Photos: Inside Benfica, Portugal’s football talent factory

Bernardo Silva, Goncalo Guedes and Joao Felix might be worth a combined 300 million euros in today's transfer market but they mean more than money to Benfica, the club that discovered them. For Benfica they are a source of pride and vindication of a youth policy that as seen the club surpass bitter rivals Sporting Lisbon, cradle of Ronaldo, as the chief talent factory of Portugal.

UPDATED ON OCT 24, 2019 10:06 AM IST 12 Photos
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A Benfica’s under 15 player attends a training session at Benfica's Football Academy in Seixal, Portugal. Benfica, who hosted Lyon on Wednesday in the group stage of the Champions League, are reaping the rewards from the club’s academy base opened in 2006 in Seixal, a working class suburb on the south coast of the Tagus estuary. (Patricia De Melo Moreira / AFP)

A Benfica’s under 15 player attends a training session at Benfica's Football Academy in Seixal, Portugal. Benfica, who hosted Lyon on Wednesday in the group stage of the Champions League, are reaping the rewards from the club’s academy base opened in 2006 in Seixal, a working class suburb on the south coast of the Tagus estuary. (Patricia De Melo Moreira / AFP)

UPDATED ON OCT 24, 2019 10:06 AM IST
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“Youngsters can make the difference for us, they have become fundamental,” Benfica coach Bruno Lage said in an interview with AFP. The 43-year-old has coached at all levels of the club and says the “decisive moment” in their success was the emergence of a generation led by Silva and Joao Cancelo, both of whom now play at Manchester City under Pep Guardiola. (Patricia De Melo Moreira / AFP)

“Youngsters can make the difference for us, they have become fundamental,” Benfica coach Bruno Lage said in an interview with AFP. The 43-year-old has coached at all levels of the club and says the “decisive moment” in their success was the emergence of a generation led by Silva and Joao Cancelo, both of whom now play at Manchester City under Pep Guardiola. (Patricia De Melo Moreira / AFP)

UPDATED ON OCT 24, 2019 10:06 AM IST
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Benfica's technical team gather in a conference room at Benfica’s Football Academy. “The 1994 crop has won trophies at the highest level of the game and by analysing the success of that group, we have been able to replicate it,” said Lage, who initially returned to the club in 2018 to coach the B team, after six years spent abroad. (Patricia De Melo Moreira / AFP)

Benfica's technical team gather in a conference room at Benfica’s Football Academy. “The 1994 crop has won trophies at the highest level of the game and by analysing the success of that group, we have been able to replicate it,” said Lage, who initially returned to the club in 2018 to coach the B team, after six years spent abroad. (Patricia De Melo Moreira / AFP)

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Benfica's under 15 players attend a training session. During Lage’s absence, the president of Benfica, Luis Filipe Vieira, hired Rui Vitoria, who signed up to the mantra of trusting and giving opportunities to youngsters but was sacked following a run of poor results. Before Vitoria, the strategy under his predecessor Jorge Jesus had been to unearth rough diamonds in South America, with the intention of adaptation to European football. (Patricia De Melo Moreira / AFP)

Benfica's under 15 players attend a training session. During Lage’s absence, the president of Benfica, Luis Filipe Vieira, hired Rui Vitoria, who signed up to the mantra of trusting and giving opportunities to youngsters but was sacked following a run of poor results. Before Vitoria, the strategy under his predecessor Jorge Jesus had been to unearth rough diamonds in South America, with the intention of adaptation to European football. (Patricia De Melo Moreira / AFP)

UPDATED ON OCT 24, 2019 10:06 AM IST
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Benfica’s under 15 players attend a training session. Thar model was a path well-trodden by Porto and it bore fruit as David Luiz and Angel di Maria were both bought and sold on for considerable profit, joining Chelsea and Real Madrid respectively for a combined 50 million euros. (Patricia De Melo Moreira / AFP)

Benfica’s under 15 players attend a training session. Thar model was a path well-trodden by Porto and it bore fruit as David Luiz and Angel di Maria were both bought and sold on for considerable profit, joining Chelsea and Real Madrid respectively for a combined 50 million euros. (Patricia De Melo Moreira / AFP)

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“When I came back, I found a solid training project, where the coach of the professional team regularly drew on players from the academy,” says Lage, who last season gambled on Felix, the 19-year-old forward who was sold to Atletico Madrid in the summer for 126 million euros, a fee that smashed records in Portuguese football. (Patricia De Melo Moreira / AFP)

