Greece-Benfica Long-Term Allies
Panathinaikos’ Odisseas Vlachodimos will be making a move to Benfica in January, adding to a long list of Greece-Benfica relations that includes the likes of Georgios Karagounis, Kostas Katsouranis, and Takis Fyssas. AGONAsport.com looks back.
Portuguese giants Benfica, with 36 league titles and 26 cups have looked to Greece for a long time when making new signings and as a result, have left a lot of money to Greek clubs in the process. National Team heroes Giorgos Karagounis and Kostas Katsouranis are perhaps the most notable acquisitions, but it does not end there, with many Greeks and foreigners who played in Greece, making the trip across the Mediterranean.
Goalkeeper Odisseas Vlachodimos will become the latest addition to the long list when he makes the move in January or the new season in the summer for a reported 2 million Euro with Panathinaikos set to take the majority with 1.7 million Euro. Similarly, the Portuguese outfit has also sold or loaned its fair share of players to the Greek Super League.
Defensive midfielder, Triantafyllos Machairidis, was the first to make the move from PAOK to Benfica in 1999. He was also the first Benfica player to be loaned back to a Greek club when he joined Kalamata in 2000 after his short stay in the Portuguese capital but was a regular in the team that finished third in the 1999-2000 season.
Takis Fyssas was next to make the move in December 2003, helping Benfica win the 2003-04 Portuguese Cup by scoring in the final before being apart of the famous Greek team that won Euro 2004, also ironically in Portugal. He also won the league the following season.
The popular Giorgos Karagounis returned to Portugal in 2005 as a free agent after being part of the famous Euro 2004 squad. He found gametime difficult to get in his first season, but by the second season became a regular and fan favourite with his spectacular long-range goals capturing the imagination of fans. He was joined by fellow Greek international midfielder, Kostas Katsouranis, for the 2006-07 season for 3.3 million Euro. To add further irony, the team was managed by Fernando Santos who had previously managed AEK and Panathinaikos, and then PAOK after leaving Benfica. Santos also coached the talismanic pair when taking Greece to the Round of 16 for the first ever time in the 2014 World Cup.
Katsouranis would go on to become a key player for Benfica, becoming captain at one point and being named player of the in March 2009. Karagounis returned back to Greece with Panathinaikos as a free agent in the 2007-08 season. By this stage, Benfica had also loaned Gustavo Manduca (later sold for 750,000 Euro), Manu and Marcelo Moretto to AEK.
From 2009-2013 Benfica loaned the likes of Freddy Adu and Nuno Coelho to Aris, and sold Marco Ferreira to Ethnikos Piraeus. Katsouranis returned to Greece with Panathinaikos for a fee of 3.5 million Euro (with PAOK receiving 1 million Euro of that amount).
Serbian international, Ljubomir Fejsa, was next to move across the Mediterranean, joining Benfica from Olympiakos in August 2013 for 4.5 million Euro where he is still a regular fixture. At the same time, centre back Miguel Vitor, moved in the opposite direction to join PAOK as a free agent where he was also a regular for three seasons in Greece.
After a successful 2014 World Cup, Andreas Samaris joined Benfica on a five year deal from Olympiakos for a huge fee of 10 million Euro, with a 45 million Euro release clause. On the 4th of March, 2017, he notched up his 100th appearance for Benfica in an away game against Feirense. He was also joined by Greek international striker and former Olympiakos teammate, Kostas Mitroglou on a season long loan, after his failed Fulham stint. In Portugal, Mitroglou firmly established himself as a fan favourite by scoring some big goals. He was then signed on a permanent deal the following season for 8 million Euro. Both Samaris and Mitroglou have won the league on multiple occasions in Portugal, with the latter having departed for Marseille on deadline day for 15 million Euro. Another example of the smart transfer business of Benfica, having almost doubled their gain.
In the meantime, Franco Jara was sold to Olympiakos in January 2015 for 1.5 million Euro where he played a vital role during his short stint, particularly in the 2014-15 Greek Cup final in which Olympiacos defeated Xanthi 3-1. Diego Lopes was loaned to Panetolikos last season and Luis Farina was also sent out to Asteras Tripolis.