In recent years, the Benfica Academy has become one of the top producing talent factories in Europe, with the likes of Bernardo Silva, João Cancelo and João Félix all coming through the ranks. The 2018/19 season saw Benfica use its academy quite extensively in its journey to be crowned Portuguese champions for the 37th time. In the starting eleven, Benfica had 5 U23 players, one of them being 20-year-old Florentino Luis.

Florentino had already stood out by being part of the Portuguese U17 and U19 national teams that won European Championships back to back, an accomplishment never done before. His enormous potential in the defensive midfield role was a vital factor in Bruno Lage’s Benfica side for that title-winning campaign. Despite his age, Florentino already has over 100 professional matches under his belt, 19 of those being for the Benfica first-team under Lage.

This tactical analysis/scout report analyses Florentino’s tactical style and attributes, showing why he was such an influential player for Benfica, and why clubs like Manchester City and Manchester United have him on their radar.

Style of play

The key points of this analysis are Florentino’s ability to anticipate the opposition’s play, support Benfica in its build-up phase and his excellent ball recovery.

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According to WhoScored, Florentino’s best abilities are his tackling and ball interception, the two key qualities for a good defensive midfielder. In the 2018/19 season, Florentino performed an average of 3.8 tackles per game in the Liga NOS, and 2.9 interceptions, while only conceding 1.5 fouls per game. His intensity in recovering the ball on the opposition’s half allows Benfica to play a high pressing style of football and catch the other teams on the back-foot.

Florentino in Benfica’s 4-4-2 system

Bruno Lage was appointed Benfica’s manager at the start of the 2019 year, having previously been coaching the team’s B side, where Florentino played regularly. This proved to be an excellent move for the club, having recovered a 7-point gap between them and biggest rivals FC Porto, managing to win the league in the last game of the season.

Appointing Lage as Head Coach also saw a big change in Benfica’s style of play, going from a 4-3-3 system which lacked creativity and excitement, to a 4-4-2 side full of youth, quick transitions and matches filled with goals. The change in managers also helped players such as Joao Felix, Ferro, Florentino and Joao Filipe to make the transition from the B team to the A team in smooth fashion.

Lage implemented the same style of play he had while coaching the B team, thus why Florentino was able to earn a place in the starting lineup and become the first-choice midfielder alongside Gabriel or Samaris, two ball progressing midfielders.

 Build-up play

 Playing out from the back

Florentino is not an intricate player for Benfica’s build-up phase. His positioning (black) serves for the second midfielder (red) to be free to roam around to receive the ball in a more dangerous position. This season Florentino has only completed 4 successful dribbles and 2 progressive runs in 10 games, showcasing his deeper positioning, closer to the centre backs, where he helps rotating the ball from side to side until space opens in the midfield for a pass cutting through the blocks

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Here Florentino is free to receive the ball and help move the attack forward. Meanwhile, the other midfielder is marked by two Sporting players, so not an option.

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Florentino progresses with the ball and lays it off to one of the centre backs, in hopes that his midfield partner gets in a more advantageous position to make a pass through the opposition’s first block of defence. Florentino’s impressive pass accuracy of 92% is a great indicator of his playing style, sitting back on the halfway line to help Benfica circulate the ball forward to start the attack.

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The picture above shows Florentino, in between the centre backs, making that through pass after his midfield partner positions himself in between the opposition’s defensive block. This style of play is very typical for Bruno Lage’s Benfica side. The manager puts great emphasis on these block penetrating passes.

Anticipation is key

Florentino was used as the deepest lying midfielder since every player alongside him tended to be the one progressing the ball to Benfica’s wingers to start the attack. Florentino’s tactical positioning and awareness made him perfect for Benfica’s offensive transitions since he was able to cut off passing lanes and recover the ball for Benfica’s quick attack transitions. His contribution proved effective last season since Benfica liked to dominate possession with an average of 58%, while also having 3.94 average goals scored per 90.

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This image shows Florentino’s great positioning (black) that allows to anticipate the pass, recover the ball and start a counter-attack for Benfica.

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Here he is recovering the ball through his excellent reading of the game and anticipation skills. This season, Florentino has an average of 5.8 interceptions per game, the best average in the top European leagues.

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Florentino’s interception caught the opposition on the backfoot and started the counter-attack with an accurate forward pass to his striker (red) that let the ball go into the space behind the defenders (blue). This is the perfect representation of Florentino’s playing style: exceptional positioning allowing him to anticipate the play and intercept the ball – passing to an attacking player to start the counter-attack – quick transition – Benfica have a great chance of scoring. His 89% forward passing accuracy is the perfect indicator of how good he is at what he does.

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This image is another example of why Florentino (black) was a key player for Lage last season. He is not only great at intercepting the ball, but he does so in the opposition’s half as well. Benfica’s high pressing style requires Florentino to play on the halfway line, which encourages him to try and anticipate the play and intercept the ball during the opposition’s build-up phase. Out of his 92 interceptions this season, almost 50% have come in the opposition’s half, and this stat in itself shows why Florentino is a starter in Benfica’s team at such a young age.

Covering for teammates

Benfica’s system requires the full-backs to be constantly participating in the attack, which means that one of the midfielders must stay back to cover the spaces left by them. This is where Florentino comes in. He sits back just over the halfway line, controlling the spaces left by his teammates, waiting for an attempt to counter by the opposition.

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 In this picture, we see Benfica’s right back overextended on the right and got dispossessed. Consequently, the right flank is free for the opposition to attack.

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 Florentino repositioned himself to be able to cover the right flank and was able to stop the opposition from counter-attacking.

Here is another example of Florentino’s (black) positioning and reading of the game. Portugal’s full back (nº 5) has lost track of his marker (red), not knowing he is making a run to the first post for the cross coming in from the left flank.

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Even though the cross is parried away by the keeper, the full-back is completely out of the play and his marker should have had an easy goal from the rebound.

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Regardless, Florentino got there just in time to tackle the shot, stopping the opposition from scoring, even though that should have been the full back’s job, who is caught ball watching (red).

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Weaknesses

Although Florentino is very good at covering the middle of the pitch, he is not a usual defensive midfielder. His height (1.80m) and relatively regular size physique explain why Florentino is not the strongest of players in duels, especially in the air, having won only 45% of the latter.

Furthermore, Florentino prefers to play a simple passing game instead of progressing on the field with the ball, completing 0.3 dribbles per 90 this season, or rotating the attack using long balls, completing 7 accurate long passes in his last 10 games. Thus why his midfield partner is the one in charge of carrying Benfica’s attack.

His attacking output is still short of being impactful for Benfica, not being able to complete any crosses nor having any touches inside the opposition’s box this season. However, that also can be explained due to his heavy defensive duties.

Future

Florentino has shown a lot of potential last season and is still a very reliable player in Lage’s side this season. Benfica has set a €120M release clause on Florentino, which indicates the club is very confident the young defensive midfielder will develop into a big star in the future. Benfica hope they can repeat the unprecedented feat of selling an U20 Portuguese talent for such an amount, just like what happened with Joao Felix this summer.

Currently, Transfermarkt values Florentino at €15M, but having only played 10 games for Benfica this season, this value will surely increase in the next couple of months.

Florentino still has a lot to prove, especially in the international stage, but the early signs show his future to be promising. There have been some rumours regarding a transfer to both Manchester clubs, but no bid has been made official.

Regardless of transfer talk, it is believed that if Florentino keeps up his performances from last season, it will be very hard for Benfica to keep him after next summer.

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