On this day in 1997: Graeme Souness appointed Benfica boss
Souness said his aim was for the team to play “soccer the fans enjoy”.
Graeme Souness was appointed as Benfica’s new manager on this day in 1997.
The former Rangers and Liverpool boss had just had a brief stint in charge of Torino when he was brought in by recently-elected Benfica president Joao Vale E Azevedo.
Souness said his aim was for the team to play “soccer the fans enjoy” and stressed that the Portuguese giants, who had made an underwhelming start to their league campaign, still had a chance of winning the title.
The team would end up finishing second in the table that season, nine points behind champions Porto.
Benfica lost 2-0 at Porto in January before beating their great rivals 3-0 in their third-from-last game of the campaign – they also won 4-1 at Sporting Lisbon in February.
Souness already had one British player in his squad when he arrived in Scott Minto, and added Brian Deane soon after.
Michael Thomas and Mark Pembridge subsequently joined in the summer of 1998, and in the season that followed, Dean Saunders, Gary Charles and Steve Harkness also made the switch to the club from English football.
That season started promisingly before a dip in results and a 3-1 loss at Porto in November.
The team bounced back with a streak of league wins taking them into the new year, but they had failed to get out of their Champions League group, with their matches having included an away defeat to and home draw against HJK Helsinki.
In March, their league momentum was hit by a 3-0 loss to Boavista at the Estadio da Luz, the start of a run of seven games featuring just one win, and Souness departed at the end of a season that saw the club finish third.
It appeared his relationship with the president had soured considerably – Souness was reportedly suspended by Benfica after a 1-1 draw with Campomaiorense in April 1999, and he was quoted at the time as saying Azevedo was a man not to be trusted.