Benfica President Dismisses Joao Felix Transfer Rumours: 'No One Will Leave'

Tom Sunderland@@TomSunderland_Featured ColumnistApril 24, 2019

LISBON, PORTUGAL - APRIL 22: Joao Felix of SL Benfica celebrates scoring SL Benfica third goal during the Liga NOS match between SL Benfica and CS Maritimo at Estadio da Luz on April 22, 2019 in Lisbon, Portugal. (Photo by Carlos Rodrigues/Getty Images)
Carlos Rodrigues/Getty Images

Benfica president Luis Filipe Vieira has said he guarantees "no one will leave" the club this summer in regards to rumours Joao Felix and other promising youngsters could be sold to Europe's top teams.

Vieira failed to mention specific names when speaking to the club's website (h/t ESPN FC's Adriana Garcia), but it's likely reported Real Madrid and Manchester United target Felix is chief among his priorities:

"In relation to our youngsters, mainly those that are today part of our main squad, Benfica will do everything so that no one leaves.

"I can practically say and guarantee to Benfica fans that no one will leave. I'm one of the biggest mentors of this project and I will do everything within my power to ensure that no one leaves this year or next if possible."

Corriere dello Sport (h/t Rob Train of AS) reported the 19-year-old featured on a list of six players Cristiano Ronaldo wants Juventus to sign this summer.

The Portugal under-21 international has been compared to his compatriot and five-time Ballon d'Or winner after exploding on to the scene in the Primeira Liga, and his deal holds a release clause worth €120 million (£104 million).

Juventus blogger Arjun Pradeep cited a similar report from Tuttosport, adding Ronaldo's agent Jorge Mendes was also involved:

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Benfica won back-to-back European Cups in 1961-62 and have finished as runners up on five other occasions. The club more recently finished as Europa League runners up in 2013 and 2014. 

Vieira detailed the ambitions Benfica have to once again contend for top honours in Europe and highlighted the significant role he wanted their youth to play in reviving those prospects:

"It's my conviction that Benfica can aspire to win a European title if it maintains its identity, and that is with players that have come from our youth teams.

"Every year we consolidate our project. There were four youngsters that came from our youth teams in our starting XI [for Monday's 6-0 league win over Maritimo] and I believe that it will be five, six or seven in the future."

Benfica need only look at Ajax's run to this season's UEFA Champions League semi-finals as evidence the continent's most famed institutions haven't been completely left behind by more cash-rich clubs.

The Godenzonen are back in the final four of the Champions League for the first time since 1997. They've unearthed a formula for success by blending a capable coach in Erik ten Hag with a young core complemented by several higher-profile figures.

The Eagles could hope to replicate that rise at the Estadio da Luz, and Vieira clearly sees Felix as a key ingredient to concocting their own winning mix.

The teenager recently became the youngest player to score a UEFA Europa League hat-trick in Benfica's 4-2 win over Eintracht Frankfurt, though it wasn't enough to secure a spot in the semi-finals, via BT Sport (UK only):

Having only appeared in Benfica B matches until August 2018, his adaptation to the rigours of senior football has been remarkable.

Felix most recently scored twice and set up another in Monday's 6-0 hammering of Maritimo, where United had scouts in place to watch the starlet in action, per MailOnline's Simon Jones.

He showed a composed first touch to convert his opener, via VSports:

There's no guarantee Felix's talent would translate as smoothly to one of Europe's top leagues, although his output during his debut season has astounded, per OptaJoao:

The prospect has only improved as the season has continued and he's gained more experience. Felix has failed to score in only four of his last 12 league appearances, and he also boasts a knack for creating chances.

Benfica can feel safe knowing their starlet has a contract until 2023, with Felix at the front of their plans to launch a new generation of European challengers.