All of a sudden the Europa League Final has crept up on us and the ‘Champions League’s slightly less attractive sister competition’ will come to a spectacular crescendo on Wednesday night in Turin. Benfica take on Sevilla for the right to be crowned champions of the tournament nobody in England seems to want to be involved in.
While the game might not generate as much interest as the Champions League Final extravaganza, there is one element of the match which has grabbed our full attention. The Benfica Curse.
There’s nothing we love more than good story about a curse, and it appears that Benfica are the Portuguese footballing equivalent of the Mayo GAA side. The story behind Benfica’s curse is far more interesting than a straight match preview of the Europa League Final so settle down and enjoy.
It begins with the highly successful Benfica team of the early 60s. Managed by a man called Bela Guttman, The Eagles had incredible success winning two league titles and back-to-back European cups with a side that included one of the greatest footballers of all time, Eusebio pictured above. After the 1962 final, where Benfica had come from 2-0 and 3-2 down to beat Real Madrid 5-3, Guttman asked the Benfica board for a cheeky little pay rise. Despite Guttman’s success in building one of European football’s strongest powers, his request was turned down in a move that has haunted the club ever since.
Unsurprisingly, Guttman got the hump and promptly left. Rather than taking a crap on his bosses desk or sending a few offensive emails before he left, Guttman took a mature approach to being shafted by his employers. On leaving Benfica he left a curse on the club, declaring, ‘Not in a hundred years from now will Benfica ever be European champion’.
52 years later and Benfica have appeared in seven European Finals, winning none of them. In last year’s Europa League Final a 93rd minute header from Branislav Ivanovich ended their dreams and they had come even closer in 1988 when PSV Eindhoven beat them 6-5 on penalties. The curse is too strong.
Before the 1990 Final against AC Milan, which was played in Vienna where Guttman is buried, Eusebio went to his former manager’s grave to pray that the curse would be lifted. AC Milan went on to win 1-0, proving that not even one of the greatest footballers ever to play the game could break the Benfica curse.
This year Benfica go in as the favourites against Sevilla. The Eagles are 13/10 to win the match in normal time or 4/6 to lift the trophy. Clearly the traders in Power Tower have no interest in myths, magic or hoodoo.
If you want to side with the curse, you can back Sevilla at the tempting price of 11/5 to win in normal time or 6/5 to lift the trophy. We’re not exactly sure if curses follow big match trends but five of Benfica’s seven final defeats have been by exactly one goal, which makes the 4/1 on Sevilla to win by one goal look a little more appealing.