Tag Archives: Benfica

What can Reading FC fans expect from Ola John?

On deadline day over in England, Sky Bet Championship side Reading FC pulled off quite a coup by the loan signing of Dutch winger Ola John from Portuguese giants Benfica. Fin Crebolder is here to inform the Reading fanbase what they are about to witness…


After being born in Liberia, Ola John moved to the Netherlands at a young age, and joined the youth academy of Dutch giants FC Twente at the age of ten after spending two years at minnows DES Nijverdal. He made his professional debut for the club in November 2010, at the age of 18, coming off the bench against AZ Alkmaar. This set the tone for the rest of the season for John, as he came off the bench in nine more games, and even started in three games, managing to get one goal and one assist in 13 appearances overall.

The 2011/12 season was John’s true breakthrough season, as he established himself as one of the nation’s biggest talents. He came on as a late substitute in the first game of the season, but due to an injury to Nacer Chadli, he made the left midfield spot his own from the second game, where he got his first assist of the season. He notched his first league goal for the club in October, in a 2-2 draw with Excelsior, and this sparked a truly remarkable run of form for the 19-year-old, where he got either a goal or an assist in six consecutive games.

John continued this form throughout the season, putting in some very impressive performances, including a game against where he got two goals, one assist and inspired his team to a 6-2 victory. He also impressed in the Europa League, and in the group stages particularly, where he got six assists in six games. He ended the 11/12 campaign with nine goals and an incredible 22 assists in all competitions. This earned him a place in the preliminary Netherlands squad for Euro 2012, an impressive achievement for such a young player.

After it became clear that John was a huge talent, it was inevitable that bigger clubs would come sniffing, and in May 2012, he signed a five-year-deal with Benfica. His first season at the club was relatively successful. After initially struggling to make an impact, being behind Eduardo Salvio and Nicolás Gaitán in the pecking order, he eventually managed to get himself a place in the starting line-up, and enjoyed a good run of form across league, cup and European matches, finishing the season with a respectable four goals and eight assists.

After a solid but unremarkable first season for the Portuguese giants, John was expected to kick on in his second season, but things did not go to plan. At the start of the season, the club signed promising winger Lazar Markovic from the Serbian league, and he impressed straight away, making the Dutch winger the fourth choice. In order to get first team football, John left for German Bundesliga side Hamburger SV on loan in January, hoping to help keep them in the German top flight whilst showing his talents. Again, this did not go to plan, as he failed to impress in eight games for the club, although they did stay up, and this capped off a very disappointing season for John.

He returned to Benfica at the start of the 14/15 season expecting to leave the club in the summer transfer window. However, after Liverpool signed Lazar Markovic from the club, John ended up staying, moving up the pecking order and enjoyed a better season than the previous. Although he continued to struggle to get in the starting line-up, he managed to make an impact off the bench throughout the season, notching up four goals and seven assists. His final action for Benfica was scoring the winning goal in the Portuguese League Cup final.

Overall, his time at Benfica was disappointing considering the huge potential that he arrived with. He never managed to nail down a place in the first team and play his best football, and the fans never really warmed to him either, often complaining about his lack of footballing intelligence, an attribute that was seen as very important by both the fans and coaches of the club.


John is a player that will truly excite fans with his blistering pace and quick feet, as well as his dangerous long shots. He is capable of playing on either wing, but is most comfortable playing on the left and cutting inside onto his stronger right foot where he will look for an opportunity to release a shot or play in one of his team-mates. In terms of comparison, his style is similar to that of his compatriot, Memphis Depay.

Alongside his very impressive pace and dribbling, John also has excellent passing ability, and these attributes mean that he can unlock almost any defence on his day. It would be unfair not to mention his weaknesses, and as already mentioned, his footballing intelligence is not the best, and he was often tactically in the wrong during his time at Benfica, something that Jorge Jesus felt was important, hence his lack of starts. Like many players of his style, John’s work rate is also not the best, and he can often leave his full back exposed.


