Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Appreciate How Big a Club This Is or You'll Be on Your Way Out

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Appreciate How Big a Club This Is or You'll Be on Your Way Out

Article excerpt

Byline: Scott Minto Former Chelsea and Benfica defender

IKNOW from personal experience how easy it can be to underestimate just how big Benfica are, but Chelsea will be making an even bigger mistake if they take their opponents too lightly in tonight's Champions League quarter-final.

From the moment the two were paired together in the draw for the last eight, I have found myself looking back fondly on the time I spent at Portugal's most revered football club.

I signed for Benfica after Chelsea won the FA Cup in 1997 and, while I knew they were a club of some stature, it was only after I moved there that I began to realise what an amazing institution I had joined.

Some people suggested that Chelsea have been given an easy path through to the semi-finals after avoiding Barcelona, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich but they may not be saying that after tonight.

Benfica are massive. In European football, they are probably only below those three clubs as well as Manchester United and Liverpool.

When I was there they were certainly bigger than Chelsea and that probably remains the case now, even though the Blues have been such a force at home and abroad in recent years.

Everything about the club just gives off an amazing aura and you know that you're part of something very special.

From the eagle flying around the stadium before the game, which still happens, to the amazing presence of one of the greatest ever players, Eusebio (right).

When I was there he worked as a coach for the strikers and acted as a figurehead. His English and my Portuguese weren't that great so we didn't have many conversations unfortunately, but in a way I didn't have to.

Just seeing him there and what he meant to the fans was enough to know you were privileged to play for the same club.

I was told that 90 per cent of Portugal's population follow Benfica and it certainly felt like it when I was there.

I remember my first training session with my new team-mates during pre-season and 5,000 turned up to watch us. A few weeks later we played a friendly at the old Estadio de Luz and the attendence was over 80,000. …

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