thumbnail Hello,

Goal nominates the top three stand-out performers from the Portuguese treble-winners in 2013-14. Vote for your winner in our poll

After seeing their dreams dashed in dramatic fashion in 2012-13, Benfica stormed back to the summit of Portuguese football in incredible style this season.

Defeats in last term's Europa League and Taca de Portugal finals - as well as surrendering the Primeira Division crown to fierce rivals Porto - only served to strengthen the resolve of head coach Jorge Jesus who, on the back of a new two-year deal, made waves in the transfer market last summer in a bid to restore glory to the club.

Jesus repaid the faith from the Estadio da Luz hierarchy, clinching the club's 33rd league title in April as well as sealing glory in the Taca da Liga and Taca de Portugal to seal an historic treble triumph. Only a penalty shootout loss to Sevilla in the Europa League final tarnished the campaign for the Eagles, who continue to struggle under the curse of Bela Guttmann in Europe.

With the passing of club icons Eusebio and Mario Coluna in the past year, a number of Benfica stars paid tribute to the former Portugal greats with some inspiring form this season, and the three standout performers from the campaign are given the recognition they deserve here.

Below, in alphabetical order, are Goal's three nominees for Benfica's player of the season, based on their club performances in all competitions. Cast your vote in the poll at the bottom of the article.

NICOLAS GAITAN


The likes of summer signing Lazar Markovic and rising star Toto Salvio have often stolen the headlines in wide areas for Benfica this season, but when it comes to crucial contributions, none have done better than Nicolas Gaitan.

The Argentine winger may have scored a fairly modest eight goals in all competitions, but three in the early part of the season - against Nacional in the Taca da Liga, Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League and Belenenses in the league - were all winners. Gaitan was also on the scoresheet in a crucial victory over second-placed Sporting in February and put in a star turn in the Europa League final, with Markovic and Salvio both suspended.

But Gaitan saved his best contribution til last this season, rifling home a brilliant goal to cap a man-of-the-match performance in the 1-0 win in the Taca de Portugal final which landed the first-ever domestic treble for Benfica.

His efforts may not have been enough to earn a spot in the Argentina squad for the World Cup, but it does ensure his place in our shortlist.

LIMA


Oscar Cardozo may have struggled to replicate the performances which saw him fire 33 goals last season, but with Lima enjoying the form he has in 2013-14, Benfica have not missed the Paraguayan's figures.

Since joining the club from Braga in December 2012 for just €4.5 million, Lima has managed an average of just over a goal every 180 minutes in 99 games for Benfica, becoming a brilliant spearhead for the Eagles' devastating attack along with second-top scorer Rodrigo.

Goals against Tottenham, Braga and a belter in the 2-1 win over Juventus have been among the most important in the 30-year-old's total of 21 strikes for the campaign across all competitions, while his work-rate in the final third has been essential to the lightning-fast transitions for which Jesus' side have become synonymous in 2013-14.

The Brazilian may only have two or three years at his clinical best ahead of him, but the example he sets to youngsters like Markovic, Rodrigo and Ivan Cavaleiro with his tenacious running and devilish eye for goal could be pivotal in laying the foundations of Benfica's domestic dominance in the coming years.

LUISAO


At the age of 33, Luisao has enjoyed arguably his greatest-ever season at the heart of the Benfica defence in 2013-14, leading the club to three cup finals and league success with consistently strong performances.

Forming an indomitable partnership at the heart of defence with Ezequiel Garay, Luisao helped Benfica to a remarkable 17 clean sheets in 30 Primeira Liga matches, with only 18 goals conceded and a total of two defeats in their entire league campaign. He was also an integral part of the Taca de Portugal triumph, and while he only featured for 90 minutes in the Taca da Liga - a competition in which Benfica did not concede a single goal - he scored the all-important second against Rio Ave to seal his side's first cup triumph of the season.

But it was in the run to the Europa League final where Luisao truly shone. Two goals in the last-16 first leg away to Tottenham set Benfica on their way against Tim Sherwood's men, while he was the standout player of the semi-final win over favourites Juventus, with the captain's defensive masterclass in Turin in the second leg summed up in his brilliant goalline clearance from Arturo Vidal's effort.

He also did more than anyone to end Benfica's European curse in the final, leading from the back for 120 minutes and converting his own spot-kick as his side lost the match on penalties to Sevilla.

Poll of the day

Related

From the web