That brings us up to present day, where he has just signed for English Championship side Reading. Now, as a half-Dutch (his nationality) Reading (his current club) fan, I am undoubtedly (more than…) slightly biased, but Ola John still has the huge talent that he showed throughout his time at FC Twente, and in brief glimpses at Benfica, and this loan move seems like the ideal opportunity for him to reignite his career. He was scintillating in the Eredivisie and it’s fair to say that the English Championship is a slightly weaker league, so Ola John could find it easier to impress again.

In Reading, he has a club on the up with ambitious owners and a transfer window that has given them a club capable of challenging for promotion. As the club has an option to sign John permanently at the end of the season, he could find himself playing in the best league in the world this time next year, if he can rediscover the incredible form that earned him a move to one of Europe’s biggest clubs, and at the age of 23, there’s no reason why he can’t.


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How does PSV replace Memphis Depay?

The announcement last week of the transfer of Memphis Depay to Manchester United has left PSV with a significant hole to fill.  Luckily for PSV, they have money in the bank now in order to try and fill this hole.  We all know and appreciate Memphis’ talents and he might be one of those once in a generation footballers but PSV need to ask the question “How do we Replace Memphis”? Even with Memphis leaving, PSV still have a very talented side but they will certainly miss the X-Factor that he provided.  Replacing Memphis will be a hard task but there are some options at PSV’s disposal.  Rogier Waalder looks at the candidates:

Jesus Manuel Corona (FC Twente)

One of the only players in the Eredivisie this year who catches the eye as much as Depay does, is the Mexican winger Jesus Corona, who plays for FC Twente.  A very tricky and skilful winger, he certainly has the ability to turn a game like Memphis does.  He has scored 13 goals in his 32 games this season and his dribbling, first touch and technique are in the same class as Memphis.  He does lack the power and free-kick abilities of Memphis but is only 22 years old.  FC Twente will be holding a fire-sale in the summer to clear their debts and so Corona is very much on the market.  A big stumbling block, though, is his wage demands with a recent poll showing that 85% of PSV fans do not think he is worth the reported 1 million EURO salary that he is after.

Sam Larsson (SC Heerenveen)

Swedish international Larsson is a new arrival to Heerenveen this season, after joining from Goteburg in the off-season.  He has proven to be yet another potential Scandinavian jewel that the Heerenveen scouting team has delivered over the years.  Has all the same hallmarks as Corona but represents a more powerful, cheaper option.  Larsson has contributed 8 goals and 6 assists in his 20 games this season. Heerenveen have already offered him a new contract, but he has refused to consider this at present.  He has a contract until 2018 so Heerenveen aren’t in any rush to sell but PSV might be tempted to make them an offer they can’t refuse.

Ricardo Kishna (Ajax)

Yes he plays for Ajax presently and yes this is probably the biggest obstacle in Kishna going to PSV, but transfers between PSV & Ajax are not unheard of.  Kishna is a year younger than Memphis and despite his young age has already proven that he can light up the Eredivisie.  His flair, trickery, dribbling and pace are very comparable to Memphis and he has a return of 5 goals and assists from 20 matches this season.  This current Dutch youth team player only has 1 year to run on his Ajax contract, so he could force the issue if PSV make a serious play for his services.

Elvis Manu (Feyenoord)

Plays for Feyenoord, so again some question marks surrounding a desire to sell him to PSV but he also has the hallmarks of someone who could replace Memphis.  A 21-year old natural Left Winger, Manu has had a good season for Feyenoord with 14 goals in 34 matches, including some great performances in the Europa League.  Manu has great pace and strength but his overall technique and consistency would need some improvement to reach Memphis levels but definitely a great raw talent.

Steven Berghuis (AZ Alkmaar)

Berghuis has been a standout performer for AZ this season with 10 goals in 22 appearances.  The former Twente youth player can play on either wing or as Striker and has excellent technical and passing abilities.  He has a strong desire to succeed (much like Memphis does) and would arguably be the cheapest of the options presented thus far.  He probably isn’t quite at the standard that Memphis is but would be a good squad player, in conjunction with another big name signing.