“When I came back, I found a solid training project, where the coach of the professional team regularly drew on players from the academy,” says Lage, who last season gambled on Felix, the 19-year-old forward who was sold to Atletico Madrid in the summer for 126 million euros, a fee that smashed records in Portuguese football. (Patricia De Melo Moreira / AFP)

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The players sit down for a meal. While the Portuguese team that won Euro 2016 was largely made up of players from Sporting’s youth system, today it is the youngsters brought through by Benfica that dominate the national set-up. This season, the squad includes eight players from the school, including Portuguese internationals Ruben Dias and Gedson Fernandes, as well as up-and-comers like Florentino Luis, Ferro and Jota. (Patricia De Melo Moreira / AFP)

The players sit down for a meal. While the Portuguese team that won Euro 2016 was largely made up of players from Sporting’s youth system, today it is the youngsters brought through by Benfica that dominate the national set-up. This season, the squad includes eight players from the school, including Portuguese internationals Ruben Dias and Gedson Fernandes, as well as up-and-comers like Florentino Luis, Ferro and Jota. (Patricia De Melo Moreira / AFP)

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A model of Benfica’s Football Academy. After an initial investment of 15 million euros and with an annual budget of five million euros, the club spent an additional 11 million euros to expand and upgrade its facilities in 2017. It means a 42-hectare site purchased this year will triple the size of the training centre, which is also to include its own school. (Patricia De Melo Moreira / AFP)

A model of Benfica’s Football Academy. After an initial investment of 15 million euros and with an annual budget of five million euros, the club spent an additional 11 million euros to expand and upgrade its facilities in 2017. It means a 42-hectare site purchased this year will triple the size of the training centre, which is also to include its own school. (Patricia De Melo Moreira / AFP)

UPDATED ON OCT 24, 2019 10:06 AM IST
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Benfica’s under 15 players cheer each other before a match Benfica against Sacavenense at Benfica’s Football Academy. Financially, the sales of players “made in Seixal” have already cashed in nearly half a billion euros and Benfica posted profits in 2018 for a fifth consecutive year. (Patricia De Melo Moreira / AFP)

Benfica’s under 15 players cheer each other before a match Benfica against Sacavenense at Benfica’s Football Academy. Financially, the sales of players “made in Seixal” have already cashed in nearly half a billion euros and Benfica posted profits in 2018 for a fifth consecutive year. (Patricia De Melo Moreira / AFP)

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Benfica’s midfielder Pedro Pato (C) moments before the match against Sacavenense. Among the 88 players aged 11 to 18 who live here is Pato, who is part of the under-15 team. Pato, 14, came to Seixal three years ago and says he finds the regime “much tougher” than at the club he left in Vila Franca de Xira, a town in the northern suburbs of Lisbon. (Patricia De Melo Moreira / AFP)

Benfica’s midfielder Pedro Pato (C) moments before the match against Sacavenense. Among the 88 players aged 11 to 18 who live here is Pato, who is part of the under-15 team. Pato, 14, came to Seixal three years ago and says he finds the regime “much tougher” than at the club he left in Vila Franca de Xira, a town in the northern suburbs of Lisbon. (Patricia De Melo Moreira / AFP)

UPDATED ON OCT 24, 2019 10:06 AM IST
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A player attends a gym training session. “The demands at all levels are very high to give the young players the best possible chance of reaching the professional team,” says Rodrigo Magalhaes, technical coordinator of the training centre. Yet the club’s focus now is to “move up a gear,” Bruno Lage said. “We must be able to hold on to our young gems to become more competitive.” (Patricia De Melo Moreira / AFP)

A player attends a gym training session. “The demands at all levels are very high to give the young players the best possible chance of reaching the professional team,” says Rodrigo Magalhaes, technical coordinator of the training centre. Yet the club’s focus now is to “move up a gear,” Bruno Lage said. “We must be able to hold on to our young gems to become more competitive.” (Patricia De Melo Moreira / AFP)

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The under 15 players during a training session. Benfica are still waiting for their first Champions League win this season after two straight defeats against Leipzig and Zenit St Petersburg. There is a bright future but in the present, work to do. (Patricia De Melo Moreira / AFP)

The under 15 players during a training session. Benfica are still waiting for their first Champions League win this season after two straight defeats against Leipzig and Zenit St Petersburg. There is a bright future but in the present, work to do. (Patricia De Melo Moreira / AFP)

UPDATED ON OCT 24, 2019 10:06 AM IST
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