Born on November 3rd, 1979, Pablo Aimar celebrates his 38th birthday. Four seasons after leaving Luz, Benfica and the "benfiquistas" don't forget the star unveiled to the world by River Plate, from Argentina.
“I'm going to retire, I want you to use my jersey." These were the words from Rui Costa in July 2008 that have convinced Pablo César Aimar Giordano to sign for Benfica, where he would inherit the number 10 from the Maestro.
Pablo Aimar was playing at Saragoza in 2008 and was not able to help the club avoid relegation. Several clubs showed interest in El Mago and his destiny seemed to be England. Rui Costa had hang the old boots a few weeks ago and was now the new sporting director of Benfica.
On July 17th, 2008, the reds signed the Argentinian international for the following seasons. Benfica had to pay Saragoza 6,5 million euros for the offensive midfielder, at the time with 28 years.
The Portuguese League received an Argentine magician and the euphoria was felt at Estádio da Luz. The supporters fell in love with El Mago. The touches of genius from Aimar stunned the Portuguese football: at the service of Benfica, he played 179 times and scored e 17 goals (12 in the League, 1 in the Portuguese Cup, 1 in the League Cup, 2 in the Europa League e 1 in the Champions League).
The expectations were high, but El Mago was not brillient in his first season, at the time Benfica was coached by Quique Flores, he just won the League Cup. However, a memorable rabona pass assist to Suazo, in the day Benfica played for Matchweek 7 in Guimarães against Vitória (1-2), was one of the landmarks of the star's spell at Luz. But if the first season didn't go so well, in the following season (2009/2010) Aimar shone alongside his old friend and teammate at River Plate youth teams, Javier Saviola.
O first goal from Pablito in the League was in March 2009, in Figueira da Foz, against Naval 1.º de Maio, and the last was in January 2012, at Estádio da Luz, against Gil Vicente. Through the middle, there were matches, goals and assist that marked the Argentinian's spell at the Cathedral…
In 2009/10 he proved his class and showed everyone why Diego Armando Maradona stated that "the only player who was worth paying a ticket to see him play was Pablo Aimar".
In the game from Matchweek 3 of the National Championship, El Mago scored a stunner at Estádio da Luz against Vitória de Setúbal. Between assist, Pablito would score the best goal of the evening, the fourth, lobbing a opponent before the final strike. Superb. A luxurious goal in a rout by big numbers (8-1) in what was another step towards the title.
In that year, already with Jorge Jesus as team coach, he helped Benfica win the National Championship and the League Cup. He made 41 matches and scored five goals, four in the League.
One of the great moment, if not the best, which he remembers until this day, happened when he jumped from the bench after the break to spread his magic against Sporting, On April 13th, 2010, sealing the win with a spectacular play in which he dribbled Rui Patrício, in the 79’. The decisive 2-0, after a goal from Cardozo, on the road to the 32nd Championship.
"There was a goal that was crucial for the 2009/10 Championship, when we were champions. It was the goal against Sporting, for the fact it was a derby, for all the supporters that were in the stadium. I remember that goal with great affection", he remembered, non the day he said farewell to Estádio da Luz, at the end of the 2012/13 season.
In Europe, the Argentinian took part of three editions of the Champions League with Benfica, scoring one goal in the draw (2-2) with Manchester United, at Old Trafford, which would eventually help the team qualify to the Round of 16 in 2011/12. Bruno César took advantage of an incomplete save from De Gea and, despite Rio Ferdinand intercepted the cross from the Brazilian, Aimar scored in the rebound.
Pablo Aimar fell in love with the reds supporters and contributed for the conquest of a National Championship (2009/10) and four League Cups (2008/09, 2009/10, 2010/11, 2011/12).
He left marks in the third floor and a chant that put him next to Eusebio and Rui Costa as an immortal number 10.
Estádio da Luz never forgot and will never forget Aimar, as El Mago will never forget Benfica and its supporters,as he makes sure to remember.
“The word I want to leave to the supporters is thank you. I thank you for the way you have treated me and for the way you have made me feel here, me and my family. What I feel for Benfica, for Lisbon and for the people is gratitude”, he confessed, when he left the club.
The current coach of Argentina's U-17 National Team, who won the affection of the benfiquistas over the five season he played for the eagles – between 2008 and 2013 –, stepped mystical grounds as Santiago Bernabéu or Camp Nou. However, for Aimar there is one that will always be the best stage in the world: the Estádio da Luz.
Text: Filipa Fernandes Garcia
Pics: Archive/ SL Benfica