Bilal Ould-Chikh (FC Twente)

If PSV are looking at a longer term prospect that they can bring up to Memphis’ standard then Ould-Chikh might be their guy.  Only 17 years old he has already played 15 full games for FC Twente this season.  An out and out winger with great technique, pace and dribbling abilities Ould-Chikh certainly has the potential to rival Memphis one day.  FC Twente might be needing cash to satisfy their creditors at the moment, but surely they’ll want to hang on to their star prospect and try and build a team around him.

Adnan Januzaj (Manchester United)

Januzaj has been on the outer at Manchester United since Van Gaal’s arrival and was rumoured to have been offered as part of any deal taking Memphis to England.  It doesn’t look like this has eventuated but a cashed up PSV could do a lot worse than taking the talented Belgian to Eindhoven, even if it is on loan.  Even though he has not scored in the Premier League this year, the footballing world is very aware of Januzaj’s abilities with a ball at his feet and his technique and flair do rival those of Memphis.  He is on a massive salary at Man Utd and this is why a loan move but be the best for both teams, particularly as Memphis will certainly be a direct rival for Januzaj.

Serge Gnabry (Arsenal)

Another potential loan option is the Arsenal youngster, Serge Gnabry.  Like Januzaj Gnabry burst onto the scene last season before injury curtailed his plans and has had limited game time since.  He may be best suited to a spell in the Eredivisie, whilst also getting guaranteed Champions League action.  Gnabry has fantastic physical attributes and his attacking tendancies would be very well suited to this PSV side.

Ola John (Benfica)

For a 22-year old John seems to have been around for a long time, and certainly his club movements would indicate the same.  Currently at Benfica, the lure of returning home to PSV may be one that suits John as he looks to break back into the Dutch national team setup.  Another out and out pacy winger John could be the perfect provider for Luuk de Jong.

Filip Kostic (Stuttgart)

22-year old Serbian Kostic played 2 seasons in the Eredivisie with Groningen before earning a move to Stuttgart in the off-season.  He has played reasonably well in a struggling side with 3 goals and 7 assists thus far.  He has tremendous cross abilities and is also an accomplished finisher.  If Stuttgart do get relegated this season this might be enough to convince Kostic to return to the Netherlands and the lure of Champions League football.

There are some options available internally at PSV at present headlined by the wantaway Zakaria Bakkali and the raw but very inconsistent Florian Jozefzoon.  A long term potential replacement is the exciting young Steven Bergwijn, who made his Eredivisie debut on the weekend at the age of 17. Bergwijn is very highly thought of at PSV and has tremendous pace and acceleration.  If his technical abilities continue to develop over the next few seasons he is definitely one to watch.


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EUROPA LEAGUE REPORT: Benfica 2-0 AZ Alkmaar






Benfica win 3-0 on agg.

Two back-post finishes from Rodrigo lead Benfica to a final four spot in the Europa League defeating Dick Advocaat’s AZ Alkmaar 2-0 to by three goals on aggregate.

Benfica-AZ highlights

The hosts took the lead in the 37th minute as Rodrigo got his first tapping home from six-yards out after being teed up by Eduardo Salvio. The young Argentine winger almost doubled the lead just before the interval but Salvio’s strike from inside the area drew a fine stop from AZ goalkeeper Esteban Alvardo.

It took 65 minutes before AZ got their first chance of a goal through full-back Mattias Johansson, the Swede’s effort from distance forced Artur Guilherme De Morães Gusmão into a fine save. Seven minutes later and Rodrigo stuck the final nail in AZ’s coffin with a comfortable finish from close range after getting on the end of another Salvio’s cross.

The visitors failed to trouble Benfica throughout, and left the competition where they had starred so brilliantly all season with a whimper.


BENFICA: Artur, Silvio (Almeida 4), Luisao, Garay, Siqueira, Sulejmani (Marković 70), Gomes, Fejsa (Pérez 64), Salvio, Cardozo, Rodrigo.

SUBS NOT USED: Lopes, Jardel, Djuričić, Lima.

GOALS: Rodrigo 39, 71.

