On Wednesday night, Benfica staged a gala event in their European Champions lounge to commemorate Luisão’s remarkable achievement of completing 500 competitive matches for the club. The Benfica captain was the guest of honour, accompanied by his wife and two daughters. Also in attendance was an array of treasured ex-players, including António Veloso, Nuno Gomes, Petit, Vítor Paneira and Shéu.
Benfica President Luís Filipe Vieira took up his position in October 2003, shortly after Luisão had been acquired from Brazilian side Cruzeiro. The 67-year old property mogul paid tribute to the Eagles’ inspirational skipper in an emotional speech, drawing particular attention to his early days at the club, when Benfica were without a permanent stadium or training ground.
“I would like, first of all, to congratulate Luisão and his family. To speak of Luisao is to say that he is my companion on this journey.”
“He’s been at Benfica since 2003, and I know that the early days were difficult. Over time, they’ve become some of the most vivid memories of the club. Those early times when we had to ‘carry our home on our backs’ made him feel the love that he feels for Benfica.”
“Besides being a great captain, he is a great man. He’s one of those that internalised most strongly what Benfica really is, and he is the leader of the group."
"It was with great joy that I saw him reach 500 games.”
“At this club, we have a memory, and it is with the present that we make the future. We will continue to count on Luisão, because he knows what has already been said. We will continue with Luisão for what he was a player, as a man, and what he signifies for Sport Lisboa e Benfica.”
Taking to the microphone, Luisão revealed his immense pride at reaching the historic 500 game milestone. As humble as ever, the 36-year old defender expressed his gratitude for all of the support he has received from everyone associated with the club.
“Over these last 14 years I have said with great pride that Benfica is part of my life, and today, with even more pride, I feel that I’m entering the history of the club. Upon entering this room and seeing so many people that helped the club to grow, I felt blessed… personally and professionally.”
“I began my relationship with Benfica 14 years ago. The club gives me joy, achievements, and privileges. I want to say thanks to everyone that helped me, to God, to all of the supporters that encourage us in every game, to all of the teammates, to the coaches, to all of the employees that work hard so that nothing is lacking. I’m very grateful.”
“I’m a football player and my total focus is on the pitch. I’m privileged to have been part of Benfica since 2003. It is a (great) satisfaction to see what was achieved since I arrived.”
“Currently, the focus is to win the (Portuguese) championship again. Then there is the Portuguese cup and the Champions League, and we are committed to all of the competitions.”
“It’s hard to choose the best moment at Benfica, because there were so many. Those that I’d put at the top are all the times that I passed through the tunnel to play, and all the times that I made my way to training.”
Luisão has made more appearances in European competition (122) than any other player in Benfica’s illustrious history. He is currently fourth on their all-time appearance list, behind Mário Coluna (525), António Veloso (538) and Nené (575).