended, and André Almeida reverting to right-back to cover for Semedo. Sanches has impressed with his energy, maturity and passing range, and quickly endeared himself to the Benfica fans with a stunning long-range strike against Académica.

“I am very content. Now I want to continue to work, just so I can evolve. The renewal is proof of that. It has been a great joy. This is a childhood dream, to play at the Estádio da Luz, and that is what is happening.”

Nico Gaitán, 27, requires no introduction, as Benfica’s vice-captain and main creative outlet. Enjoying his sixth season at the club, Gaitán’s talent has never been in question, but he has succeeded in adding consistency, leadership and defensive discipline to his game.

“This renewal is fantastic. It is a vote of confidence from the club and I’m very content. The deal was an easy and quick decision. Both parties are content. Today I feel very well at Benfica. It is one of the best clubs in Europe.”

Gaitán’s new contract should quell the seemingly perpetual exit rumours that surround him during each transfer window.

“The subject of leaving Benfica is normal when the market opens. I feel very well at Benfica and it would have to be something extremely good to (make me) leave because I’m satisfied at the club and this is seen on the pitch where I try to help the team.”