BOOKINGS: Salvio 31, Andre Gomes 73.

AZ: Esteban, Johansson, Gouweleeuw, Wuytens, Viergever, Gudelj, Ortiz (Henriksen 79), Elm, Berghuis (Gudmundsson 77), Jóhannsson, Beerens (Haye 77).

SUBS NOT USED: De Winter, Reijnen, Gorter, Avdic.

GOALS: None.

BOOKINGS: Berghuis 23.


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Dick Advocaat takes his side to Lisbon on Thursday night to face a Benfica side that have not lost a European game at home in the last 11 attempts, and have won their last five games at home against Dutch opposition.

A third Europa League semi-final in four years is in touching distance for Jorge Jesus’ men as the Primeira Liga leaders go into their quarter-final second-leg with a 1-0 advantage.

All history aside for the Portuguese side, the Eredivisie club should not be underestimated as although they may not have reached the semi-finals of a European tournament since 2004-05, they currently hold an undefeated six game streak in European away matches.

Domestically, AZ have only one win from their last seven matches in all competitions, the visitors are on a poor run of form and drew 2-2 against by relegation contenders Roda JC on Sunday afternoon. Benfica on the other hand, are in fine form with just once defeat since last November.

Although, the hosts are without suspended duo Nicolas Gaitán and Maximiliano Pereira after the pair reached their booking limits last time out, they do welcome back midfielder Enzo Perez after he sat out the first leg for the same reason.

AZ are struggling to find the net as of late, scoring only six goals in the last eight games in all competitions, I can see Benfica winning and keeping a clean sheet. Bet Victor are offering 6/5 for Benfica to win to nil and this is our best bet in this match.

BEST BET: Benfica to win to nil (6/5 – Bet Victor)


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AZ Alkmaar narrowly fall to Benfica


Thursday 3rd April 2014



AZ resiliently battled Portuguese giants Benfica but lost by the single goal in the first leg clash of their last 8 Europa League tie.

The Dutch began the game as outsiders but the first 45 minutes saw AZ create the greater amount of chances and enjoying the majority of play. Wingers Roy Beerens and Steven Berghuis were the main threats with the former shooting narrowly wide after five minutes. The in-form Berghuis and his powerful long-range shooting called Benfica goalkeeper Artur into action twice but the stopper held firm and kept his clean sheet in tact.

After the goal-less first half, Benfica took the lead three minutes after the restart. AZ’s goalkeeper Esteban Alvarado rushed out to meet the ball at the feet of striker Oscar Cardozo. The Costa Rican diverted the Paraguayan’s effort away but it ended up landing perfectly for Argentine winger Eduardo Salvio to scissor-kick the ball into the net.

As Benfica had the advantage, the Portuguese looked likely to extend the score and but failed to do so. Cardozo was involved again and had an opportunity to bury AZ minutes later but he fluffed his lines and screwed his low drive wide.

AZ would hit on the break and midfielder Viktor Elm had a wonderful chance to level the game up but he headed tamely into Artur’s arms. However, it was end to end stuff as Rodrigo immediately went up the opposite end and in a horrendous miss, the striker stabbed Argentine defender Ezequiel Garay’s header high over the bar from yards out.

Looking tired as the time went on, Dick Advocaat’s side never managed to match the confidence they displayed in the opening half and only a fine double save from Esteban, denying substitute Lima and then André Gomes, prevented the tie to be over.

AZ now require a major upset in Lisbon if their European odyssey is to continue into the final four but holding this Benfica side down to just one goal must give them a slight glimmer of hope.


AZ: Esteban, Johansson, Gouweleeuw, Viergever, Poulsen (Gudmundsson 49), Gudelj (Henriksen 81), Ortiz, Elm, Berghuis, Jóhannsson, Beerens.

SUBS NOT USED: De Winter, Reijnen, Hoedt, Gorter, Avdic.

GOALS: None.

BOOKINGS: Johansson 78.

BENFICA: Artur, Maxi Pereira, Luisao, Garay, Siqueira, Salvio, Rúben Amorim (André Almeida 39), Gaitán, André Gomes, Cardozo, Rodrigo (Markovic 77).

SUBS NOT USED: Oblak, Jardel, Sulejmani, Djuričić, Lima.

GOALS: Salvio 48.

BOOKINGS: Gaitan 61, Siqueria 89, Salvio 90+2, Maxi Pereira 90+5.


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Thursday 3rd April 2014



AZ Alkmaar face the huge task of getting past Portuguese giants Benfica, who have a great history against Dutch clubs in Europe.

The Portuguese champions have only experienced one defeat in the last ten games over teams from the Netherlands and it was a penalty-shootout loss to Guus Hiddink’s PSV in the European Cup of 1988/89. On the other hand, in the past AZ have a great record against clubs from Portugal, defeating Sporting Braga and Sporting Lisbon while holding Pacos de Ferreira to a draw.

Jorge Jesus’s Benfica defeated Tottenham Hotspur to progress, and will be arrive in Alkmaar confident of reaching the semis, after being victorious in 25 of their last 29 matches in all competitions. Domestically, Dick Advocaat’s men are in poor form with just one win from their last five games and European football may be out of reach next season unless they can win the Eredivisie Europa League play-offs. They currently sit in seventh in the Dutch top flight, although they would qualify for this tournament again, if they could pull of the unlikely achievement of winning it.

AZ are struggling to score goals and there was just the one goal over Alkmaar’s two legs against Anzhi in the last round, and that was a penalty kick. The Dutch side however, will certainly face a tougher test against the Portuguese league leaders are likely to have too much quality for their hosts, though Advocaat will ask his side to defend deep to ensure they have something to play for in the second leg.

Our best bet would seem to be Benfica to win but keep a clean sheet and Bet Victor are offering a massive 2/1 which is a price we cannot ignore.

BEST BET: Benfica to win to nil (2/1 – Bet Victor)


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John set to wing his way into Ajax


Dutch newspaper Algameen Dagblad state that Eredivisie table-toppers Ajax are looking to bolster their attack with the loan signing of 21-year-old winger Ola John.

John is currently plying his trade in Portugal with Benfica, but is struggling to find a first team place and he has only featured in ten games so far this season in the Primeira Liga.

AD report that the two clubs have come to an agreement regarding the six-month loan deal, and John should arrive in Amsterdam until the end of the Eredivisie season.

John last played in Holland in 2012 with FC Twente, scoring nine goals in 46 games, before clinching a €9m move to Portugal in May that year. The Dutchman has netted just five times for the Portuguese giants in 59 appearances.

Frank de Boer’s Ajax side are set to compete in Turkey this weekend against Celtic, Galatasaray and Trabzonspor in the Antalya Cup friendly tournament.


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NEWS: Serbian pair to join Benfica in July

Filip Djuricic sealed a move with Benfica

Today, Eredivisie side SC Heerenveen announced that Serbian playmaker Filip Djuricic will join Portuguese giants Benfica on July 1st when the European transfer window opens.  He will be joined in Portugal by fellow Serbian Miralem Sulejmani (formerly of Heerenveen) whom will join from Ajax on a free transfer.

Twenty-one year old Djuricic, had attracted interest from big clubs in Holland, but the Portuguese side has beaten them all for the midfielder’s signature. The transfer fee  have not been disclosed at this time, but the deal has been confirmed on Heerenveen’s official website and it is understood that both players have signed five-year contracts.

Technical director Johan Hansma released a statement on the club’s official website: “It’s good for our club that Djuricic is leaving for a big European side. As football fans we regret the departure of Filip, because he gave us a lot of wonderful moments but Filip is ready for his next step in his career and we wish him all the best.”

Waving goodbye to Ajax – Miralem Sulejmani

Sulejmani, 24, has been a bit of an outcast at Ajax, the Amsterdammers had paid €16.25 million to Heerenveen for him, breaking the Dutch transfer-record in July of 2008, but he will leave the club on a free. The attacker has made a total of 158 appearances for Ajax, and has 38 goals to his name.



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